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The findings > Thematic Studies> Funding Agency ...> Part 3/Section C/ 3
  Country EFA reports
  Regional Frameworks for Action
 
 
8. Adult Education
 
"Despite notable efforts by countries around the globe… the following realities persist: More than one third of the world's adults have no access to the printed knowledge, new skills, and technologies that could improve the quality of their lives and help them shape, and adapt to, social and cultural change." (preamble to Declaration) "The basic learning needs of youth and adults are diverse and should be met through a variety of delivery systems. Literacy programmes are indispensable because literacy is a necessary skill in itself and the foundation of other life skills… Other needs can be served by skills training, apprenticeships, and formal and non-formal education programmes in health, nutrition, population, agricultural techniques, the environment, science, technology, family life, including fertility awareness and other societal issues." (Declaration : 6) The Jomtien Conference expressed concern about the state and role of education both for children and adults. The concept of basic education was to be applied to all. The problem for this report is whether provision for adult education has expanded in line with its inclusion in basic education. In the Declaration literacy is singled out and mentioned as a fundamental skill which many lack, and the goal of its eradication has been repeated many times. More generally, adult education is considered necessary for the world of work, civic responsibility, adapting to modern conditions, addressing social issues, and shaping change. Indicators and targets are not specified, probably due to the difficulty of devising such benchmarks for areas of the curriculum that relate to personal and professional growth and development, developing social and work related skills and attitudes. Examining what has happened is further complicated by the fact that adult education in its various forms can be located in ministries and sectors other than education. A lot of adult education provision is administered and developed by departments of social development. The cross curricular nature of the majority of this type of provision makes its inclusion in a number of alternative curriculum and administrative departments common. Many agencies mentioned the general difficulty of separating the training component of initiatives developed outside of the field of education, e.g. in agriculture, health, population, implying an underreporting of adult education. "Just about every project funded by the Bank includes a training component that may add one to three percent to the total budget of the loan. Adding together these training expenditures, the total ends up as slightly higher than the total expenditures of the Bank on projects that directly finance education and training." (IDB 1999:5) The little information that is available can be summarised in Table 8.1.
 
Table 8.1 Agencies Stated Involvement in Adult Education/Literacy
 

Australia : adult and community education largely disbursed through NGO's

Austria: adult education

Canada : youth and adults, especially literacy

Denmark: literacy

Germany : literacy focus and health

Ireland: formal and non-formal adult education and literacy

Japan : literacy for all age groups

Luxembourg :functional literacy for adults

Netherlands : non- formal adult education

New Zealand : non-formal literacy

Norway : basic adult education including literacy

Sweden*: literacy and other non formal education

Switzerland : adult education including literacy

United Kingdom : literacy especially for females, adult and youth work skills

United States : adult education but not at expense of prioritising primary education

ADB: adult literacy

CDB***: Formal and non-formal adult education

EU : literacy and informal sector education

World Bank : adult education, referred to as post-basic education

UNESCO : literacy

UNICEF**: for young adults (under 18)

UNDP: basic education for youth and adults

 
* Sweden point to the lack of priority for adult education amongst governments therefore leading to potentially less focus by the agency as they try to follow government priorities ** UNICEF stresses that it makes no distinction between formal and non-formal within basic education. *** CDB note that regionally adult education provision is ad hoc, often with inappropriate methodologies and low status.

It is impossible to verify stated agency activity in this area from the data received. Four of the above agencies supplied data that was broken down by sub-sector, and of these only the following could be interrogated in this respect (see appendix 5).

Over the decade Swedish support to adult education totalled $29.75 million, representing 0.1% of their total basic education disbursements. It is interesting to note that expenditure in 1992 was only slightly less than the expenditure in 1997, but in 1998 this figure halved.

For the Netherlands expenditure on adult education increased from 1992-4 to $3.99 million and subsequently dropped slightly to $3.84 million in 1998

Of the other agencies that provided sub-sector breakdowns it is possible that adult education expenditure is in non-formal or other categories. Exploring current portfolios or lists of country projects reveals more details of interventions in this area. However, there is insufficient detail to examine funding trends over the decade for the agency community.

Very few of the agencies have any specific policies (or even definitions) of adult education. However reading through agency policies and responses it was clear that there are different emphases and foci within agencies.

