Mostrando entradas con la etiqueta learning. Mostrar todas las entradas
Mostrando entradas con la etiqueta learning. Mostrar todas las entradas

¿21st century education?




 Texto en español: ¿Cuál educación del siglo 21?

Everyone talks about 'Education for the 21st Century' or 'Education in the 21st Century':

- 21st century knowledge
- 21st century skills
- 21st century students
- 21st century educators
- 21st century schools
- 21st century classrooms

Strictly speaking, however, there is no 'Education in the 21st Century'.

The century is just beginning

We can hardly visualize one or two decades ahead. The world could not anticipate, and prepare for, the 2020 deadly global pandemia. Who can tell what the planet, human life and education will be like in 2050? Nobody can anticipate what can happen in 100 years, and in this century in particular, characterized as one of big uncertainties, rapid changes, major crises and catastrophes.

What 21st century?

- About 1 in 4 people live in multidimensional poverty or are vulnerable to it.
- More than 40% of the global population does not have any social protection.
- 840 million people live without electricity.

- Over one thousand million people has no drinking water and 2 in 5 people have no facilities for hand-washing. 
- 43% of schools worldwide have no facilities to wash hands with water and soap (UNICEF, 2019)
- 6.5 billion people – 85.5% of the global population – don’t have access to reliable broadband internet.
Source: UN/UNDP 2020

The 21st century is not the same for everyone. Millions of people do not enjoy the benefits of modernity and comfort, do not have running water, toilets, electricity, decent work and housing, reading and writing, good education opportunities, basic services and basic citizenship rights.

Inequalities - within each country, between countries, between the global North and the global South - become structural: extreme poverty and extreme wealth, hyper-consumption and misery, overinformation for some and zero information for others, the illiterate and the overqualified, the connected and the disconnected.

Home-based virtual education, recommended by UNESCO and others while schools are closed because of the covit-19 pandemia and the confinement, remains out of reach for half of the world's population who lack access to the Internet.

Evidently, life in the 21st century is very different for those living with less than 1 or 2 dollars a day (those living in extreme poverty) and for those participating fully in the Information Society, the Knowledge Society, the Digital Society.

What education?

There is no education in singular, as a universal fact and as a homogeneous experience. There are educations, in plural, diverse in nature, purposes and qualities, because realities, cultures, ideologies, aspirations and needs of concrete social groups are highly diverse. And because education is not confined to the education system; there is education in the family, in the community, at the workplace, through the media, participation, social service, etc.

Education and learning needs and experiences are shaped by specific economic, social and cultural contexts and conditions. Community and family education models shaped historically by indigenous populations, many of which continue to operate in many countries worldwide, have different logics and epistemologies.
There are no one-size-fits-all education formulas for all.

Education in the 21st century? 

Education in the 21st century is diverse, placed historically in this century and geographically in each specific context, and does not necessarily correspond to the '21st century' vision coming from the 'developed world'.

Millions of children and youth have never seen a computer and don't know what can be found behind a screen. Millions of children and youth don't know where food comes from, how to grow a potato, a lemmon, a tomato. Different types of ignorance.

21st century skills? 

World Economic Forum, The Future of Jobs, 2016

Skills needed are different or have different priorities for different people in different places, cultures and circumstances. Lists of "21st century skills" circulated by international organizations are generally conceived and proposed from the North, for eminently urban realities. Childre, young people and adults living in poverty, need and develop skills than enable them to survive in very difficult circumstances, help and take care of their families, learn and share in their communities. The 'top 10 21st century skills' circulated worldwide in 2016 by the World Economic Forum and adopted by millions of people in the North and in the South, have little to do with the skills real people need in 2020 to deal with the global covid-19 pandemia.

Related texts in this blog (English)
» Basic Learning Needs: Different Frameworks

Futures of Education: Imagination and aspiration




Arjun Appadurai, Keynote speech at UNESCO, Paris, 25 sep. 2019,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdJ5iX8DlBo (1:02:13)

The Futures of Education
Learning to become

A global initiative to reimagine how knowledge and learning
can shape the future of humanity and the planet.

Programme
We all have seen that in the world that is emerging our biggest challenges have no national boundaries. So, global thinking is the need of the moment in such areas as big data, climate, security, disease, migration, and arms control, to name some of the most visible ones.

