Democracy needs places of adult education

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