Raúl Leis R.

Adult and Youth Education in the Construction of Transformative Citizenship

“We must not forget that Adult Education, by definition, is in crisis. This i
s where its greatest weakness lies, but also its greatest potential. When we say that Adult Education is in crisis, we mean is that it deals with the crises of the regular education system and the social system.

Indeed, the focus of our work in Adult Education is precisely the members of our society who have fallen through the rips and tears in our social fabric: the people who have been expelled from the education system, those excluded from participation, the immigrants, the women who are illiterate, the people with special education needs, the lonely crowds. It is no secret that our places of work, consistent with our work environment, are often buildings which are small, unsafe, run-down, lowly barracks that no one wants. And yet, what counts is the fact that an Adult Education Centre is nothing less than a rich tapestry of human relations.

Our centres of adult learning are small communities in this sense. They constitute ‘a warm circle’ of human togetherness, as Zygmunt Bauman calls it in his highly recommendable book. 1 Our Adult Education Centres are more than just receptive. They are pro-positive and affirmative. And proceeding on the conviction that another world is possible, they work to change the life conditions of the subjects who gather there. Just like in the new social movements, their perspective is changing from reactive to proactive. They do not merely generate opposition; they make proposals. Their resistance is active. It is not passive. It is civic-minded, not cynical”.
Jose Beltrán Llavador 2

Definitions of Citizenship in Adult and Youth Education

The process of globalisation is shaping a new world order in which the structure of technology is defined in response to a new international distribution of knowledge. In this new configuration, Francisco Lavolpe 3 identifies new categories of citizenship – categories which correspond to the social roles established by the relative advantages of each area or level of associated knowledge: global citizenship, which is connected with the new model of global accumulation; and proto-citizenship, the relevance of which is marginal or complementary within the structure of transnational production. Current trends are not consistent with the concept of the citizen who participates fully in the administration of public affairs and who agrees to yield part of his sovereignty in exchange for the guarantee of social coexistence. Such a guarantee is not possible under the contemporary model of global accumulation.

Global citizens are integrated within the global economy, especially through their consumption practices. Global citizenship follows the same cultural patterns as global consumption. It is characterized by access to global technology and communications, the benefits of urban security and safety, and the political and social rights attributed to modern democracy. Proto-citizenship, on the other hand, is associated with marginality and exclusion from economic, social, and cultural benefits. The phenomenon is by nature structural. It exists in underdeveloped countries, but also, to a smaller degree, in the more developed parts of the world. Proto-citizenship is a devalued status in terms of socio-economic conditions. The basic rights associated with the hegemonic pattern of accumulation are severely restricted or denied to proto-citizens; economic goals relegate proto-citizens to the role of marginal citizens. This model of dual citizenship has become characterized by political and socio-economic instability. The capacity of the State to resolve or to contain conflicts resulting from the inequalities has significantly diminished.

How can the inequality gap be narrowed? The agenda proposed in the report “Democracy in Latin America” 4 calls for increased participation by citizens. In order for greater participation to be sustainable, it will be essential to advance the kind of policies that provide options, harness intentions, and permit democratic empowerment. Institutional reforms must continue, but a common thread of citizen engagement and participation must run through all such reform efforts. Otherwise it will not be possible to establish the legitimacy and improve the effectiveness of such reforms. A key institutional element for this is electoral reform to ensure a better balance between governance and representation. What type of economy we want to build must be at the centre of public debate, and not just a matter of technical issues. The deepening of democracy requires a significant expansion of social citizenship, particularly with respect to efforts to combat poverty and inequality and to create high-quality employment opportunities. Only by addressing inequality can we effectively reduce poverty and expand possibilities for economic growth.

Expansion calls for efforts to foster a concept of citizenship that includes the complete recognition of political, civil, and social citizenship, a concept which encompasses far more than a political regime and its institutional rules. Citizenship of this nature implies full access to inalienable civic, social, economic, and cultural rights, all of which are interrelated and woven together to form a coherent whole. Democracy implies a precise definition of the concepts of individuals and citizenship, for democracy is a means of organizing power in a society which presupposes the existence and healthy functioning of a State.

The report finds that Latin America has achieved political citizenship within the framework of electoral democracy, but it goes on to state that it is still necessary  to move toward citizen democracy. Important progress has been achieved in the area of civic citizenship in terms of human rights legislation. However, the limited capacity of States to effectively guarantee the rights specified in this legislation remains a matter of concern. Progress realised in terms of respect for the right to life, humane treatment, security, and non-discrimination has been irregular and, in some cases, inadequate. The situation regarding social citizenship is also cause for concern and poses a crucial challenge to Latin American democracy because the groups most frequently excluded from full social citizenship are the same groups which do not fully exercise civic and political citizenship. The main problems in this area are poverty, exclusion, and inequality. These conditions undermine social inclusion and prevent individuals from expressing themselves on issues of public concern as citizens with full and equal rights.