In our current moment we need to recognize the importance of youth, both demographically and politically. We also need to recognize the rise of populism and of political extremism that are now caring in far too many parts of the world. Inequality remains persistent and pervasive around the world. Advances in machine learning, artificial intelligence or biotechnology rise profound questions about what it means, and will mean in the future, to be human.

The benefits of technological advances and innovation are not being shared around the planet in a just manner and as the Secretary General of the United Nations and others have powerfully argued here and elsewhere the environmental and climate crisis are not just academic discussions for future sustainability but are life and death survival issues today.

Education is indeed a vital resource in addressing all of these challenges and many others. And the broad goals of the UN and UNESCO converge on a vision that brings together democracy and development. But much thinking on development in the 21st century has not been driven by democratic goals. It has been based on the idea that knowledge, expertise and goal-setting have to be transferred from a small group of technocrats to a large group of recipients who lack the capacity to design their own futures.

In recent times, this idea of expert-driven development has been challenged by ideas of participatory planning, local knowledge resources, and decentralized decision-making but as far as education is concerned there is still an emphasis on marketable skills rather than on imagination and anticipation.

For the majority of the world's population and especially those in the poorer regions and countries in the world the biggest obstacle to achieving development is the weak recognition of their capacity to define their own futures and to imagine the good lives in their own terms. This capacity to aspire is poorly developed. 



When vulnerable communities imagine their own futures they bring together their capacity to anticipate and their capacity to aspire. Nor human being, nor human community lacks these capacities but poverty, insecurity and institutionalized marginalization have not let them build these capacities. So, vital tasks for educators of all ages, sizes, shapes and colors will be to build the capacity of the young, the poor and the marginal to imagine, to anticipate and to aspire.



There are many ways that these capacities could be built. Many of you are pursuing them as policy- makers, activists or teachers. I want to add my own thoughts here in order to stir the pot and enrich the mix of possibilities for our collaborative visions.

In my view, the most important and most scarce resource we can provide as educators is the capacity to generate new knowledge. We generally think of the generation of new knowledge as a monopoly of universities and as the capacity of the postgraduate scholars and faculty among them. These are the people we usually refer to as researchers, discoverers of new knowledge.

We see research as a difficult, esoteric and elite practice which requieres years of primary, secondary and tertiary education, but I believe that we need to recognize the right to research as a human and a universal right. Any literate adult should have the right and the means to produce new knowledge and to do so in a careful, systematic and thorough manner. 



Why is it important to democratize the capacity to conduct research and produce new knowledge locally, without depending on the sphere of formal postgraduate education training alone? The answer is: the world’s problems may be planetary but the ways in which they are fed specific cities, regions and countries is intensely local.

Democratizing the capacity to conduct research and to produce new knowledge requieres a great deal of support from traditional funders, scholars, scientists and planners. It indeed cannot be done by marginal populations on their own but it is a vital capacity to develop among the younger citizens of the world for they are in the eye of the storm and they are the firtst to face the world's global problems, so we must empower them to be the first to generate solutions.

It is an honour to be part of this new initiative on the Futures of Education. I challenge us all to think deeply on the challenges and opportunities that we see now and on the horizon. And I invite us all to think about how we can enable people to aspire in their own terms, how to enable people to build their own capacities, to imagine, to aspire, to act, anticipate, advocate, and intervene. Surely this is how we shape these many futures.

"Towards a new vision of education": From Jomtien (1990) to Incheon (2015)


Hacia una nueva visión de la educación: De la Declaración de Jomtien (1990) a la Declaración de Incheon (2015)

In 1990, the World Declaration on Education for All approved at the World Conference on Education for All (Jomtien-Thailand, 5-9 March 1990) proposed "an expanded vision of basic education" focused on the satisfaction of basic learning needs of all, children, young people and adults, in and out of the school system. Basic education was seen as the foundation of lifelong learning.


In 2015, the Incheon Declaration: Education 2030 approved at the World Education Forum (Incheon, South Korea, 21 May 2015) proposed a "new vision of education" at the heart of which is the adoption of a "lifelong learning approach", that is, an approach that views learning as a continuum, from birth to death, in and out of the education system (formal, non-formal and informal learning).



Jomtien's 'expanded vision of basic education' did not materialize in reality. The implementation of Education for All (EFA) and its six goals ended up focusing on formal education and on primary education for children, leaving aside the goals related to early childhood and to adulthood. This happened again in the extension of EFA until the year 2015 decided at the World Education Forum (Dakar, Senegal, 2000). The year 2015 found the world with an unfinished EFA agenda.

