This report is a reprint from “Adult Education and Developpement” Nr. 19, 1982, pp. 289–299. These notes are the result of a participative evaluation of the period 1977–80. The Secretariat circularised its main country partners in Region 3 and also some other individuals. It is a qualitative appraisal and a policy review, not a quantitative analysis. In looking back from 1981 to 1977/78 the report seeks to identify trends and developments which represent learning along the way.

DVV-ASPBAE Partnership – Evaluative Review 1977–1980

Some Key Characteristics of ASPBAE and the Partnership

A key characteristic of ASPBAE is its non-governmental character, which No Limits to Learning, the recent report to The Club of Rome, identifies as having essential qualities lacked by governments and intergovernmental agencies: “it is the NGOs which appear to have the longer term, flexible, interdisciplinary perspectives and where anticipation and participation are emerging”. That report uses the term network, noting that some new NGOs and networks “make a point of calling themselves non-organisations”. ASPBAE prefers the term network to organisation, and has employed the term non-organisation also to refer to its distinctive characteristic.

Coombs identifies three important factors in building a contingency plan for success in efforts to meet the basic needs of the rural poor: “the eventual cost of keeping it going and replicating it with indigenous resources; the extent to which the government and local people see it as their project and give it high priority; and whether it is the kind of activity that the country’s own bureaucratic machinery, given its strengths and weakness and style of operation, could reasonably be expected to absorb and manage efficiently.”

ASPBAE, and the work of the DVV/ASPBAE partnership, measures well in terms of these factors. Costs are low in terms of the number of activities, and the proportion of infrastructure compared with direct provision each year. The mode of participative planning means that the programme belongs very much to the partner countries and local people. In a number of cases there is direct government participation through its own machinery, so that the activity is continued and partly absorbed by the on-going work of government (specifically in Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines).

A dinstinctive feature of the work has been the form of partnership both between DVV and ASPBAE and between these and people in the participating countries. Though no longer unique, the form of partnership which dispensed with a German expert on the spot, while it may have made for some difficulties and hesitations on the German side, has surely been well justified in the event. Despite the difficulties of managing financial returns from a dozen different countries and some delays with finalisation, a very high proportion of funds allocated have been spent and satisfactorily accounted for on diverse programmes in different countries chosen by highly professional workers in those countries and managed by them. Equally important, the principle and practice of trusting local partners thereby demonstrated by Germany and DVV, and echoed by ASPBAE with its emphasis on further devolution of decision-making and management, have paid off:

a) in terms of the acquisition of experience and confidence on the part of adult educators in many countries;
b) in terms of appreciation of the German attitude that is thus displayed, and the absence of paternalism and neo-colonialism, which can be highly offensive.

In ASPBAE’s judgement the partnership has been highly successful and the four years must be judged a considerable success in this over-riding and general sense.

The Network and the Secretariat

ASPBAE is distinctive in having almost no infrastructure and assets, and no salaried staff. It is heavily dependent, or “parasitic” upon the existing infrastructure, resources, and voluntarily given, unpaid, time of adult educators in different places. The DVV programme has included (1979/80) a small item for “troubleshooters” to meet certain professional problem-solving and development needs which cannot be handled from within a country, but most of the programme development and management is on an in-country basis. Alongside the “troubleshooter” idea has grown up (partly through the travelling fellow mechanism) the “member at large” concept whereby highly competent senior practitioners (such as Dutta, Udagama, Kowit, Santiago) serve as resource persons in situations of special potential or need, and play a role somewhat analogous to the troubleshooter, but with less emphasis on the administrative/financial aspects.