Social citizenship is a concept associated with social policy models that comprise different dimensions or types of inherent citizenship. Sonia Fleury 5 proposes the terms: inverted citizenship, where, as a consequence of exclusion, the individual or group becomes the object of social policy and social assistance models; regulated citizenship, a concept characteristic for models of social security which extend benefits as differentiated privileges to specific categories of workers, and which link citizenship with the principle of merit based on participation in the structures of production; and universal citizenship, based on the ideal of social justice and associated with models of social security which aim to guarantee all citizens a “vital minimum”, a minimum standard of well-being, in terms of income, goods and services.

Bottomore 6 distinguishes between formal and substantive citizenship. Formal citizenship is a legal status based on allegiance to a State. It is neither required nor sufficient for substantive citizenship. Individuals can be legal subjects of a State and, at the same time, victims of exclusion as a result of de jure or de facto denial of political and civic rights (not to mention social rights). The concept of substantive citizenship proceeds on the assumption that citizenship rights are the concrete and coherent expression of human rights.

Bustelo 7 draws a distinction within the framework of social policies between emancipated citizenship, which affirms and emphasizes autonomy and emancipation of social actors, and dependent citizenship, which sees the distribution of wealth and inequalities as the “natural” consequence of successful efforts on the part of society’s fittest members. It accordingly holds that State policies should be marginal. From this standpoint, social policies merely serve as mechanisms of social control to permit the degree of governability necessary so as to legitimise structural reforms in accordance with the demands of the market and international credit organisms. State subsidies are targeted to the poorest sectors and public-private schemes are viewed as containment networks rather than as a means to improve the distribution of income.

In the notion of emancipated citizenship, social equality plays a pivotal role. Equal access to resources for development is an implied right according to this model. The principle of equality further implies fairness and redistributive justice based on collective solidarity. According to this model, citizenship is by definition a socially inclusive project. It provides access to productive employment, quality education, and opportunities for people to participate and expand the scope of their rights and responsibilities. People in their dual individual and social dimensions are regarded as subjects, not objects. Accordingly, there is a need to maintain social policy based not only, but especially, on the principles of universality and solidarity.

For José Beltrán and Francesco Hernández, full citizenship has a dual dimension. On the one hand, it involves the public sphere of politics where citizens take part in public affairs, the so-called polis (a community of citizens as opposed to a territory ruled by a government). On the other hand, it concerns the place, spaces, or location where the citizens live: the topos. This concept is summarized in the following scheme:





Citizenship, according to this concept, goes beyond the traditional notion of a collective group of citizens with limited rights in a spatial context associated with a set of obligations and rights conferred upon every person who is formally integrated within the group as a legal member of a State. Beltrán and Hernández argue that the notion of citizenship cannot fully be understood without examining the concept of State. They remind us in their reflections that

“citizenship which seeks to be critical cannot turn away from uncomfortable social issues, but must address them with a minimum of responsibility and brotherhood. Examining such issues with sociological understanding offers us a good chance to deal with them with critical distance, which by no means justifies supposed neutrality, nor does it relieve us of the responsibility to take a clear stand. Rather it requires us to act autonomously, to tackle our institutions, to reinvent them, and in the process of reinventing them to reinvent ourselves – to educate in the process of educating ourselves – in the spaces offered us to exercise full citizenship.” 8

For Paul Barry Clarke, citizenship can be active or passive. It is passive with respect to its action in relation to the State; and active when it increases participation through suffrage expansion, and when it mobilizes people to become involved in the electoral process. The problem with active citizenship is that it is restricted to more or less formal activities, and very few people qualify as fully active citizens. The building of so-called “deep citizenship”, on the other hand, entails constant obligations and political activities. It is a difficult route to follow within the confines of formal democracy, and it requires the politicization of civil society. 9 In his text entitled “To be a Citizen”, 10 Paul Barry Clark enumerates the characteristics of deep citizenship:

  • to participate in the direction of one’s own life;
  • to be conscious that one acts in and for a world that‘s shared with others and that our own identities are mutually related and created;
  • to understand diversity as pluralism;
  • to participate in a conversation – not idle chatter – with the world;
  • to engage in high-minded dialogue;
  • to offer alternatives that don‘t make citizenship merely formal or superficial;
  • to think boldly about the world so as to make bold commitments to it;
  • to have a shared existence;
  • to reconcile, in a permanent tension, personal interest with the universal good (becoming a part of the universal);
  • to be political: someone who participates in the public affairs that concern us;
  • to flee from mere egotism and sectarianism;
  • to be an active citizen, expanding the public space and extending the reach of civic activities;
  • to educate ourselves in the exercise of citizenship;
  • to be a social subject, that is, to be an active participant in a direct democracy and, beyond that, to exercise democracy close-up;
  • to be “I, the citizen,” cultivating a reflexive judgment, living a many-layered existence, all of this enriched by the exercise of freedom;
  • to care about the fate of the world, bringing out the best in one‘s self, in others and in the world;
  • to be capable of thinking from the point of view of others; and
  • to think nomadically, keeping away from the tyranny of singular categories.

