Marcie Boucouvalas / John A. Henschke

Reflections on International Cooperation and New Partnerships in the "Age of Globalization"

The "age of globalization", emerging as an increasingly familiar phrase over the past few decades, has become a focal point of both celebration and concern for the twenty-first century. The term, originating from the field of economics, took root as the movement of goods and services, especially through trade and financial flow, across international borders. Globalization has been celebrated as potentially enriching to the fostering of cooperation, collaboration, partnerships, and progress. It has also raised concern, however, in the world of adult education.

This concern permeated the 6th World Assembly of Adult Education, held in Ochos Rios, Jamaica, during August 2001, by the International Council for Adult Education (ICAE). In his opening address to the ­Assembly, the Rt. Honorable P.J. Patterson, Prime Minister of Jamaica, reminded adult educators that “globalisation is not a tide which necessarily lifts all boats... the stark facts indicate that it sinks many.”

The Declaration that emerged from the World Assembly echoed a similar concern: “we have seen an economic globalisation that widens the gap between the haves and the have-nots” and “we have taken notice of the large number of people from all corners of the world who ...have expressed their profound concerns about the directions proposed by global financial actors.” Simultaneously, however, the voice of hope was also heard in the Declaration: “we have taken notice of emerging forms of active citizenship and the importance of local and grassroots activities in challenging globalisation.” 1

The challenge, of course, is in more than just monetary terms. In the New Economy information is heralded as an important commodity, so to speak. As further stressed by Patterson,

“the global economy is today information-intensive, not material-intensive,” meaning that “wealth has to be re-defined in terms of knowledge-rich versus knowledge-poor countries.” Consequently, “people have to be constantly updating their knowledge,” not just for economic growth, but for “the values and norms necessary for democratic citizenship; ...information will make citizens aware of the challenges, threats, and opportunities of globalisation.”

Accordingly, the term globalization has come to mean much more in the world of adult education. For example, Paul Kennedy has urged the field to focus on “knowledge” rather than “material” globalization,2 and Franz Poeggeler, reflecting upon his writings and thoughts over the years, has urged all adult educators to consider the term “globalization” as a way of thinking as “One World,” reminding us that in the past “nationalistic imperialism [has] ended in a catastrophe of narrow-mindedness.” 3

The time is now ripe. Globalization in both theory and practice is emerging within the context of what has been termed the postmodern movement, ushering in a world in which a plurality of voices and ways of knowing is heralded. Out of the postmodern framework has emerged constructivism, which in practical terms is expressed as the movement toward diversity and inclusiveness, recognizing that cultural ways of being create different perceptions of the same phenomenon. These advances, though, presuppose the developmental prerequisite that one is able to sustain the tension inherent in having multiple perspectives existing side by side because one is able to grasp and embrace the greater whole of which the perspectives are part.

The meaning in life derived from being and feeling a part of a greater whole is called homonomy and is a complementary developmental trajectory to autonomy (development of the individual, unique, autonomous, separate self-sense). As discussed in earlier papers,4 these terms apply to development of individuals, relationships, groups, organizations, and nations. Individuals develop healthy autonomy, but derive meaning also from identifying with a relationship, group, or even nationalistic fervor. Balance between autonomy and homonomy, however, is a key. Groups, organizations, and nations likewise, develop ­autonomous identities, but what happens when homonomy is missing? Any time the autonomous identity truncates off, and fails to see or identify with the larger whole of which it is part, centrisms arise, some of which can be deadly. Ethnocentrism, nationalistic imperialism, and hege­mony are recognizable examples. Today, however, we all face this challenge together, particularly in the light (or darkness) of terrorism. Terrorism may be seen as homonomy gone awry.

Since we hail from the USA, this backdrop holds special significance for us at this moment in history. Given the now well-known events of September 11, 2001, we - as United States citizens and residents, but also as global creatures - recognize that Americans have been given an opportunity to better understand the suffering of humanity that we have now joined. In other words, we can no longer stand outside of where pain and sorrow exist in the world. We have been “terrorized” and the lesson is huge for our own further development. As citizens of the world we must learn the adverse ramifications of attempting to maintain an autonomous identity as Americans without equally embracing the larger whole (i.e. the world) of which we are part.

With that perspective we offer our thoughts on “international cooperation and new partnerships.” Three questions have been posed to us that we will address accordingly. How and with what attitude we all choose to connect, however, is as important as why.

1. Which are the New Aims and Forms of International Cooperation in this Age of Globalization?

In the Cape Town Statement,5 the following is suggested as one ­answer to the first question:

“International partnerships and linkages ...[occur] ... when lifelong learning institutions in the globalising world strive for a broad exchange on teaching/learning systems, and collaboration across national boundaries. This is for: sharing knowledge and know-how; partnerships and alliances based on common interest, mutual respect and desire to attain social justice, globally and locally; enhancing the sharing of skills, research opportunities; and staff and student development.”

