It’s time we lived up to our commitments on adult education

The fourth Global Report on Adult Learning and Education represents a wake-up call to countries to do more to advance participation in adult education – we need to heed it, says David Atchoarena

Published by the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL), the new Global Report on Adult Learning and Education GRALE 4 – is a landmark publication in the field of adult learning and education (ALE) for the international education policy community.

The report charts UNESCO Member States’ progress against the commitments made at the sixth International Conference on Adult Education in 2009 and codified in the Belém Framework for Action, with a special emphasis, in this report, on participation in ALE. The story it tells is in some ways a positive one – more than half of responding countries reported an increase in overall participation between 2015 and 2018 – but the overwhelming message is that participation is still far too low, and that progress, overall, is insufficient, particularly among disadvantaged groups. Investment too is far from where it needs to be, with one in five countries reporting spending less than 0.5% of their education budgets on ALE and a further 14% spending less than 1%. Continue reading

Transforming education

As we mark International Youth Day, David Atchoarena reflects on the challenge of ‘transforming education’ for young people and on how we can gear their leaning not only to employment but also to sustainable development

© UNESCO

‘Transforming education’ is the theme of International Youth Day 2019, celebrated on 15 July. The focus is on making education more inclusive and accessible for all youth, in particular young women and young people from disadvantaged groups. Taking place within the framework of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’, the theme chosen for this year’s International Youth Day goes beyond the usual meaning of education to embrace a vision of learning throughout life, so that youth can fully take part in a lifelong journey for sustainable development.

Although there are variations between countries and between different categories of young people, work continues to constitute an important dimension in the way in which young people see their future. However, beyond their individual situation, young people also increasingly express a concern for the future of the planet. This is reflected in their attitude and participation in society, as citizens and as workers. The meaning of work and its contribution to a sustainable path are important considerations in the way in which youth see employment. Hence, the debate about youth skills is not only about skills for work and life, it is about skills for sustainability and social participation. 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

© UIL

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

Democracy needs places of adult education

© Deutscher Volkshochschul-Verband

Werner Mauch on 100 years of adult education in Germany

‘The constitution is on your side’, said Andreas Voßkuhle, President of the German Federal Constitutional Court, this week, at an event to celebrate a century of adult education practice in Germany. Democracy needs an informed citizenry and vital debate at all levels, he argued, as well as constant participation and effective support. The costs of not taking steps to cultivate democratic citizenship were all too clear from the history of Germany, he told participants, which was why German adult education centres (Volkshochschulen) were so important and so highly valued.

The German Adult Education Association (Deutscher Volkshochschul-Verband or DVV) organized the event at Paulskirche in Frankfurt, Germany’s ‘cradle of democracy’ where the first assembly of representatives met in 1848 to prepare a first national constitution for Germany (unsuccessfully, as it turned out). The event marked the centenary of the foundation of many Volkshochschulen across Germany, following the 1919 Weimar constitution, which made adult education a key component of a comprehensive education system, alongside formal school and higher education. Continue reading

Linguistic diversity should not be a cause for exclusion

cropped-30029182-copieRespect for linguistic diversity is a precondition of authentic dialogue and cooperation, writes David Atchoarena on International Mother Language Day

First published, 21 February 2018

It is sobering to reflect that some 40 per cent of the global population do not have access to education in a language they can speak or understand. Many millions of children are taught in a language they do not speak at home, while, for equally huge numbers of adults, the unavailability of learning programmes in their mother tongue remains an insurmountable barrier to furthering their education.

This is why International Mother Language Day, observed worldwide each year on 21 February, is so important. Everyone has a right to speak and learn in their mother language and that right should be reflected in national education systems around the world. Continue reading

We need to talk

Confintea - Kabir Speech (2)

Kabir Shaikh on the power of conversation in a fragmented world

First published, 29 January 2018

It has been a joy and an honour for me to serve as interim director of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) over the past five months. I leave with a strong impression of the wide significance of UIL’s work, and of lifelong learning more generally, and a powerful sense of an organization with a brilliant future, staffed by talented, enterprising people and guided by a committed and far-sighted board of governors.

I have two main observations from my time at UIL. First, lifelong learning has a hugely important role to play across a range of platforms and in the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, yet understanding of this contribution is often low among policymakers, despite its growing prevalence in education discourse. And while there are many local and national politicians who get it, there are many, many more who do not. Continue reading