In the context of citizenship education, AYE essentially seeks to build citizenship awareness with a focus on rights. As pointed out in the UNESCO document Quality Education for All: a human rights issue:

“From a rights-based perspective, in addition to confronting exclusion, inquiries about the purposes of education, and whether they represent the aspirations of society as a whole or only those of particular groups that hold power within it must be made.” 11

The greatest challenge for education in general, and for AYE in particular, lies in the capacity to make a substantial contribution toward resolving dichotomies, bridging gaps, and facilitating the transition from the kind of citizenship that is passive, formal, dependent, inverted, and marginal to the kind that is deep, emancipated, substantive, and integral – the kind that can lead to social transformation.

Quality and equality are inseparable requirements toward this end. Education has quality if it can open up possibilities and resources for those who do not have them, if it can help people act on equal footing, facilitate their access to education opportunities, and enable them to fully develop their right to education.

There are many practical experiences and documents that address the relationship between AYE and citizenship building. Among them is a recent document published by ICAE, 12 which places absolute priority on the global food crisis, since it poses a threat to the most basic need of the population, thus jeopardizing the survival of millions of people in underdeveloped countries. As this document urges:

“Economically marginalised people must be a priority for the deliberations of CONFINTEA VI, which should recognise the interdependence of learning for work, learning for individual and collective empowerment, and learning for social justice. Adult Education must provide appropriate information and education to face this vital problem which affects very specially women and children.”

The following themes are accordingly identified in the document as key issues for debate and decision:

Poverty and growing economic social and cultural inequality, which constitutes an important background for work-oriented adult learning and education.

  • The priority of Adult Education, including literacy, as both part of the Education For All – EFA goals and a critical tool for reaching them. Equally, Adult Education is a central but invisible component of the MDG goals and is indispensable to all strategies for achieving them.
  • The need for new policy and legislation to ensure the right to learn without discrimination based on age, gender, race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, religion, disabilities, or national status.

This calls for commitment to a concept of adult and youth education (AYE) which is more organically linked to those processes of social transformation that are geared to the promotion of social justice and respect for life as well as the search for cultural meaning and more satisfactory alternative lifestyles. 13 AYE must create democratic and participatory spaces of equality and freedom that facilitate the construction of citizenship in all subject areas – in the field of general education as well as in socio-economic, political, and cultural sectors – so as to enable individuals to become protagonists of their own lives and of the society in which they live.

This aim of AYE is affirmed in concepts such as the one proposed at CONFINTEA V (Hamburg 1997), 14 which places the emphasis in Adult Education on the learners in a participatory approach that combines the mastering of basic reading and writing skills with a consciousness-raising process in which the learners become aware of their rights and responsibilities as citizens.

“Learning to read and write is a complex contextualized social process that takes place in a social setting, in interaction with others, and that also implies social participation.”

According to the underlying concept of the United Nations Literacy Decade, literacy learning enables people to comprehend their socio-economic, political, and cultural reality. It is a process of individual and social empowerment that promotes cultural identity, democratic participation, citizenship, tolerance, respect for others, social development, peace, and progress.

The Organization of Ibero-American States emphasizes that literacy work in adult and youth education must develop three essential conditions for Lifelong Learning: a comprehensive education process that perceives learners as human beings endowed with capacities, experiences, knowledge, skills, proficiencies, and attitudes toward life and toward their personal and social conditions; active participation in the process of literacy acquisition on the part of learners as self-directed subjects of their own learning; and access to socially valid knowledge that enables learners to critically reflect on reality and their own personal situation. There are two approaches toward this end: the instrumentalist approach, which is associated with childhood learning and the use of demographic variables; and the adult learning approach, which is based on socio-political variables with a focus on issues such as empowerment, domestic relationships, participation, community organization, citizenship, and democratic governance.

Within the context of the Framework of Action for Latin America and the Caribbean and Education for All in the Americas: Regional Framework of Action (the central document that issued from the conference held in February 2000 in Santo Domingo), the participating countries pledged to incorporate the education of young people and adults into national education systems. They agreed to give priority to these age-groups in education reforms carried out as part of the key responsibility of governments in the basic education of their peoples. They also agreed to improve and diversify education programmes by making it a priority to cater for groups that are excluded and at risk, to promote the acquisition of basic life skills, and to encourage full exercise of citizenship rights.

The Dakar World Education Forum re-affirmed the right of young people and adults to benefit from an education designed to meet their basic learning needs in the best and fullest sense of the term – an education that includes learning to know, to do, to live together, and to be, so that they can improve their lives and transform their societies.

The Literacy Assessment Monitoring Programme of UNESCO-OREALC (Regional Office for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean) redefines the purpose of youth and Adult Education as educating young people and adults

“to become autonomous citizens capable of collective, critical, and creative participation and organization in a local or broader context; to assume tasks related to the process of change, and to live in solidarity with others.”