Although much of this momentum has been building over the decades, a newer aim is reached with the current recommendation (from the Cape Town Statement) that a record bekept by all theparties (nations, institutions, individuals, groups, societies, etc.) regarding the extent of exchange, sharing of skills, research opportunities, learner and personnel development, and collaboration across national boundaries. Such an endeavor would be central to provide visibility and build a resource base of who is doing what with whom. The availability of such information has far-reaching implications for both scholars and practitioners interested in advancing international cooperation.

International cooperation furthermanifests itself when all of us (including us as Americans) take learning as a master concept and regard it as a continuous but never complete development, understanding that changes and adaptations in human consciousness occur partly through deliberate action, but even more as a result of the business of living, where learning (which may be intentional or unintentional) includes greater understanding of other people and the world at large.

Such an approach, if based on Jacques Delors,6 four pillars of learning: being, knowing, doing, and living together, will certainly transform our cooperation, broaden its scope and breadth, and elevate it to heights worthy of the requirements of the new millennium.

Of course, as Budd Hall (Secretary-General of ICAE for decades, currently at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education) reminds us, violence, crime, arms, and the drug trade have also become globalized.7 It seems that it would be naïve not to recognize also that with the advent and refinement of communication technologies, crossing borders has been facilitated and can be used for both beneficial and deleterious purposes in the globalization process. We must stay vigilant because of that awareness as we attempt to cultivate the role of adult education, whether as program, process, or movement, and think about and pursue new partnerships in international cooperation in this age of globalization. Perhaps there may even be lessons for us to learn in terms of how such alliances are formed, how they operate, and how they maintain their power.

2. What are the Possible New Partners?

Every institution, group, level of government, corporation, educational organization, health care agency, social service agency, religious body, financial, civic group, service club, informal group, and friends, marginalized social groups, family, etc., are possible new partners in this extremely important enterprise of international cooperation.

Not to be overlooked, however, are the educators and learners who, having been in the teaching/learning transaction for so long, may have become hazy in their conception of cooperation. They may still think of learning as teacher-controlled; competitive and individualistic; cumulative and linear; fitting a metaphor of the ‘storehouse of knowledge’; and as an ability that is rare. They may also conceive that any expert can teach; faculty are primarily lecturers; knowledge comes in ‘chunks’ and ‘bits’ delivered by teachers; and faculty and students act independently and in isolation. Nevertheless, both educators and learners may instead now be ready for a fresh or refreshed vision and conception of the teaching/learning transaction - namely, that it is a cooperative venture. They may now see learning as the students’ responsibility; collaborative and supportive; nesting and interacting of frameworks; fitting a metaphor of ‘learning how to ride a bicycle’; and as an ability that is abundant.

They may now conceive that teaching is empowering learning through challenging and complex means; faculty are primarily designers and implementers of adult learning techniques and environments; knowledge is constructed, created and internalized; and, faculty and students work in teams with each other and with other staff. With the fresh vision embraced by these possible new partners - the teachers and learners - they will be the people who can listen to and learn from a full spectrum of humanity, valuing many opinions as worthy of being listened to, honored, and appreciated. They will exemplify and model learning in their everyday life.

They will challenge each learner’s intelligence just beyond their present learning abilities. They will expect to treat each other as unique and with respect, take charge of themselves in self-directed learning, engage actively in the process of learning, and seek intellectual challenge. The institutions that support this cooperation will provide adequate learning resources, a work system and an atmosphere that is people-centered, caring, warm, informal, intimate, supportive, and trusting. 8

Equally meaningful would be partnering between individuals, groups, or nations who are very different, may not share similar cultures or foundations, but who are committed to listening to and learning from each other. They will recognize their mutual resonance and identity with the adult education movement. They will also be willing to work at accepting, respecting, honoring and, when necessary and possible, transcending differences in service of the partnership for international cooperation.

3. Do we Need Global Players in Adult Education?

Kennedy (see footnote 2) suggests that roughly speaking the peoples of the Earth are divided into two types, those in what are called developed regions, which are rich, technology-heavy societies, and those in what are termed developing countries, which are usually much poorer and have great social and economic deficits. In the next 50 years, the richer lands are hardly expected to increase in population at all, whereas the developing regions are expected to grow very rapidly indeed.

The international cooperation that we seek needs global players who have some understanding of this complicated dilemma, and are committed to addressing this situation constructively, and with humility. The importance of having learned from experience comes into play at this juncture. Both authors of this paper have been involved in numerous teaching/learning cooperative ventures in a wide variety of cultures and nations over the years, and have worked with learners from over 75 countries.

Insights gleaned from these experiences suggest that it is of utmost importance to be “with” those that represent other cultures and nations. This means that the ground upon which the cooperation is based is ­level - each party to the cooperation is viewed as having equal standing, worth, and value. Each one’s intelligence and stature,although varied, needs to be acknowledged and appreciated. The exchange is for a mutual sharing of resources, in the full knowledge that each will learn from the other, while respecting and expressing gratefulness for this reality. It is especially exhilarating and energizing to realize that while cultural differences exist and are to be admired, learners are learners around the world. Despite the setting, culture, context, or nation,learning is a human, internal process, replete with many similarities, especially in the manner and modeofengaging the adult learner. The light of learning shines from within, andon, all living on this globe.

