Carmen Campero Cuenca

Frequently we have to observe that Adult Education and adult educators, although working with dedication and enthusiasm, nevertheless are lacking in professional quality. Carmen Campero Cuenca, an anthropologist and master of Adult Education, who works as a professor for Adult Education at the National Pedagogical University of Mexico, describes the attempt of adult educators who formed a network to determine their qualification needs and ways to meet them. They found that networking decidedly helped them to reach their objectives.

Contributions of the Youth and Adult Education Network to the Professionalisation of its Members

Summary

The professionalisation of educators of young people and adults is critical to advancing the quality of educational processes; in Mexico there is an absence of policies to care for this. given this scenario, the youth and Adult education network (YAE network), established in 2001, has helped to develop in its members

– educators in service – certain traits characteristic of professionals of this field of education. this network is the object of analysis in this article and is addressed from the following questions: what is the yAe network and what kind of links and exchanges define it? through which mechanisms and actions did it contribute to the professionalisation of its members? what are its achievements and challenges?

The first section deals with key elements of the network, considering theoretical references on academic networks. Starting from this contextual framework, it goes deeper into the contributions of the YAE network toward the building of professional traits for teachers of young people and adults among its members, in light of the contributions of the sociology of professions; it ends with the mention of the major challenges and some considerations about networks. the article is based on documentary and field information.

”... they choose to call themselves a network because they build types of connections, an interwoven fabric and collective projects”

María cristina Martínez Pineda

Introduction

International policies and specialists have emphasised the need to promote the professionalisation of educators of young people and adults as a key element to promote meaningful educational processes that respond to the needs and interests of people and contexts and, in turn, help to improve their living standards and so fulfil the right to a quality education that law establishes for all Mexicans. without a doubt, this approach has been incorporated in a limited way in national policies, both in the education Act and in the education Sector Program from 2007 to 2012.

In this context, the national Pedagogic university (UPN), a public institution with 77 branches throughout the country – known as units – bridges the gap and has carried out sustained and fundamental work to strengthen the education of young people and adults (YAE). this work began in 1982 in the Ajusco unit in the southern part of Mexico city, and since 2000 it spread throughout the country through the Bachelor of educational Intervention (BEI), Adult and youth education (YAE) course and the training of the teachers who are responsible for it, with the assistance of two graduates and a refresher course. the national character of the university raised the need for open spaces to exchange knowledge and experience, access to new information and different options and flexible training on yAe. Some answers to these needs and interests were implemented in the Adult and youth education network which is the subject of this article and is written with the intention of making the achievements and challenges of the network visible.

The text consists of three sections, each organised on the basis of an analytical axis. the first deals with what the yAe network is and the type of links and exchanges that shape it, considering key aspects of its history and theoretical background in academic networks. From this frame of reference, it elaborates on the contributions of the yAe network to build up the professional attributes of its members – who are the teachers of youth and adults – in light of the contributions of the sociology of professions, which is the second part of the article. the article concludes by mentioning the major challenges and some considerations about networks.

This paper is based on documentary and field sources. to start with there are texts from network specialists and the sociology of professions as well as documents from the yAe network: general document, reports from national and regional meetings and the book Caminemos juntos. Trabajo y proyección social de la red en educación de personas jóvenes y adultas (campero and rautenberg, 2006).1 Similarly, it contains information gathered in the field about 74 teachers in the Bachelor of Edu-

cational Intervention (BEI), Adult and youth education (YAE) course who are members of the network and answered the questionnaire survey as part of the investigation of the social profile and employment of the educators of young people and adults in a case study from the national Pedagogical university in Mexico. this research includes a section on the participation of these educators in the YAE network.

1. The YAE Network

Networks, and the YAE network in particular, are an optimal way to set in motion a multitude of exchanges, including the gathering of people with similar interests, socialisation of experiences and reflections and the possibility of building projects and programs of greater magnitude, starting from an area of knowledge and transformation agreed on by its members, which in the present case is the education of young people and adults.

The YAE network was established in May 2001. It is a space for the coming together of people interested in the field of YAE who articulate their efforts to build and promote projects, programs and actions in teaching, research and promulgation, with the aim of strengthening, visualising, and socially reassessing and reevaluating the educational field using a variety of means: face to face and through print, as well as through audiovisual and electronic equipment.

In the network there is a broad view of YAE as proposed by the 5th International conference on Adult education (CONFINTEA) held in 1997, which includes a wide range of areas where intervention can take place: in basic education (literacy, primary and secondary), training in and for work, education aimed at improvement of the quality of life, for the promotion of culture, the strengthening of the identity, for organisation, for citizen participation and the recognition and exercise of human rights. Its actions are for different subjects according to age, sex, ethnicity, occupation, etc. the network prioritises work with population groups that have been excluded from the rights they should have in society.