Will the "new vision of education" and the adoption of a "lifelong learning approach" proposed at Incheon be able to become a reality and meet the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) and its 10 targets until 2030?

Below are the texts of both Declarations. 

World Declaration on Education for All. Meeting Basic Learning Needs (World Conference on Education for All, Jomtien-Thailand, 5-9 March 1990)

1. Every person - child, youth and adult - shall be able to benefit from educational opportunities designed to meet their basic learning needs. These needs comprise both essential learning tools (such as literacy, oral expression, numeracy, and problem solving) and the basic learning content (such as knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes) required by human beings to be able to survive, to develop their full capacities, to live and work in dignity, to participate fully in development, to improve the quality of their lives, to make informed decisions, and to continue learning. The scope of basic learning needs and how they should be met varies with individual countries and cultures, and inevitably, changes with the passage of time.

2. The satisfaction of these needs empowers individuals in any society and confers upon them a responsibility to respect and build upon their collective cultural, linguistic and spiritual heritage, to promote the education of others, to further the cause of social justice, to achieve environmental protection, to be tolerant towards social, political and religious systems which differ from their own, ensuring that commonly accepted humanistic values and human rights are upheld, and to work for international peace and solidarity in an interdependent world.

3. Another and no less fundamental aim of educational development is the transmission and enrichment of common cultural and moral values. It is in these values that the individual and society find their identity and worth.

4. Basic education is more than an end in itself. It is the foundation for lifelong learning and human development on which countries may build, systematically, further levels and types of education and training.

5. To serve the basic learning needs of all requires more than a recommitment to basic education  as it now exists. What is needed is an “expanded vision” that surpasses present resource levels, institutional structures, curricula, and conventional delivery systems while building on the best in current practices.

New possibilities exist today which result from the convergence of the increase in information and the unprecedented capacity to communicate. We must seize them with creativity and a determination for increased effectiveness.

The expanded vision encompasses:
- Universalizing access and promoting equity;
- Focusing on learning;
- Broadening the means and scope of basic education;
- Enhancing the environment for learning;
- Strengthening partnerships."

The full text of the Declaration can be found here.

Incheon Declaration - Education 2030 . Towards inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all(World Education Forum, Incheon, South Korea, 21 May, 2015)

Preamble

1. We, Ministers, heads and members of delegations, heads of agencies and officials of multilateral and bilateral organizations, and representatives of civil society, the teaching profession, youth and the private sector, have gathered in May 2015 at the invitation of the Director-General of UNESCO in Incheon, Republic of Korea, for the World Education Forum 2015 (WEF 2015). We thank the Government and the people of the Republic of Korea for having hosted this important event as well as UNICEF, the World Bank, UNFPA, UNDP, UN Women and UNHCR, as the co-convenors of this meeting, for their contributions.

We express our sincere appreciation to UNESCO for having initiated and led the convening of this milestone event for Education 2030.

2. On this historic occasion, we reaffirm the vision of the worldwide movement for Education for All initiated in Jomtien in 1990 and reiterated in Dakar in 2000 — the most important commitment to education in recent decades and which has helped drive significant progress in education. We also reaffirm the vision and political will reflected in numerous international and regional human rights
treaties that stipulate the right to education and its interrelation with other human rights. We acknowledge the efforts made; however, we recognize with great concern that we are far from having reached education for all.

3. We recall the Muscat Agreement developed through broad consultations and adopted at the Global Education for All (EFA) Meeting 2014, and which successfully informed the proposed education targets of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We further recall the
outcomes of the regional ministerial conferences on education post-2015 and take note of the findings of the 2015 EFA Global Monitoring Report and the Regional EFA Synthesis Reports. We recognize the important contribution of the Global Education First Initiative as well as the role of governments and regional, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations in galvanizing political
commitment for education.

4. Having taken stock of progress made towards the EFA goals since 2000 and the education-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as well as the lessons learned, and having examined the remaining challenges and deliberated on the proposed 2030 education agenda and the Framework for Action as well as on future priorities and strategies for its achievement, we adopt this Declaration.