It stresses that education as a

“human right and public good makes it possible for people to exercise their other human rights. For this reason, no one may be excluded from education. The right to education is exercised to the extent that people, in addition to having access to schooling, are able to fully develop and continue to learn. This means that education must be a lifelong, quality education for all (and must) assure the right to Lifelong Learning. It is necessary to move away from linear systems organized by grades and age and toward flexible systems with diverse and interrelated modalities and trajectories.” 15

In this sense, the faculties and capacities of citizens are embodied in citizenship, and citizenship is

“a social construct based, on the one hand, on a specific set of material and institutional conditions, and, on the other, on a certain notion of the common good and how to achieve it. This, in turn, implies that citizenship is always the object of struggle.” 16

The Participatory Construction of Transformative Citizenship

There are two distinct approaches to democracy that can be likened to a hot air balloon. One shines brightly like the glow of the balloon as it rises. The other flickers and fades like the balloon as it descends.

Top down discourse has a descending order – from the government to the people. It is authoritarian or manipulative, limiting citizen expression and freedom, cutting the roads to participation or playing pseudo-participatory games. Discourse of this nature corrupts democracy from within. It exhausts democratic principles, heads society in the direction of crisis, and breaks the social contract.

The other approach, in contrast, is democratic control from the bottom up. It represents the norm in the course of everyday civil life, and not just on election day. Bottom-up democracy recognizes the right of citizens to demand accountability and social auditing. In this approach, the direction from bottom to top is promoted and not just tolerated by those in power. It is an approach that is guaranteed by the institutions of any given society, and one that is exercised openly, clearly, and continually by the citizens of that society.

“The challenge in this new context is to define modes of participation that constitute alternatives to the authoritarianism of State control and the asocial individualism of private logic.” 17

Any system that is not sustainably based on a participatory and transparent model of government will become an authoritarian regime or a society of domination that perverts the stated objectives regardless of how well they are expressed. There is an unquestionable need to narrow or close the divide between public affairs and citizenship. Citizens will only take the initiative to become active members of society and to monitor State performance to the extent that they are considered part of the public policy cycle.

All of these considerations are an invitation for us to pay closer attention to the quality of democratic process and the direction of discourse, and to forge and enforce agreements on those relevant issues of public debate which underpin the legitimacy of that process. The key questions that we need to ask in this connection are: How can we improve the quality, range, and depth of debate (and the levels of information) on key issues of public policy? How can we nurture participatory processes in the negotiation of comprehensive, specific, and durable agreements? How can we help to secure more rigorous monitoring and enforcement mechanisms to ensure the implementation of these key agreements? How can we foster an understanding of the public sector as more than just “government” so as to increase awareness of the potential of the sector as a space for citizens to participate in dialogue around crucial issues in a process that involves more than just voting in elections?

We must work on the construction of a new political culture: one that fosters deep appreciation of true democracy – a democracy that relies on educated, critical, and mature citizens who understand and accept that all people are subjects, and not just objects, of the rights and obligations that are defined by the legal framework of their respective communities or countries.

This being said, it is a logical conclusion that the recognition, respect, and promotion of genuine participatory processes which influence public decisions must be embedded in political practice, taking into consideration that such processes involve and/or affect all citizens. Without a redefinition of what constitutes the public sector this will not be possible, for the fact remains that the public sector is still understood as synonymous with government.

But this widespread understanding is false. The power vested in citizenship is recognized by our legal framework in the maxim that it is the people who are the origin, source, and substantive reference of power. In practice, however, real civic and political power and authority have clearly been expropriated by authorities who assume that they are the sole repository of power.

To achieve the kind of citizenship that implies the capacity to understand the world and to participate responsibly in society toward a redefinition of the public sphere, we must develop processes that will help create a new political culture. We must build and strengthen the democratic institutions required to design and implement the kind of policies that permit the adoption of inclusive and sustainable development models.

To do so, we must challenge the widespread misconception that reduces the State to government alone. We must adopt a vision that understands the various spheres of responsibility and the potentials of participation. Only then can we overcome the reductionist view that places the tasks and responsibilities in the hands of government, which in a truly democratic society are shared by both citizens and government.

An integral approach must be based on conscious and active participation and dedication in every sector of society. It will only be possible to bring about a change in attitudes, and to create a sense of social involvement and commitment, if citizens and organized sectors of society recognize how the factors that affect their daily lives are related to democratic processes in their countries.

Political culture is important as a starting point for looking at generational cultures and especially at youth culture. Youth culture

“constitutes a changing and discontinuous social universe, the characteristics of which are always the result of tension in a process of negotiation between the socio-cultural category into which young people are grouped by their respective society and the subjective process by which they update their self-concepts through a differentiated internalization of existing cultural patterns”. 18

Youth must therefore be viewed as a diverse and differentiated social group. Young people can be classified according to different demographic and economic variables, but they all possess certain cultural dimensions that are associated with youth culture or counterculture, and that emerge in their daily lives as they acquire their social identity. We must accordingly learn to see young people as unique and separate individuals and to recognize their plurality and diversity in different social contexts. 19

Youth cultures are neither neutral nor sterile. They are characterized by cultural hybridity. Through the media and information and communications technology, young people develop common languages. But modern technology also leads to alienation. The environments in which young people live are often characterized by poverty and “gray” democracies, without perspectives or utopian visions. Their neighbourhoods are marked by social fragmentation, economic exclusion, and widespread discontent.

