The Adult Learning and Education System Building Approach (ALESBA) provides a conceptual, systematic, practical understanding of adult education systems. It is generic in nature, and can be applied to adult education systems in different contexts and countries. The approach consists of guiding conceptual frameworks, defined implementation phases, and a number of methods and tools that can be applied in each phase. It systematises adult education systems into four elements with five building blocks each across the tiers/levels and sectors of governance. The overall objective of the approach is to build sustainable adult education systems with all stakeholders in order to improve the delivery of integrated adult education services based on learners’ needs and interests. The approach therefore addresses both the supply and demand sides of adult education service delivery. To understand the application of the ALESBA, it is important to have a brief overview of the guiding conceptual framework, elements and building blocks that inform the use of the approach.
A system is usually understood as an entity comprised of different elements and processes which are interconnected via feedback loops and are interdependent. Each element and process is needed to make up the complete system, and has to carry out its own role and function. All the elements and processes needed to deliver adult education services are considered in the context of adult education. It relies on the specific definition of adult education in a country’s context. ALESBA would refer to the process of assessing and diagnosing the system, and finding alternatives to redesign/improve the system, test the improved design, make adjustments, and upscale to reach a wider target group.
The conceptual framework suggests that an adult education system should consider all tiers of governance across macro, meso and micro levels. This depends on a country’s governance structure. The concentric circles represent each tier of governance, and imply “vertical integration”, meaning links and feedback loops between each tier/level. If the scope and definition of adult education have an integrated nature which considers services such as functional adult literacy, combined with non-formal skills training, etc. (‘horizontal integration’), these integrated services are understood to be delivered across the same tiers of governance (macro-meso-micro).
A fully-functional adult education system requires four main elements (or components), namely:
Note that the lines on the conceptual framework between these elements are not solid, indicating that processes flow between the four elements in both horizontal and vertical style. Furthermore, each element plays across macro-meso-micro levels and has several building blocks that should be in place for the system to function. Since we are referring to a system with interrelated and interdependent links, it should be understood that the elements and building blocks are not in silos and linked to each other through a number of processes, e.g. activities that turn inputs (people, information, money, etc.) into outputs (services delivered) with the aim of meeting policy and operational objectives.
Participatory planning processes
Appropriate budget and resource allocation
Clear adult education programme design & methodology
Programme implementation guidelines
Leadership & management
Capacity development at all implementation levels
Management information system
Partnerships with non-state players
Coordination bodies & process
The Adult Learning and Education System Building Approach addresses both the supply and demand sides of adult education service delivery. Since its main objective is to improve the delivery of adult education services, the main users of the approach are on the supply side, namely:
Each stakeholder will play a role as per their mandate and responsibility within the system. The approach acknowledges the demand side of service delivery by making provision for demand assessment tools to assess the needs and interests of young and adult learners as individuals, within organised groups, or as Community Based Organisations (CBOs). Their opinions on adult education service delivery are measured at the beginning and during the process of adult education system building in order to ensure that the system remains relevant and addresses the needs and demands of the target group.
Organisations such as DVV International can play an important facilitating and capacity-building role in Adult Learning and Education System Building.