Towards 2030: a new vision for education

5. Our vision is to transform lives through education, recognizing the important role of education as a main driver of development and in achieving the other proposed SDGs. We commit with a sense of urgency to a single, renewed education agenda that is holistic, ambitious and aspirational, leaving no one behind. This new vision is fully captured by the proposed SDG 4 “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all ” and its corresponding targets. It is transformative and universal, attends to the ‘unfinished business’ of the EFA agenda and the education-related MDGs, and addresses global and national education challenges. It is inspired by a humanistic vision of education and development based on human rights and dignity; social justice; inclusion; protection; cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity; and shared responsibility and accountability. We reaffirm that education is a public good, a fundamental human right and a basis for guaranteeing the realization of other rights. It is essential for peace, tolerance, human fulfilment and sustainable development. We recognize education as key to achieving full employment and poverty eradication. We will focus our efforts on access, equity and inclusion, quality and learning outcomes, within a lifelong learning approach."

The full text of the Declaration can be found here.

Related texts in this blog

- The six Education for All goals
- ¿Qué es el Aprendizaje a lo Largo de la Vida (ALV)?

Lifelong Learning is not confined to the school system


Español: El Aprendizaje a lo Largo de la Vida no se limita al sistema escolar
 Lifelong Learning Systems
"As the lead UN agency in education, UNESCO helps countries develop and reform their education systems at all levels -- from early childhood through primary, secondary, post-secondary to higher education -- in all settings (formal, non-formal and informal) and for children, youth and adults.
UNESCO offers expertise in the planning and management of education systems to help countries provide quality lifelong learning for all.
This involves strengthening countries’ capacities to provide inclusive education. It also means offering technical support in the formulation and implementation of education policies that respond to contemporary challenges, and are relevant for work and all aspects of life."
- UNESCO. Read more here
 

The infographic shown above, included in UNESCO's page on the World Education Forum 2015 (Incheon, Republic of Korea, 19-22 May 2015) is misleading. It conveys the idea that Lifelong Learning:

(a) focuses on young people and adults,  
(b) refers mainly to learning that takes place in the school system, and  
(c) goes from pre-primary to upper secondary education, including technical and vocational education, and literacy education.  

In fact, Lifelong Learning:

(a) Refers to learning that occurs throughout life, "from the womb to the tomb". Learning is seen as a continuum in the life cycle of every individual and as an organizing principle for education and learning policies. It does not refer to any specific age; it covers all ages, from birth to death.

(b) Is not confined to the school system. It is life-long and life-wide. It encompasses all forms of learning, in and out of school, in formal, non-formal and informal learning environments.


(c) Includes all levels and modalities of the education system, from early childhood education to higher education.


Related texts in
OTRAƎDUCACION

» Formal, non-formal and informal learning
» On LifeLong Learning | Sobre Aprendizaje a lo Largo de la Vida  


Comments on "The New Skills Agenda for Europe"

 Participation at "ICAE Virtual Seminar on Skills and Competencies", 
organized by the International Council for Adult Education (ICAE) together with DVV International in April 2017.

Based on DVV International’s journal “Adult Education and Development“ Issue 83 (Dec. 2016)
The  journal is published once a year in English, French and Spanish.

En español: Comentarios a "La Nueva Agenda de Capacidades para Europa"

Rosa María Torres. Ecuadorian, researcher, international adviser, specialist in literacy and Lifelong Learning, Ex-minister of Education and Cultures.

My comments refer to, and are triggered by, "The new Skills Agenda for Europe" by Dana Bachmann and Paul Holdsworth, of the European Commission.

I speak here from the perspective of "developing countries" and of Latin America in particular. From this perspective it is always useful to see what Europeans are thinking and doing, not necessarily to do the same but rather to understand better our specific realities and needs. In the end, given the strong cultural dependence, our governments end up trying to follow and imitate Europe and/or North America (the classic "developing"/"developed" notion). Concepts, indicators, ideals, international co-operation, focus generally on the global North.

The paper presents The New Skills Agenda for Europe, which sees skills as a pathway to employability and prosperity. The Agenda revolves around some problems and data identified as critical:

- A quarter of the European adult population (70 million) struggles with reading and writing, and has poor numeracy and digital skills, putting them at risk of unemployment, poverty and social exclusion.

- More than 65 million people have not achieved a qualification corresponding to upper secondary level. This rate varies significantly across countries, reaching 50% or more in some.