The new youth movements, which are emerging as an expression of youth cultures, are not very far removed from the many social movements that have organized around multiple identities and heterogeneous interests, in many cases as temporary and experimental coalitions. They evolve in both dictatorships and democracies, wherever they find space to function, and with different levels of articulation. The future may produce youth movements of a new kind, but considering the transiency of age and the prevalence of “de-politicization” and “de-ideologization”, it is difficult to predict whether the visions they create for themselves can endure long enough for them to progress to the more complex stages of organizational and strategic development where they can become agents of deeper political transformation.

For this to happen it would be necessary for them to connect their interests to those of national or global movements with economic, political, or social agendas. They would have to develop the capacity to see the connections between here and there; to become aware of the causes behind the social crisis that lies at the root of their personal situations; to develop internal democracy, an ethical approach to life, and a spirit of participation as a way of life and a form of organization; to foster a capacity for self-determination and self-management at national, regional, and grassroots levels; to develop values, collective memory, and an identity as part of their practice as social movements; to build the capacity to exercise influence, create alliances, and gain legitimacy in society as a whole; and to incorporate the kind of organized educational processes in their own lives that would enable them to further their own internal initiatives.

It is no easy task to implement an approach that is participatory, reflective, dialogical, ethical, and democratic. In final analysis, fear and resistance to participation, which exist in every sphere and level of society, are the reflection of a world view that sees interpersonal relationships as vertically steered and unidirectional. But precisely the opposite is true. Participation is an invitation to share. It is a multidirectional process of exchange. These two extremes, however, are not the only alternatives. There are different levels of semi- or pseudo-participation that can be understood either as a prelude to authoritarianism, a permanent state of limbo, or a transitional step to fuller participation.

All this goes to show how much there is to learn and gain, how much potential there is for progress. The State needs to be transformed. Civil society needs more relevant spaces at every level where citizens can engage in debate and participate in decision-making processes, where they can help design strategies, make plans, and develop projects. Opportunities for participation must become multidimensional. They must include every sphere of social life where people express their wishes, aspirations, and demands.

It is essential to cultivate educated, critical, and mature citizens who understand and accept that we are all subjects of the rights and obligations implicit in citizenship. Governments often reduce civic participation to involving citizens in the implementation of handed-down policies. They tend to block participation in other aspects of the process, especially at the decision-making level. For civic movements seeking true participation, however, it is precisely the decision-making process where participation is of fundamental importance.

The less organized a citizenry is, the more invisible it remains. It is the social movements mobilized around relevant ideas that command the greatest visibility – movements that address territorial issues, community and urban problems, environmental concerns, education, health, sexual identity, cultural heritage, and integrity, as well as cultural, ethnic, linguistic, and national identity; movements that place high priority on values such as autonomy and identity and on organizational correlates such as decentralization, self-government, and self-reliance. By promoting participation and creating spaces for collective action, and by acknowledging the plurality of legitimate and contradictory interests, social movements can open doors to opportunities that contribute to the acceptance of diversity. A dynamic approach to citizenship seeks to create new public spaces that are not necessarily under State control. It strives to enable citizens to secure their position as social and political actors vis-à-vis the State and the private sector.

It aims at combining well-functioning representative democracy and growing participatory democracy in the interest of building a society and economy characterized by equality, justice, and environmental sustainability. Civil society must grow continually stronger and become more integrated into an autonomous political system with competing political parties that maintain the integrity of the political process and respond to the needs and aspirations of the people.

Networking is a highly effective and necessary tool toward this end. Networks are composed of ties. They are an invitation to combine efforts, create synergies, avoid duplication, fortify experience exchange, and learn methods of democratic control through citizen involvement (advocacy, accountability, monitoring, negotiation, dialogue, lobbying, and nonviolent forms of protest). They provide occasions for people to learn ways to make seemingly unattainable progress toward social transformation in the face of hostility or indifference.

Adult and Youth Education as Citizenship Education

Education, as envisioned in the Delors Report, 20 rests on four major pillars of learning: i) learning to know, ii) learning to do, iii) learning to live with others, and iv) learning to be. The report, which proposes a paradigm for citizenship based on the universal right to Lifelong Learning, is an indispensable guide for identifying the most fundamental and relevant aspects of learning in AYE. Citizenship education is a seminal and protean process. It is about solidarity, culture, and the integral development of each and every person.

Juan Carlos Tedesco proposes that basic education and adult and youth education should build awareness through experiences that are not a part of “natural” social experiences.

