At last we have reached the year 2000: we are living in a new century and a new decade. We usually speak of decades in the context of development issues: the 1960s were marked by decolonization, the ‘70s by efforts to close the development gap, and the ‘80s by stagnation in the North-South relationship. The 1990s were taken up with the dramatic transformations in East and West, and the attendant changes in perspective. We all sense that the economic and political, social and cultural, technological and media globalization which is overtaking us respects neither borders nor compass bearings. In one form or another it is overtaking everyone and is sprouting the strangest flowers.
As I write these lines not a week goes by in Germany without news programmes commenting on the shortage of specialists and the lack of a coming generation of workers in the growth sector of information technology. It has already become an election issue with contentious slogans. This is not the only area in which, it is said, the education system has failed. At all events, the government, with the vociferous backing of the commercial sector, has called for the easing of immigration restrictions for an initial 30,000 such specialists, to be recruited largely in India. Some people lament the brain drain, while others fear economic expansion – in each case from South to North. And this at a time when India is still regarded by many citizens as the classic developing country which is, according to figures for the transfer of development aid, still relatively near the top of the list.
It should therefore be no surprise that we raise questions of globalization and development in the first issue of the decade at the beginning of this new century. It is our duty to reflect on these trends in relation to our work and that of our partners in adult education, and to examine how our work in education is changing in the context of lifelong learning itself. Issues of internationalism, comparison and cooperation must therefore also be explored, at the bilateral and multilateral level, and in the agreements reached at international conferences such as that to be held in April 2000 in Dakar. The talk there will constantly revert to CONFINTEA V in Hamburg in 1997: the holding of Adult Learners Weeks at yearly intervals was one of the recommendations made there.
Our imprint still says that this journal is addressed to adult educators in Africa, Asia and Latin America and concerns itself above all with experiences in those continents. It will not have escaped our readers, however, that we are devoting increasing attention to trends in adult education in industrialized countries, and especially in the countries in transformation in Central and Eastern Europe. We do this again here with a section of our own containing contributions on Hungary, Latvia and Russia; we may also point to the article on Slovenia and the discussion of learning throughout life in Europe. At the same time we are thinking about themes for forthcoming issues, which will include the opportunities and difficulties of cross-border and intercultural adult education in the Balkans. However, we also report here in the final section on the experiences of projects in Africa and Central America – including sad expressions of condolences from Latin America. These are followed by the enlightening outcomes of a UNESCO seminar on the policy aims of adult education.
We hope that this issue will prove profitable reading, and we invite our readers to send us their manuscripts and materials for assessment.