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Mostrando entradas con la etiqueta children. Mostrar todas las entradas

It all starts at school? It all starts at home

This graph of the 17 Global Sustainable Goals (SDGs) was circulated by the World Bank on Twitter with the following text:

"It all starts at school. Education is key to achieving SDG Goals. Who else agrees?".

I replied saying I disagree. When referring to education, it is not true that it all starts at school.

It all starts at home.

Despite its fundamental role, especially in early childhood, 'home education' or 'family education' is often ignored or sidelined.

The Lifelong Learning paradigm acknowledges that learning is a continuum that starts at birth. Early Childhood Care and Education officially cover from birth to entry into primary school (UNESCO-GEM Report Glossary 2020). Parents, grandparents and other caregivers play the most important role in this early stage of life. 

Studies and evaluations throughout the world consistently ratify that family conditions and backgrounds are a major factor in children's present and future life prospects. Parental education is a factor with tremendous impact on children's education and learning in school; it is responsible for over 50% of student achievement in various kinds of national and international standardized tests, including PISA.

Millions of children do not attend school or stay in school only for a short period of time. For them, the family and the community are their main education and learning environments.

School is not a starting point in terms of knowledge. When children arrive in school, they are not blank slates; they know a lot. Some of the fundamental and long-lasting learning experiences take place in early childhood. Without tutors, children become fluent speakers of their language. They know many things about the natural and the social world around them, and have learned to interact with them in many ways. Research shows that important values and attitudes are developed in these early years, prior to any school experience.

School age and school entry may be too late for many interventions. Child malnutrition is high in many counties among children between 2 and 5 years of age. Chronic malnutrition, if not dealt with on time, condemns children to physical, emotional and cognitive problems that may affect them for the rest of their lives.

Contrary to popular belief, reading and writing do not begin at school. Abundant research shows that home and the local community play a key role in stimulating the curiosity and the initial contacts with the written world. Differences between children who have rich cultural contexts at home and those who do not often result in important differences in terms of learning achievement in reading and writing in school.

So: when it comes to education and learning, and seen with a Lifelong Learning perspective, it is not true that all starts at school. It all starts at home and we must make sure to provide families with the best conditions possible to raise and educate their children, including dignified living conditions and parental education. 

Related texts in this blog

One child, one teacher, one book and one pen

Rosa María Torres


One child.

One teacher.

The child first.  

The teacher second.

With what?

One book.

One pen.

So that we can read. 

So that we can write.



What for?

To change the world. 

Related texts in this blog
Children's right to basic education

WISE Prize for Education Laureates: Bottom-up Innovators

2011 WISE Prize for Education Laureate: Sir Fazle Hasan Abed (Bangladesh)
2012 WISE Prize Laureate: Dr. Madhav Chavan (India). Interview.
2013 WISE Prize for Education Laureate:
Vicky Colbert (Colombia). Interview.
2014 WISE Prize for Education Laureate: Ann Cotton (UK) - Interview

"The WISE Prize for Education is the first distinction of its kind to recognize an individual or a team of up to six people working together for an outstanding, world-class contribution to education. Established in 2011 by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation, the WISE Prize for Education sets the standard for excellence in education, giving it similar status to other areas for which international prizes already exist, such as literature, peace and economics. The Laureate receives a monetary prize of $500,000 (US) and a gold medal. The WISE Prize for Education Laureate is honored as a global role model and ambassador for education."

What are the educational innovations that draw the attention of the global education community at this point in time? The first four winners of the WISE Prize for Education (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014) and their respective education programs share several common characteristics. One of them: they are bottom-up innovators and innovations, that have started small and local, have become national and later expanded internationally over a long and sustained period of time. My personal knowledge of two of them, BRAC and Escuela Nueva, through study visits, research and follow up over many years, provides some insights into the specific nature and process of these inspiring educational models and experiences.  

BRAC - Bangladesh
The 2011 WISE Prize for Education was awarded to Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, Founder and Chairman of BRAC, "the largest development organization in the world." Created in 1972 in a remote rural village, BRAC (Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee) reaches today nearly 135 million people in 11 countries in Asia and Africa, and also in Haiti in the Caribbean. BRAC is not only an education-related NGO. Its holistic and multifaceted approach to development covers various areas and issues: microfinance, education, healthcare, legal services, community empowerment, and social enterprises. Education has been one of its key and most successful areas. So-called BRAC Non-Formal Primary Schools, which became internationally renowned in the 1990s, have spread as a viable and replicable primary school model. Starting with ver modest primary schools, BRAC has developed a whole education system, that includes today BRAC University.

