ALE, climate change and good living: A Southern perspective

Repairing our broken relationship with the planet means radically rethinking how we understand the process of education and formation, argues Timothy D. Ireland

@Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock.com

Grand international conferences such as CONFINTEA provide an opportunity for the international community to weigh up what has and has not been achieved in the previous decade or more and, on that basis, to agree to new signposts and guidelines for the coming years. CONFINTEA VII will perhaps go down in history as the conference which took place at one of the most delicate and critical moments in recent history, since the beginning of the series in 1949. While the sanitary crisis caused by COVID-19 has gained more space in the press, the unravelling crisis which refuses to go away is that of climate change and global warming. At times like this, education is generally indicated as part of the solution. In 2022, there is a feeling that education is no longer part of the solution but a major part of the problem: more of the same will only deepen the crisis and aggravate our problems.

Over the last decades, we have seen what Paul Stanistreet calls the ‘depoliticization of education and the grim instrumentalism of neoliberal conceptions of its purpose and value’, in which the focus of education has no longer been that of preparing people for life but only for the world of work. In a similar vein, José Mujica, the former president of Uruguay, describes the process as that of transforming people into consumers and not into citizens, despite the ongoing discussion on global citizenship. The crux of the question is the relationship between the human and natural worlds, or between humanity and other forms of life. For the Brazilian Indigenous leader and philosopher Ailton Krenak, ‘Everything is nature. The cosmos is nature. Everything that I can think of is nature’. The world into which Indigenous people have resisted being incorporated is a world which has converted nature into ‘resources’ to be exploited in such a way that the market becomes ‘everything that is outside/beyond us’. Krenak returns to one of the concepts to which we have delegated the power of attempting to reduce human aggressions on the planet – sustainable development – which he describes as ‘a myth invented by the major corporations to justify the assault which they penetrate on our idea of nature’. The COVID-19 pandemic is not an externality but an organism of the planet, a virus, which has launched an attack on ‘the form of unsustainable life which we have adopted by our free choice’: a living example perhaps of what the English poet Tennyson called ‘Nature, red in tooth and claw’. We have developed a style of life which has become divorced from the living organism – Earth – characterized by its attempts to suppress diversity and to deny the plurality of forms of life, existence and habits. Continue reading

A year in the life: ALE, GRALE and the Futures of Education

We have reached a moment of potential transformation in adult education. We need to seize it, argues Paul Stanistreet

©UMB-O/Shuttterstock.com

The next year will be formative for the field of adult learning and education (ALE).

Preparations are underway for the seventh International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA VII), in all likelihood in summer 2022. Meanwhile, the fifth Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE) is being finalized, to be published in late spring next year. Add to this UNESCO’s Futures of Education commission, which will report at the end of this year, and the fast-approaching midway point in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and it is clear that this is a moment of potential change in education, and in adult education in particular, which I believe we need to grasp. The enormous challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the changing work environment, demographic shifts and, most critically, the climate crisis, mean that more of the same is no longer an option we can responsibly pursue. Continue reading

ALE for change and a future worth living in

We will only achieve the Sustainable Development Goals if we focus more policy attention on adult learning and education. CONFINTEA VII could be a catalyst for this change, argues Rajesh Tandon

© NEERAZ CHATURVEDI/Shutterstock.com

Over the past 12 months of the pandemic, millions of citizens around the world have ‘unlearned’ old ways of being, while learning new behaviours. For rural communities in India, lockdown created greater reliance on local sources of food, water and preventive health care. For urban communities, the restrictions caused huge disruption as people’s very lives and livelihoods depend very largely on mobility, ‘out-sourcing’ and co-habitation. Millions of workers returned to their families in rural areas as employment was suddenly cut off. Many millions acquired digital hardware for the first time and learned to ‘get online’.

Families, communities and societies continue to learn new ways of being in order to navigate the changes affecting them. These new ways of being, in effect, create new changes in communities and societies. If change is inevitable and necessary for the evolution of life and community, so too is the criticality of learning to navigate change. Continue reading

The role of ALE: Our stories, our voice

Work on promoting adult learning and education is expanding and there are some encouraging signs. With the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development approaching its half-way point, next year’s seventh International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA VII) will be a pivotal moment, writes Christiana Nikolitsa-Winter

© Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock.com

This week, more than 300 representatives of civil society organizations and other stakeholders met online to kick off a five-year global campaign to promote adult learning and education (ALE) and make it more visible. We are ALE’ aims to strengthen the voice of ALE and enable civil society organizations to speak with one voice in their advocacy.

It is one of a number of positive interventions aiming to move ALE up the agenda of national and international education policy. This is essential, as, across the globe, investment in ALE is shrinking and action on ALE on the decline, despite what the pandemic has taught us about its value and usefulness. In many places around the world, the great work of previous decades in building a strong ALE sector is being undone. Continue reading

Achieving our potential: Libraries, literacy and learning throughout life

Libraries are a great resource when it comes to learning, says Stephen Wyber of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions.

Stuttgart library, Germany

When we talk about infrastructure, we tend to think of roads, railways, cables and other physical networks crossing the landscape, enabling economic activity and growth. But the term can be extended to other areas that provide people with ways to achieve their goals, such as culture, research, and, of course, learning.

This blog looks at the last of these – the infrastructure for learning, throughout life. In particular, it considers the role of libraries both as providers of support and as partners and platforms for others, and looks at how to make the most of the unique characteristics of libraries as public, non-commercial, well-known and trusted community spaces. Continue reading

It’s time to embrace not just the lifelong but the life-wide dimension of learning

To truly achieve sustainable development, writes Norman Jackson, we must embrace, consciously and fully, our experiences and what we learn and become through them.