 These arrangements support the definition of ASPBAE as a network and a “non-organisation”. While the secretariat necessarily carries a large amount of responsibility, especially as the contracting party with DVV, it appears to have successfully attuned itself to the professional purposes, needs and will of the network members as expressed

a) through the key annual meeting
b) through other activities in which there is a secretariat involvement
c) through telephone, telex, and letter correspondence with network members including to some extent
d) the newsletter and Courier Service, mainly the correspondence which these create

No quantitative evaluation of this network has been attempted. It is clear, however, that there now exists a strong community of adult educators in all countries in which the programme has been actively conducted, and to a lesser extent in other countries more marginally involved, which did not exist five years ago. This is a vehicle for professional exchange, learning and development through a list of contacts, visits and other activities which in total far outnumber those directly channelled through and supported by the Bureau and the programme of DVV. The 1980 annual meeting, reviewing the role of the Bureau, acknowledged a role in recognising and reinforcing “the distinctive strong features of adult education in each country as a protection against a sense of inferiority and a tendency to impart unsuitable foreign models.”

An important principle of the Bureau, implied above, is its TCDC (technical cooperation between developing countries) emphasis. This does not exclude Western experts end experience being drawn upon, but it does put the main emphasis on sharing and mutual help between Asian and Pacific countries. To this kind of interpersonal and inter-country teamwork may be added other key characteristics and values: the stress upon small-scale programmes rather than mass approaches; the stress upon adult education in the context of development rather than as its own end; the broad and humane sense in which “development” is used to embrace social and cultural matters rather than merely economic progress; and the valuing of the purposes and approaches now commonly referred to as conscientization.

Strategies and Tactics

The central principles for operating the programme have been participation (referred to above) and flexibility, or the capacity within agreed purposes to adapt and respond to new needs and opportunities. The DVV/ASPBAE arrangement has proved satisfactory in the way it has allowed, within an agreed budget, with a division between three budget lines (workshops, publications, fellowships) and with approximate annual guidelines and a draft programme, for some activities to be dropped or scaled down, and others to be introduced where a need to which the Bureau can effectively respond has presented itself during the year. No country has expressed dissapointment or resentment about any of these changes over three years. And no difficulty has been experienced with DVV in terms of these adjustments and adaptations. This suggests that the characteristic of flexibility and adaptation has been an agreed and shared strategy which has proved beneficial to the programme.

Other distinguishing features, or tactics, which appear to have been vindicated include an approach which links together top level and rice-roots level work. The intention is to enhance the understanding of very senior administrators about adult education likely to contribute to people’s development and the improvement of quality of life or standard of living, while securing actual change through adult education programme at the local level. There is no expectation of directly bringing about social change through education on a large scale, e.g. at national and provincial level. However, if understanding and support can be secured at the top level then much bigger programmes (governmental, or through intergovernmental agencies) might be redirected and more effective.

This points to two other emphases: on innovation and experimentation to develop new approaches and methods for adult education for development, which can be followed if successful by others on a larger scale; and on finding good means for multiplication and dissemination of successful activities and approaches. In those countries where there is significant governmental involvement, work in Thailand has been very successful in these respects, and that in Indonesia and the Philippines successful to some extent. In other countries the partnership has been mainly with non-governmental agencies.

There is also an effort wherever possible to undertake activities where the local partner is able to make a significant contribution in effort and sometimes in direct resources also. Examples of this are listed in the annual reports; generally this has been most successful in Thailand, Hong Kong, Korea and Singapore, but in every case the part of the programme activity (workshop) actually paid for through the DVV/ ASPBAE support has been a minor part of the total real cost. This criterion can be linked with that mentioned previously, the multiplier, dissemination or diffusion effect. As well as direct influences, e.g. further workshops in Korea directly arising from one in the DVV/ASPBAE programme, there are many indirect or “spin-off” effects which the secretariat hears about from time to time, such as changed behaviour in a department or organisation, or further visits to a neighbouring country by study teams following an ASPBAE contact or activity but not funded though ASPBAE.

Modes of Operating

There are three dominant forms in the 1977–80 programme. The main one is workshops and related (conference and training) activities. One concern has been to strike a good balance between national (or more local) and regional (i.e. international – two or more country) workshops. There has been a tendency to place most value on local/national work and to be apologetic about regional activities; thus it was decided to hold regional conferences only every year from 1980.

