The current crisis need not result in a further erosion of social and economic rights and the widening of inequalities – it also represents an opportunity to appeal to global solidarity and rehumanize lifelong learning, writes Maren Elfert
the world are alarmed about the consequences of the COVIID-19 crisis. A lively
debate has emerged on what the world might look like in the aftermath of the
crisis in relation to education and more broadly. I would like to add my voice
to those who emphasize that our perspective must be bigger than COVID-19 and
that we should take the crisis as an opportunity to learn from past mistakes
and rethink our approach to education. As a recent article argued in relation
to schools, ‘When the Covid crisis finally ends, schools must never return to
normal’ (Sweeney, 2020), referring to the need to abandon harmful practices such
as deprofessionalizing teachers, excessive testing and the culture of rankings.
This discussion, of course, is related to how we organize our society and how
we deal with the larger environmental, economic, social and political crisis of
which COVID-19 is a symptom.
Charles Dickens, there is potential in this crisis for the best of times or the
worst of times. The crisis could offer us an opportunity to rethink and
innovate our societies or to move further down the path of dehumanization of
education in terms of ‘one size fits all teaching’ in schools and lifelong
learning as a market commodity. Among the questions and issues that are raised
in the current debates are: In light of the public health and ensuing economic
crisis, will global inequalities in access to
education widen, disrupting progress towards
Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) (UNESCO/IIEP, 2020)? Distance education is being pushed by
corporate interests (Williamson,
2020), but it bears
the risk of further marginalizing disadvantaged students who do not have access
to technology and who depend on teacher-student relationships (Srivastava, 2020; Parramore, 2020). For many students, school represents a place to
socialize and often get the only meal of the day (UNICEF, 2020). Higher education institutions around the world are
preparing for significant drops of international students, and quite a number
of them will probably not survive. Will this lead to a reconsideration of
education as a market model, or just to even more tightened competition? Some
thinkers, such as the Italian political philosopher Giorgio Agamben (2020a; 2020b), are concerned about the de-humanization of human
beings as a consequence of ‘social distancing’. Arjun Appadurai, in a recent
keynote panel of UNESCO’s ‘Futures of Education’ initiative, warned of the risk
that education might be considered unimportant in these times of crisis (UNESCO, 2020). This might translate into cuts to education. Continue reading →
The COVID-19 crisis obliges us to think deeply and creatively about the future of our societies and the role of education in shaping them, writes David Atchoarena
Much has been said and written already about how educational institutions are responding to the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically through online and distance learning. This is important and UNESCO is playing a critical role, with UIL making a significant contribution. Beyond the emergency response, it is equally necessary to reflect on the world that will emerge from the crisis and the role of lifelong learning in supporting social recovery and in shaping a sustainable future.
The crisis not only raises important technical
and practical issues about the delivery of education, it also poses critical
questions about the kind of society we want to live in, our approach to
economic growth, our tolerance of economic and social inequalities, globally
and within nations, and our relationship to nature. Continue reading →
As COVID-19 closes schools, colleges and universities around the world, it is critical that educational solutions, such as online and distance learning, do not widen the digital divide, argues Christiana Nikolitsa-Winter
COVID-19 developments have urgent implications for educational institutions
worldwide, and ask serious and urgent questions of education ministers, leaders,
teachers and learners.
notices go up outside schools and other places of formal and non-formal
education, the challenge we face is how to ensure the continuity of learning
through a period of unprecedented disruption.
We need to
offer learners robust, innovative solutions relatively fast and to create opportunities
for online teaching platforms to reach all, rather than only a small
group of learners. Continue reading →
As we mark International Day of Education, David Atchoarena urges countries to redouble their efforts to ensure no one’s right to education is denied
Today is International
Day of Education, a moment not only to celebrate education’s
powerful contribution to sustainable human prosperity, progress and peace, but
also to assert its wider value – as a human right and as an important public
It is an
opportune time to consider both what we have achieved in realizing the right to
education and how far we have to go to ensure this right is realized for every
woman, man and child, wherever they live in the world, whatever their
background or personal circumstances.
challenges we face are enormous. Some 258 million children and youth still do
not attend school, four million children and youth refugees are out of school,
and 773 million adults around the world cannot read or write, most of them
women. In too many cases, disadvantaged and marginalized groups remain excluded
from participation in adult learning and education, as the new UNESCO
Global Report on Adult Learning and Education points out. Their
right to education is being denied. This is unacceptable. Continue reading →
The fourth Global Report on Adult Learning and Education represents a wake-up call to countries to do more to advance participation in adult education – we need to heed it, saysDavid Atchoarena
Published by the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL), the new Global Report on Adult Learning and Education– GRALE 4 – is a landmark publication in the field of adult learning and education (ALE) for the international education policy community.