WISE Jury and Committee

Pratham - India
The 2012 WISE Prize for Education was awarded to Dr. Madhav Chavan, Co-founder and CEO of Pratham, the largest education NGO in India. Pratham's mission is "Every child in school and learning well". It was created in 1994 to provide pre-school education to children living in the slums of Mumbai. Community volunteers were recruited, trained, provided basic teaching-learning materials, and encouraged to organize classes in any space available in the communities (temples, offices, people’s houses, etc.). Pratham Balwadis (pre-school classes) multiplied in other locations. Today Pratham reaches millions of children in rural and urban areas in 19 of the country’s 28 states, through early childhood education, learning support to in-school and out-of-school children, mainstreaming of out-of-school children, computer literacy, vocational training for youth and special programs for vulnerable and working children. An area approach (whole community interventions) was adopted in 2002-2003. Pratham’s Learn to Read (L2R) technique is an accelerated learning technique targeted at teaching both in-school and out-of-school children how to read in 4- 8 weeks. Facilitated by Pratham, The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) is the largest survey undertaken in India by people outside the government. It measures the enrollment as well as the reading and arithmetic levels of children in the age group of 6-14 years.

WISE Jury and Committee

Escuela Nueva - Colombia
The 2013 WISE Prize for Education was awarded to Vicky Colbert, founder and director of Fundación Escuela Nueva, and co-creator (together with Prof. Oscar Mogollón) of the Escuela Nueva (EN) model from its start. EN was initiated as a local project in 1975, covering a few public schools in rural areas, and grew as a regular program within Colombia's Ministry of Education. In 1985, EN was adopted by the Colombian government as a national policy to universalize quality primary education in rural areas. EN has shown that the multigrade school (one or two teachers in charge of all levels in a single classroom), if given appropriate conditions and treated as a multigrade system, can become a quality alternative rather than a "poor temporary solution for the poor". In fact, Colombia has been the only country in Latin America where students in rural areas have shown higher learning achievements than children in urban areas when UNESCO's LLECE tests were applied. EN has also shown that, even with many problems and ups and downs, radical and meaningful innovation can be developed within government structures and within formal, mainstream education. The Escuela Nueva Foundation was created in 1987 in order to help strengthen the program, adapt it to urban areas, and expand it to other countries (the EN model has been experimented in 16 countries). Over the years, EN has received numerous international awards, including a WISE Award in 2009.

WISE Jury and Committee

CAMFED - Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ghana, Tanzania and Malawi
The 2014 WISE Prize for Education was awarded to Ann Cotton, a UK citizen founder of CAMFED.
"When you educate a girl in Africa, everything changes. She’ll be three times less likely to get HIV/AIDS, earn 25 percent more income and have a smaller, healthier family."
Camfed is an international non-profit organisation that works in the poorest rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa. It wants to break the cycle of poverty and disease in rural areas by supporting girls to go to school and succeed, and empowering young women to step up as agents of change. Since 1993, Camfed has been working in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ghana, Tanzania and Malawi, supporting over 1,202,000 students to attend primary and secondary school. Over 3 million children have been benefited. They are selected by the community as being the most in need. Camfed supports them throughout their development, from primary school until adulthood. In every country, Camfed works through national and local systems - with parents, teachers, government officials, and traditional authorities. It does not set up a parallel system. Programs are devised, managed, and monitored by the community, and all of Africa offices are staffed by nationals of that country. The Camfed Alumnae Association (CAMA) is a pan-African network of Camfed graduates, currently with 24,436-members. They receive training in health, financial literacy and ICT, as well as business development and entrepreneurship. They, in turn, support vulnerable children to stay in school, and deliver health and financial literacy training to over 150,000 students and community members in their own countries. Camfed's values are: 1. Focus on the Girl, 2. Involve the community, 3. Operate transparent, accountable programs. Camfed’s model has been recognised as best practice by the OECD for setting the standard for governance, sustainability and development innovation at scale.

WISE Jury and Committee

What do these four education programs have in common?  

Two of them are located in Asia, in two of the "nine most populous countries" on earth, where education issues and problems are massive and extremely complex. One is located in Latin America, in comparatively small Colombia, affected by long-term violence, social inequity and conflict. One works in Sub-Saharan Africa - Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ghana, Tanzania and Malawi - where social and education challenges are extremely big. Very different "developing countries", each of them unique and specific within their own regions.

The four programs:

» Have a long history and process behind
: BRAC started in 1972, Escuela Nueva in 1975, Camfed in 1993, Pratham in 1994.  

» Started local and small
, before expanding and becoming national and later international models. This bottom-up approach, plus the long term effort, have been key to their sustainability and success.

