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

It’s time to embrace not just the lifelong but the life-wide dimension of learning

To truly achieve sustainable development, writes Norman Jackson, we must embrace, consciously and fully, our experiences and what we learn and become through them.

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Humankind has always engaged in lifelong learning, but it has meant different things at different points in time. This will always be the case. In this period of rapid transformation, contemporary society obliges people to learn and to keep on learning throughout their lives. The world is complex, hyper-connected and increasingly turbulent. It is also fragile, and cannot be sustained if we carry on using it in the way we have.

The idea that lifelong learning can be harnessed in the service of preserving our presence on this fragile planet is gaining more traction among sustainability’s strategic planners. Remedies to the myriad threats to our survival can be found in the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Education has its own goal – SDG 4 – which calls on countries to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’ (UN, 2015). SDG 4 advocates a new role for education: to educate the world in ways that encourage behaviours that support sustainable development. Continue reading

At the tipping point: Education in the age of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic could come to be seen either as an important turning point for humanity or a huge missed opportunity, a landmark in the decline of human civilization. The choice, in the end, is ours, writes Paul Stanistreet.

As the 51st World Economic Forum (WEF) meets virtually to discuss rebuilding trust, making ‘crucial’ choices and reforming systems in the context of the agenda WEF founder Klaus Schwab describes as the ‘great reset’, it is clear that we are living through times of profound change and challenge, in some respects unprecedented in human history.

And whether you welcome this for reasons of social justice and the promotion of equity and equality, or see as it a threat to entrenched systems of advantage that must be carefully, and, if necessary, coercively, managed, it is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has created a rare moment in the human story when we have an opportunity to read the map, change direction and do things differently. 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

COVID-19: Re-connecting higher education to lifelong learning

In the post-pandemic world, institutions of higher education must find holistic approaches to re-connect with society around them, integrating a lifelong learning approach into their core missions of teaching, research and service, argue Budd Hall and Rajesh Tandon

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The disruption caused by COVID-19 to the everyday life of citizens around the world over the past six months has made it clear that that the future will entail new definitions of normal life. Most dramatically affected is the formal education system, from primary and secondary to tertiary.

What also became obvious is that local leaders, supported by local communities, found local solutions to deal with the virus, solutions that relied on local experiences, local knowledge and local resources. As schools shut down, and with digital access in many communities weak, mobile smartphones, small study circles and ‘travelling’ tutors were appropriately galvanized to support the learning of young and old alike, outside classrooms and campuses. Suddenly, the compartments of life, study, work and leisure became meaningless divisions, and learning, studying, cooking, caring and chatting were inter-mingled, almost seamlessly and effortlessly. 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