Chris Duke

We now publish another article by Chris Duke. At this place, he uses the anniversary of the partnership between ASPBAE and the DVV as an occasion to look back and reflect on how it developed. These notes are written from memory, his files being inaccessible at present in another country.

DVV and ASPBAE – the Early Years

After 25 years of productive cooperation a time of celebration is also a good time for reflection. Why did the German Adult Education Association (DVV) through its Institute for International Cooperation Division (IIZ) decide to enter into what became a long and quite stable partnership with such a young and distinctly untried Third World nongovernmental organisation (NGO)? What were the founding principles and intentions on which this enduring partnership was built?

Background and Context – The Two Partners

The German partner grew with the post-World War Two rebuilding of (then just West) Germany and the wish of the allies and the new German administration to see (West) Germany become an accept able and stable western democracy. DVV, led by Helmuth Dolff, was part of the process and machinery of civic and socio-educational reconstruction. While the main emphasis was on the adult education movement at home, DVV also built a strong international cooperation and aid arm not dissimilar in its work to the big foundations or trusts – the Stiftungen such as Friedrich Ebert and Friedrich Neumann, with their political party affiliations. Each developed Third World aid and cooperation programmes, with German nationals on the spot in the main regions of Africa, Asia, Latin America, to teach, lead applied research and community development and manage and account for the projects on behalf of the home country donor organisations. Germany took its place among leading aid-giving nations. In the adult education area DVV was one of the main players. Like the others, it had to account very precisely to very meticulous Government bureaucrats in Bonn.

ASPBAE was born in the late sixties out of the enthusiasm of committed individual adult educators, notably New Zealander Arnold Hely supported by Australian Dulcie Stretton, working with S C (Siva) Dutta, whose base was the Indian Adult Education Association in New Delhi. ASPBAE began optimistically but quickly fell on hard times with the death of Hely, who had provided the main secretarial support. Unfortunately his death occurred before ASPBAE had been able to find members and become known other than among a small founding group of individuals in their home organisations. It was a small, shal- low-rooted club of people in universities, government departments and in a few cases national associations. My first encounter was in a Stiftung-funded regional workshop in New Delhi in 1972. Here I learned (too late!) that the price of participation was to agree to take on the secretarial work and fan life into what had become a shell organisation. In the next two years the main sign that ASPBAE existed was a Newsletter (Courier) produced by another of the little ASPBAE club, Dr Joan Allsop, with the blessing of another ‘club member’ Dr Des Crowley, her New Zealander University Director at Sydney.

Becoming a Partnership

I assumed the editorship in due course, which brought me to an international adult educators’ meeting in Teheran in about 1977. DVV was a main partner facilitating this, and DVV’s Bernd Pflug (now retired to Kerala in India) and I used ‘networking time’ to discuss North-South relations, the role of ASPBAE and the values underpinning the work of DVV. Over a stimulating early spring weekend on the Caspian coast well away from the meeting we devised general lines, which led to the Chiangmai ASPBAE Planning Workshop and from there to a generally triennial rolling cycle of DVV-supported activities. Although ASPBAE had an identity and rudimentary programme, the DVV support became its lifeblood for at least the next decade.

By 1977 ASPBAE had created an identity sufficiently firm to make it a plausible partner for DVV, by looking both inward and outward, Within the region the primary task was simply to find who and where the adult educators were (some might be called community education or development, some social education, some non-formal) and to begin to create a sense of common membership with a regional AE purpose using ASPBAE. This meant looking to government departments sometimes in repressive regimes as well as to teachers and scholars in Asian and Pacific universities, and to opposition NGOs in trying to foster a dialogue across these different sectors.