The regional activities have been, first, regional conferences each year in this period. Each has played an important part in developing the network and its purposes, as the records of these meetings show. The Chiangmai meeting (1977) had a very careful and elaborate system for setting criteria, setting priorities, and making decisions about the 1978–80 programme. Later conferences were able to work more rapidly and intuitively as they developed a shared understanding and common purpose about adult education and its possible contribution, as well as about the particular contribution DVV/ASPBAE could make. Within these annual reviews it has been possible to proceed confidently on national and local level work. At the same time these meetings have been so designed as to allow direct learning from the work in the host countries, and have been very important for morale and experience for those doing the work locally. In some cases they have also had significant political value for the workers in the country concerned (Korea, Indonesia).

Workshops within countries have largely followed the general directions and recommendations of Chiangmai and the subsequent annual meetings, although with some variation either from deliberate decision and consultation or from necessity. Thailand has by all the evidence benefited considerably from its active participation in Bureau affairs, and has put considerable efforts and resources into ASPBAE-linked programmes as well as those having direct support. Indonesian progress in terms of ASPBAE activity has been rather more rapid than was expected, while in the other partner countries, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore and Korea, the level and kind of activity have been much as was planned although a few activities were not supported by ASPBAE since it appeared they could go ahead without help (notably in Singapore).

The publication area of the work has taken three forms: the Courier Service and (in 1980) Newsletter; other publications from the secretariat; and materials published in different paricipating countries. Courier Service is the main means of helping adult education in all parts of the wider region (whereas the workshop programme is concentrated effectively in seven Region 3 countries, with others participating marginally). The feedback continues to suggest that it meets an important need for many readers. There are periodic difficulties over distribution (such as customs clearance, and effective distribution from contact points within some countries) but generally distribution has been rapid and efficient. In 1980 there was a change to three issues with a full journal-type component in each, together with three newsletters for more rapid communication in between. An interim judgement at this stage is positive.

The secretariat has produced two sets of papers relating to participatory research (incidentally manifesting cooperation with ICAE in the process) but most of its publishing work is through the Courier, so that most of the remaining publication effort has been placed out through partner countries, resulting in a variety of practical papers in either English or the national language. In addition, partner countries have brought out a number of other publications unsupported by the Bureau but encouraged by it and acknowledged accordingly. Again, the visible part of the DVV/ASPBAE programme has to be added to by these indirect consequences. Worthy of special mention is the translation of Kamla Bhasin’s participator training manual Breaking Barriers into both Korean and Thai, and the new (1980) support for materials on a quite large scale in the Philippines. Both translations and materials production are areas where much more could be done, but there are problems about making good selections among all the possibilities.

The third mode, travelling fellowships, gave rise to the most uncertainty in 1978. At the end of that year it was decided to modify the purposes and criteria and place emphasis on ability to contribute as well as to learn. The result has been a significant strengthening of the programme. Although hard to measure, the “spin-off” effect on both the organisation from which the fellow came and the country visited appears to have been quite considerable (usually one or the other rather than both in any particular case). In 1973 three people were mainly resource persons and five mainly learners, and in 1980 the numbers were six of each. The heavy concentration of fellows in 1978 going to Australia and neighbouring countries was a calculated step to build more rapidly a network of strong contacts in the first year. Looking back, it seems that the judgement was justified; no fellow has been funded to Australia or New Zealand in the period since.

Relations with Other Agencies

Throughout the programme period the Bureau has sought both to cooperate with other agencies working for similar purposes and to avoid any posibility of competition or duplication. Its main international and regional partners have been UNESCO and ICAE, together with SEAMEO within South-East Asia. It has also sustained less regular contacts and exchanges with other intergovernmental agencies and their institutions. At no time has there been any difficulty in these relations. On the contrary, cooperation has been generally excellent, and the Bureau, with the continuing evidence of capacity to provide support to viable adult education programmes and activities, has enhanced its capacity to inform and influence thought in other areas, especially inter-governmental organisations. Thus the Bureau has cooperated closely with UNESCO throughout the period, starting with the Chiangmai seminar to which UNESCO brought a regional team of literacy experts as participants for the first two days. The next year the Bureau (outside the DVV part of its programme) conducted a pilot study of national directories (which linked with some work within the programme). UNESCO was represented at most of the Bureau’s regional meetings, and following the Deputy Director’s participation in the 1979 meeting in Korea, the Bureau was represented at and made contributions to several UNESCO meetings, especially the major meeting of Ministers of Education and Economic Development at Colombo. ASPBAE members made individual contributions to the thought and work of the Regional Office. The DVV/ASPBAE programme thus indirectly played a leading part in assisting the development of thought and practice through the main inter-governmental agency in the education field.