» Emerged as educational alternatives for the poor and some of the most disadvantaged groups in their respective societies. BRAC, Escuela Nueva and Camfed were rooted in rural areas. Their respective education models were tailored for the specific conditions of rural areas.   

» Serve children, through primary education in the case of BRAC and Escuela Nueva, early childhood and pre-school education in the case of Pratham, and primary and secondary education in the case of Camfed. BRAC started targetting girls, given the huge gender gap in primary education enrollment and attendance in Bangladesh at that time. Camfed is devoted to girls and women.  

» Expanded gradually
beyond their original visions, missions and scopes, paying attention to the needs revealed by reality and by the learning process itself. They ventured into new areas, covered new ages and levels. All of them were aware of the importance of involving parents, families and communities, and have worked consistently in that direction.

» Focus on ensuring the basics
: reading, writing and numeracy, survival, life and social skills, family and community empowerment.  

» Give great importance to pedagogy and to pedagogical transformation,
much more than to infrastructure, administration or technologies. They all adopt learner-centered pedagogies. 

» Have been developed by NGOs, with the exception of Escuela Nueva, which was built within the existing ministry of education structure. In this case, the NGO has played an indispensable role in accompanying, sustaining and promoting the innovation. Camfed is an international NGO.  » Are low cost: they take advantage of all human and material resources available in the school, the family and the community.  

» Have been supported by several international agencies, especially from the United Nations as well as from the World Bank and other regional banks and organizations. Also by the private sector. 

» Have received much recognition both at national and international levels.  

Curiously enough and worth noticing: all of them have a rather low technological profile. Technologies are not the driving force. Human beings, participation, volunteering, school-community relationship, pedagogical transformation, are the key.
See also:

Rosa María Torres and Manzoor Ahmed, Reaching the Unreached: Non-formal Approaches and Universal Primary Education   
Rosa María Torres, Escuela Nueva: An innovation within formal education (Colombia) 

Rosa María Torres, "Antes, aquí era Escuela Vieja" (Colombia)  
Rosa María Torres, On Innovation and Change in Education   
Rosa María Torres, The Green, the Blue, the Red and the Pink Schools
Rosa María Torres, On Learning Anytime, Anywhere (WISE 2011)
Rosa María Torres, Knowldedge-based international aid: Do we want it? Do we need it?


On LifeLong Learning ▸ Sobre Aprendizaje a lo Largo de la Vida

Pawła Kuczyńskiego

A compilation of texts of mine included in this blog (posts, articles, conferences, interviews, books) related to the LifeLong Learning paradigm, on which I have been working since the 1990s.

Compilo aquí algunos textos míos publicados en este blog (artículos, conferencias, entrevistas, libros) relacionados con el paradigma del Aprendizaje a lo Largo de la Vida, en el cual vengo trabajando desde los 1990s.

▸ En 1996-1998, siendo Directora de Programas para América Latina en la Fundación Kellogg, organicé la Iniciativa de Educación Básica "Comunidad de Aprendizaje", que continué desde el IIPE-UNESCO Buenos Aires (1998-2000). La comunidad local como comunidad de aprendizaje.

▸ En el año 2000, siendo miembro del grupo experto internacional organizado por UNESCO para la preparación de la Década de Naciones Unidas para la Alfabetización (2003-2012), se me encargó la redacción del Documento Base de la Década, el cual fue discutido y aprobado en una sesión especial en el Foro Mundial de Dakar (abril 2000).

Base Document - Literacy for All: A United Nations Literacy Decade (2003-2012). Drafted for UNESCO in 2000.
Documento Base - Alfabetización para Todos: Década de Naciones Unidas para la Alfabetización 2003-2012. Redactado a pedido de la UNESCO en 2000.

Literacy for All: A Renewed Vision (2000)
Alfabetización para Todos: Una Visión Renovada (2000)

Knowldedge-based international aid: Do we want it? Do we need it?. Paper prepared for the International Seminar on "Development knowledge, national research and international cooperation", Bonn, 3-5 April, 2001. Norrag News, Edinburgh, CAS, UK, 2001.

