Taking on the world in a global virtual seminar – Adult Education and Development: Post 2015

Timothy Ireland
Federal University of Paraiba





Abstract – The virtual seminar on Adult Education and Development: Post 2015, took as its starting point three of the articles published in the latest issue of Adult Education and Development – AED (2013). It sought to stimulate fur ther discussion on the links between the post 2015 development agenda – principally the MDGs, the EFA goals and the CONFINTEA recommendations, and collectively to define a way forward toward and beyond the 2015 deadline. 

The International Council for Adult Education (ICAE) and the Institute for International Cooperation of the German Adult Education Association (DV V International) are longstanding partners in the world of Adult Education and development.
The first joint vir tual seminar on Adult Education and Development: Post 2015 proved an intelligent way of harnessing ICAE’s long and rich experience in promoting virtual debates with DVV International’s equally long and rich experience in publishing a journal on that theme. The result was a debate star ting from three of the ar ticles published in the latest issue of AED (2013). All in all, some 1050 people worldwide engaged in a moderated discussion lasting a for tnight between the 10th and 24th of March. Within this virtual space, the objective was to stimulate further discussion on the links between the post 2015 development agenda – principally the MDGs, the EFA goals and the CONFINTEA recommendations. The aim was to deepen and broaden analyses presented in the Journal and collectively define a way forward toward and beyond the 2015 deadline.

Consensus in diversity

Despite the diverse national and cultural backgrounds of the contributors, there were several basic points of consensus. Firstly, the majority acknowledged the impor tance of establishing some kind of global goals for development and education. Equally there was general recognition that a significant number of countries would neither achieve the MDGs nor those of EFA and that progress towards the CONFINTEA recommendations was slow and patchy. Thirdly, there was general agreement that in order to advance on current proposals for the post 2015 development and education agenda we will not, in Paul Bélanger’s words, “succeed […] without a large citizens’ movement asserting what is missing to make this world agenda an efficient guide for global and national development efforts to be taken during the next 15 years.” Participation is the order of the day.

The case of Brazil

Most readers will probably recall that CONFINTEA VI was held in Belem do Pará, in Brazil in 2009. Most readers will also probably associate Brazil with Paulo Freire, popular education and, as we are all human, with the World Cup 2014. Only the most informed readers will probably recall that in
2014 Brazil is commemorating 50 years since the civil-military coup of 1964 which decreed the end of what promised to
be one of the most ambitious national literacy programmes which Brazil had ever known and the imprisonment and eventual exile of Paulo Freire. Fifty years later and the National Truth Commission continues to investigate grave violations
of human rights during the Military regime whilst the Brazilian government has just held a three day Arena on Social Participation (Brasília, 21–23/05) during which it launched two innovative proposals: a National Policy of Social Participation
which includes a National System of Social Par ticipation
understood as a method of government and a Frame of Reference as a precursor to a National Policy of Popular Education. The latter aims to consolidate popular education as a public intersectoral and transversal policy for citizen par ticipation and for the democratization of the Brazilian state. During the Arena, the unveiling of the Frame of Reference of Popular Education and Dialogues on the Millennium Development Goals and the perspectives for the formulation of the Sustainable Development Goals took place in parallel venues. These two events somehow symbolized for me, the physical separation between the world of development represented by the MDGs and that of education represented by popular education and the arduous task of conjugating the two.

Education as a right – the next step

During our virtual debate it became clear that for the majority the achievement of development goals would depend
on the inclusion of empowerment through education as an enabling right. Hence the need to include a stand-alone education goal which contemplates quality education and Lifelong Learning for all founded on the integration of learning and living and comprehending life as the ultimate

Within the post 2015 debate a need was seen to maintain the articulation between the three different strands of the argument: the World Earth Summit and the Sustainable Development Goals, the renewal/redefinition of the MDGs and of the EFA goals. It was felt that care has to be taken that educational goals are not thrown out with the proverbial development bathwater. As Alan Tuckett points out, the ef
fect of adopting just two of the EFA goals into the MDGs was to marginalise the other four with the consequent invisibility
of Adult Education in a Lifelong Learning perspective.
Adult learning and education as embodied in the CONFINTEA agenda were evoked by many contributors as fundamental ingredients of the debate which could only be ignored at our peril.

The diversity of knowledge

It is clear that the post 2015 debate is a highly disputed field in which there is a need for a true intercultural dialogue, taking into account both northern and southern epistemologies. As Sofia Valdivielso comments, there can be no democracy without the recognition of the diversity of knowledge. The present confrontation is not so much over the future architecture of development and education as over the basic values of human life in community whilst recognizing that human well-being and happiness can only be achieved in harmony with environmental and planetary coexistence as a fundamental goal of the development process. To that end the
vir tual seminar invites and invokes us all to hone and focus our advocacy tools and energies to strive for the other possible world to which we are committed.



About the Author

Timothy Ireland is associate professor in Adult Education at the Federal University
of Paraiba, in João Pessoa (Brazil). He was national director of Adult Education at the Ministry of Education from 2004-2007 and worked for UNESCO from 2008 to 2011
where he was focal point for CONFINTEA VI. Since 2013, he has been a member of the editorial board of Adult Education and Development.

Av. Umbuzeiro, 480

Manaíra – João Pessoa

PB: 58038-180



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