A NEW MOMENTUM AND A NEW OPPORTUNITY FOR
ADULT BASIC LEARNING AND EDUCATION (ABLE)
IN THE SOUTH
A Study commissioned by Sida
(Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency)
Buenos Aires, September 2002
This is a revised and expanded version of the document that served as a background document for the on-line discussion on Adult Basic Learning and Education (ABLE) organized by Sida and Instituto Fronesis between May 23 and June 30, 2002. www.bellanet.org/adultlearning
Rosa María Torres. Ecuadorian. Specialist in basic education, with wide teaching, research, and technical advisory experience. Over the past twenty years she has lived, studied and/or worked in five countries – Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, the United States and Argentina – and has conducted technical missions in most Latin American and Caribbean countries as well as in many African and Asian countries. She was the Pedagogical Director of the “Monsignor Leonidas Proaño” National Literacy Campaign (1998-1990) and Minister of Education and Cultures (2003) in Ecuador. Most of her international experience in the field of education is linked to UNICEF and UNESCO. She was Senior Education Adviser at UNICEF Education Cluster in New York (1992-1996); Program Director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, based in Buenos Aires (1996-1998); and Researcher at IIEP-UNESCO Buenos Aires (1998-2000). She is currently a researcher and international education adviser, working from her own institute, Instituto Fronesis www.fronesis.org . Since 2000, she co-ordinates the network of signatories to the Latin American Statement for Education for All www.fronesis.org/prolat.htm. At UNESCO’s invitation, since 2000 she has served as a member of the Jury for International Literacy Prizes. Author of over 15 books and numerous articles. Between 1990 and 1998 she wrote a weekly column on Education in El Comercio, in Quito.
To José Luis
In the course of doing this study (March 2001-March 2002) I received inputs and held interviews and conversations with many people in all regions of the world. The list of people who replied to the survey (questionnaire) and who were interviewed for this study appears in Annex A.
I would like to highlight a number of persons-authors (many of them also friends, and many of them also included in the Annex) whose work and/or comments have been particularly useful or inspiring for this review, among them L. Barnola, H. Bhola, A. Bordia, A. Byll-Cataria, R. Chartier, J.L. Coraggio, P. Easton, P. Federighi, E. Ferreiro, S. Fiorito, +P. Freire, B. Hall, H. Hinzen, I. Infante, J. Kalman, K. King, M.L. Jáuregui, M.E. Letelier, A. Lind and A. Johnston, M. Khan, G. Messina, J. Muller, J. Rivero, A. Rogers, and N. Stromquist.
I am also grateful to S. Fernandez-Lauro, U. Peppler-Barry and G. Hickey (UNESCO); A. Ouane, C. Mendel-Añonuevo and T. Oshaka (UIE); A. Aoki, J.Lauglo, J. Oxenham and M. Sanchez (World Bank); D. Coben (DFID); E. Kupidera (ICAE); W. Hoppers and S. Walters. (South Africa); M. Mdachi and M. Eyacuze (Tanzania) for their kind assistance in providing me with information or materials through e-mail. Special thanks to F.Schillman, my assistant in Buenos Aires.
In doing this review, the invaluable contribution of Education for Development (IIZ-DVV, Bonn) and Convergence (ICAE, Toronto) to the understanding and evolution of adult education, in all its domains and modalities, along these past decades, became unquestionable. The numerous authors who have nurtured these journals, from all regions of the world, cannot be quoted one by one, but they must be acknowledged as part of the active history and memory of the adult education field.
I also benefitted from ALADIN – the Adult Learning Documentation and Information Network, based at and co-ordinated by the UNESCO Institute for Education (UIE), and spent many days navigating the web fascinated with some of its wonderful treasures. May a special personal tribute be paid to Ursula Giere for her effort and passion in organizing ALADIN.
A special thanks goes to H. Persson, SIDA, for his confidence and support, his kindness and patience, and above all for giving me the opportunity to do, review and discuss this study, in an area that is very dear to me both personally and professionally, and at a critical juncture in time. Research, drafting and editing time took far beyond the ten weeks of work originally agreed upon in the assignment, and the study itself resulted in a far greater challenge than initially envisaged by Sida and by myself. I celebrate his non-bureaucratic style, his understanding and flexibility to extend deadlines and accept apologies. Let us hope the process and the various products and by-products of this study will make the wait worthwhile.