Lifelong Learning in the North, Primary Education in the South?, International Conference on Lifelong Learning “Global Perspectives in Education”, Beijing, China, 1-3 July, 2001 (abridged version).
¿Aprendizaje a lo Largo de la Vida para el Norte y Educación Primaria para el Sur?. Conferencia sobre Aprendizaje a lo Largo de la Vida “Global Perspectives in Education”, Pekín, China, 1-3 julio, 2001 (versión resumida).
▸ "Aprendizaje a lo largo de toda la vida: Un nuevo momento y una nueva oportunidad para el Aprendizaje y la Educación Básica de Adultos en el Sur". Estudio encargado por la ASDI (Agencia Sueca para la Cooperación Internacional), Estocolmo, 2002.
Lifelong Learning in the South: Critical issues and opportunities for adult education. A study commissioned by Swedish Sida. Sida Studies No 11, Stockholm, 2004 (book, PDF)
Justicia educativa y justicia económica: 12 tesis para el cambio educativo. Estudio continental encargado por el Movimiento Internacional 'Fe y Alegría'/ Entreculturas, Madrid, 2005. (libro para descargar)

Literacy and Lifelong Learning: The Linkages. Conference at the 2006 Biennale of ADEA, Libreville, Gabon, March 27-31, 2006. El UIL-UNESCO afirma que ésta fue la primera vez que se vinculó alfabetización y ALTV.

Ciudades educadoras y derecho al aprendizaje a lo largo de la vida. Entrevista con el periódico Ciutat.Edu, Simposio " nuevos retos, nuevos compromisos", Barcelona, España, 9-11 octubre, 2006. Diputación de Barcelona, Área de Educación.

Presentación del libro de Emilia Ferreiro “Alfabetización de niños y adultos: Textos escogidos”. CREFAL, México D.F., 28 febrero 2008.

Niños que trabajan y estudian (Centro del Muchacho Trabajador, Ecuador)
Exposición en la Jornada Internacional "Una propuesta de desarrollo humano que nace desde la infancia trabajadora" organizada por el CMT, Quito, 17 octubre 2008.

Social Education and Popular Education: A View from the South. Closing conference AIEJI XVII World Congress “The Social Educator in a Globalised World”, Copenhagen, Denmark, 4–7 May, 2009.

De la alfabetización al aprendizaje a lo largo de la vida: Tendencias, temas y desafíos de la educación de personas jóvenes y adultas en América Latina y el Caribe. En 2009 preparé, a pedido del UIL-UNESCO, el informe regional para la VI Conferencia Internacional sobre Educación de Adultos - CONFINTEA VI, organizada por la UNESCO (Belém, Brasil, 1-4 diciembre 2009).

From Literacy to Lifelong Learning: Trends, Issues and Challenges of Youth and Adult Education in Latin America and the Caribbean. Regional Report prepared for the Sixth International Conference on Adult Education - CONFINTEA VI, organized by UNESCO. Belém, Brazil, 1-4 December 2009. Report commissioned by UIL-UNESCO.
De la alfabetización al aprendizaje a lo largo de la vida: Tendencias, temas y desafíos de la educación de personas jóvenes y adultas en América Latina y el Caribe. Informe Regional preparado para la VI Conferencia Internacional sobre Educación de Adultos - CONFINTEA VI, organizada por la UNESCO (Belém, Brasil, 1-4 diciembre 2009).

Lifelong Learning: Moving Beyond 'Education for All'. Prepared as keynote speech, Shanghai “International Forum on Lifelong Learning”,  Shanghai World Expo 2010, 19-21 May 2010. UNESCO, the Shanghai Municipal People’s Government, the Chinese Society of Educational Development Strategy (CSEDS) and the Chinese National Commission for UNESCO.

Lifelong Learning: Moving Beyond 'Education for All'. Keynote speech, Shanghai “International Forum on Lifelong Learning”,  Shanghai World Expo 2010, 19-21 May 2010. UNESCO, the Shanghai Municipal People’s Government, the Chinese Society of Educational Development Strategy (CSEDS) and the Chinese National Commission for UNESCO.

On Learning Anytime, Anywhere. Presentation at the "Learning Anytime, Anywhere" session at the World Summit on Innovation in Education (WISE 2011), Doha, Qatar, 1-3 November, 2011.

Youth & Adult Education and Lifelong Learning in Latin America and the Caribbean. Published in LLinE - Lifelong Learning in Europe, Vol. XXVI, No. 4, 2011.
El enfoque de Aprendizaje a lo Largo de Toda la Vida: Implicaciones para la política educativa en América Latina y el Caribe. UNESCO, Documentos de Trabajo sobre Política Educativa, No. 8, París, 2020.
The Lifelong Learning approach: Implications for education policy in Latin America and the Caribbean. UNESCO, Working Papers on Education Policy, No. 8, Paris, 2020.

