Adult and Youth Education: Eight Latin American countries aim to reach agreement on quality curriculum
Isabel Infante and María Eugenia Letelier, UNESCO consultants in charge of systematising the contributions of the Ministries of Education of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, the Dominican Republic and Uruguay, were interviewed to explain the criteria in the construction of a quality curriculum for adult and youth education.
This systematisation is a follow-up to the Sixth International Conference on Adult Education, held in Belém do Pará (Brazil, 2009). Its Framework for Action was approved as a guide for countries in order to “release the power and potential of adult learning and education for a viable future”. The UNESCO Regional Bureau of Education for Latin America and the Caribbean (OREALC/UNESCO Santiago), and the Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL-UNESCO), are leading the development of some of the commitments indicated in the Framework of Action in Latin America and the Caribbean. Said project has been carried out within this framework.
What is the value of identifying common criteria for the eight participating countries in creating a quality curriculum for Adult and Youth Education (AYE)?
Identifying common criteria by professionals who work in adult and youth education in different countries is valuable for many reasons. Without a doubt, this process has been enriched by the participation and experience of people from different countries and contexts. As these criteria are negotiated, we are able to arrive at the criteria most pertinent to building a quality curriculum. On the other hand, the participation and interest of the participants from different countries can help ensure that the criteria truly influence the elaboration or adaptation of the curriculum to each national context.
Why do they say that AYE addresses the crisis of the educational system and school system? What particular challenge does it represent for the definition of a curriculum?
AYE addresses the educational system crisis since it is aimed at adults and youth that have dropped out for different reasons, including personal, economic and work problems, or due to the system’s inability to respond to their culture and needs or the lack of coverage for more isolated communities. In order to define a curriculum, this topic presents the challenge of diversity: AYE must address groups of youth and adults who have different interests and needs, as well as different cultures. For this reason, the curriculum must be able to support the creation of specific programs for different groups in the community. Quality criteria are still applicable and serve as guidelines to these programmes.
Since Latin America and the Caribbean is the region with the most inequality in the world, how can a curriculum contribute to social inclusion and cohesion?
The social inequality and segregation in our region constitutes an obstacle for the total development of the people and the full exercise of their human and citizen rights. Articulating inclusive policies is a challenge for all school systems and a fundamental requirement for AYE; it could be said that inclusion is the essential groundwork and a guiding criteria for adult and youth education.
Inclusion is related to the access, participation and achievements of all participants in educational processes, with particular emphasis on those who are at risk, excluded or marginalised. In order to contribute to equal opportunities, social inclusion policies must recognise cultural diversity, the diversity of needs and people’s capacities, promoting full access to education, completion of studies and learning achievements for all.
The so-called society of knowledge requires personal, professional and public capacities. How do we achieve this balance? What role does education play in citizenship?
Within the framework of lifelong learning, adult and youth education must contribute to the development of necessary capacities for workplace and social insertion in a society influenced by fast technological and scientific advances. Basic capacities have been defined as the ones allowing for active participation in community, both in the social and the professional sense. Also included are reading comprehension, writing, math, oral and written communication, flexibility, initiative, autonomy, teamwork skills and technological skills. However, all of these can be developed at different levels, in a lifelong learning endeavour.
Citizenship education is a fundamental requirement for this curriculum: in this sense, it must address the topics and capacities included in the four pillars of education, especially “learning correct behaviours and learning to get along”, assuming responsibility for oneself, for others and for the environment, seeking to inspire an active and responsible citizenship committed to building a fairer society.
Multiculturalism and multilingualism are characteristics of our region. How should cultural context and indigenous languages be considered in the AYE curricular proposals?
The curriculum must be adapted to the countries’ diverse realities. For this reason, the document we have prepared indicates criteria that should be considered, including two that refer to the “learner-centred” and “context-conscious”. Thus, the curriculum, elaborated through different programmes, must respond to the characteristics of the learners. This means incorporating the vernacular language, the group’s worldview, culturally adapted learning style, and the diversity of interests and needs.
There is no single time and place for learning. How important is it to recognise previous knowledge?
The belief that learning is acquired and developed in different formal and informal spaces poses the challenge of finding new forms of testing and verifying learning, independent of how it has been acquired. This requires creating mechanisms to recognise and verify previous knowledge, in order to smooth out students´ educational path; this challenge should be incorporated as a key element in creating a quality curriculum for lifelong learning. It is undoubtedly a topic of much interest among the countries, and a long-term issue that requires technical and management skills to design and implement the central components of a lifelong learning system.
What are the consequences of considering the “learner-centred” and “context-conscious” criteria in developing a curriculum?
All educational policies should focus on the learning and the development of people that participate in the learning process. A learner-centred approach implies considering the context in which people live and recognising the importance of culture and identity for all participants’ learning process. Curricular designs articulate and guide these processes, and serve as a guide for action. While implementing these criteria, we must consider the key role of teachers and other players in the process and respect the characteristics of people and their culture in order to enhance the development of their skills and capacities.
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