“Learning to learn involves the effort to reflect on personal learning experiences, a process that cannot evolve without a guide or model, in other words a process that cannot develop without ‘cognitive assistance’. Such a process can only take place within the framework of organized educational activities. Learning to live together, on the other hand, implies coming into contact with realities that are different from our own, experiencing feelings of solidarity, respect, and responsibility toward others – experiences that do not occur under natural circumstances in society. Schools can begin to reaffirm their cultural role in this respect by developing experiences that do not take place in the outside world. ... In doing so, they would revive the idea that education should ‘anticipate’ the future and the socialization needs of society.” 21

Within this context, popular education provides systematic and purposeful opportunities for people to obtain a deeper understanding of life in order to consciously work toward transformation by developing their organizational skills to initiate necessary changes in their societies and democracies. The process entails a systematic set of articulated activities that allow people to develop a collective understanding of life in order to be able to take collective steps toward change. It is a political, ethical, pedagogical, and epistemological proposal based on transformative methods that structure not only the training process but also the entire process of transformation. Popular education strategy permits learners to transcend fragmented and short-sighted perceptions of reality, and to adopt a holistic and complex vision of the world. It encourages them to challenge “fragmentized”, “functionalist” and “professionalizing” focuses that tend to sustain traditional approaches. It fosters a new appreciation of historic memory in a process of critical revaluation and systematic recovery. It encourages participatory action research, planning, and strategic thinking. And it promotes the systematization of experiences as the best way for individuals to understand their own practices, to increase their knowledge, and to share their experiences.

Seen in this light, popular education is not synonymous with “non-formal education”, “Adult Education” or “participatory education”. Popular education transcends those concepts. It follows a methodological approach that ranges over a wide variety of areas. It can create projects, for example, in formal education, in political and civic education, in communication strategies, in adult literacy, or in ethnic education. Popular education has been developing not only in spaces where learning and communication takes place, but also in processes of citizen participation at local, national, and international levels. And it has been contributing a significant amount of relevant experience in participatory processes.

It is a model for teaching and learning based on collective production and appropriation of knowledge. It is a paradigm for strengthening the capacity of people to construct knowledge and to appropriate accumulated universal know-how critically, rather than transmitting it in one direction. It fosters conditions for the creation and production of new knowledge without slipping into elitism which denies the ability of people to become producers of knowledge, or into the ideology of basismo which rejects any bank of accumulated universal knowledge. In this process, the starting and finishing point is the accumulation and deepening of practice which enables existing practice to take a qualitative leap towards enhanced practice through a process of steady improvement.

Adult and youth education must seek to connect the past with the future, because the hindsight-foresight relationship is undergoing severe crisis. As Tedesco observes, studies of neo-capitalism indicate that one of the most important characteristics of this model is the sharp break with the past, and the shortcomings that exist in defining long-term perspectives, following the motto “nothing long-term; nothing to convey”.

“In this context, the simple fact of putting the future on the agenda of educational policy would represent an important new development with multiple consequences.” 22

As people become subjects rather than objects, collective decisions will become more inclusive and sound. Progress in this direction would be a breakthrough toward challenging the notion that the only guarantee of democracy lies with the “enlightened elites”. Citizen participation in defining public policies involves collective or individual action by means of support or pressure to influence decisions relating to the kind of government that should govern a particular society and the way that society should be run, and also to influence specific government decisions affecting the community or its members. It takes a strong and diverse citizenry organized in many different ways across all the different sectors to build a deep and durable democracy. And this, in turn, requires linkages between educational processes and processes of cooperative organization. The process of training and communication must be organically connected to the capacity and strength of advocacy groups and citizens. Any strategy and corresponding action to achieve this must therefore maintain a balance between awareness-building and the strengthening of civil society organizations.

In our efforts to build participatory and transparent public policies and democratic society, we must reaffirm that “public” is not just a synonym for “government”. It includes both government and citizens. Failure to recognize this is to deny that the basis of democracy, as recognized in legal frameworks, is the people. It is the people – the citizens – who are the origin, source, and substantive reference of power. There is a conception of public policy-making “from above” that views action to address public problems strictly as an institutional responsibility that falls exclusively in the domain of experts and decision-makers. Public policy according to this view is a matter of technical, legal, and administrative bureaucracy – a unidirectional process in a passive society where citizens are merely passive consumers or recipients.

The invitation offered us in this perspective is twofold. On the one hand, it calls upon us to involve stakeholders in the various stages of educational policy design. On the other hand, and even more importantly, it bids us to see the administration of education policy as a continuous process of social learning in which the most appropriate alternative must be constructed and re-constructed in a process of dialogue among the various actors with all their different stakes, interests, and abilities. Public policies in our countries rely on a range of improvised, short-term solutions to address the Lifelong Learning needs of the population. In many countries the dynamics of public policy-making responds to the transnationalization of global policy objectives guided by international agencies. A huge gap clearly exists between social needs and the demand for education on the one hand, and the actual scope of adult and youth education on the other. Bridging the gap will require expanded resources and stronger mechanisms of institutional coordination. And this, in turn, implies addressing the lack of professional teacher training and the demand for professionalization.

Efforts in Adult Education and their results in Latin America are virtually “invisible”. Much of the work itself takes place outside institutional boundaries and is rarely documented. Project reports, when they do exist, have a very limited circulation. Policies, programmes, and experiences are highly diverse and scattered across social organizations and government agencies at every level. Only a small number are explicitly recognized as “Adult Education” and “Adult Learning”. 23

Integrated public policies are needed. Programmes and procedures must be rebuilt. We must increase education and training initiatives to satisfy demands.