- The adults mostly in need of engaging in learning participate very little in lifelong learning. On average, only 10.7% of adult Europeans participated in any education and training in 2014, with significant variation between countries and against an EU target of 15% set to be reached by 2020. An analysis of the participation of low-qualified adults in education and training shows even lower participation rates, varying from below 1% in some countries to over 20% in others. On average in the EU only 4.3% of low-qualified adults – that is, the group most in need of learning – participate in education and training.

To improve the employment opportunities and overall life chances of low-skilled adults, the Commission has made a proposal to help low-skilled adults – both in-work and out of work – to improve their literacy, numeracy and digital skills and, where possible, to develop a wider set of skills leading to an upper secondary education qualification or equivalent.

The proposal is that Member States should introduce a Skills Guarantee, which would involve offering to low qualified adults: (a) a skills assessment, enabling them to identify their existing skills and their upskilling needs; (b) a package of education or training tailored to the specific learning needs of each individual, and (c) opportunities to have their skills validated and recognised.

The Agenda is structured around three priority areas: more and better skills; put the skills developed to good use; and better understand what skills will be demanded to help people choose what skills to develop.

These main challenges are identified:

- Improving the quality and relevance of skills formation.
- Strengthening the foundation: basic skills (literacy, numeracy, digital skills) for everybody ("the proposal for a Skills Guarantee aims to provide low qualified adults access to flexible tailored upskilling pathways to improve these skills or progress towards an upper secondary qualification").
- Making vocational education and training (VET) a first choice. Increasing its attractiveness, through quality provision and flexible organisation, allowing progression to higher vocational or academic learning, and closer links with the world of work.
- Building resilience: key competences and higher, more complex skills. These include literacy, numeracy, science and foreign languages, as well as transversal skills and key competences such as digital competences, entrepreneurship, critical thinking, problem solving or learning to learn, and financial literacy. 
- Getting connected: focus on digital skills.
- Making skills and qualifications more visible and comparable.
- Improving transparency and comparability of qualifications.
- Early profiling of migrants’ skills and qualifications.
- Improving skills intelligence and information for better career choices.
- Better information for better choices.
- Boosting skills intelligence and cooperation in economic sectors.
- Better understanding the performance of graduates from Universities and VET.

My comments and suggestions


The diagnosis and the proposal are centred around formal education and training. This remains, in fact, the main international approach to adult education and to education in general. The "being knowledgeable" dimension of UNDP's Human Development Index (HDI) continues to refer to education and to formal education only, all ages: expected years of schooling, adult literacy rate, government expenditure on education, gross enrolment ratio all levels, mean years of schooling, population with at least some secondary education, primary school dropout rate, primary school teachers trained to teach, and pupil-teacher ratio in primary school. (As we see, two indicators are related to adult education: adult literacy rate, and population with at least some secondary education). It is with these indicators that countries' educational profile is defined. 

Without ignoring the importance of these data and of the formal education system, I would like to stress the need to: revisit some concepts; insist on the critical importance of non-formal education and of informal learning not only in adult life but throughout life; consider other ways of thinking/organising the question of learning for what; radically rethink the eternal struggle with literacy and numeracy; and reconsider adulthood and the adult age. Also, the understanding of 'low-skilled adults' must be made explicit and analysed in general and in each particular context.

» Schooling versus education  Education exceeds schooling. Many adults are eager to advance their education, not necessarily to get more schooling (i.e. completing primary and secondary education). For many young people and adults, completing secondary education implies a tremendous effort, meeting a bureaucratic requisite rather than having a pleasant and fruitful learning experience, and the economic and social reward may not be the one expected.

» Education/training versus learning  Skills are not developed only through deliberate education and training efforts. Most skills are developed through a combination of formal and non-formal education and informal learning (reading, writing, parenting, arts, sports, work, travel, social participation, volunteering, social service, etc.).

» Literacy and numeracy  They continue to be considered basic skills and they continue to be major problems throughout the world, in both 'developed' and 'developing' countries. In 'developing' countries, it is very common that people counted as 'new literates' often do not read and write autonomously and thus do not get to use reading and writing in their daily life. Also, often there is no evaluation involved, and no follow-up. We must radically rethink and improve the ways we conceptualize and do adult literacy, and stop cheating ourselves with fake statistics.

» Digital skills  In most 'developing countries' access to the Internet is still limited (50% or less of the population). Cell phones are widely used, also by adults and by the poor. But it is the younger generations that makes the most use of computers and of the internet. Internet policies focus on children and youth. Little is being done, and much more should be done, to offer adults and older adults meaningful access to the digital world.

