Statement of IIZ/DVV Advisory Board and the DVV

The Significance of Adult Education in Development Cooperation

The Board of Management of the German Adult Education Association (DVV, a registered association) and the Advisory Board of the Institute for International Cooperation of the DVV (IIZ/DVV) are concerned to note that the specialist functions and activities of adult and continuing education, under the broad heading of Education, are not accorded ­adequate priority in development policy and the measures proposed in development schemes.

While the 1500 participants at the World Education Forum held in Dakar in 2000 stressed that “no country seriously committed to ‘Education for All’ should be prevented from achieving this goal for lack of resources”, numerous indicators suggest that less attention is being paid to education in development cooperation:

  • An evaluation commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) on “The Prospects of Success for Basic Education Projects” comes, for example, to the conclusion, that “the BMZ should rethink the role of basic education in development cooperation since countries appear to be giving it less priority, despite verbal assurances.”

Partner countries, and other target countries, which may only name three priorities for cooperation under the new focus guidelines issued by the BMZ, seldom opt for education, preferring instead to name the transverse fields of economic transformation, democracy and responsible governance, environment and information technologies. This mirrors education’s loss of priority on the German side.

  • Even in the laudable 2015 action programme of the BMZ on “Combating Poverty – A Global Task” (April 2001), education is barely mentioned as a tool. While ten fields of action are listed in the quest to achieve the goal of halving the number of people in the world living in extreme poverty by 2015, education only appears in a few sub-headings within these fields, providing basic education for women and girls, for example, to support the field of action on “Promoting Gender Equality”.

The loss of importance described above conflicts with what has been learnt from current practice, research and policy in education, which demonstrate that education, in the form of adult education:

  • means applied action and applied knowledge,
  • covers a wide range of pedagogical activities, and
  • c is seen as a nodal point for other fields and types of action, and is hence interdisciplinary.

This change in how educators and others perceive the education ­provided by adult and continuing education, including a broad range of specialist skills that go beyond teaching, is confirmed by international observations.

  • The OECD, for example, sees a direct connection between “Education and Social Development”, both in the context of institutional structures and practical work (“Literacy, Economy and Society”, 1995 ff.).
  • In Articles 149 and 150 of the Amsterdam Treaty (1997), the EU includes “General and vocational education and youth work” among the tasks of the Community, thereby linking education directly with employment and the labour market, and seeing social and infra­structural measures as falling within the area of responsibility of educational practice and research. Building on the Lisbon resolutions of the EU Council of Ministers of March 2000, which seek to promote lifelong learning as a factor in the successful transition to a knowledge-based economy and society, the European Commission is conducting a comprehensive consultation process to draw up a fundamental “Memorandum on Lifelong Learning”, in which learning in all fields and forms will be recognised as an essential integral part of a knowledge-based society that is sustainable in the future.
  • In its early ground-breaking programme on adult education (“Recommendation on the Development of Adult Education”, 1976), UNESCO liberated literacy, for example, from the narrow concept of the ability to read, and gave it a social, labour market-oriented and institutional dimension (“Linking literacy with social, cultural and economic development efforts”). This was reinforced in subsequent documents.
  • The content of World Bank development programmes has also long since expanded beyond what was at first a purely fiscal framework. The Bank identifies “inadequate educational opportunities (especially the ability to read and write)” as one of the six main problems facing the poor, and regards adult education as having significant development potential: “Adult Continuing Education can be a major force in human capital development, is an integral part of lifelong learning, and enrolls more individuals than initial and higher education combined” (World Bank Discussion Paper, 2000).
  • At CONFINTEA V (Hamburg, 1997), the continuing international debate about “learning throughout life” (from E. Faure in 1972 to J. Delors in 1998 and beyond) considered adult education under ten headings, incorporating fields such as:
    • Environmental education
    • Policy on migration and minorities
    • Health education and population policy
    • Rehabilitation
    • Labour market policy, and
    • Civic and social education

This was not a reflection of pretentious thinking, but of the reality of development work, which could be further substantiated by evidence showing, for example, that environmental education, health education and vocational education strengthen the structure of society.

Here in Germany, the international argument about education policy easily becomes rhetorical, but it needs to demonstrate its credibility through actual measures of support. The positive recognition of the development-oriented educational work of the IIZ/DVV, which has been made plain in the most recent external evaluation, should encourage development policy and development cooperation to retain, or to restore to their range of responsibilities, the priority previously given to education.

This implies providing an adequate budget for the growth in the activities and goals of developmental and educational organizations such as the IIZ/DVV, with Cuba, for example, or under the Stability Pact for the Balkans, or in the recently launched initiative in the Caucasus. Additional budgeting will be needed if education as a part of development is not to suffer.

Adopted by the Advisory Board of the IIZ/DVV at its meeting of 10 June 2001 in Berlin, and by the Board of Management of the German Adult Education Association at a subsequent meeting, also held on 10 June 2001 in Berlin.

IIZ/DVV Advisory Board, Obere Wilhelmstr. 32, 53225 Bonn,
Tel.: +49 (228) 975 69-0, Fax: +49 (228) 975 69-55, e-mail:

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