We must capitalize on experience, enhance teaching strategies, and strengthen our management models. 24 Countries that do not have policies to promote Adult Education should develop them, because general education policies are not enough to counteract the tendencies that marginalize the interests of adults. It will require effective advocacy work on the part of a broad spectrum of civil society organizations to effectively advance education and training policies for young people and adults.

In regard to financing, existing investments are clearly inadequate. Adult Education is not a priority in education budgets. Over the course of the past three decades, allocations to education for adults have amounted to only 3 % and less of the total education budget. In many countries, data collection systems are weak, and information on funding and activities in Adult Education is not readily available or reliable. This makes it difficult to gauge the efficiency and effectiveness of programmes. The financing of civil society activities and mechanisms to coordinate them is a problem. Moreover, the structures of self-management are very weak and there are few cases that can count on stable financing.

The State must have a clear picture of needs and orientations in the education system to enable those civil society initiatives that seek to promote AYE to develop focussed action, avoid fragmentation, and concentrate their efforts so as to maximize the impact to overcome education problems of any nature. One of the main impediments to the effectiveness of public initiatives is the difficulty to maintain their continuity due to the lack of national policies. Every time there is a turnover in government officials, the relationship between State and civil society changes. Civil society initiatives sponsored by one government fade with the next. Citizen participation is definitely stronger when it is part of a process, when action is not subject to cyclical fluctuations.

A further problem is the fact that agreements with civil society are not always implemented according to specifications. Proposals drafted in concert with civil society are not always executed by the State. Moreover, dependence on international funding in many countries imposes external agendas on both governments and civil society. 25

All these considerations make it crucial for us to work together to strengthen permanent civil society networks in the interest of improving the exchange of information so as to help us more accurately determine and monitor educational needs in our respective countries. This will facilitate the process of designing collective agendas that are in tune with educational needs, which, in turn, will enable us to foster citizen participation in the articulation of demands and the search for joint solutions.

It is important for us to develop indicators that will help us to measure the impact of civil society efforts in AYE. We must design appropriate mechanisms to document and publicize participatory civil society achievements that benefit education. We must also work toward creating the legal frameworks that will institutionalize civil society participation in educational matters. The consultation process should take place on fully elaborated proposals that include State commitments to comply with agreed specifications and targets. 26

It is important to promote State sovereignty in terms of educational decisions and their outcomes. As the International Council for Adult Education (ICAE) has stated:

“The current International Monetary Fund (IMF) policy requiring national governments to freeze investment in education must be challenged and revised. ... We need to increase the share of education in the national budget in respect to other budgets (defence, for example) to increase the part of the educational budget allocated to Adult Education and learning and to adult literacy and to be able to monitor national budgets in order to ensure efficient investment where it matters most: in the collective intelligence and creativity of our society, and the initiative and ingenuity of people.. Advocacy and dialogue with donors should be undertaken for the recognition of adult literacy as a complementary priority to universal primary education.” 27

If the dreams we share begin to translate into reality, our common dream of integrity, transparency, justice, and freedom may have a chance to be realized; and this may, in turn, give rise to the way of life that in the wisdom of the Andean peoples is known as “sumak kamsay” (living well). The underlying rationale of this philosophy is

“the possibility of linking man with nature from a vision of respect, because it is the opportunity to return ethics to human coexistence, because we need a new social contract in which unity can coexist with diversity, because it is the opportunity to oppose the violence of the system.” 28


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Reguillo, Rosanna, “Culturas juveniles. Producir la identidad: un campo de interacciones” [Youth cultures. Creating identity: a field of interaction], Jóvenes (Casajoven: Mexico) July-December, 1997, p 13.

Restrepo Parra, Adrián, “Aproximaciones y polémicas al concepto de culturas juveniles” [The concept of youth culture – approaches and controversy], PASOS No. 93, (Editorial Dei: San José, Costa Rica), 2001.

Sánchez U., Adolfo, “Filosofía de la práctica”, [The philosophy of practice], (Editorial Grijalbo: México), 1980.

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1 Zygmunt Baumann, “Community Seeking Safety in an Insecure World”, (Cambridge: Polity Press), 2003.

2 José Beltrán Llavador, “La educación de personas adultas en la encrucijada: dilemas y perspectivas” [Adult Education at the crossroads: dilemmas and perspectives], Revista Interamericana Educación de Adultos, (CREFAL: Mexico, 27 January – June 2005).

3 Francisco Lavolpe, “Las nuevas ciudadanías de la globalización” [Globalization and new forms of citizenship], Hologramática – Revista Académica de la Facultad de Ciencias Sociales (UNLZL: Argentina) 2008, pp. 47-65.

4 PNUD, “La Democracia en América Latina”[Democracy in Latin America], <http://www.scribd.com/doc/39482121/PNUD-Informe-La-Democracia-en-America-Latina-descargar>.

5 Sonia Fleury, “Estados sin ciudadanos” [States without citizens], (Lugar Editorial: Buenos Aires), 1997.

6 T.H. Marshall and T. Bottomore, “Ciudadanía y clase social” [Citizenship and social class], (Madrid: Alianza), 1998, <https://www.u-cursos.cl/ingenieria/2011/1/IN73H/1/material.../359883>.