© Dragon Images/Shutterstock.com

Humankind has always engaged in lifelong learning, but it has meant different things at different points in time. This will always be the case. In this period of rapid transformation, contemporary society obliges people to learn and to keep on learning throughout their lives. The world is complex, hyper-connected and increasingly turbulent. It is also fragile, and cannot be sustained if we carry on using it in the way we have.

The idea that lifelong learning can be harnessed in the service of preserving our presence on this fragile planet is gaining more traction among sustainability’s strategic planners. Remedies to the myriad threats to our survival can be found in the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Education has its own goal – SDG 4 – which calls on countries to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’ (UN, 2015). SDG 4 advocates a new role for education: to educate the world in ways that encourage behaviours that support sustainable development. Continue reading

COVID-19: ‘This programme saved my life’

Family literacy programmes can be a lifeline for disadvantaged parents and caregivers who are struggling to support their children’s learning during the pandemic, write Anna Kaiper-Marquez and Esther Prins

© paulaphoto/Shutterstock.com

A recent New Yorker/ProPublica article chronicled the immense challenges facing children in poverty who are studying remotely during the pandemic. Shemar, a 12-year-old in Baltimore, Maryland (USA), lived with his grandmother. Having completed little schooling in then-segregated South Carolina, his grandmother was unable to get online or supervise Shemar’s online schoolwork. She is not alone: millions of caregivers – across all socio-economic strata – have struggled to monitor and guide their children’s education during the pandemic. 

What if this grandmother and other caretakers had access to family literacy programmes where they could further their own education, such as digital or print literacy, while also learning how to support their children’s education? Family literacy programmes are not a panacea to fix poverty, racism, under-funded schools, the digital divide, and other causes of educational inequalities. Yet they do have great potential to serve as a community resource and educational safety net for families like Shemar’s. Continue reading

COVID-19: Building a sustainable and just future for all

While the long-term impact of COVID-19 on education will be dramatic, the future will be much more precarious if we do not focus on building systems for lifelong learning that safeguard quality and inclusiveness, writes Per Magnusson

© Anton Ivanov/Shutterstock.com

The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed an unprecedented global crisis affecting societies and communities in a multitude of ways for which few of us were prepared.

Closing schools has been part of the strategy to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus in almost all countries around the world. With a peak of 1.5 billion children out of school in April, the number is still estimated to be around 1.2 billion, or 70 per cent of total enrolled learners (13 May). Even if many countries have simultaneously introduced programmes to allow for continuity of learning and distance learning, in varying levels of digitalisation, we can be certain this will not compensate for the learning lost when schools and education institutions are up and running in ‘normal’ times.

The school closures will undoubtedly have long-term effects for both individuals and societies. We also know that school closures will have an even more intense impact for girls, especially from the poorest and most vulnerable groups because they are the ones most exposed to domestic violence and sexual harassment, including pregnancies and early marriages. Continue reading

Adult education 2.0

As preparations begin for the seventh International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA VII) in 2022, Daniel Baril, Chair of UIL’s Governing Board, argues that we need a new generation of adult learning and education policies

© AYA images/Shutterstock.com

In matters of adult learning and education, we live in paradoxical times. On the one hand, learning needs are diversifying and adult education resources cover a wide spectrum of learning possibilities, formal, non-formal or informal. On the other, adult education policies strive to mobilize all available educational resources to answer different learning needs. That is why I think that a new generation of adult learning and education policies is needed, policies that would aim to draw on all educational resources to answer a wide array of learning needs.  

In my view, in our new century, two phenomena are shaping adult education. First, we are witnessing a new social demand for knowledge and competencies. In all countries, literacy and basic skills remain a major educational need and, overall, work-related training is prioritized. But, beyond those important learning domains, we can observe a wider demand stemming from many spheres of people’s daily life. In its research and normative work, UNESCO has referred to some of those growing learning needs: education for health and well-being, education for sustainable development, education for citizenship, digital skills and human rights education. The so-called twenty-first century skills are also an example of an expanding social demand for learning. Continue reading

Making the global goals our own

Global citizenship education should be central to efforts to encourage people to take ownership of the Sustainable Development Goals and make the next 10 years a true ‘Decade of Action’, writes Christiana Nikolitsa-Winter

© UNESCO

The start of the last decade of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides an important moment for reflection on what we have achieved to date and how far we have still to go in achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, took the opportunity to call for a ‘Decade of Action’ to accelerate sustainable solutions to ‘the world’s biggest challenges, ranging from poverty and gender to climate change, inequality and closing the finance gap’. He emphasized action on three levels: global, securing greater leadership and resources for the SDGs; local, embedding solutions in policies, budgets and regulatory frameworks; and people, in order to generate an ‘unstoppable movement’ for transformation.

Progress has been made on many fronts since the SDGs were launched in 2015, with governments integrating them into national strategies, and civil society and young people, in particular, increasingly involved in lobbying for change. The opportunities are enormous, but there remain some substantial challenges. Among these are social and economic exclusion, poverty, violence, radical extremism, cybercrime and fake news, pollution and climate change. Responding to these challenges demands individuals who are tolerant and able to live cooperatively with others, who judge critically, who are ethical users and producers of digital information, and who are actively involved in finding solutions to these problems, both locally and globally. This is why the importance of global citizenship education (GCED) is increasingly recognized. It represents a means for individuals to learn to be active in a culture of human rights, justice, democratic values and sustainability. Continue reading