» Learning for what?  There are many ways to think of, and deal with, this question. Well-being and prosperity mean different things to different people and cultures throughout the world. Sumak Kawsay (Buen Vivir, Good Living), the indigenous paradigm proposed as an alternative to the development paradigm, understands Buen Vivir as reaching a harmonious relationship between self, others, and the environment. Thus, 'learning for what' becomes learning to take care of oneself, learning to take care of others (family, community, peers), and learning to take care of the environment. These tree domains lead to a holistic, alternative understanding of the whys, hows, and what fors of education and learning.

» Adults and the adult age  Life expectancy has grown all over the world. As a result, the adult age has expanded. However, and despite the lifelong learning rhetoric, adults continue to be denied the right to education and the right to learn. Today, in too many countries, education policies and programmes do not go beyond the age of 30 or 35. It is time to organize adulthood in different age groups for education, training and learning purposes. While we oversegment childhood, adolescence and youth, we continue to refer to adulthood and to adult education as something that covers from 15 year-olds to 95 year-olds. A very effective strategy to ignore older adults and to amputate the lifelong learning concept.

Related recent texts of mine in this blog (English/Spanish)

- "Rethinking education" and adult education, Regional consultation with civil society on the document "Rethinking education: Towards a global common view?", ICAE-UNESCO, Brasilia, 25 April 2016.
- "Replantear la educación" y la educación de adultos, Consulta regional de la sociedad civil "El derecho a la educación de personas jóvenes y adultas desde una perspectiva de aprendizaje a lo largo de la vida", ICAE-UNESCO, Brasilia, 25 abril 2016.

- What is youth and adult education today? (2017)
- ¿Qué es educación de jóvenes y adultos, hoy? (2017)

- Formal, non-formal and informal learning (2016)
- Aprendizaje formal, no-formal e informal (2016)

- Giving up to a literate world?, in: Adult Education and Development, Issue 80, December 2013.
- ¿Renuncia a un mundo alfabetizado?, en: Educación de Adultos y Desarollo, número 80, Diciembre 2013

- 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. Informe encargado por el UIL-UNESCO. Una contribución del Centro de Cooperación Regional para la Educación de Adultos en América Latina y el Caribe (CREFAL) a CONFINTEA VI.

- 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.

- Lteracy and Lifelong Learning: The Linkages, Conference at the 2006 Biennale of ADEA, Libreville, Gabon, March 27-31, 2006. 

- On youth and adult learning (compilation)
- Sobre aprendizaje de jóvenes y adultos (compilación)

- On Lifelong Learning (compilation)
- Sobre Aprendizaje a lo Largo de la Vida (compilación)

 

Girls' education: Lessons from BRAC (Bangladesh)




I learned about BRAC and got in contact with its education programme while working as a senior education adviser at UNICEF's Education Cluster in New York, in the early 1990s. From the start, I became fascinated with BRAC's 'non-formal primary school' concept. This programme, initiated in 1985 with 22 schools, attempted to address the needs of the poorest sectors in Bangladesh, especially in rural areas. The specific aim was to attract girls, who were mostly absent from schools.

I visited Bangladesh twice, in 1993 and in 1995, and had the opportunity to see BRAC's non-formal primary schools in action. Together with Manzoor Ahmed, UNICEF Programme Director at the time, we wrote a dossier called Reaching the Unreached: Non-formal approaches and universal primary education, (UNICEF, 1993). BRAC's non-formal education programme was one of the experiences included in the dossier. BRAC's programme was also included in Education for All: Making It Work - Innovation Series organized jointly by UNICEF and UNESCO right after the Jomtien Conference on Education for All (1990). Dieter Berstecher (UNESCO Paris) and I (UNICEF New York) coordinated the project. (In 2000, 10 years after the Jomtien conference, the series was transferred from UNESCO Headquarters to PROAP, in Bangkok. See issue No.14 dedicated to Lok Jumbish, in India).

One thing that astonished me was the basic and pragmatic wisdom with which BRAC was developing the programme. The first step was conducting a survey to find out why parents were not sending their daughters to school. Three major reasons came out: 1) the school journey was too long (they needed girls to help at home with domestic chores); 2) teachers were mostly men (parents expressed they would feel more comfortable if there were female teachers in the schools); and 3) the school - when available - was too distant from home.