Otros textos míos sobre ALV en este blog

El derecho de niños y niñas a una educación básica
El Ecuador y el Aprendizaje a lo Largo de la Vida

Aprendizaje a lo largo de la vida no se refiere solo a adultos

Tres maneras de entender "aprendizaje a lo largo de la vida"

El Aprendizaje a lo Largo de la Vida no se limita al sistema escolar
Lifelong Learning is not confined to the school system

Formal, non-formal and informal learning
Aprendizaje formal, no-formal e informal

Saberes socialmente útiles

Goal 4: Education - Sustainable Development Goals
Objetivo 4: Educación - Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible

On Innovation and Change in Education

About "good practice" in international co-operation in education

Child learning and adult learning revisited

Educar a los niños o a los adultos: falso dilema

Comunidad de Aprendizaje: Educación, territorio y aprendizaje comunitario
Sucesivas versiones presentadas en eventos nacionales e internacionales.

Basic Learning Needs: Different Frameworks

La biblioteca como núcleo de desarrollo comunitario (Una experiencia en Córdoba, Argentina)

El barrio como espacio pedagógico: Una escuelita itinerante (Brasil)

Children's rights: A community learning experience in Senegal


La educación de un niño empieza 20 años antes de su nacimiento

The oldest and the youngest | Los más viejos y los más jóvenes

Child learning and adult learning revisited

Rosa María Torres

Differences between child learning and adult learning have been long talked about, although generally in a superficial and rather simplistic manner, replicating prejudices and misconceptions about children, about adults, and about learning.

Learning itself continues to be little understood. Neuroscience begins to shed light on how the human brain works, but we are still far from understanding how human learning operates and at different ages.

There is however at this point a considerable body of knowledge confirming some basic facts, such as:

▸ learning is a lifelong process that starts at birth and even before we are born;
▸ learning is lifewide, meaning it occurs everywhere: home, community, nature, school, workplace, conventional and modern media, etc., and through many means: play, social interaction, reading, writing, observation, etc.
▸ before entering school children have learned some of the most important things in life (among them, language - the most complex learning of all);
▸ out-of-school and informal learning represent the biggest part of the lifelong learning experience of any individual;
▸ socio-economic and other external factors have enormous impact on learning;
▸ there are important individual differences vis a vis learning (interests, styles, rhythms, etc.);
▸ age is a key factor, not reduced to the child/adult distinction but related to the many life stages, from early childhood to late adulthood;
▸ there are not only differences but also many similarities between child and adult learning.

However, simplistic child/adult learning distinctions continue to be there. They are often presented in black and white, ignore new information and knowledge available, overgeneralize without reference to specific contexts and factors, encapsulate "learning" within school education, and characterize "child learning" according to traditional classroom practice. At the heart of such simplistic distinctions remains the assumption that child learning requires a teacher and is "teacher-focused", and that adult learning is "learner-focused" (and the concurrent distinction made by some authors between Pedagogy and Andragogy). A highly debatable position at this point in time.

In view of all this, I decided to take one such articles from the web, organize the text in three columns, and add my own comments in red (see table below).

The classical Pedagogy/Andragogy distinction developed in the 1960s-1970s by Malcolm Knowles (US educator) - see Knowles' six assumptions related to adult learning, as opposed to child learning - requires rethinking in light of the new knowledge available and within a Lifelong Learning framework.

I have never used the term Andragogy to refer to adult education/teaching/learning. Whenever possible, I prefer to speak of teaching and learning to refer to all ages, throughout life, in and out of school.

Today child and adult educators need exposure to the complexity of issues and to complex thinking around these issues so as to (a) acknowledge the need to continue learning and revisit some ideas long entrenched as "common sense", and (b) be able to take decisions that are better informed and better adjusted to the specific situations they face.

