Anthony Okech

The "Sixth World Assembly of the International Council for Adult Education" was held in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, from 9 to 12 August 2001. The following is a brief extract from the conference report, dealing with the workshops on "Documentation and Training of Adult Educators". Anthony Okech is a long-standing partner of our Institute, and a senior member of the Institute of Adult Continuing Education of Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda.

Participation in the ICAE World Assembly: Thematic Workshop on Documentation and on Training of Adult Educators

Each participant had the opportunity to participate in two workshop ­series of his or her choice. I selected the workshop series on Adult Learning Documentation and Information because the Department of Adult Education and Communication Studies where I belong had expressed the feeling that it was an area in which there was a big gap in Uganda and so needed strengthening. For the second workshop series I had no choice since I had travelled specifically to be one of its ­resource ­persons. This was the workshop series on Training the Post­CONFINTEA V Adult Educator.

Adult Learning Documentation and Information

This workshop series focused on the work of the Adult Learning Documentation and Information Network (ALADIN). This network, coordinated by the documentation services of the UNESCO Institute for Education (UIE), was started to address the imbalance between the regions in access to information, to deal with the challenges faced by the centres in some regions and to enable adult educators everywhere to have access to the new opportunities opened up by the advance in technology.

The network coordinator had carried out a survey in 1998, from which she had compiled a Directory of Members. The response had not been as good as expected, and the Directory listed only about 90 centres. This poor response was the first issue considered in the workshop series. The issue of membership was considered, and the workshop discussed whether there should be some kind of formal membership, or an open network should be encouraged so that as many documentation and information centres as possible could network. Although views tended to favour the open network, the usefulness of having a directory of members was recognized. Ways were therefore considered to obtain responses from the documentation and information centres. One proposal considered was to make the questionnaire shorter. It was considered discouragingly long in its present form, although it provided much useful detailed information.

The workshop series also tried to reach a clearer understanding of what is meant by documentation centres. It was recognized that there is a variety of types of documentation and information centres, especially with the advance of new technologies. The workshop also shared a variety of experiences on the way documentation centres are developed and used. Attention eventually focused on the importance of giving a greater role to community-based documentation and information. One implication of this was the need to build local capacity so that people can capture, develop, store and use information. An example was given of how this was being done in Malaysia.

For the way forward, the emphasis was put on the following:

  1. Active recognition of the value of grassroots materials and activities and of efforts to document them. (This was included in the Ocho Rios Declaration at the end of the Assembly, see pp. 183.)
  2. Training in documentation and library skills to promote setting up of documentation centres in those areas where there is a shortage of centres. (Uganda and Israel particularly pointed out their great need for developing documentation centres.)
  3. Resource mobilization to support the setting up of resource centres where they are lacking and to develop the network. Participants from the North mentioned the possibility of mobilizing foundations like Carnegie, Ford or Bill Gates to support the development of a global network.
  4. Development of a simple kit that could help those who would like to set up documentation centres.

Training the Post-CONFINTEA V Adult Educator

This workshop series, as already explained in the introduction to this report, was included as a result of concerns raised by Prof. Youngman of the University of Botswana and shared by the DVV. Three resource persons who facilitated the workshop together with Prof. Youngman had their participation financed by the DVV. I was one of them.

The workshop aimed at bringing together participants interested in this theme in order to identify the key issues in developing training for the post-CONFINTEA adult educator, and to propose strategies for future action from an international perspective. The main outcome was expected to be a plan of action for follow-up activities through ICAE, regional organizations and training institutions, and through other modalities such as networking, web-based courses, south-south and south-north exchanges and attachments, cooperative materials production and joint training of trainers.

After a general introduction by the workshop coordinator, the workshop started by sharing experiences on the training of adult educators in the different regions. The examples from Asia (Philippines) and the Caribbean (Dominican Republic) focused on popular education for participatory planning and action. From our experiences in Uganda and Africa I raised the following issues:

  • Adult education as a distinct area of specialization - and if so, what is its scope? Recognition or not of adult education as an area of specialization has implications for types of training, the job market, funding and other support.
  • Level of training: where should the main focus be - training of front-line workers, first degree or post graduate level? Varying levels of focus in African training institutions have implications for the comparability of the training, staff and student exchanges, sharing of experience, materials development and transferability, and the quality of training.
  • Training of adult educators in the context of globalization and liberalization, and the growing need for attention to social justice. There is a need to maintain a delicate balance between adult educators as technocrats and adult educators as crusaders, with implications for support or opposition from the authorities.
  • The adult education profession and the challenge of open lifelong learning: is there still room for a specialized group of adult educators? Or what contribution can training in adult education make to the quality of open lifelong learning, which takes place in so many diverse contexts, facilitated by so many varied actors?
  • Relevance of the trainers’ education: most current adult educator trainers in Africa were trained outside Africa. Relevance also of the training texts used: mainly from North America and Europe. Opportunities for developing the African face of the adult education profession are few. The initiative coordinated by the University of Botswana Department of Adult Education with support from the DVV (Adult Learning Africa website and the African Perspectives on Adult Learning Textbook series) is therefore meeting an important need.

The workshop noted the fragile situation of professionalization and training of adult educators at international level. There has not been much progress over the years. The reference made to it at CONFINTEA V was weak and just a copy of the 1976 statement. Yet already in 1972 the top issue was to enhance and develop the professionalization of adult education. The workshop also noted the strange homes given to adult education in the different universities.

Among the conclusions and recommendations of the workshop were:

  1. ICAE to consider the possibility of setting up an international task force to study the situation and determine the need, leading possibly to the setting up of an International Training Institute for the ­facilitators of adult learning.
  2. Advocate for greater recognition of the role and contribution of educators of adults both locally and internationally (recognition of this contribution was included in the Ocho Rios Declaration).
  3. Streamline terminologies and avoid unhelpful debates by using terms like educators of adults rather than adult educators, and ­expertise rather than professionalism.