Acknowledging parents' expressed needs, BRAC acted accordingly. The design of the programme adopted three key measures:

1) shortening the school journey (3 hours a day), rethinking the entire school calendar (more months in school, no long holidays), and adjusting the curriculum to fit those time arrangements (the idea is to complete the nation's five-year primary school cycle in four years);

2) identifying women in the local communities and providing them with some basic initial training so that they could act as teachers; and

3) building schools that were closer to home. 

BRAC's non-formal primary schools were the simplest and nicest schools I had seen in poor rural areas. One-room schools built with local materials, with the help of the community. Bright, clean, colorful. Small mats on the floor for the children, a medium-sized chalkboard, posters and visual aids all around.

Children walked shorter distances to school and remained there only for 3 hours a day, so they could continue to help at home.

There were few women in the communities with a teacher certificate, so BRAC selected in each community women with the highest school level (often primary education) and interested in teaching, and trained them. Initially with a 12-day course, later complemented with monthly refresher courses and yearly orientation courses.

This is how BRAC managed to include girls who would otherwise have never attended school. By the time I visited BRAC the NFE programme was already a 'success story' attracting attention not only in Bangladesh but worldwide. Since then BRAC has continued to grow - it is today "the worlds' largest development organization" - and its education programme became a full education system. It remains free of charge. It reached also urban slums, it incorporated e-learning and it includes now a university and a network of mobile libraries. In terms of learning results, BRAC's NFE schools do not lag behind government formal schools; on the contrary, their results are ahead of the country average.
Some data for BRAC's  non-formal primary schools (January 2017):
14,153 schools
389,910 students, of whom 62.17% are girls
5.3 million students completed courses, of which 60.43% are girls
5.55 million students transferred to formal schools to date, of which 60.12% are girls
14,153 teachers
BRAC's education programme has received numerous international awards, one of them the prestigious WISE Prize from the Qatar Foundation in 2011. I was happy to be in Doha, attending the WISE event, when Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, BRAC's founder and director, received the prize.

Girls' education remains a major issue worldwide, starting with early childhood and primary education. The problem continues to pose old and new challenges. Diagnoses and studies multiply, debates and fora repeat often what is already known, there is hunger for more data. In the middle of all that, I often remember BRAC's long and fruitful experience, its pragmatic wisdom, its short, medium and long-term vision, its consultation with families and communities, its permanent interest to connect with local needs and realities.

In times when everything seems to start from scratch and anything can be considered an innovation, it is essential to look back and learn from experience.

Related texts in this blog
» Aprender a lavarse las manos
» WISE Prize for Education Laureates: Bottom-up Innovators
» Kazi, the graceless | Kazi, el sin gracia
 
 

"Rethinking education" and adult education



UNESCO, together with the International Council for Adult Education (ICAE), is organizing a series of regional consultations coordinated by civil society on the challenges of adult education in the framework of lifelong learning, in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and Goal 4 specifically: "Ensure inclusive and equitable quality learning and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all."

The first regional consultation took place in Brasilia on April 25, 2016, at CONFINTEA +6 (International Conference on Adult Education). The book "Rethinking education: Towards a global common good?", published by UNESCO in 2015, was taken as a reference for the consultation. Timothy Ireland and I were invited to comment the book from the adult education perspective and in relation to the three questions posed by ICAE for the consultation:

1. Re-contextualize the right to education of young people and adults within a lifelong learning framework.

2. Role and practices of civil society to ensure equitable and quality lifelong learning opportunities for young people and adults.

3. Bridging formal and non-formal education.

My comments
"This is a contribution to re-visioning education in a changing world and builds on one of UNESCO’s main tasks as a global observatory of social transformation. Its purpose is to stimulate public policy debate focused specifically on education in a changing world. It is a call for dialogue inspired by a humanistic vision of education and development based on principles of respect for life and human dignity, equal rights and social justice, respect for cultural diversity, and international solidarity and shared responsibility, all of which are fundamental aspects of our common humanity" (p. 14. Introduction).
I was a member of the Senior Experts' Group invited by UNESCO's Director General in 2013 with the mission of "Rethinking education in a changing world". The book was a result of this process. I know the process from inside, although I did not participate in the revision of the final document.

The book proposes to re-visit education and adopts two central categories: a humanistic vision of education and education as a common good, beyond the notion of public good (centered around the State). Both concepts may be of help to rethink adult education, a field that needs profound changes vis a vis past experience and new social realities such as increased life expectancy of the population worldwide and the Lifelong Learning paradigm.

