Seize the moment: Financing adult learning and education

With the UN’s Transforming Education Summit just days away, Daniel Baril, chair of the committee responsible for the final declaration of CONFINTEA VII, reflects on its important commitment to better financing of adult education and why Member States need to start delivering on it

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At the closing session of the seventh UNESCO International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA VII) in June, representatives of UNESCO Member States adopted by acclamation the Marrakech Framework for Action (MFA). Commitments expressed through the MFA will guide the international debate on adult education for the next 12 years and will be among the measures by which national policies will be evaluated. Implementing the MFA is now the task awaiting national governments.

Before its final adoption, the MFA had been submitted to an extensive consultative process. First, the CONFINTEA VII consultative committee made recommendations on a preliminary draft. Second, an online public consultation gave all stakeholders the opportunity to comment on a modified draft. Finally, before being tabled at the conference, Member States had the chance to comment on a final draft. This consultative process validates the MFA as the legitimate expression of an international consensus on priorities in adult learning and education (ALE). Continue reading

A statement of intent: GRALE 5 and the Marrakech Framework for Action

The understanding of adult learning and education affirmed in GRALE 5 and at CONFINTEA VII is only the start – we must continue to make our voices heard, writes Christiana Nikolitsa-Winter

UNESCO’s Fifth Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE 5), subtitled‘Citizenship education: Empowering adults for change’, was launched on 15 June during CONFINTEA VII, in Marrakech, Morocco.

GRALE 5 shows that although progress has been made, notably in the participation of women, the picture overall remains uneven. Vulnerable groups, those who stand to benefit most from learning opportunities, are the least likely to access them. The education of migrants, refugees and displaced people remained a low priority for most countries, while around two-thirds of countries reported no improvements in the participation of people with disabilities or prisoners. Some countries reported that participation of rural populations had declined, while participation of older adults had decreased in 38 of the 159 surveyed countries. Continue reading

The right to lifelong learning: Making it a reality for all in Europe

Lifelong learning can empower individuals, support sustainable economic growth and contribute to just societies. That is why the EU is focused on making it a right for all, writes Maya Ivanova of the European Commission

The right to lifelong learning is an investment in our future – an investment that pays dividends many times over by helping people to maintain and acquire skills, to participate fully in society and to manage successfully transitions in the labour market. Today, European Union (EU) countries are firmly committed to making the right to lifelong learning a reality for all. The road ahead hides hurdles, but also opportunities. Having embarked on a journey towards universal access to lifelong learning, the EU can offer insights valuable beyond the continent.  

The world of work is undergoing a fundamental shift. Although it is not easy to picture exactly the jobs of the future, understanding the driving forces that shape our tomorrow can help us prepare for the challenges ahead. Continue reading

How to make adult education transformative: Asking the right questions

The challenges facing education demand responses that are genuinely transformative. But how should we understand transformative education and what can we do to promote it, asks Katarina Popović.

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The crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic inspired a wave of new and revived concepts, ideas and practices in education. The need for a new approach had been highlighted in response to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and our likely failure to deliver against Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 on education by 2030. Continuing educational disparities and exacerbated gaps and setbacks underscore the urgent need to promote adult education and lifelong learning for all.

One of the ideas born out of this sense of urgency is ‘transformative education’, which UNESCO defines as teaching and learning ‘geared to motivate and empower happy and healthy learners to take informed decisions and actions at the individual, community and global levels’. The concept dominates discussions about post-crises education and is perceived as a panacea for many of today’s problems in education.

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Adult learning and education, work and a sustainable future

Without robust, high-quality and relevant adult learning and education programmes, we are in danger of neglecting our workforce and reducing the chances of a sustainable future, argues Paul Comyn of the International Labour Organization.

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Adult learning and education (ALE) serves multiple purposes in many different local and national community contexts, one of which is to support adults to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes that will enable them to look for and find work, either in paid employment or through other livelihoods. Employability is a key concept that underpins the work of the International Labour Organization (ILO), which it defines as the ‘portable competencies and qualifications that enhance an individual’s capacity to make use of the education and training opportunities available in order to secure and retain decent work, to progress within the enterprise and between jobs, and to cope with changing technology and labour market conditions.’

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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

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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

Creative writing beyond bars

As we mark World Book Day, Lisa Krolak highlights the transformative potential of creative writing in the prison context

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On World Book Day 2021, the German Prison Library Support Group (Förderverein Gefängnisbüchereien e.V.), in cooperation with the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL), the Ministry of Justice of the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia and the German reading project KonTEXT in Munich, implemented its first nationwide writing contest for prisoners. They were invited to write up to three pages on one or more of the following topics: life, freedom or hope. In the following months, prisoners submitted personal reflections, autobiographical writings, fiction, poetry, accounts of traumatic experiences, song texts, and more.

I was part of the small organizing committee and jury, reading and judging the nearly 400 entries from more than 300 inmates from 80 prisons and five juvenile detention centres from all over Germany. I can say for the whole jury that we were deeply touched by the contributions. Some made us laugh, some made us cry – but they all gave us an insight into the hopes, feelings and dreams of the authors and the reality of life in prison. We are grateful to the authors for sharing their life experiences, thoughts of freedom and hopes. It was moving to hear the silenced voices of people that society decided to lock away. Continue reading

Building learning societies in Southeast Asia

As preparations begin in earnest for CONFINTEA VII, it is critical that Southeast Asia continues to contribute to the global movement for adult education and lifelong learning as part of a sustainable future, writes Ethel Agnes Pascua-Valenzuela

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Lifelong learning plays a significant role in building a learning society and, therefore, supporting a nation’s economic development. Because of this, there is growing awareness in Southeast Asia of the importance of lifelong learning and of engaging stakeholders on issues of sustainable development. 

Interest in developing lifelong learning systems took root in Southeast Asia in the early 2010s, when the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) established the SEAMEO Regional Centre for Lifelong Learning in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam. The centre functions as a setting for countries in the region to share knowledge, strengthen national educational strategies, train teachers, and expand cooperation between universities and civil society in order to enhance literacy and lifelong learning opportunities for all. Continue reading

Adult education for a change

Adult education has a critical role to play in combatting climate change, not only in supporting changes in behaviour but also, and much more crucially, in giving people the means to challenge, change and galvanize political will, argues Paul Stanistreet

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You know that moment in a disaster movie when a TV anchor conveys the terrible news that the world is facing a catastrophic threat and hope is all but lost. Well, it happened yesterday for real. The funny thing is, hardly anyone noticed.

4 April 2022 may go down as one of the darkest days in the late history of humanity, a marker not only of our inhuman treatment of one another, the harrowing cruelty of war, but also of our failure to act on climate change, despite a mountain of evidence and the starkest warnings yet from climate scientists that we are passing the point of no return when it comes to staving off its worst effects. Continue reading

Now more than ever, we must defend our right to education

Adult education is about more than learning, argues António Nóvoa, former Permanent Representative of Portugal to UNESCO. International Women’s Day is a reminder that it is also key to delivering on our commitments to human rights.

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We live in a strange time. Every day we reaffirm our commitment to human rights, and every day we deny them. And we seem unable to understand the importance of considering new rights, especially in relation to the planet and access to the digital sphere.

We live in a strange world. Every day we reaffirm the importance of gender equality, and every day we deny it, through gestures, words and silences. And we seem incapable of understanding that, today, equality rhymes with diversity; it implies ensuring freedom of identity and gender orientation. Continue reading