Since its inception, those in the YAE network have striven to build this project collectively and to have the management of it be democratic. to achieve this, several strategies have been pursued: one consists of the guidelines agreed at the meeting where it was incorporated, that it is enriched by the contributions of its members, and what in practice is demonstrated to its benefit and relevance in the consensus of its national meetings and is reflected in the general Paper and the work plan of the yAe network. this approach is intended to respond to new situations that arise in the network and to the interests and needs of its members.

One of the more radical strategies is to promote collegial work within the network through its organisation into six regions which correspond to those drawn up by the national Association of universities and Institutions of Higher education (ANUIES). the work is coordinated by a two-person council elected from each of these regions, which changes every three years, alternately.

Currently it consists of 347 people involved in this field of education from the various entities of the country and some from abroad. In the beginning its members were only teachers from the uPn, but currently people from various institutions and organisations are also involved.

Over time, the network has carried through various projects and actions as a result of its social viewpoint, and the gathering and redefinition of their experiences have been the basis for the construction of new viewpoints within the framework outlined in the general document. Its life can be divided into three stages which show a gradual development that begins with the close interrelation of the three institutional programs of the UPN, BEI, YAE, the training of their teachers and the yAe network, a condition that was necessary for the integration and strengthening of teaching staff in the UPN units (UUPN) committed to YAE (2001-2005), in order to later establish stronger links with institutions, national and international organisations and networks (2006-2008). In the third stage, a decision was made to become a national network beyond the UPN, an option that has meant closer ties with other educators and institutions and, therefore, the reorientation of our actions to meet multiple interests of educators and people interested in this field of education.

2. Contributions to the Professionalisation of its Members

In Mexico, building a profession for the teaching of youth and adults is still an aspiration and has been initially supported through the sustained work of the actors involved, including the yAe network, so that progress has been made in the professionalisation of educators in this field of education, which is understood as the process through which an occupation acquires the “status” of profession. According to sociological definitions, the elements that characterise professional occupations are those concerned with the theoretical and systematic knowledge of that occupation, the construction of a code of ethics, its service to the community, its working conditions and wages, its organisation among colleagues and the social recognition of their work. these features result in the construction of their identity.

Training for YAE

In her study of the teaching networks in colombia in 2008, Maria cristina Martinez Pineda argues that the groups and teaching networks of teachers have been constituted in alternative ways in order to respond to the issues of training and retraining of practicing educators, a role played by the yAe network for its members.

Among the actions promoted by the network are the 12 national meetings where keynote speeches/lectures, panels and workshops as well as the exchange of papers, posters and photographs take place. through the first three spheres they seek to include elements their members can use to build a broad and comprehensive vision of yAe. And the workshops are privileged spaces for participants to reflect and share their concerns and achievements through presentations related to their work in BeI yAe or their experience in projects of this field of education. In the last three years the participation of colleagues from other institutions, as well as students and graduates of the university program has increased, which has been a greatly enriching experience.

The organisation of and/or participation in events that motivate the units and regions regarding yAe, are areas like training and the results of the extensive processes that are woven into the yAe network, and due to this the colleagues put prior and new knowledge into play, do research about other institutions that develop programs and projects with young people and adults and associate with them. In addition, they systematise their work experiences in order to present them.

Another training initiative was the collective publication and dissemination of the book Caminemos Juntos (2006) which involved the authors in the systematisation of the actions which they undertook within the structure of the network.

Similarly, within the network, information, training of its members as well as events, news, documents and links to other relevant institutions and organisations are all promoted through publication on its website redepja.upn.mx. It must be noted that 36.94% of the teachers of BeI yAe who are members of the network mentioned this way of taking action between the contributions they have received from this mode of exchange. one of them expressed it as follows: “The network is a space for the improvement and professionalisation of the field of YAE.”

Organisation

A condition for the existence of the networks is the coordination and the links that members establish in a multiplicity of ways, from the actions and projects that they undertake to the various points of social and institutional interaction. In this way, networks develop, nurture and become permanent because of the contributions made by their members to the network and at the same time of what the whole network gives them, personally and as groups.

In analysing the contributions of the yAe network to its members, what stands out – in addition to specific training and information on yAe – are the links and exchanges of various types: experiences, materials, information on yAe and yAe BeI. Another group of contributions relates to the possibility of influencing the field of educational issues in their state through the improvement of the way they practice. It has to be noted that the conditions that are being generated by the network strengthen their work in their areas of influence, both in the teaching teams of the uPn units as well as their members from other institutions and organisations.

In another sense, its members make contributions to the network in relation to national and regional meetings: in participation, in presentation or review of the presentations, in support of its organisation and development. A second group of contributions relates to academic activities: its experience in youth and Adult education and various research and information about the educational field. they have also worked together to be members of the council and for the spread of the network.

