Editorial

There is a new debate about the meaning of literacy. This is needed both because the number of those whose reading, writing and mathematical skills are inadequate is rising in developing countries, and because it is only now that the issue is being treated honestly in certain countries, such as those in transition. The debate is between theoreticians and practitioners - over the nature of the various “literacies”, for example - between policy-makers and government - over priorities, for example - and between providers and funding bodies - since money is always too tight. State, civil society and university agencies at the local, national and international level are involved, or are involving themselves. The debate is driven indirectly by very necessary attempts to influence globalization and by poverty reduction schemes, which see participation and capacity building as part of the process of economic growth and the establishment of basic social services. Other crucial efforts, more closely tied to the narrow field of education, are intended to respond to the objectives and challenges clearly set out in 2000 at the Dakar World Education Forum on Education for All: “achieving a 50 per cent improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015, ­especially for ­women, and equitable access to basic and continuing ­education for all adults”.

Sound arguments are called for in this clarification process. The various sectors are fighting over the many additional billions of dollars or euros that are needed. Convincing arguments have therefore to b?e put forward to show that investment is worthwhile. Research has a part to play: the study prepared on behalf of the World Bank, extracts from which are reprinted here, provides a good example because it adds a variety of literacy and development concepts to the debate - Reflect, livelihoods and campaigns. It nonetheless strengthens the argument for “re-engaging with adults” in relation to the justification of investment. The literacy debate will continue in many forms, especially at international conferences. The IIZ/DVV Project Office in Cape Town has just supported such a conference for our South African partners, which will be documented in a variety of ways; this journal, for example, will report on it.

The last issue contained several articles looking back over earlier German Adult Education Conferences. Readers may recall that colleagues from local centres have the opportunity every five years to exchange experiences and information about their situation with representatives of their regional and national associations and committees and, more importantly, with educational policy-makers and people from other adult education organizations. While the slogan in Leipzig in 1996 was “Continue thinking - Continue education”, the general direction for 2001 in Hamburg was summed up as “The Future Needs Learning Needs a Future”. The President of the Federal Republic of the day has never failed to attend and to address participants. And for the first time, an EU Commissioner for Education described the ideal of lifelong learning as a key factor in the development of the European Union. International attendance, and sessions concerned with European and international issues were among the highlights of this year’s Conference. The final meeting of the DVV Board of Management agreed that the IIZ/DVV could be proud to have been responsible for this development. In this whole series of meetings of up to a thousand colleagues, which have set out to present and discuss achievements and prospects, there have in fact never been so many participants from absolutely all European countries, and indeed across the world.

This journal has appeared since 1973. It has been supported financially from the outset, and still is funded, by the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). This Ministry celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2001. It has come a long way - from development aid in the era of decolonization to a holistic approach to global structural policies for peace. From what we can tell from the feedback we receive, our readers are as grateful as are we, the publishers, for this support for our publishing programme, since it allows us to communicate with our partners and to share more general information than is possible within specific projects.

Heribert Hinzen