Thank you to my dear friend, A. Lind, who introduced me to Sida and with whom I have learned and walked many of the wonderful and difficult roads of adult education, and of education in general, from the local to the global level.
Thank you to Sida, an organization that inspires many others in its continued search to improve and to explore routes for genuine and useful international cooperation vis-à-vis “partner” countries; for its continued interest in adult basic education and learning, and in research in this field, despite so many forces to the contrary; and for the support and freedom it has given me to explore, think, say and write without constraints of any sort, and, on the contrary, encouraging me to do so.
The ideas displayed contained here remain, of course, my own responsibility. I dedicate them to José Luis Coraggio, for what they may be worth.
Methodology and sources of this study
This study relies on various sources:
Review of relevant documentation, in print, video, and on the web. In total, over 1,000 documents were analyzed.
An electronic survey on the topic of Adult Education (questionnaire in English and Spanish, Annex B) sent by e-mail to nearly 300 individuals throughout the world, including researchers and experts and also practitioners and people in the field, coming not only from education but from a wide range of institutions, sectors and professional fields. 83 individuals replied to the survey, from all regions. (Annex A)
Face-to-face, telephone or e-mail interviews and/or informal conversations with selected individuals. Visits, conversations and interviews related with this study were conducted in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Ecuador, Eritrea, France, Germany, Peru, Spain, Sweden, Tanzania, The Netherlands, Uruguay, UK and the US.
A few field visits to relevant institutions and programs were also included in the case of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Ecuador, Eritrea, Tanzania and Uruguay.
Also, the study benefitted from:
A study on youth non-formal education programs worldwide conducted by the author in 2000-2001 (Torres 2001c).
Technical missions and seminars related to the topics of this study, held over this period of time:
Uppingham Seminar on Development, “Unpacking the Discourse of Social Exclusion/Inclusion”, Uppingham, UK, 22-24 February 2001.
PROMEDLAC VII (Seventh Meeting of the Inter-governmental Regional Committee of the Major Project for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean), UNESCO-OREALC, Cochabamba, Bolivia, 5-7 March 2001.
CAS/DSE/NORRAG Seminar on “Development Knowledge, National Research and International Cooperation”, Bonn, 2-5 April 2001.
“International Seminar on Literacy and Basic Education”, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Lima, 12-14 March 2001.
“National Dialogue on Education” Diálogo 21/UNDP, Guayaquil, Ecuador, 31 May-2 June 2001.
International Conference on “Lifelong Learning: Global Perspectives in Education”, UIE/Beijing Academy of Educational Sciences, Beijing, 1-3 July 2001.
II Meeting of Ministers of Education of the Americas, Punta del Este, Uruguay, 24-25 September 2001.
International Symposium on Learning Communities, Barcelona Forum 2004, Barcelona, 5-6 October 2001.
ADEA Biennale, “Reaching Out, Reaching All”, Arusha, 8-11 October 2001.
World Education Forum “Education in a Globalized World”, Porto Alegre, Brazil, 24-27 October 2001.
First ICIP International Intergenerational Conference “Connecting Generations – A Global Perspective”, Keele University, Keele, UK, 2-4 April 2002.
47th Annual Convention of IRA (International Reading Association), San Francisco, USA, 28 April–2 May 2002.
An external evaluation process of the UNESCO Institute for Education (UIE-UNESCO, in Hamburg), in which the author was engaged, also at Sida’s request.
The 2001 and 2002 meetings of the International Literacy Prize Jury (UNESCO, Paris), where the author has served as a member since 2000. Information on the proposals analyzed by the Jury remains confidential, but their analysis provided important insights for this review inasmuch as they constitute a sample of programs worldwide that view themselves as “best practices” in adult literacy.
The engagement of the author, at UNESCO’s invitation, in the preparation process of the United Nations Literacy Decade (2003-2013).
Some preliminary conclusions of the study were discussed at a Sida workshop in Stockholm on August 20, 2001, with the participation of Sida staff and external invitees.
