The world is changing fast and dramatically. The previous year provided manifold evidence that we live in times of transition with complex new challenges: The pandemic, the development of the digital world, climate change, violent conflicts and social friction around the globe created a dynamic and volatile environment with more and more people struggling to find adequate ways to master one’s personal life and participate constructively in the changes taking place in their societies. New skills and competences are required to ensure individuals and societies will be able to master the challenges ahead. It has become obvious that politicians and providers of education must urgently rethink the content of our education services, because education holds the key to equipping people with the abilities needed, and to creating the potential for transformative action. This includes, especially, the content and the way adult learning and education (ALE) is delivered: speedy action is needed to master the challenges. This is because adults – who are not only a role model for youth and children – will play a decisive role in these processes of change.
Against this background, the International Council for Adult Education (ICAE) started a course of action to reposition ALE, inviting a broad range of academics, advocates and practitioners to participate in a process to imagine the future of the sector. The result is a fundamental paper “Adult Learning and Education (ALE) – Because the Future cannot wait” , which not only contributes to UNECO’s initiative to reimagine what they call “The Futures of Education”, but shapes the discussion around ALE for the coming years.
The UNESCO Futures of Education initiative mobilises the “ways of being and knowing in order to leverage humanity’s collective intelligence. It relies on a broad, open consultative process that involves youth, educators, civil society, governments, business and other stakeholders. The work will be guided by a high level International Commission of thought leaders from diverse fields and different regions of the world. In November 2021 the commission will publish a report designed to share a forward looking vision of what education and learning might yet become and offer a policy agenda.”
Read more about the initiative here.
In its contribution, ICAE welcomes the UN member states’ agreement regarding the need for lifelong learning (LLL), but remark that not enough attention is given to ALE within the paradigm of LLL, having in mind that:
Anchored in a clear understanding of education for all as a basic human right, ICAE outlines the role of ALE in a period of change. As an essential part of LLL, ALE equips people to navigate through changes ahead and enables them to shape the future. Differentiating from the discussion of the previous decades, where ALE was valued solely in respect to ensuring and improving the employability of individuals and providing them possibilities to receive basic education and literacy, ICAE claims that in addition to these remaining tasks, ALE should support adults in order to secure the sustainability of our planet, as well as the creation of just, peaceful and inclusive democratic societies. Hence, the development and broad-based acceptance of a wider, more holistic understanding of ALE is essential.
All this is based on an understanding that learning should be delivered in a joyful and meaningful way, respecting adults as partners in the learning process. Partnership in teaching and learning is clearly identified as the only way ALE can successfully deliver change-oriented skills and competencies.
ICAE mentions several preconditions which should be in place to enable ALE to provide its full potential:
With this contribution, ICAE has taken the lead in the necessary process to rethink ALE. The issues raised here have the potential to shape our discussions not only in the context of the UNESCO initiative, but on our way to the next CONFINTEA (International Conferences on Adult Education) as well. It will take place in 2022 and should further the process of implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda.