CONFINTEA VI Regional Preparatory Conference for Asia & the Pacific

"Building Equitable and Sustainable Socities in Asia & Pacific: the Challenge to Adult Learning"

6 - 8 October 2008 in Seoul (Republic of Korea)

The CONFINTEA VI Preparatory Conference for Asia and the Pacific was held in Seoul, the Republic of Korea, on 6–8 October 2008, hosted by the Government of the Republic of Korea and organised in cooperation between UIL, the UNESCO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok, the UNESCO Office in Beijing and the National Institute of Lifelong Education (NILE). Approximately 130 international participants attended the Conference, representing governments from 28 Member States and eight multilateral agencies and international NGOs, as well as experts and stakeholders from the private sector, universities and the media. The Conference was attended by 13 Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Secretaries of State.

The Conference had three main objectives: 

  1. To review the situation, issues and challenges of adult education and learning in the region
  2. To explore trends and practice in the field, with a focus on policy, finance, participation and inclusion, improving quality, as well as monitoring and assessment
  3. To develop major recommendations and strategies by the represented Member States for a renewed course of action in adult learning and education, resulting in the adoption of a regional Conference Document.


The keynote speech entitled ’Challenges in building equitable and sustainable societies in Asia and the Pacific and the role of adult education and learning in meeting these challenges’ was delivered by Ms. Khunying Kasama Varavarn, Secretary-General of the Basic Education Commission, Ministry of Education, Thailand.

After the presentation of the draft Regional Synthesis Report by Manzoor Ahmed and a series of thematic panel presentations, the key issues and challenges in adult learning and education in the sub-regions were discussed, followed by a collective elaboration of recommendations, strategies and benchmarks, synthesised by the Drafting Group under the leadership of Dame Carol Kidu, the Minister for Community Development of Papua New Guinea.

Being home to four billion people, or 60 per cent of the world’s population, the Conference recognised that countries in Asia and the Pacific are rich in cultural and linguistic heritage, and that progress in adult literacy has been faster in the region than in any other world region. The Regional Synthesis Report highlighted that policy frameworks and systematic approaches to adult learning and education are developed in some countries. However, a range of continuing social problems such as poverty, unemployment, marginalisation and migration make it urgent to create holistic frameworks for education that promotes social transformation and peace in the region.

The afternoon of the first day of the Conference was devoted to sub-regional group discussions on key issues, trends and challenges of adult learning and education. Continuing to reflect on issues raised in the keynote speech and the regional synthesis report, the discussions focused on adult learning and education responses to the socio-economic challenges in Asia and the Pacific, and trends and obstacles in the development of adult learning and education.


On the second day, two Round Tables served to highlight critical areas of adult learning and education, including policy, governance, financing, participation and inclusion for equity as well as sustainable development. Later, four parallel panel presentations drew attention to effective practices of adult learning and education. The discussions included such matters as quality and the relevance of adult education in the learning society; literacy and other key competences to build equitable societies and promote sustainable development; improvement of delivery mechanisms for lifelong learning; and assessment, accreditation and equivalence. A further session was devoted to the discussion of recommendations, strategies and benchmarks in four parallel groups. The Conference Outcome Document was based on recommendations and discussion points raised throughout the Conference.


The draft Conference Outcome Document reaffirmed that adult learning is a core part of lifelong learning, and contributes enormously to the creativity, innovation and new ideas necessary for building equitable and sustainable societies. It is central to advancing individual and community well-being, social justice, gender equality, improving productivity and propelling economic growth. Recommendations called for a renewed commitment to adult learning and education in the framework of lifelong learning in the region, confirming the primary responsibility of governments in providing policy frameworks and mobilising resources.

A set of recommendations to develop adult learning and education in the region formed the core content of the Document, including:

  • To recommit to the vision of adult learning and education in the framework of lifelong learning, confirming the primary responsibility of governments through enacting and strengthening appropriate legislation
  • To increase government and development partners’ support to mobilise resources for literacy and adult education
  • To encourage participating nations to develop and implement their own action plans and measurable targets that annually increases accessibility and participation in adult learning and education programmes
  • To prioritise adult literacy and women’s programmes to achieve the Education for All and Millennium Development Goals.
  • To ensure the relevance of content and process in all domains such as training, materials development and curriculum, focusing on the context-specific needs of  adult learners, and promoting critical awareness towards the social empowerment of adults
  • To develop and implement a regional or/and global monitoring and tracking mechanism to ensure the progress of adult learning and education objectives towards a learning society.

The Conference Outcome Document, adopted by the Conference, has subsequently been finalized for publication.