 
Table 8.2 Agency Focus Within Adult Basic Education
 
Workforce and vocational skills Australia*, Germany, IDB, Sweden
Citizenship and civic education Germany, IDB, Ireland, Sweden, UNICEF
Literacy and numeracy CDB, Denmark, EU, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, UNICEF, USA, World Bank
 
*projects are often concerned with the acquisition of literacy and numeracy but conducted within a vocational or life skills course
 

The IDB focus is on adult education for the workforce. This is a response to the specific conditions in the region. They state that after a decade of economic reform the (perceived) needs of the workforce have not been addressed, neither have the disparities in social and economic opportunities that undermine development in the region. Particular problems relating to adult education are: the low standard of learning; the lack of citizenship and civic education; education as a factor reinforcing rather than reducing inequality, young workers entering the workforce unprepared.

For Sweden "adult basic education is a tool which can contribute to the eradication of poverty and to the promotion of equality between the sexes. It also contributes to building a strong democratic society and sustainable development for all people." (Vähämäki 1998: 2)

Their review of adult provision in South Africa lists the foreign funding agency support in this field from USAID, EU, SIDA, DVV11, SDC. This can take the form of support to the department of labour. Examples of projects that are funded are adult education centres, study circles; exchanges between folk schools in both countries; a range of courses for reaching the poor; democracy and human rights courses; courses on children's rights; vocational training and curriculum development.

Switzerland, in focusing on literacy, state that the majority of illiterate people are women and that the gender gap is widening. Increasing access for females has largely been interpreted as increasing access for girls in formal primary education. The high hopes held for early literacy campaigns have not materialised. They seem to succeed when attached to liberation movements, or when provided to those with an immediate interest in learning to read, i.e. training is provided with economic activities. They note the sad lack of serious studies in adult education and the lack of data.

SDC detail their literacy work in West Africa, the changes it has gone through resulting in a new focus on quality. They state that literacy campaigns should address wider needs than just basic acquisition of skills, for example, they should have concrete application in the specific economic and social setting.

 
8.1 Relevant Issues in Adult Education
 

In developed Northern economies there is a clear and growing role for adult education with provision being developed to respond to market needs and address concerns for economic competitiveness. This increased attention is not reflected in agency interventions (numerically or in content).12

The Amman mid-decade meeting identified shortfalls in the coverage of adult education. It recommended more attention to NFE and literacy for youth and adults. It also raised the issue of what learning achievements are. This was discussed and it was agreed that more research is necessary in this area. It was acknowledged that measuring culture specific inputs such as those for life skills is difficult. Also, that non-learning is implied in drop out and repetition rates though this is not documented. They saw a need for research identifying what is being taught and learnt.

There was a general feeling that the focus on formal primary education had placed adult education somewhat in the shadows. The core of adult education was identified as literacy and numeracy, a reduction in scope that should be reconsidered. Adult education was also considered necessary for work and home skills, with the point being made that literacy and numeracy are more successful if dealt with in an applied way with income generating activities attached. A growing need to address the alienated and unemployed was also identified.

 
8.2 Some Conclusions
 
In attempting to analyse to what extent Jomtien has impacted on agency provision in adult education we face two major problems. Despite being highlighted as an area of neglect, there are no targets associated with adult education outside of literacy so there is little incentive for agencies to document and account for interventions in this area specifically. It is very difficult to account for this provision as it is located across a variety of sectors, in situations which do not facilitate easy identification and measurement of the adult education component. It terms of policy statements adult education seems to have diminished in importance. However, it is not possible to confirm this with reference to statistical data as in general agency data and accounting systems cannot give a comprehensive picture of interventions in this field.
Training has also largely been ignored as a factor in individual and country economic productivity. The current focus on skills development and workforce productivity in the North driving adult education has not been transferred to the development agenda, but it is unclear as to why.
 
8.3 Outstanding Issues
 
8.3.1 Issues
 

It seems that as there are no general targets for adult education it has not been accorded the same priority as primary education and has been somewhat overlooked.

This situation is made more complex in the tracking of adult education provision by its location in various ministries other than education. If training is included the situation is complicated even further. Agencies could be contributing a great deal of resources to this area, but are unable to capture this under present reporting systems. Defining adult education as more than literacy is also an issue.

Adult provision is often restricted to supplementary, non-formal interventions, which add to the marginalisation of this area. Of all the sub-sectors adult education is particularly sensitive to perceived social policy problems and provision can be tailored to provide specific solutions, for example, for out-of-school youth. There is also the issue of combining this with broad based long term provision aimed at addressing the need for lifelong learning.

A related issue is the amount of systematic research and development in this area.

 
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