Editorial

In the meantime, CONFINTEA VI is behind us. Participants from civil society and the networks managed to present their interests forcefully and clearly; the final documents reflect this, even if, in particular, concrete financial commitments remained a scarce commodity. Especially in view of the global financial and economic crisis and its catastrophic effects, specifically on the poorest and most disadvantaged, our common task is to continue to push and to represent the cause of non-formal, youth and adult education.

A conference like CONFINTEA VI consists not only of political speeches, negotiations and nightly debates about the final document. It is also always a “Marketplace of Possibilities,” an opportunity for exchange and for the presentation of and reflection on approaches and methods, projects and programs. This was no different in Belém. Alongside a rather sparsely-visited exhibition ground, there were various forums and workshops where there was an opportunity to interact and learn from each other.

One such workshop provided the idea for this publication: the Ministry of Education, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan, under the title Policies and Governance for Adult Education, invited participants “to discuss the institutionalization of, and systematic training in Community Learning Centers as a form of communitybased learning in the framework of Lifelong Learning.” With experts from Japan and Thailand, we discussed the realities, challenges and problems of communitybased Adult Education in developed and developing countries. The result was the conviction that this approach has much to deliver, both for the developed societies, especially the North, as well as for the societies of the South. Based on this experience, this publication attempts to demonstrate through concrete examples
of projects from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe, the value and impact of community-based Adult Education and to present it for discussion.

What are the benefits? First of all, it can be assumed that especially local approaches and facilities “are close to the people.” They act in smaller, more manageable units in which involvement and shaping are even more possible because the individual can judge the circumstances, needs and solutions better. Decisionmakers and actors are practically under daily direct observation, so that influence and shaping becomes possible. Democracy lives from what is underneath. This is particularly clear in the context of the former socialist countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Here, strictly centralized structures prevailed, with a clear hierarchy from top to bottom and very little leeway at the local level. Thus participation was hampered. The last two decades, however, also impressively show how complicated change is, since it always includes a change of mentality as well.

Another thesis is that local structures are more flexible and can better adapt to the needs of the local people. This is also true – but not exclusively – for incomegenerating education programs. The knowledge and choices about the local labor market and the chances of getting employment through skills training are there at the local level. Competent decisions must be made locally: how their own village, their own city can be developed, and how people need to be trained in order to participate.

What is fascinating is the realization that the community-based approach to Adult Education unites the North and South globally. There are a number of successful projects that have made the experience of one country globally available for a different context. This publication contains a contribution from Japan which describes how a successful model for local development (the Japanese Kominkan) is used in development cooperation. Also included is how the European Adult Education school model is adapted to local conditions in the Caucasus and used productively.

During the previous decade we witnessed a campaign dominated by global politics in the developmental education sector. MDGs and the goals of Education for All (EFA) resulted in large-scale programs and a “from above” approach to development cooperation, which was very concentrated on national programs and statistics on school enrollment and literacy rates and had a very one-sided focus on basic education. Smaller, local initiatives had a difficult time. Their results are more difficult to “market” and hardly serve as a national show of performance for global goals. As important as these global goals are however, it would be regrettable if the importance of local initiatives and networks would be forgotten. In any case, we are deeply convinced that Adult Education – indeed education as a whole – grows from the bottom up and is initiated in the local communities. This publication is therefore also a plea for the value of small, local approaches to the topic of education.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the longtime editor of this magazine, our former Director, Prof.(H) Dr. Heribert Hinzen, for his commitment. Over the years, with his global vision of the world, he has put his stamp on “Adult Education and Development.” We wish him much happiness and success in his new role as Regional Director for DVV International in Southeast Asia.

Uwe Gartenschlaeger