A key ingredient for global players in international cooperation and new partnerships is the importance of authentic dialogue. Partnerships of this ilk go beyond business-oriented models framed by an economic conceptualization of globalization, where partners share joint interests, profits, and risks, but may not really know or understand each other’s way of being. The aim of the new partnerships would be to build international linkages at a deeper level. Accomplishing a deep understanding of the other entails the ability to listen with respect and listen for understanding. It would appear that this is the “substance” of which international cooperation and global players are made. These are the kind of global players the field seems to need.9

Ma Shuping, President of the Bejing Academy of Educational Sciences, and a deeply committed adult educator, uttered a riveting concept that may bring together this idea of international cooperation in a fresh way. At a 1999 International Symposium on the Theory and Practice of Lifelong Education, Shuping looked at all the adult educators gathered from around the world in the conference hall, and said: “We are all in the same family - the family of adult educators. We all have the same goals and desires - the well-being of those we serve.”10 We suggest keeping this framework of commonality and community in mind as we try to revere and understand differences. Keeping autonomy and homonomy in balance seems fundamental.

We, as professionals in adult learning from the United States, with pain and suffering now not unlike those from other countries and cultures (albeit only a glimpse), are ready and desiring to experience the new joy of cooperation with others around the world in this family of adult educators for our mutual benefit - in becoming knowledge-rich; all of us, that is. We are poised to engage in this new - yet long-standing - venture.

Moreover, as representatives of the international aspects of the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE), we are ready to lock arms with you to move forward on this important worldwide enterprise - International Cooperation and a New Partnership in this Age of Globalization. We welcome your dialogue.


1 For further reference see the web site of the International Council for Adult Education, organizers of the Assembly (, e-mail at, Telephone: ++(416) 588-1211, Fax: ++(416) 588-5725

2 Source: Kennedy, P. (2000). Global challenges at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Adult Education and Development, 54, 7-20.

3 Source: Poeggeler, F. (2000, August). The globalization of adult education and the idea of One World: Aspects of history, presence, and future. Keynote address presented at the 8th International Conference on the history of adult education. Pecs, Hungary: University of Pecs.

4 Source: Boucouvalas, M. (1988). An analysis and critique of the concept “self” in self-directed learning: Toward a more robust construct for research and practice. In Proceedings of the TransAtlantic Dialogue Research Conference, pp. 55-61. Leeds, England: University of Leeds and Boucouvalas (1999). Toward a civil society: Balancing autonomy and homonomy: Developing a research agenda and action plan for adult educators. Paper presented at the International Conference on “A Century of Adult Education Experiences: What are the lessons for the future?” Uppsala, Sweden: University of Uppsala.. Contact author for further information (

5 Source: Walters, S., Mauch, W., Watters, K. & Henschke, J. A. (2001). The Cape Town Statement of the characteristic elements of a lifelong learning higher education institution. Cape Town, South Africa: The University of the Western Cape (published in Adult Education and Development, 56, 109-120). The statement, developed with the aid of considerable discussion at this international gathering with numerous adult educators from twenty-three (23) countries, was undergirded by the background of the UNESCO International Adult Education Conference, held in Hamburg during 1997 (Confintea V Conference, producing the “Declaration on Adult Learning,” and the “Agenda for the Future”), the Ad Hoc meeting following up the UNESCO Conference, held at the University of Bombay (Mumbai, India) in April, 1998, producing the “Mumbai Statement on Lifelong Learning, Active Citizenship, and the Reform of Higher Education”, developed and made in preparation for the UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education in the 21st century, the Higher Education Conference itself, held in Paris during October, 1998, and by research from both the “first” world and “third” world perspectives. For further reference see the web site: http://www/  For further information contact the co-author

6 Jacques Delors was the chair of the committee commissioned to write the volume that provided a foundation for the UNESCO International Conference on Adult Education (held in Hamburg, Germany, July 1997, the Conference is often referred to as CONFINTEA V). The report was published as: Delors, J. (1998). Learning: The treasure within (Revised edition of the report to UNESCO of the International Commission on Education for the twenty-first century). Paris: UNESCO.

7 Source: Hall, B. (2001). The politics of globalization. In R. Cervero, A. Wilson et al. Adult education and the struggle for knowledge and power in society. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

8 For further information contact the co-author:

9 For some cogent insights for global players in international cooperation to consider, as well as over 200 strategies and exercises, see Taylor, K.C., Marienau, C. & Fiddler, M. (2000). Developing adult learners: Strategies for teachers and trainers. San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.

10 Statement made at the 1999 International Symposium on the Theory and Practice of Lifelong Education, Beijing, China: Beijing Academy of Educational Sciences and Beijing Adult Education Association, where Henschke gave the keynote address.

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