Learning and Teaching

1. Rely on others to decide what’s to be learned.
Not always or necessarily. It depends on what children: age, gender, socio-economic and cultural background, teaching and learning experience at home, in school, etc.
1. Decide for themselves what they want to learn.
Not always. It depends on what adults: age, gender, socio-economic and cultural background, educational level, etc.
1. The trainer therefore is not responsible for the participant’s learning but rather provides and directs the flow of information, allowing the participants to choose what they will learn.
Only if adult learners engaged are in fact educated and autonomous learners.
2. Accept information at face value.
Not necessarily. Same as 1.
2. Question information, need to validate.
Not necessarily. Same as 1.
2. Provide opportunities to test or practice or experience learning as is prepared to answer questions.
True for both children and adults.
3. Expect learned information to be useful in the future.
Not necessarily.
Many children (i.e. older children, the poor) would expect to learn something that they see useful and relevant now.
Expect information to be useful now.
Shows how the information or skill has relevance and real-world applications for participants.True for both children and adults.
Are clean slates with little or no experience.
Children are never clean slates. They have knowledge and experience no matter their age.
Are full slates with lots of experience.
No one is ever a full slate. Adult learners may have no experience (knowledge and skills) in some specific areas.
Draws upon and builds on participant’s knowledge and experience.
True for both children and adults.
Have limited ability to be a resources to classmates.
Children have great abilities to help others, not only peers but also young people and adults.
Significant ability to serve as resource to others.
Allows, encourages and facilitates break-out sessions and exercises for groups discussions, interactions and team dynamics.
True for both children and adults.
Are content-centered.
If given the chance, they also enjoy problem-solving and are interested in understanding the methodology and the process.
Are process or problem-centered.
Many adults are also keen on information and content. It also depends on the content taught.
Facilitates exercises, games and activities to help participants solve a problem or understand a process.
True for both children and adults.
Are passively involved in learning.
Because the school system often sets such rules. Children prefer to engage actively in learning.
Learning requires active involvement.
Are actively involved in learning.
Not necessarily, not always. Very often adults are also passive learners, conditioned by conventional education and training practices in and out of the school system.
Resists “dumping” information on the group, but rather partners with participants in a collaborative effort  to achieve desired outcomes.
True for both children and adults.
Learn best in an authoritative environment.
Not generalizable.
If given the chance, children enjoy learning in flexible, non-fear environments.
Learn best in a collaborative environment.
Not generalizable.
Many adult learners prefer more structured, authoritative environments.
Is responsible for the best environment for learning.
True for both children and adults.
Are motivated by external rewards: grades, advancement, avoidance of punishment.
Children may be also internally motivated - the best way to learn.
Are motivated internally: self-esteem, curiosity, love of learning, self-improvement.
Adults are often also externally motivated. (Teacher training is often a typical example of institutionalized externally motivated learning).
Employs active, participative methods to engage the participants, keep their interest, and enhance the likelihood that they will learn, retain and use new information and skills.
True for both children and adults.

Social Education and Popular Education: A View from the South

Spider Art by Claire

Rosa-María Torres
Closing conference AIEJI XVII World Congress
“The Social Educator in a Globalised World”
Copenhagen, Denmark, 4–7 May 2009
(edited transcript of original presentation)


When I was invited by AIEJI (International Association of Social Educators) to be a keynote speaker of this world conference, I had only vague ideas of Social Education. I thought of it as a foreign, European concept and movement, distant from the realities, thinking and practices in the South (“developing countries”). Accepting this invitation was therefore for me both an honour and a research and learning opportunity.

I learned that this is an evolving European construct, with specificities in each country, with an ongoing internal debate about its nature, dimensions and purposes, and with growing presence in countries in the South. There is no European consensus on the denomination and definition of Social Education and on social professions in general. Socialpædagogen, the biweekly magazine of the Danish National Federation of Social Educators circulated at this congress, highlights diverse Social Education experiences throughout the world "working with children, young people and adults who need special care due to physical or mental disabilities, or social problems." One distinctive feature of Social Education is that it deals with vulnerable groups and with the entire lifespan.

It was not easy to find references to Social Education programmes in Africa and Asia. References were also scarce in Latin America and the Caribbean, beyond the hub created by AIEJI’s world conference held in Montevideo-Uruguay in November 2005. In Latin America, Uruguay is the country that has embraced Social Education in the most visible manner, taking the French model as initial source of inspiration. ADESU - Asociación de Educadores Sociales del Uruguay
is an active national association. Nearly 300 professional Social Educators have been trained over the past few years. Many of them are working in diverse intersections between government and non-government, academic and action-oriented programmes. Last week I was in Uruguay invited by the Ministry of Education and happened to meet some of them. There must be something good in this profession that is able to attract such bright, critical and socially committed young people.

There are activities in Brazil associated to the Popular Education movement. The Department of Education of the University of Sao Paulo, for example, has organized a series of International Encounters on Social Pedagogy, with the idea of institutionalizing it in Brazil as a profession linked to non-formal education, NGOs, and social programmes (See Portal de la Pedagogía Social . See also Associação dos Educadores e Educadoras Sociais do Estado de São Paulo - Aees SP). Through informal conversations with Latin American participants in this congress, other activities have surfaced: a Social Pedagogy programme started by a private university in Argentina; a small group operating in Chile; in Nicaragua, an institution that trained social educators for over two decades is not operating any more but there are ongoing activities linked to institutions in Spain. In general, it becomes apparent that initiatives termed Social Education in Latin America still have little visibility.