Networks involve and sometimes present the right conditions to form links which are encouraged by communication, which in 56.76% of the members also takes place outside the national and regional meetings. they communicate within their unit, from within their region and with other regions, so that we can say that they are building local and regional links. without a doubt, it remains a challenge to promote greater communication, since only 43.24% of it takes place during the meetings of the network.

Another point of interest was to determine which subjects the members communicated about. the majority (50.41%) of the communication dealt with network management: getting information on these issues, organising events and agreeing on actions to take. others communicated about academic matters: getting information and materials on yAe BeI and this field of education (23.58%); to exchange ideas and experiences (18.7%); and to a lesser extent to tighten bonds of friendship (6.5%).

Service to the community

Community service is another feature of the profession which is spread by YAE. Particularly in the network, this approach is reflected in its objectives, priorities and actions which are undertaken by its members; for example, one of its purposes is to support socio-social projects which promote political and economic development of young people and adults.

Different actions of the network – training propositions, national meetings, documents it publishes and disseminates – provide opportunities to deepen the comprehensive guidance of yAe, which includes service to the community in relation to institutions, programs, subjects, theoretical-methodological relationships, attitudes and the values that are involved.

Social recognition

The social recognition enjoyed by members of a profession is achieved gradually and is a result of the construction of the features mentioned above. 16.67% of teachers mentioned the contributions of the network that favour their social recognition, such as the improvement of their practice in yAe, and 8.56% mentioned the possibility of influencing this educational field. If work continues in this direction, progress will continue.

Moreover, gradually, the uPn units have earned recognition from various yAe institutions in their areas of influence, both in the forums that they’ve held as well as for the work done by BeI yAe students during their professional practice and their social service as well as by its graduates.

Building their identity as educators of young people and adults

A professional identity is also the result of the other features that make up a profession and, in turn, are an expression of it. our identity has been fostered by the spread of the collective and the leadership of the yAe network, the choice of its motto: educating ourselves to be and to transcend, and its logo:

The various actions within the yAe network have also promoted the strengthening of the identity of its members as educators of young people and adults, enabling them to identify skills, interests, ways of working, problems, challenges, dreams and achievements which they share among themselves and with other educators in this educational field and that which favours its recognition. In the same way, it has facilitated the assessment of its groups, of their work and of themselves, which has resulted in increased personal assuredness and self-esteem. this identity, which has been built up little by little in the different areas of the network, has at times facilitated the exchange of ideas and feelings of solidarity and affection among its members, and has supported the defence of the network and the permanence of its members, and it has made visible the primary work that has been carried out, in particular, the teachers of BeI yAe, and has shown the importance of this university program.

3. Challenges and Considerations

Most YAE network members who answered the questionnaire report that their expectations of it have been covered. However 39% mentioned aspects that need be addressed to strengthen the network and which were integrated into the proposals that were raised at national meetings and had to do with a range of items related to communication, training events and the achievement of significant learning; the enthusiasm and participation of colleagues; interaction and work within the network as a whole and between the uPn units; the regional meetings and participation in them as well as the inclusion of students and graduates in the work of the network. In the council there was an analysis of the unmet expectations and suggestions were made to define some actions to address these expectations – which were incorporated in the Project to Strengthen the yAe network 2009-2011. From other areas, particularly in the council meetings and exchanges with teachers from different institutions and organisations, greater and broader challenges were identified, such as a) ensuring the active and sustained participation of the largest number of members and b) to actually come together as a national network of educators of young people and adults, that integrates and responds to the interests and needs of people from a variety of institutions and organisations, a challenge which implies a change in the language we use to name things, to define other projects and modify the development of meetings. we are now on track to achieve this.

As a final thought, one can say that networks are privileged spaces that favour the formation of collective actors who are gradually strengthening their ties, a condition that allows them to promote a diversity of actions aimed at achieving their goals. In the case of the yAe network it is the professionalisation of its members and the impact on improving the education of young people and adults in the country. the results achieved in eleven years of sustained work correspond to the work and commitment of its members.

Bibliography

Campero, Carmen and Eva Rautenberg (2006). Caminemos juntos. Trabajo y proyección social de la red en educación de personas jóvenes y adultas. México: universidad Ped agógica nacional.

Campero, Carmen coord. (2011). Perfil social y laboral de los y las formadoras de educadores de personas jóvenes y adultas. Un estudio de caso de la Universidad Pedagógica Nacional de México. Reporte de investigación. México: UPN, consultado el 10 de febrero del 2011, de redepja.upn.mx/documentos/informeBeI.pdf

Martínez Pineda, María cristina (2008). Redes pedagógicas: la constitución del maestro como sujeto político. 1ª ed. Bogotá: editorial Magisterio.

Notes

1 Let’s walk together. work and the social extent of the network in the education of youth and adults (campero and rautenberg, 2006).

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