The work included seeking relations with international bodies within the region, such as UNESCO, SEAMEO and the ILO, especially where they had regional offices and specialist centres relevant to adult education work. Partnership and synergy were sought at regional and international level, especially with UNESCO, and with the recently formed International Council for Adult Education (ICAE) formed by Roby Kidd out of the Third UNESCO International Adult Education Conference in Tokyo in 1972. By 1976, when ICAE called its first World Assembly under the auspices of Julius Nyerere in Dar es Salaam, ASPBAE had acquired an identity enabling it to take part there as a loose association of colleagues from as far apart as Pakistan and Fiji. It was agreed that ICAE would recognise and work with the regional bodies, EAEA, AAEA, CEEAL, and ASPBAE. ASPBAE thus became the regional arm and member of ICAE at about the time of the Teheran meeting which started the DVV-ASPBAE partnership. ICAE and UNESCO were ‘behind the scenes best men’ at the wedding.

ASPBAE was still in a rudimentary state of development in 1977, despite having enthusiastic members in a number of countries passionate about educating adults, developing communities, and supporting balanced human development which combined economic and social purposes with an emphasis on ‘the poorest of the poor’. Paulo Freire, who was at Dar es Salaam along with Nyerere, was a guru for many in the region from India to Indonesia, across government and NGO bodies. (At this time China was not involved in either ASPBAE or ICAE.) There was much in common between Lim Hoy Pick in Singapore, Siva Dutta and his many co-workers in India including Rajesh Tandon, Wijetunga in Sri Lanka, Hwang of Korea, John Doraswamy in Kuala Lumpur, the energetic leaders of the Hong Kong AEA, PRRM and even some in government in the Philippines, but very little opportunity to get together, exchange ideas, learn from one another, and develop themselves, their colleagues and organisations. What was needed was more opportunity to meet and in other ways exchange information, experience and ideas about what mattered, what worked, and why, on a basis of what came to be called South-South learning and reciprocity rather than having everything flow through and be legitimised by New York and Paris, London or Washington. This was the need and the challenge which DVV took up.

Principles and Programmes

The partnership identified several needs and possible modes of regional development. The first principle was that needs and programmes must be identified and fashioned from the region and membership, even though ‘membership’ was diverse, thin and sometimes nebulous.

The founding (Chiangmai) workshop under the auspices of the dynamic host Thai Department of NFE, the leading governmental AE body in the region, was therefore a participatory planning event. Its informing context and philosophy, given its location, was kit phen, fashioned mainly by (the late) Dr Kowit Voripipitana who, together with Dr Kasama Voravarn, played a seminal role in ASPBAE and the DVV partnership.

Out of the Chiangmai seminar a number of programme strands emerged. These included country workshops and training programmes, travelling fellowships, support for annual executive meetings linked to annual regional conferences or other key events, and the means for Asian-Pacific personnel to contribute to wider international exchanges, both South-South and through ICAE. It was intended to nurture a research agenda but this proved hard to develop and take forward. Two- and three-country workshops were added to focus mutual learning more sharply.

As well as direct exchanges and events, DVV funds supported a programme of publications, including an enlarged ASPBAE Courier. Outside the funded programme more Asian-Pacific voices found expression through the three-language DVV publication Adult Education and Development. DVV also supported a substantial amount of translation of materials into country languages, reflecting a concern that too much that was being learned would otherwise be ‘trapped’ in a small English-speaking and internationally oriented elite.

As the programme expanded, another cohering purpose, sometimes explicit but always there at least in the background, was to build the national and regional networks so that cooperation and mutual learning would become easier. It involved supporting where possible the creation and strengthening of national professional, non-gov- ernmental adult education associations which included government participation but were not wholly owned by governments. This naturally proved easier in some countries and traditions than others. It accorded with the value base of DVV itself. At times it mirrored the tightrope which DVV had to walk in accounting for its annual budgets to the relevant German Ministry.

What Made the Partnership Distinctive?

Tightrope-walking might be called the first distinctive competence required of both DVV staff and ASPBAE’s honorary officers to make the partnership work. The ASPBAE partnership was ground-breaking for DVV, being the first time that German funds were disbursed and spent in ‘the South’ without a German national on the spot acting as manager, auditor and policeman. This was agreed at the Caspian Sea brainstorm session to be an essential and non-negotiable requirement. Since DVV had to account in fine detail for its funds, with original documentation for every item expended and documentation to the fourth decimal point for each currency exchange into a dozen and more local currencies, the process called for a high level of skill acquisition and trust on all sides. Initially the devolution was away from Germany but not literally and fully into the Asian-Pacific countries, since Australia (through ANU) was the sole banker and accounted for all funds. Later, as ASPBAE and the programme diversified into subregional offices, the principle was extended into local offices in ‘Asia proper’.