Social Education and Social Pedagogy

The term Social has come to be added, in several fields, to mean different or alternative

- The World Social Forum (WSF), organized by progressive forces in the South and in the North, was launched in 2001 and was held for the first time in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Since then, the WSF is run in parallel to the World Economic Forum held in Davos.
- Social Economy is expanding as an international movement with roots and practices in the South. It proposes an alternative economic model to the neoliberal model. Social/Solidarity Economy is a work-centred economy that places people at the centre, is concerned with solving the needs of all and with preserving ecological and social equilibrium, promotes human solidarity, collaboration and networking rather than individual or corporate accumulation of profit or power. (See for example RILESS, Red de Investigadores Latinoamericanos en Economía Social y SolidariaNetwork of Latin American Researchers in Social and Solidarity Economy). In some cases, a Social and Solidarity Pedagogy is associated to such alternative economic initiatives ( See, for example, the Programa Pedagogía Social y Solidaria organised by the Departamento Administrativo Nacional de la Economía Solidaria - DANSOCIAL in Colombia).
- Social movements have emerged in many countries as a new important social and political actor, especially in Latin America.

As for Social Education, the term in Germany and in the Nordic Countries continues to be Social Pedagogy, a tradition of progressive thinking and practice, often associated to, or translated as, "community education." Here is an explanation of the differences between both concepts, found in a leaflet available at a stand of this conference:

’Social Education’ is the official translation of the Danish term ‘Socialpædagogik’. In this module we will use the term ‘Social Pedagogy’ as it indicates the fact that social pedagogical care work embraces much more than what is usually conceived as ‘Social Education’. ‘Social Pedagogy’ provides a unifying concept of work with people in many formal and informal institutional settings.” (Social Education and Pedagogy in Denmark”, VIA University College, Peter Sabroe, Department for Social Education, leaflet).

In other contexts, differences are made between Social Education and Social Pedagogy. Again, there is no consensus on the use of these two terms in Europe.

Social Education and Popular Education

While the term Social Education is not familiar in most countries in the South, its practice is widely extended. In fact, in every region in the world we may find specific and endogenous emancipatory education movements. In Latin America, Educación Popular - Popular Education - is rooted especially among civil society organizations. Just like with Social Education, there is not one single definition and there are various trends within the Popular Education movement. Many associate it with Paulo Freire; others consider it a development that preceded and surpassed Freire, and that is nurtured by many sources. Many link it to adult and non-formal education; others consider Popular Education an embracing category applied to children, youth and adult education, in and out of school.

The term popular refers to the socio-economic status of learners/participants, to the context and to the purpose: promoting awareness, social participation and organization for people’s empowerment and social transformation. What defines the popular educator is his/her social and political commitment, not his or her educational and professional background. Popular educators often work as volunteers or with very little remuneration, and with some short training. Training and professionalization of popular educators are old requests.

The table below is an attempt to compare Social Education and Popular Education in their respective contexts. 

Comparison between Social Education and Popular Education

Social Education
Popular Education
(Latin America)
Historical context
1940s – wake of World War II
AIEJI (International Association for Social Educators). Original name Association Internationale des Éducateurs des Jeunes Inadaptés - created in 1951.

“From charity, assistencialism and philanthropy to social wellbeing as a human right.”
1960s-1970s – wake of Latin American military governments and dictatorships.

Brazil, Paulo Freire’s ideas and work.

Human liberation and emancipation.

Religious groups and churches involved.
Original target population
Homeless and orphaned children in the wake of World War II.
Illiterate adults (by 1950s half of the adult population in the region were illiterate).
Current target population (historical perspective)
Adults (disabled)
Third age
Social movements
Characterisation of target populations
Ill-adjusted, maladjusted or poorly adjusted
At risk
With special needs
Low schooling
Characteristics of educators
- Emphasis on professionalization and on continuous education and training.
- Defence of employment and of working conditions.

- Little attention to professionalisation or career development.
- Diverse training opportunities offered, often short. A few universities and NGOs offer university degrees.
- Often work on voluntary basis.
Organisation of educators
Organised in unions and/or professional associations.
National, European and international organizations.
- Not organised in unions or professional associations, sometimes organised in local associations.
- Local, sometimes national and also international organisations (i.e. CEAAL - Consejo de Educación de Adultos de América Latina, NGO network).
- Social movements have their own Popular Education bodies and programmes.
Identified similar occupations
Social workers, teachers, nurses, psychologists, therapists.
Teachers, social workers, extension workers, community agents, community leaders, cultural animators.
Work environments
Mainly non-formal education, non-school environments
Areas of work
Specialised education
Conflict mediation
Sociocultural animation
Adult education
School education
Environmental education
Leisure education
All potential areas
Social change
Social justice
Awareness (Conscientisation)
Social change
Political change
Social justice
Culture of rights
Learners' voices
Learners' voices
Dimensions of work
Pedagogical, social, political and ethical

   Elaborated by Rosa-María Torres

In the South most educators are ‘social educators’

The majority of educators in ‘developing countries’, within and outside the school system, deal with problematic socio-economic contexts and with major challenges facing individuals, families, groups, local communities and national societies.