1. Low visibility of adult education

When reading the book with adult education in mind one realizes the little attention given to it throughout the book. Adult education is not present in the Challenges and Tensions of Chapter 1 (Sustainable development: a central concern) and is not mentioned in Chapter 2 (Reaffirming a humanistic approach). The negative repercussions of children's school education problems on adult life and adult education are not complemented with a reflection on the positive repercussions of adult education on children's education and well-being.
"... almost 30 million children are deprived of their right to a basic education, creating generations of uneducated future adults who are too often ignored in development policies. These issues are fundamental challenges for human understanding of others and for social cohesion across the globe." (p. 16)
In fact: policies often ignore that (a) a dysfunctional social system and a dysfunctional school system are responsible for the exclusion of millions of children or for a poor quality education unable to satisfy basic learning needs of millions of children, youth and adults, and (b) only a "two pronged approach" - with children and with adults, in and out of school - can contribute to reduce structural inequalities and poor learning results.

The low profile of adult education is part of the conventional education model. A model that continues to be centered around childhood, despite the lifelong learning rhetoric. A model that ignores the relationships between child and adult education, and the inter-generational linkages between childhood, adolescence, youth and adulthood in society and especially in the family and the community. In many indigenous cultures education is a family and community practice that is threatened by a school culture that alienates kids from their environment and cultures.

The poor attention given to adult education in the Delors Report (1996) was criticized. In fact, this has been the case in all international plans and initiatives.

- In Education for All (1990-2015), "meeting basic learning needs of children, youth and adults" ended up centered around children and primary education, and the goals that advanced the least were those related to adult education, especially literacy.
- In the Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015), the education goal was ensuring children four years of primary education.
- Again, adult education has a marginal place in Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals (2015-2030).

In the year 2000, an exVicepresident of ICAE asked if EFA (Education for All) meant Except for Adults.

2. The right to education of youth and adults

The book calls the attention on the fact that
"Despite the specific legal obligations related to the various provisions of the right to education, much of the discussion on the right to education has, until recently, focused on schooling, and perhaps even more narrowly on primary schooling. (...) The vast majority of countries worldwide have national legislation that defines periods of schooling as compulsory. Seen from this angle, the principle of the right to basic education is uncontested, as is the role of the state in protecting this principle and ensuring equal opportunity. However, while these principles are relatively uncontested at the level of basic education, there is no general agreement about their applicability at post-basic levels of education" (p. 76)
However, there is a previous problem: the non-recognition of youth and adult education as a right. Traditionally, the right to education has been associated with childhood. The persistence of the child-centered and school-centered educational ideology is the most important obstacle for the development of adult education. Breaking this mentality, through systematic information, communication and citizen education efforts, is crucial to advance and to adopt Lifelong Learning as a new paradigm.

Also, we need to overcome two reductionisms: adult education reduced to literacy, and literacy understood as initial, basic literacy. Problems with everyday reading, writing and arithmetics are reported worldwide, and scandalize when they become news. In the last few years, OECD's Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) displays such problems not only in 'developing countries' but also in 'developed countries'. Clear evidence of the profound educational crisis that is rooted in childhood and in school.

Viewing literacy in the framework of lifelong learning means viewing it as a continuum, in and out of school, and throughout life.

3. Age as a discriminatory factor in education
"Traditional factors of marginalization in education such as gender and urban or rural residence continue to combine with income, language, minority status and disability to create ‘mutually reinforcing disadvantages’, particularly in low-income or conflict-affected countries." (p. 42).
National and international studies and reports mention multiple factors of educational discrimination, but they generally forget to mention age. The association education-childhood is so ingrained that "educability" is not an issue beyond the categories of childhood, adolescence and youth.

In this book, the aspiration of inclusive education does not mention age as a discriminatory factor. There is a reference to third age; however, it is adulthood in general that is at stake in the dispute for the right to education and learning. Let us not forget that adulthood is the longest period in life, and that it is becoming much longer thanks to increasing life expectancy worldwide.

4. Formal and no-formal education

Formal and non-formal education are complementary. However, non-formal education remains in the shadow of formal education, starting with the fact that it is defined by the negative (non-formal).

Adult education has traditionally found in non-formal education a place to deal with its complexities and specificities. