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

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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

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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

Apprentissage tout au long de la vie : le cas du Maroc

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Le virus de la COVID-19 a provoqué une crise sanitaire mondiale sans précédent accompagnée de graves secousses socio-économiques. Plus que jamais, l’éducation se retrouve au cœur de tout développement durable. La résilience des systèmes éducatifs à travers le monde est attendue tant les nouveaux défis se révèlent complexes et difficiles à relever.

L’UNESCO, qui a un rôle central à jouer, a réagi dans l’immédiateté en renforçant ses programmes éducatifs et en incitant toutes les parties prenantes à devenir plus créatives et plus agiles.

Dans cette perspective, les gouvernements se sont engagés à mettre en place des systèmes et des réformes permettant d’assurer le droit à l’éducation et de généraliser l’enseignement et la qualification pour tous. 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

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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: Challenges and opportunities in prison education

The pandemic has exacerbated the challenges facing already over-stretched prison services around the world, but the crisis is also an opportunity to do things differently, particularly in prison education, write Marie Macauley and Lisa Krolak on International Day of Education in Prison

An inmate chooses a book from the prison library. HMP Wandsworth, London, United Kingdom.

With more than 11 million people in prison worldwide and prison populations increasing rapidly, many prisons around the world were already at crisis point, unable to provide basic services such as education, when the pandemic struck. The crisis has highlighted the challenges prisons face, but it is also providing impetus for change.

Education in prison can provide prisoners with the opportunity to learn new skills and give them a renewed sense of purpose. Research has shown that prisoners who participate in education and training programmes are less likely to return to prison. They are also more likely to find employment on release.

Most countries provide formal primary and secondary education and vocational training to prisoners free of charge. Some countries provide access to higher education, whether through distance-learning or in the prison, at the prisoners’ own expense or financed by private grants. Prison libraries also play a key role in enabling access to information and reading materials to inmates. Continue reading

COVID-19: It’s time to prioritize adult education

While adult education has been pushed further to the margins during the pandemic, its potential contribution to the creation of healthier, happier and more inclusive societies has never been clearer, argues Jamila Razzaq

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The long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education and learning remains to be seen. It is clear, however, that, across the world, formal systems of education have not been able to reach every learner in this crisis. Underlying structural issues in terms of priorities, roles and delivery models for education systems and services have been exposed by the crisis. Ineffectual and under-resourced mechanisms for alternative pathways to learning, inadequate connection between homes and schools, missing links between education and other social services, and under-developed practice in self-directed learning have all been highlighted in the search for viable solutions in the current situation.

In some parts of the world, learning from home through online and distance learning became the new norm during lockdown, as teaching and learning activity in physical classrooms became impossible to maintain. This shift in provision has opened up the possibility of further development and investment in alternative, non-formal and family-based learning pathways. The solutions adopted during the pandemic can be integrated into education systems to ensure learners have greater opportunities to learn through multiple pathways. Continue reading

COVID-19: A perilous time for adult education

As governments implement plans for post-pandemic recovery, the emphasis on getting children back to school risks further marginalizing adult learning and education. Now, more than ever, it is critical that we preserve a comprehensive understanding of the right to education, argues Daniel Baril

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As we try, slowly and uncertainly, to emerge from the pandemic, governments are defining the framework for socio-economic recovery. The deconfinement of society, the reopening of businesses, jump-starting economic growth, mass-producing a vaccine and preparing for a possible second wave of infection are all priorities.

Education is on the agenda too, as governments revise and resume school protocols. Restarting formal schooling for children and young people is, without any doubt, urgent. Last month, 275 former world leaders, economists and business leaders stressed the potentially catastrophic consequences of locking children and youth out of learning for any longer, particularly for the most vulnerable among them. Moreover, as economic recovery action plans are implemented, protecting and increasing funding for education will be fundamental in the months and years ahead. Continue reading

Fighting racism and building a fairer future

The death of George Floyd and the protests that followed in several countries brought renewed attention to racism, its roots and reproduction. Education must be a central plank in our efforts to build a better and fairer future that does not end up in frustration and despair, writes Paul Stanistreet

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‘Not everything that is faced can be changed,’ wrote James Baldwin, ‘but nothing can be changed until it is faced.’

Events of the past weeks, stemming from the tragic death of George Floyd in the United States, have been a catalyst for reflection on how our societies and the people who live in them can change and challenge racism.

Anti-racism protests in major cities across the world have obliged public opinion in various parts of the world to confront past and present injustice and racism. In the United Kingdom, for example, the toppling of the statue of a seventeenth-century slave trader in Bristol prompted national reflection on the legacy of the country’s involvement in slavery and how this is taught in schools and understood in wider society. While in Belgium, a statue of King Leopold II in Antwerp was removed in acknowledgement of his brutal colonial rule of the Congo. There are calls for other statues of King Leopold II to be taken down. Continue reading

COVID-19: Act now to prevent a lost generation of learners

Jamal Bin Huwaireb reflects on the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to lifelong learning in the Arab region

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The Arab region, in common with many other parts of the world, faces significant challenges in achieving lifelong learning, notably high levels of illiteracy and education systems damaged by poverty and conflict. The toppling of governments during the ‘Arab Spring’ and conflict between and within countries have destroyed education systems in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen, while seriously damaging opportunities for learning in other Arab countries. The COVID-19 pandemic is now undermining the economic activity on which individuals, families and communities depend. While people are struggling to earn, they cannot use their resources to learn. And, without learning, they are condemned to a life focused on subsistence only, with young people increasingly exposed to the temptations of criminal behaviour and terrorism.

Communities and governments seek to provide social support in the form of health and education, as well as routes to gainful employment or entrepreneurship for youths and young adults. Even in wealthy countries, there are challenges in providing sufficient resources for health, education and employment. The pandemic is placing yet more strain on budgets and institutions, and creating additional challenges and demands. Continue reading

Tackling racism through adult education

The death of George Floyd has sparked civil rights protests around the world and obliged people to consider questions of racism in their respective societies. Here, Joy-Tendai Kangere and Niamh O’Reilly of Ireland’s national adult learning organization, AONTAS, reflect on the role of adult education as a process for anti-racism

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Adult, and particularly community, education is intrinsically linked to social justice movements. As we consider the potential of education as a practice of freedom that strives for social change and a more equal society, what is our role in civil society and the adult learning community at this time? When racial injustices damage the social contract, sparking mass protests, how can we contribute to anti-racism? We have a role to play, and as bell hooks, the influential educationalist and feminist activist states in her 1996 book Killing Rage: Ending Racism, ‘All our silences in the face of racist assault are acts of complicity’.

How do we create a society in which we question dominant racist views, as well as sexist, homophobic and all ‘Othering’ discourses that serve only to dehumanize, a society where everyone listens and seeks to understand each other, where we strive for solidarity and social justice? Adult education grapples with these questions and seeks to create dialogical learning experiences, questioning inequalities, building capacity to critically think, question, understand, reflect and act. We in adult education are acutely aware of the power dynamics in the education process between tutor and learner, and the flattening of such in a community education context, whereby the lived experience of the learner contributes to the learning process. As more eloquently described by one learner as ‘bringing us to the course’, it is more than an acknowledgement of the lived experience; it questions what knowledge is valued. Continue reading