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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Fostering joyful learning in Espoo

Espoo, in Finland, was one of 12 cities to receive the UNESCO Learning City Award at the second International Conference on Learning Cities in Mexico in 2015. Annica Isacsson and Annika Forstén explain what makes Espoo special

© Jussi Helimäki/Espoo
Espoo cultural centre and tower in Tapiola

In 2015, UNESCO recognized the Finnish city of Espoo for the outstanding progress it had made in implementing the ‘Key Features of Learning Cities’ since the first International Conference on Learning Cities in 2013. The Key Features describe a learning city as one that effectively mobilizes, creates and reinforces individual empowerment and social cohesion, and economic and cultural prosperity, in addition to sustainable development. In fact, the United Nations has invited Espoo to become a pioneer of sustainable development by attaining the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2025, five years ahead of schedule.

Espoo aims to ensure that all citizens can fulfill their potential, succeed in the uncertain world of the future and participate in the development of their local communities. Learning, creativity and innovation are fostered from an early age. For example, in 2019, Tapiola Sinfonietta, the city’s orchestra, invited all expectant parents in the city to its regular concerts so that their children could experience the positive influence of music while still in the womb. And Espoo’s systematic approach to collaboration between artists and schools has been extended to early education centres, giving all children the opportunity to interact with professional artists and foster creative minds. Continue reading

Adult education 2.0

As preparations begin for the seventh International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA VII) in 2022, Daniel Baril, Chair of UIL’s Governing Board, argues that we need a new generation of adult learning and education policies

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In matters of adult learning and education, we live in paradoxical times. On the one hand, learning needs are diversifying and adult education resources cover a wide spectrum of learning possibilities, formal, non-formal or informal. On the other, adult education policies strive to mobilize all available educational resources to answer different learning needs. That is why I think that a new generation of adult learning and education policies is needed, policies that would aim to draw on all educational resources to answer a wide array of learning needs.  

In my view, in our new century, two phenomena are shaping adult education. First, we are witnessing a new social demand for knowledge and competencies. In all countries, literacy and basic skills remain a major educational need and, overall, work-related training is prioritized. But, beyond those important learning domains, we can observe a wider demand stemming from many spheres of people’s daily life. In its research and normative work, UNESCO has referred to some of those growing learning needs: education for health and well-being, education for sustainable development, education for citizenship, digital skills and human rights education. The so-called twenty-first century skills are also an example of an expanding social demand for learning. Continue reading

Making the global goals our own

Global citizenship education should be central to efforts to encourage people to take ownership of the Sustainable Development Goals and make the next 10 years a true ‘Decade of Action’, writes Christiana Nikolitsa-Winter

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The start of the last decade of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides an important moment for reflection on what we have achieved to date and how far we have still to go in achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, took the opportunity to call for a ‘Decade of Action’ to accelerate sustainable solutions to ‘the world’s biggest challenges, ranging from poverty and gender to climate change, inequality and closing the finance gap’. He emphasized action on three levels: global, securing greater leadership and resources for the SDGs; local, embedding solutions in policies, budgets and regulatory frameworks; and people, in order to generate an ‘unstoppable movement’ for transformation.

Progress has been made on many fronts since the SDGs were launched in 2015, with governments integrating them into national strategies, and civil society and young people, in particular, increasingly involved in lobbying for change. The opportunities are enormous, but there remain some substantial challenges. Among these are social and economic exclusion, poverty, violence, radical extremism, cybercrime and fake news, pollution and climate change. Responding to these challenges demands individuals who are tolerant and able to live cooperatively with others, who judge critically, who are ethical users and producers of digital information, and who are actively involved in finding solutions to these problems, both locally and globally. This is why the importance of global citizenship education (GCED) is increasingly recognized. It represents a means for individuals to learn to be active in a culture of human rights, justice, democratic values and sustainability. Continue reading

ALE in Europe: A story of untapped potential

Adult learning and education has the potential to address a wide range of agendas, but too often its effects are limited by a narrow understanding of its purpose, argues EAEA President Uwe Gartenschlaeger

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An annual survey conducted by the European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA) among its members provides evidence that European ALE has the potential to deliver services and formats to tackle the key challenges the continent and its people face. However, enabling frameworks are lagging behind and are still caught in a narrow understanding of ALE as a tool for vocational up-skilling. In contrast, EAEA members demand more attention (and funding) for holistic ALE provision, including, especially, civic education, education for sustainable development and digital literacy. Besides, ALE is perceived as a vaccination against xenophobia and a powerful instrument to enable citizens to act and transform their communities and societies.

