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CONFINTEA VI Regional Preparatory Conference for Europe, North America and Israel

"Adult Learning for Equity and Inclusion in a Context of Mobility and Competition"


3 - 5 December 2008 in Budapest (Hungary)

The Pan-European Preparatory Conference for CONFINTEA VI took place in Budapest, Hungary from December 3 to 5, 2008. The Conference, organised through the Hungarian Institute for Culture and Art (MMIKL) in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Culture, brought together 220 participants from 34 countries, among them seven Ministers, Deputy-Ministers and Secretaries of State in charge of education. The event provided an opportunity to reflect on the current state of Adult Education and Lifelong Learning in Europe, North America and Israel.

Apart from generating advocacy, creating partnership and presenting effective practices in Adult Learning and Education (ALE), the Conference reviewed the draft regional synthesis of the national reports from the region on key issues and challenges in Adult Learning and Education, and developed recommendations for a renewed course of action.

Input

Mr István Hiller, Hungarian Minister of Education and Culture and Chair of the Conference, opened the event. Other welcoming addresses were given by Mr Zarko Obradovic, Minister of Education of Serbia, Mr Troy Justesen, Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education from USA, and Ms Ana Luiza Machado, UNESCO Deputy Assistant Director-General.

The keynote address was given by Ms Rita Süssmuth, President of the German Adult Education Association. The keynote was a vibrant reminder of the growing importance of ALE in face of the current crisis and put a strong case for how decisive ALE can empower society, build capacity among the most vulnerable sectors and help forge social cohesion.  

Subsequently Ms Helen Keogh from the Irish Curriculum Development Unit presented the Regional Synthesis Report. The author presented a well documented and analytical review with clear evidence and compelling accounts on overall development. It also established a typology of situations, policies and underlying implications. Issues of participation, governance and quality were underscored and the changing nature of policies mapped out. The importance of the driving and decisive force of a supranational body such as the EU was stressed

Discussion

Most of current adult education in the region is vocational and linked to employment which is particularly affected by the financial crisis. In addition general adult education is losing funding. The responsibility to the most vulnerable members of society, and this includes not only migrants but all those who have no access at all to adult education, was underlined. There is also a general increase in the demand for new skills. About one third of jobs in the region call not just for secondary education but for post-secondary. A third requires still higher qualifications and there is the final third of future jobs where the skills needed can’t even yet be predicted. Another characteristic feature is the influx of immigrants bringing social and cultural diversity and challenging mainstream attitudes to learning. For this reason social inclusion is as crucial as vocational training and the recommendations of the Geneva International Conference on Education with its theme of inclusive learning were incorporated into the conference. Literacy and learning competencies are an issue throughout the region and a conceptual change seems to be needed. There is still a denial of the existence of literacy problems in several countries but new thinking on literacy places more emphasis on its importance as a core competence.

Outcome

The final Conference Outcome Document comprises recommendations on policy frameworks and various forms of governance and financing supporting equitable access to Adult Education. The document stresses the importance of literacy, numeracy and key competences and includes recommendations to UNESCO to develop a set of indicators to measure participation and progress development and to support the recognition of learning outcomes from non-formal settings.

The recommendations include, in detail, the following:

  • Policy frameworks should cover formal and non-formal ALE and take into account the personal, social, health, economic, cultural and inter-generational benefits of Adult Learning. They should encompass programmes that are based on the needs of learners and made more accessible through appropriate content and support. Links and co-ordination with early childhood care and education (ECCE) in lifelong learning frameworks and strategies should be strengthened.
  • Governance issues should be addressed with a view to creating local, regional and national frameworks, structures and partnerships – including public authorities, social partners and civil society.
  • Financing of ALE should comprise robust public investment: public sources with support from national, regional, and local level, as well as multi-stakeholder contributions from the private sector and individuals. New financing mechanisms should be put in place to stimulate individual and collective participation and investment by enterprises.
  • Countries should promote equitable access to ALE, recognising learning outcomes wherever, whenever and however achieved, as well as the critical importance of literacy, language, numeracy, social, ICT and VET competences as part of lifelong learning strategies.
  • Policies, structures and measures to assure the quality of learning should be developed.
  • Given the diversity of the structure and capacity of ALE in developing the region, UNESCO should develop indicators of participation and progression to measure and evaluate change over time and share good practices with other countries.
  • ALE is a legitimate and essential research area and more investment in research, evaluation and documentation is recommended in order to promote better-informed policy decisions and to improve quality.
  • Representatives of NGOs, CSOs, employers, unions, private providers and adult learners should be included in the national delegations to CONFINTEA VI.