1997: The Agenda for the Future (excerpt)

1 – This Agenda for the Future sets out in detail the new commitment to the development of adult learning called for by the Hamburg Declaration on Adult Learning.

2 – The Agenda focuses on common concerns facing humanity on the eve of the twenty-first century and on the vital role that adult learning has to play in enabling women and men of all ages to face these most urgent challenges with knowledge, courage and creativity.

3 – The development of adult learning requires partnership between government departments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, employers and trade unions, universities and research centres, the media, civil and community-level associations, facilitators of adult learning and the adult learners themselves.

4 – Profound changes are taking place both globally and locally. They can be seen in a globalization of economic systems, in the rapid development of science and technology, in the age structure and mobility of populations, and in the emergence of an informationbased and knowledge-based society. The world is also experiencing major changes in patterns of work and unemployment, a growing ecological crisis, and tensions between social groups based on culture, ethnicity, gender roles, religion and income. These trends are reflected in education, where those responsible for complex education systems are struggling to cope with new opportunities and demands, often with declining resources at their disposal.

5 – In the course of the present decade, a series of conferences has focused world attention on key international problems. Beginning with the World Conference on Education for All: Meeting Basic Learning Needs (Jomtien, Thailand, 1990), they have included the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), the World Conference on Human Rights (Vienna, 1993), the International Conference on Population and Development (Cairo, 1994), the World Summit for Social Development (Copenhagen, 1995), the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995), the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II, Istanbul, 1996) and the most recent, the World Food Summit (Rome, 1996). At all these conferences world leaders looked to education to release the competence and creativity of citizens. Education was seen as a vital element in a strategy to nurture the sustainable development processes.

6 – There have been parallel changes in education as well. Since its foundation, UNESCO has played a pioneering role in the conception of adult education as an essential part of any education system and of human-centred development. There are now numerous agencies active in the field, many of which have taken part in the Hamburg conference.

7 – The first International Conference on Adult Education (Elsinore, Denmark, 1949) was followed by conferences in Montreal (1960), Tokyo (1972) and Paris (1985). Other important milestones include the 1972 Report of the International Commission on the Development of Education chaired by Edgar Faure, Learning to Be: The World of Education Today and Tomorrow, and the influential 1976 UNESCO Recommendation on the Development of Adult Education which set out the vital role of adult education ‘as forming part of lifelong education and learning’.

8 – During the twelve years that have elapsed since the Paris Declaration, humanity has been affected by profound changes resulting from the processes of globalization and technological advance, together with a new international order, all of which have led to farreaching transformations in the political, cultural and economic fields.

9 – A quarter of a century after Learning to Be, the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century, chaired by Jacques Delors, said that, ‘The concept of learning throughout life is the key that gives access to the twenty-first century. It goes beyond the traditional distinctions between initial and continuing education. It links up with another concept, that of the learning society, in which everything affords an opportunity for learning and fulfilling one’s potential’. The Commission’s report, Learning: The Treasure Within, emphasized the importance of the four pillars of education: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be. As indicated in the Hamburg Declaration, adult learning has grown in depth and scale, and has become an imperative at the workplace, in the home and in the community, as men and women struggle to create new realities at every stage of life. Adult education plays an essential and distinct role in equipping women and men to respond productively to the constantly changing world and in providing learning which acknowledges the rights and responsibilities of the adult and the community.

10 – In Hamburg the broad and complex spectrum of adult learning was considered under ten thematic headings:

  • Adult learning and democracy: the challenges of the twenty-first century
  • Improving the conditions and quality of adult learning
  • Ensuring the universal right to literacy and basic education
  • Adult learning, gender equality and equity, and the empowerment of women
  • Adult learning and the changing world of work
  • Adult learning in relation to environment, health and population
  • Adult learning, culture, media and new information technologies
  • Adult learning for all: the rights and aspirations of different groups
  • The economics of adult learning
  • Enhancing international co-operation and solidarity 

The full version of the Agenda for the Future with all commitments related to the ten thematic headings is available under: http://www.unesco.org/education/uie/confintea/agendeng.htm


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