Since 2014, the EAEA has been collecting outlooks from across its membership in 43 European countries on the adult education sector: recent developments, strengths, challenges and how national policy reflects international policies and initiatives relating to adult learning at present. These country reports present a unique civil-society perspective from all over the continent. Continue reading

The new learning frontier

As he begins his first term as Chair of the UIL Governing Board, Daniel Baril reflects on the implications of technological transformation for adult learning and education

© UIL

In my first contribution to the UIL blog, and as I reflect on global issues for adult learning and education as new Chair of the UIL Governing Board, I would like to share a high-level analysis of what I consider a major and new educational challenge. In my view, we are entering a new learning frontier, principally characterized by the fact that human and machine are learning side by side and together. This ‘human-machine learning interface’, as it was described in a recent UNEVOC document, is characteristic of the so-called fourth industrial revolution that is dawning upon us.

In this context, the education landscape is being rapidly and deeply transformed before our eyes by technological forces, and especially by the computational and digital dimensions of those forces. Among other things, new technological means are widely distributed within the population and social arrangements are being transformed by them. In our world now, any two learners are just a click of the mouse away. The questions of the place and pace of artificial intelligence (AI) in education are symptomatic of those changes pressuring our educational world. In a recent forum on this topic, organized by UNESCO in June 2019, parameters for the policy debate were proposed. They are testimonies to the nature and the magnitude of the changes taking place. In particular, AI has the potential for ‘reshaping the core foundations of education, teaching and learning’. Unlocking that potential will move the frontier of our learning world. Continue reading

Lifelong learning and the SDGs

The SDG Global Festival of Action shows exactly why lifelong learning matters to the SDG agenda, argues Paul Stanistreet

© SDG Action Campaign

As young people around the world raise their voices to call for action on climate change, the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Global Festival of Action seems especially timely.

This important annual event, which is taking place in Bonn, Germany, is intended to bring together and galvanize campaigners on the SDGs to redouble their efforts, forge new partnerships and, above all, take action to support the global movement for sustainability. The festival encourages leaders from governments, local authorities, international organizations and civil society to work closely with activists, youth advocates, the creative industry and the private sector in scaling up their efforts to make a difference to this critical agenda.

The event sends an important message: unless people are prepared to take action themselves – to campaign, lobby, make changes in their own lives and in their communities, and hold their governments to account for the promises they have made, and do so in a coordinated, coherent way – we will not achieve the SDGs. Continue reading

Making the most of lifelong learning

Malak Zaalouk, Chair of UIL’s Governing Board, explains why lifelong learning is at the heart of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – and why it should be central to the plans and policies of nation states

© Asian Development Bank

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 puts lifelong learning at the heart of the global education policy-making agenda by enjoining Member States to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’.

This is already important recognition. However, we have yet to fully realize the potential contribution of lifelong learning either to SDG 4 or to the wider 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This demands the development of inter-sectoral solutions to challenges such as social exclusion, poverty, climate change, mass migration and technological transformation.. Continue reading

Lifelong learning and the Sustainable Development Goals

UIL Director David Atchoarena on the challenge of raising the profile of lifelong learning and realizing its potential contribution to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Earlier this month I attended the Global Education Meeting in Brussels, Belgium, to join with colleagues from across the world in reviewing progress towards the commitments on education made in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Brussels Declaration, the outcome document of the meeting, acknowledged the ‘fundamental role’ of lifelong learning as a key driver of sustainable development and reinforced the commitment of Member States to the eradication of illiteracy through formal and non-formal education and training. Continue reading