Relations with SEAMEO were also close and cordial, and the Bureau, through the DVV relationship, played a key role in sustaining the SEAMEO SNEP by cooperating through regional seminars in 1978 and 1979 (and by agreeing in 1980 to further support in 1981). These activities were handled without causing imbalance between in-country and regional work. There was also close cooperation with the UNESCO Asian-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development in relation to adult education and mass media for development, and cooperation, mainly through the February 1978 regional meeting, with the South Pacific Commission.

It is clear that the DVV/ASPBAE programme related well to the work of regional and international agencies without duplicating. Generally the Bureau identified and occupied a unique complementary and supportive role.

Within the paricipating countries relations were mainly with government departments in some countries (Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines) and mainly with national non-governmental organisations in others (Korea, Hong Kong, and, as they emerged, Singapore and Malaysia). The tenuous relation with Burma was with government. In some countries (Thailand, the Philippines) there was also significant NGO partnership with individual organisations rather than (mainly) national associations, and there were also working partnerships with some particular universities as well as individuals. In some countries (Thailand, the Philippines) the Bureau contributed to the development of NGO roles and relations with government in mutually supportive ways.

Development of national associations was accorded high priority in the initial planning. To some extent this was de-emphasised towards the end of the period as it was clearer that different circumstances from country to country made such a development more or less timely. The progress during the review period however was not disappointing. The recently formed Korean and Hong Kong associations were greatly strengthened by their participation in the programme, and both countries appear to have been able to use this to affect government policy towards adult education. An association was founded in Singapore and another in Sri Lanka, with direct ASPBAE support, and an interim association became effective in Malaysia. A second national association, for the private sector, was founded in the Philippines, and there were continuing talks in both Thailand and Nepal, each as a direct result of ASPBAE proposals and encouragement, about the possibility of forming associations.

Conclusions and Implications

The review of the reports and returns for 1977–80 and of comments by colleagues around the region at the end of the period suggests that overall the programme has proved beneficial in a number of ways, and paricularly in developing a strong and confident regional network af adult educators working in many different governmental and non-governmental settings, broadly united in values and purpose and dedicated to human growth and development through adult education with a clear “conscience-raising” element. Good relations have been created and sustained with individuals, organisations such as universities and national associations, government departments and regional/international agencies of many kinds. Small amounts of money, spent very carefully and ungenerously, have produced large and dispersed (so hard to measure) results, often at very local levels, of several kinds, in most of the countries which have been taken part. It is not possible to give actual figures, but there have been large contributions in cash and kind to the programmes from within the countries participating, and significant contributions attracted into the countries by this work (sometimes also to a very local level) from other outside agencies.

Experience by early 1981 suggests that the programme should be continued within the same general purposes and directions, and with approximately the same balance and mix between different modes and different countries, and also between local, national and regional work. In the future more effort should, if possible, also be devoted to work “across borders” in South Asia and the Pacific and also, if possible, in the socialist or planned economy societies of Indochina, China, North Korea and Burma, With these latter it is a matter of seeking opportunities and responding when an opportunity and a need arise.

The next three years should allow a judgement to be reached on the strengths and weakness of the two-country programme being started in 1980. It may be that it seems to contradict the small-scale style and preference of the Bureau and no attract more high-profile attention than a very slightly resourced “non-organisation” would prefer. On the other hand, if the programmes prove to be well conceived and carried through, the potential for good results within the general purposes and value system apparently shared by DVV and the Bureau might point to more such work in the future.


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