The report charts UNESCO Member States’ progress against the commitments made at the sixth International Conference on Adult Education in 2009 and codified in the Belém Framework for Action, with a special emphasis, in this report, on participation in ALE. The story it tells is in some ways a positive one – more than half of responding countries reported an increase in overall participation between 2015 and 2018 – but the overwhelming message is that participation is still far too low, and that progress, overall, is insufficient, particularly among disadvantaged groups. Investment too is far from where it needs to be, with one in five countries reporting spending less than 0.5% of their education budgets on ALE and a further 14% spending less than 1%. Continue reading →
Konstantinos Pagratis reflects on how education can support the global struggle to end poverty
Last week, the world marked the International
Day for the Eradication of Poverty, an opportunity to reaffirm its commitment
to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1 – to end poverty in all its forms
everywhere – and to highlight the complex, multidimensional nature of the
challenges we face in achieving it.
Education is not a silver bullet when it comes
to ending poverty, but it has a crucial role to play, both in securing SDG 1
and in fulfilling the commitment made by Member States in signing up to the
2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: to leave no one behind.
UNESCO believes that the fight against poverty
demands the strengthening of individuals’ capacities through education, which
represents a source not only of employment but also of pride, dignity and
agency. As Audrey Azoulay, the Director General of UNESCO, observes, ‘for each
year a girl spends in the classroom, her future income will increase by 10 to
20 per cent’. Continue reading →
Qiongzhuoma Heimbel explains how family and intergenerational literacy and learning programmes can improve literacy rates around the world
Despite a rise in literacy rates in the last quarter of a century, more than 781 million adults around the world still lack basic reading and writing skills. Low levels of literacy prevent people from securing decent work and improving their lives. The 2014 United Nations General Assembly resolution, Literacy for life: Shaping future agendas, reaffirmed literacy as ‘a foundation for lifelong learning, a building block for achieving human rights and fundamental freedoms, and a driver of sustainable development’. In response, Member States began promoting more basic adult literacy programmes, especially for disadvantaged groups.
Quite often, the motivation for the adult learners who take part in these programmes is to improve their literacy skills in order to support their children’s learning. These adults, many of whom have never been to school or dropped out, understand that literacy can lead to a better life for their children. However, despite a desire to see their children progress at school, many parents who see themselves as ‘uneducated’ or ‘illiterate’ are reluctant to take part in learning programmes. Continue reading →
Respect for linguistic diversity is a precondition of authentic dialogue and cooperation, writes David Atchoarena on International Mother Language Day
First published, 21 February 2018
It is sobering to reflect that some 40 per cent of the global population do not have access to education in a language they can speak or understand. Many millions of children are taught in a language they do not speak at home, while, for equally huge numbers of adults, the unavailability of learning programmes in their mother tongue remains an insurmountable barrier to furthering their education.
This is why International Mother Language Day, observed worldwide each year on 21 February, is so important. Everyone has a right to speak and learn in their mother language and that right should be reflected in national education systems around the world. Continue reading →
Kabir Shaikh on the power of conversation in a fragmented world
First published, 29 January 2018
It has been a joy and an honour for me to serve as interim director of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) over the past five months. I leave with a strong impression of the wide significance of UIL’s work, and of lifelong learning more generally, and a powerful sense of an organization with a brilliant future, staffed by talented, enterprising people and guided by a committed and far-sighted board of governors.
I have two main observations from my time at UIL. First, lifelong learning has a hugely important role to play across a range of platforms and in the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, yet understanding of this contribution is often low among policymakers, despite its growing prevalence in education discourse. And while there are many local and national politicians who get it, there are many, many more who do not. Continue reading →