CONFINTEA VI Regional Preparatory Conference for the Arab States

"Investing in Adult Learning: Building Knowledge and Learning Societies in the Arab Region"


5-7 January 2009 in Tunis (Tunisia)

Sixteen countries were represented in the Conference, attended by over 110 participants, including five Ministers and 13 directors, multilateral agencies and international NGOs, as well as experts and stakeholders from the private sector, universities and the media.

The Conference started with the election of the Conference Bureau, chaired by the Honorable Minister of Social Affairs of Tunisia, Mr Ali Chaouch, and members of drafting committee, chaired by the Under-Secretary for Private and Continuing Education at the Ministry of Education of Bahrain, Ms Wadad Al Moosawi.


The election was followed by the presentation of the “Regional Synthesis Report on Adult Learning and Education in the Arab States” by Mr Abdulwahid Abdalla Yousif, Educational Advisor to the Minister of Education of Bahrain.


The presentation of the Regional Synthesis Report stimulated a lively discussion on issues ranging from data gaps, improvement and update of the information, as well as the lack of institutional identity for adult education.

Three parallel working groups discussed key issues, trends and challenges in Adult Learning and Education. The outcomes were then presented and further discussed in the concluding plenary session.

Subsequently two plenary roundtables were held:

  • “Policy, governance and financing”, chaired by Ahmed Abdullah Ahmed Hussein, Head of the Adult Education Authority of Yemen.
  • “Participation and inclusion for a learning Arab society”, chaired by Mr Mohammed Abu Zaid, Deputy Minister of Education and Higher Education of Palestine.

At the end of each roundtable there were reflections on the arguments and responses to the issues raised.

Three thematic panels were held, on:

  • Economic, social and cultural impact of literacy in the Arab region,
  • Sharing effective practices in quality and relevance in Adult Education and learning  
  • Assessment, accreditation measures and qualification frameworks.

Subsequently, parallel working groups convened to discuss key recommendations and future strategies.


The draft Outcome Document, which incorporated the recommendations emerging from the discussions, was unanimously adopted.

The Recommendations in the Outcome Document include, in brief, the following:

  • A plea for a unification of the concepts of adult education in all Arab States, the inclusion of adult education in the national education and lifelong learning plans, as well as the establishment of a close connection between formal and non-formal education.
  • A plea for the assurance of equitable access to adult learning and literacy for girls and women, people who did not attend school, and socially disadvantaged people.
  • The confirmation of commitment to the realisation of the objectives of Education for All (EFA), formulated in 2000 in Dakar.
  • The reinforcement of the role of educational media in adult learning.
  • A plea for the urgent intervention of the Arab League, UNESCO and ISESCO in States that suffer from civil conflict or the effects of occupation with the aim of introducing literacy and adult education plans.
  • An appeal for partnerships on various levels: between different providers of adult education; and between civil society and the private sector, with the goal of creating a more attractive learning environment and hence stimulating motivation.
  • The setting-up of an Arabic Fund for the financing of adult education projects in the Arab States.
  • The improvement of quality in adult education programmes including the professionalisation of adult educators and the formation of networks for the construction of a knowledge society.
  • The integration of systems of monitoring and evaluation including standardisation, national and regional mechanisms to be established by the Arab States, as well as common international mechanisms to be established by regional an international organisations (UNESCO, ISESCO, ALESCO, and the Bureau for Education of the Arab States of the Persian Gulf).

The Closing Ceremony was chaired by Mr Ali Chaouch, Minister of Social Affairs of Tunisia. Mr Hamid Mohamed Ibrahim, Minister of General Education, Sudan, gave a vote of thanks to the host country on behalf of all participants. Mr Adama Ouane, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, declared that the Conference had been a very dynamic and productive process that achieved its objectives. The Conference gave an impetus for working towards a consensus from a regional perspective.

Apart from the Conference specific time was set aside for a meeting of UIL and UNESCO Beirut Office with delegates from the six LIFE (Literacy Initiative For Empowerment) counties in the Arab region (Egypt, Iraq, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan and Yemen). The meeting focused on the overall and regional coordination of LIFE and on the implementation of LIFE in each country.