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

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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

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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

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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

The new learning frontier

As he begins his first term as Chair of the UIL Governing Board, Daniel Baril reflects on the implications of technological transformation for adult learning and education

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In my first contribution to the UIL blog, and as I reflect on global issues for adult learning and education as new Chair of the UIL Governing Board, I would like to share a high-level analysis of what I consider a major and new educational challenge. In my view, we are entering a new learning frontier, principally characterized by the fact that human and machine are learning side by side and together. This ‘human-machine learning interface’, as it was described in a recent UNEVOC document, is characteristic of the so-called fourth industrial revolution that is dawning upon us.

In this context, the education landscape is being rapidly and deeply transformed before our eyes by technological forces, and especially by the computational and digital dimensions of those forces. Among other things, new technological means are widely distributed within the population and social arrangements are being transformed by them. In our world now, any two learners are just a click of the mouse away. The questions of the place and pace of artificial intelligence (AI) in education are symptomatic of those changes pressuring our educational world. In a recent forum on this topic, organized by UNESCO in June 2019, parameters for the policy debate were proposed. They are testimonies to the nature and the magnitude of the changes taking place. In particular, AI has the potential for ‘reshaping the core foundations of education, teaching and learning’. Unlocking that potential will move the frontier of our learning world. Continue reading

Leave no one behind: Fighting poverty through lifelong learning

Konstantinos Pagratis reflects on how education can support the global struggle to end poverty

© UNESCO/Iason Athanasiadis

Last week, the world marked the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, an opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1 – to end poverty in all its forms everywhere – and to highlight the complex, multidimensional nature of the challenges we face in achieving it.

Education is not a silver bullet when it comes to ending poverty, but it has a crucial role to play, both in securing SDG 1 and in fulfilling the commitment made by Member States in signing up to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: to leave no one behind.

UNESCO believes that the fight against poverty demands the strengthening of individuals’ capacities through education, which represents a source not only of employment but also of pride, dignity and agency. As Audrey Azoulay, the Director General of UNESCO, observes, ‘for each year a girl spends in the classroom, her future income will increase by 10 to 20 per cent’. Continue reading

Learning to live differently: Climate change and lifelong learning

As we mark World Environment Day 2019, Jennifer Kearns-Willerich argues that lifelong learning must be at the heart of our efforts to live sustainably

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The significant gap between where we are today and where we want to be by 2030 is nowhere more evident that on the issue of climate change.

As the 2016 Global Education Monitoring Report, Education for people and planet: Creating sustainable futures for all, observed, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s call for ‘urgent action on climate change’ to ‘support the needs of the present and future generations’, is some way from being heeded, with environmental sustainability a still-distant prospect and the gears of policy still seemingly stuck in neutral when it comes to the climate crisis.

Education and lifelong learning, the report contended, have a central role to play ‘in the creation of a green and inclusive economy with sustainable models of production and consumption, and new and retooled sectors, industries and jobs’. They also have an important part to play in changing hearts and minds and galvanizing political will. Continue reading

Lifelong learning and the SDGs

The SDG Global Festival of Action shows exactly why lifelong learning matters to the SDG agenda, argues Paul Stanistreet

© SDG Action Campaign

As young people around the world raise their voices to call for action on climate change, the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Global Festival of Action seems especially timely.

This important annual event, which is taking place in Bonn, Germany, is intended to bring together and galvanize campaigners on the SDGs to redouble their efforts, forge new partnerships and, above all, take action to support the global movement for sustainability. The festival encourages leaders from governments, local authorities, international organizations and civil society to work closely with activists, youth advocates, the creative industry and the private sector in scaling up their efforts to make a difference to this critical agenda.

The event sends an important message: unless people are prepared to take action themselves – to campaign, lobby, make changes in their own lives and in their communities, and hold their governments to account for the promises they have made, and do so in a coordinated, coherent way – we will not achieve the SDGs. Continue reading

Making hope possible: Democracy, sustainability and lifelong learning

Lifelong learning has a key role to play not only in achieving SDG 4 on education but also in creating a climate in which progressive change is possible, writes Paul Stanistreet

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Last week, the Comparative International Education Society (CIES) convened in San Francisco for its annual conference, which this year focused on ‘Education for Sustainability’.

Jeffrey Sachs, the economist, UN adviser and sustainability advocate, gave the keynote lecture. He demanded urgent action to address the challenges of sustainability and specifically to deliver on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development targets for education. Without a major change of pace or direction, he warned, the targets for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 would not be met.

Sachs is right to urge educators to ‘raise their voices’ and’ fight harder for resources’. However, the contribution of education to the sustainable development agenda will not be realized simply by raising more taxes from the very wealthy or by demanding or securing more funding for schools, important though this is. We need to think too about the role of education in shifting the cultural and intellectual climate to a place where political will can be moved and meaningful change in the face of powerful, entrenched interests is possible. Continue reading

Realizing the potential of lifelong learning

Lifelong learning has a major contribution to make to helping countries such as Greece rise to the development challenges they face. But, far too often, it is overlooked, writes Christiana Nikolitsa-Winter

A Syrian man and his daughter at a refugee camp in Idomeni in northern Greece.
© Giannis Papanikos/Shutterstock

In Greece, my native country, high unemployment and the ongoing financial crisis are combining with mass population movements of migrants and refugees to create huge development challenges for the country. Greece is also undergoing major demographic changes, with its ageing population reducing the number of young people entering the labour market and obliging those already in the workforce to work for longer and move between jobs more often.

These facts point to an urgent need for a much stronger investment in lifelong learning, and particularly in adult education. By supporting adult education and adopting lifelong learning as the key educational paradigm for inclusive and sustainable learning societies, nation states can build populations that are resilient, adaptable, creative and highly skilled. Yet, in far too many cases, lifelong learning and adult education continue to be neglected.

A recent report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Getting skills right: Future-ready adult learning systems, shows that Greece’s adult learning system performs poorly across several dimensions of the Priorities of Adult Learning (PAL) dashboard. The PAL dashboard indicates that my country has the weakest overall performance in terms of coverage of job-related adult learning. In addition, according to Eurostat, only a few adults re-skill through adult education courses in Greece. In 2017, less than 5 per cent of 25 to 64 years olds participated in such courses. Where these courses are offered, often they are often under-resourced and ill-equipped to address the challenges faced by these students. Continue reading

Making the most of lifelong learning

Malak Zaalouk, Chair of UIL’s Governing Board, explains why lifelong learning is at the heart of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – and why it should be central to the plans and policies of nation states

© Asian Development Bank

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 puts lifelong learning at the heart of the global education policy-making agenda by enjoining Member States to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’.

This is already important recognition. However, we have yet to fully realize the potential contribution of lifelong learning either to SDG 4 or to the wider 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This demands the development of inter-sectoral solutions to challenges such as social exclusion, poverty, climate change, mass migration and technological transformation.. Continue reading