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

© UNESCO/Iason Athanasiadis

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

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

Lifelong learning at the crossroads: Migration, diversity and inclusion

Transnational migration is changing the demography of receiving societies, driving the issue to the top of the policy agenda. Yet, despite their profound vulnerability and the economic potential they represent, migrants are still routinely denied access to the lifelong learning opportunities they need, writes Shibao Guo of University of Calgary

© Janossy Gergely

As globalization intensifies, migration has been adopted as a strategy by many to compete for the most talented, skillful and resourceful in order to help build a knowledge-based economy, ameliorate labour shortages, and mitigate the effects of an ageing population. As such, migration has risen to the top of the political agenda of many countries that are involved in this process as a source, transit or destination country, or all three simultaneously. Unlike earlier forms of migration which tend to be unidirectional, the contemporary mobility of migrants is conceptualised as multiple and circular occurring across transnational spaces.

Because of its transient nature, it is almost impossible to know exactly how many transnational migrants there are around the world. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs estimated that, in 2020, about 281 million people, or 4 per cent of the world’s population, lived outside their countries of birth, up from 173 million in 2000. In addition, the world’s refugees and asylum seekers have doubled in number from 17 to 34 million over the past two decades. 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

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

A new social contract for education

The Futures of Education report is a chance to depart from our current ‘unsustainable path’ in education, and build new relationships, with each other, with the planet, and with technology, writes David Atchoarena

On 10 November 2021, the much-anticipated UNESCO report, Reimagining our futures together: A new social contract for education, was launched in Paris at the organization’s General Conference. It was prepared by the International Commission on the Futures of Education under the leadership of Her Excellency Madame Sahle-Work Zewde, President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

The report follows in the tradition of the Faure Commission’s 1972 report, Learning to Be: The World of Education Today and Tomorrow, and the Delors Commission’s report of 1996, Learning: The Treasure Within. Due to the rapid changes in our globalized world and the rising importance of education and lifelong learning therein, this year’s report could not come at a better time. Global challenges such as the climate crisis, technological and demographic change, and inequalities further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic require urgent action. The world is at a turning point, the members of the International Commission on the Futures of Education argue: we can continue on the current ‘unsustainable path’ or radically change course. How we respond to these challenges will determine what future lies ahead. Continue reading

Part of the solution: Lifelong learning and climate action

The United Nations COP26 climate conference is an opportunity not only to galvanize political leadership but also to reflect on the role of education and the contribution of lifelong learning to climate action, writes Paul Stanistreet

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The future isn’t what it used to be. Whereas once we imagined a future of chrome-plated, high-tech convenience, limitless space exploration and driverless vehicles scudding across the commuter-crammed skies of cities, it is now difficult to imagine any kind of long-term future human civilization as we know it. Our habits of production and consumption, our ways of living, without any sense of planetary limitations, and our fetishization of economic growth are incompatible with human survival. Humanity faces unparalleled global challenges, with the future of the climate at their heart, and the warnings, from the United Nations and others – and the consequences of further inaction – are dire.

The need for international cooperation is pretty much unprecedented; greater, I would say, than it has been at any point since the United Nations was created to promote and facilitate it. The COP26 climate change conference, held this week and next in Glasgow, is an opportunity for leaders from across the globe to discuss ways of combatting the effects of climate change and, crucially, of minimizing further warming. Yet it comes at a moment when the spirit of global cooperation has been in retreat. As UN Secretary‑General António Guterres noted last month, vaccine nationalism in the richer parts of the world is putting global recovery at risk. The pandemic has not been the cause of nationalism, of course – as in many other cases, COVID-19 has highlighted an area in which we need to do better – but it has demonstrated how the leaders of the developed world can struggle to act in a genuinely cooperative, multilateral way, even when it is in their interests to do so. Continue reading

Meditations on an emergency

The devastation caused by floods in Europe is a wake-up call with regard not only to climate change, but to lifelong learning too, writes Paul Stanistreet

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At the time of writing, the death toll from the sudden, catastrophic flooding in western Germany and Belgium has passed 170, with many more people reported missing. Thousands have lost their homes, after two months of rain fell in just two days, causing buildings to collapse and large swathes of terrain to be submerged under water. Roads crumbled and landslides reshaped the topography, all in a matter of hours. It was a demonstration both of the ferocious destructive power of nature and of the reality of the climate emergency.

Experts predict that extreme weather will become more common as a result of climate change. For people in the Global North, largely sheltered from the worst effects of the climate crisis that have thus far fallen disproportionately on the poorest, the events of the past week have been a shocking, heart-rending lesson. As Malu Dreyer, the Minister-President of Rhineland-Palatinate, noted, climate change is ‘not abstract any more. We are experiencing it up close and painfully’. There are no safe places; no exemptions for the wealthy. 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

Achieving our potential: Libraries, literacy and learning throughout life

Libraries are a great resource when it comes to learning, says Stephen Wyber of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions.

Stuttgart library, Germany

When we talk about infrastructure, we tend to think of roads, railways, cables and other physical networks crossing the landscape, enabling economic activity and growth. But the term can be extended to other areas that provide people with ways to achieve their goals, such as culture, research, and, of course, learning.

This blog looks at the last of these – the infrastructure for learning, throughout life. In particular, it considers the role of libraries both as providers of support and as partners and platforms for others, and looks at how to make the most of the unique characteristics of libraries as public, non-commercial, well-known and trusted community spaces. Continue reading