The situation of rights denied to the a large portion to the population in many countries in the South presses the public school system, and educators working in it and on its margins, to deal with unsatisfied basic needs of the school population (i.e. food, health, affection, security, etc.), whose satisfaction would normally correspond to the State and to the family. This erodes the school’s main teaching-learning mission and further jeopardises the quality of educational provision. Thus, the borders between social workers and educators as well as between social action and political action, tend to be thin and blurred. 

When poverty affects the majority of the population, economic and social exclusion/inclusion imply massive phenomena that go beyond well-intentioned small-scale interventions or focused ‘alleviating poverty’ policies. Poverty is a structural condition that, as such, requires major changes in the current economic, social and political model that leads to massive exclusion and poverty. Such model and its change is no longer national in scope; it has been deepened and globalised, thus requiring global alternative thinking and concerted action. Social educators and other progressive forces in the North and in the South need to work together in the building of a new global ethics that fights social injustice and promotes equality at local, national, regional and global level. Democratizing global awareness, global protest and global solidarity vis à vis the most vulnerable majorities and minorities in the world is at the very heart of the efforts towards global social networking.

The objective is not only good quality education for all, but good quality of life for all

However, the notions of ‘quality of life’, ‘welbeing’ or ‘prosperity’ are not universal. The traditional ‘developed’/’non-developed’ or ‘less developed’ dichotomy used to classify countries, is being revised. ‘Human development’ and human satisfaction and realization are not linear categories defined between more or less and measurable by universal quantitative indicators; they are cultural, social and political constructions shaped in concrete historical circumstances.

The notions of ‘quality of life’ and ‘personal satisfaction’ adopted by the Gallup Worldwide Quality of Life Survey are not necessarily perceived as such in countries in the South. Gallup’s ‘quality of life’ places consumption
at the centre. The question asked in the survey is: “Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your standard of living, that is, with all the things you can buy and do?.” On the other hand, the concept of Buen Vivir (‘Good Living’, Sumak Kawsay in Quechua indigenous language) in the Andean countries in Latin America places harmony at the center and is defined by three relational dimensions: harmony with nature, with oneself, and with others.

Global networks, global solidarity

In a globalised world, the role of agents of social change acquires also a global dimension, a global dimension that honours diversity, equality, inter- and multi-culturality, and rejects universal models, homogenous policies and perpetual hegemonic North/South relationships and ‘cooperation’ patterns. The wider the scope and the territories reached throughout the world, the greater the need to acknowledge and incorporate diversity to vision and to practice in all spheres.

The new challenges posed by the many world crises – the development crisis, the financial crisis, the food crisis, the energy crisis, the ecology crisis, the work crisis, the education crisis – call for radical rethinking, reshaping and re-articulation of education and learning systems worldwide. They also create new opportunities and urgencies for networking and solidarity, configuring new frontiers that challenge conventional ‘developed’/’less developed’ and North/South distinctions. The time is ripe for stronger multidisciplinary, trans-sectoral and inter-institutional linkages as well as for more and better-coordinated work with organized groups, families and communities rather than with isolated individuals.

There are conditions for effectively adopting Lifelong Learning (LLL) as a new global paradigm for education and learning, overcoming the dual educational agenda -- LLL for the North and primary education for the South. Social Education is well positioned in this endeavor: learning beyond the family and the school system, an ageless category and a continuum.

The alternative and alterative nature of Social Education

The world has become a hostile and uncertain place to live for the majority of the world’s population. Inequality within and between countries is growing. In many regions and countries (both developing and developed), the battles against poverty, unemployment, hunger, school dropout, and others are not making progress. For millions of people, and especially for the most disadvantaged, the word future does not entail hope anymore.

In this context, the room for Social Educators is likely to expand. Many will view it as a damage-control device, ready to fill in the holes left by education and learning systems that are not doing their job properly -- the family, the school system, mass media, politics. Not accepting such remedial and compensatory role implies among others assuming an explicit political role vis a vis the need for systemic and structural change at local, national, regional and world level.

In fact, all education should be social, empathetic, relevant, contextualised, differentiated, responsive to specific needs and cultures, aimed at enhancing learners’ critical thinking, empowerment, autonomy, participation and organisation for personal and social transformation. Being alternative is not enough; the real challenge is becoming also alterative -- a social, political, pedagogical and ethical force that pushes others towards major changes in all these spheres.


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