7 Eduardo Bustelo, “Expansión de la Ciudadanía y Construcción Democrática” [Expanding citizenship and constructing democracy], Todos Entran. Propuesta para sociedades incluyentes [Everyone is included. A proposal for inclusive societies], (UNICEF & Editorial Santillana: Bogotá), 1998, <http://www.crop.org/viewfile.aspx?id=90>.

8 José Beltrán Llavador and Francesc Hernández i Dobón, “El Ciudadano y Las Instituciones”[The citizen and institutions], (Universitat de València: España) <www.uv.es/~fjhernan/Textos/ciudadano.doc>.

9 Nicolás Niebla, “Entrevista a Paul Barry Clarke: El Ciudadano Profundo” [Interview with Paul Barry Clark: Deep Citizenship], Letras Libres, (February 2001), <http://www.letraslibres.com/index.php?art=6697>.

10 Paul Barry Clarke, “Ser ciudadano Editorial Ediciones” (Sequitur: Madrid), 1999. [English edition: Citizenship, (UK: Pluto Press), 1993].

11 “Quality education for all. A human rights issue”, (OREALC/UNESCO: Santiago), 2007, <http://unesdoc. unesco.org/images/0015/001502/150273e.pdf>.

12 “CONFINTEA VI, Key Issues at Stake. International Council for Adult Education (ICAE) Public Paper”, July 2008, < www.icae.org.uy/eng/icaestrategicdoc_final.pdf>.

13 Jorge Rivas Díaz, “Hacia la Sexta Conferencia Internacional de Educación de Jóvenes y Adultos. Ocho inolvidables y once tesis” [Toward the sixth international conference of adult and youth education. Eight things to remember and eleven theses], Revista Interamericana de Educación de Adultos, (CREFAL: Mexico. No. 29. January – December 2007).

14 Sonia Comboni Salinas and José Manuel Juárez Núñez, “Educación de Adultos en América Latina: perspectivas en los albores del siglo XXI” [Adult Education in Latin America: perspectives at the dawning of the 21st century]. Revista Interamericana de Educación de Adultos, CREFAL: Mexico No. 29 January – June 2005).

15 “Quality education for all. A human rights issue”, op cit.

16 José Nun. “Democracia ¿Gobierno del pueblo o gobierno de los políticos?” (Fondo de Cultura Económica; Buenos Aires, 2001) p. 65. [English edition: Democracy: Government of the people or government of the politicians? (Rowman & Littlefield: Lanham, Maryland), 2003].

17 Juan Carlos Tedesco, “Informe Sobre Tendencias Sociales y Educativas en América Latina” [Report on social and education trends in Latin America], (IIPE UNESCO: Buenos Aires), 2007.

18 Rosanna Reguillo, “Culturas juveniles. Producir la identidad: un campo de interacciones” [Youth cultures. Creating identity: a field of interaction], Jóvenes, (Casajoven: Mexico), July-December, 1997, p 13.

19 Adrián Restrepo Parra, “Aproximaciones y polémicas al concepto de culturas juveniles” [The concept of youth culture – approaches and controversy], PASOS No. 93, (Editorial Dei: San José, Costa Rica), 2001. <http://www.scribd.com/doc/60790994/REVISTA-PASOS-93-ARTICULOS-TEMA-JOVENES>
See also: Klaudio Duarte Quapper, “¿Juventud o juventudes? Versiones, trampas, pistas y ejes para acercar nos progresivamente a los mundos juveniles”, PASOS No.93, (Editorial Dei: San José, Costa Rica), 2001.

20 Jaques Delors, “Learning, the treasure within: Report to UNESCO of the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century,” (Paris: UNESCO Publ., 1998).

21 Tedesco, op.cit.

22 Ibid.

23 Rosa María Torres quoted in Sonia Comboni Salinas and José Manuel Juárez Núñez, op.cit.

24 María Josefa Cabello Martínez, “Educación de personas jóvenes y adultas en Iberoamérica” [Adult and youth education in Ibero-America], <http://www.redetis.org.ar/media/document/edadultos.pdf>.

25 “Encuentro Centroamericano sobre Articulación y Concertación entre el Estado y la Sociedad Civil para apoyo a la Educación de Calidad para Todos” [Central American Conference on the articulation and coordination of efforts between social society and the State in support of quality education for all] (UNESCO: San José, May. 2007).

26 “Encuentro Centroamericano sobre Articulación y Concertación entre el Estado y la Sociedad Civil para apoyo a la Educación de Calidad para Todos”, op. cit.

27 “CONFINTEA VI, Key Issues at Stake. International Council for Adult Education (ICAE) Public Paper”, op. cit.

28 Pablo Dávalos, “El ‘Sumak Kawsay’ (‘Buen vivir’) y las Censuras del Desarrollo” [‘Sumak Kawsay’ (living well) and the criticism of development], (Agencia Latinoamericana de Información ALAI, 2007), <http:// alainet.org/active/23920>.

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