If trust and devolution were the first distinctive feature, the second was an insistence on partnership. Bernd Pflug’s colleague Heribert Hinzen, who succeeded him, in particular, insisted that DVV was a learning partner and not just a donor. Sometimes he and other colleagues were pushed into the ‘distant donor’ role, but this was sturdily resisted. There was thus a flow of learning and good practice development not only South-South within our region but through the DVV offices and journal South-South across all regions.

A third characteristic was the shared peer and self evaluation which infused the early years of the partnership. Evaluation became a formative learning process rather than an externally imposed add-on. This assisted the opening of communications and the building of trust among partners within ASPBAE.

A fourth characteristic was partnership itself, not only between ASP- BAE and DVV but with other interested bodies. There was a clear commitment to be inclusive rather than possessive and separate. ASPBAE, often with direct help and support from DVV, continued to work closely with the UNESCO Regional Office in Bangkok and its APEID network of centres, as well as with other bodies and specialised centres in the region. It deliberately encouraged the efforts of the University of British Columbia to build on its in-region work and develop in partnership its mixed-mode Master’s level programmes in Singapore and Hong Kong. On other occasions events were cohosted with national and local bodies. ICAE was encouraged to play an active role, with gradual rationalisation of office-holding and representation between the two bodies to save money and add value. One ASPBAE programme was co-funded by the Dutch aid mobilised by Piet Dijkstra and DVV working together.

Looking back over the formative years of this long-running partnership, it is perhaps worth noting in conclusion the emphasis upon processes and general purposes – what is now often called capabil- ity-building – and on the underlying values and principles of mutual respect which make for strong partnership. There was I think relatively little emphasis on the important sectoral and particular clientele programmes that emerged a little later: women, rural development, community action, literacy, health and population studies, although ASPBAE did liaise and make input to such programmes and agendas where they were being developed, for example by specialised agencies of the UN in the region. Perhaps it was natural that these followed later. What made the DVV-ASPBAE partnership distinctive from this perspective, then, was the priority given to building good foundations across huge cultural and political diversity which were able to carry continuing cooperation through the quarter century from 1978.

Tribute to the late Dr. Om Shrivastava, India

For all who have been inside the ASPBAE family for long, and all those who have been more outside in recent years, we knew that a celebration of 25 years of DVV-ASPBAE cooperation in Beijing would be a moving reunion. It was indeed a joyous occasion, meeting old friends and discovering again their undiminished passion for all that matters most in adult education.

Among them all no reunion proved more delightful than that with Om Shrivastava. His relationship with adult education globally, went back over three decades, to that shrine of non-governmental organisations, Seva Mandir in Udaipur. Om was among the great Indian NGO leaders who learned almost their first steps with the grandfather of the movement, Mohan Sinha Mehta. He went on to play a vital leadership role not only within India, in and from Astha, but also regionally and beyond. For ASPBAE Om played a pivotal role in the 1990 strategic planning and consultation process which relaunched it into the General Assembly and onward. For DVV he played key roles in their cooperation with Seva Mandir, Astha and ASPBAE.

Om was a gentle yet vibrant participant at Beijing, a strong contributor and great company during continuing discussions in the evening, and an early bird doing his walking amongst crowds of elderly Chinese people at sunset. All who heard of his tragic death in a train accident this June will have been devastated by the loss which this represents for all of us in his family, in India and beyond.

This chapter on international cooperation in adult education, which is a special contribution to Theme 10: International Cooperation and Solidarity of Confintea V+6 is dedicated to his memory.

Chris Duke, Australia
Heribert Hinzen, Germany  

Adult Education and Development


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