A first draft, focused on the conceptual analysis and proposal, was circulated for comments in mid-October 2001 among interviewees and survey respondents. The background document prepared for the online forum on ABLE (23 May-30 June, 2002) took those comments into consideration. Now, this final draft has been enriched by the experience of moderating a five-week online dialogue on the subject with over 300 subscribers and over 100 active participants from all over the world.
Common abbreviations used in the text
AE Adult Education
ABE Adult Basic Education
ABET Adult Basic Education and Training
ABLE Adult Basic Learning and Education
BLN Basic Learning Needs
CSOs Civil Society Organizations
EFA Education for All
ECCD Early Childhood Care and Development
FE Formal Education
ICTs Information and Communication Technologies
NFE Non-Formal Education
LC Learning Community
LLE Lifelong Education
LLL Lifelong Learning
MOE Ministry of Education
NGO Non-Governmental Organizations
SWAP: Sector-wide approach
TVET Technical and Vocational Education and Training
UPE Universal Primary Education
ACCU: Asia-Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO
ADEA: Association for the Development of Education in Africa
ALADIN: Adult Learning Documentation and Information Network
ALECSO: Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization
ANLAE: Arab Network for Literacy and Adult Education
APPEAL: UNESCO Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau for Education /Asia-Pacific Programme of Education for All
ARLO: Arab Regional Literacy Office
ASPBAE: Asian South Pacific Bureau of Adult Education
BREDA: UNESCO Regional Office in Dakar
CEAAL: Latin American Council on Adult Education
CREFAL: Regional Cooperation Center for Adult Education in Latin America and the Caribbean
ICAE International Council for Adult Education
IIZ/DVV: Institute for International Cooperation/German Adult Education Association
ILI: International Literacy Institute
OREALC: UNESCO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean
PAALAE: Pan-African Association for Literacy and Adult Education
Sida: Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency
UIE: UNESCO Institute for Education, Hamburg
UIS: UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Montreal
WB: World Bank
Methodological note: Methodology and sources of this study
About this study and document
What will we be talking about? Conceptualizing the overall framework
- Basic Learning Needs (BLN) of Adults for Community and for Human Development in the South
- Adult Education and Adult Basic Education
- Adult Education, Non-Formal Education and Lifelong Education
- Lifelong Learning
- Adult Basic Learning and Basic Education (ABLE)
Approach of this study and of the proposal around ABLE
- A systemic and holistic approach to education, within a Human Development perspective
- Emphasis on learning as the key organizing category.
- Lifelong Learning (LLL) as a paradigm for both North and South.
- Acknowledging the difficulties of generalizing and of drawing definite conclusions and recommendations.
WHAT CAN ONE FIND IN A LITERATURE REVIEW RELATED TO ADULT BASIC EDUCATION (ABE) IN “DEVELOPING COUNTRIES”?
Revisiting the claim of “lack of documentation” in the South
A few “findings”
- Terminological and conceptual chaos.
- Adult Education as Adult Basic Education (ABE) and ABE as literacy
- Increasing focus on youth and/or on younger adults.
- Adult education and child education (and their defenders) running in parallel.
- Research and visions dominated by the North and by international agencies.
- Discrepancies in declarations and commitments by (the same) international agencies.
- Regional imbalances, focus on Africa, and extrapolation of findings to other regions.
- New information but little new knowledge or innovation.
- Quality as an issue in the production both in and about “developing countries”.
- Little and weak documentation of experiences but promising trends.
- Evaluation of adult literacy programs remains a critical issue.
- Increasing pressure for quantitative research and empirical evidence.
- Inconclusive evidence, divergent conclusions and recommendations.
3. TOWARDS A REVIVAL AND RENEWAL OF ADULT BASIC LEARNING
Revival plus renewal
The “failure” and the “wastage” arguments revisited
The revival of ABLE: context, manifestations and trends
Between “expanded” and “reduced” visions
Why such revival?
- The poor results of Education for All (EFA) and of education reforms in the 1990s.
- The poor attention given to adult basic education over the 1990s.
- Better information and knowledge base in relation to ABE.
- The “cost-effectiveness” argument.
- Continuing presence and pressure of the adult education movement.
- The activation of Lifelong Learning (LLL).
- The spread of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).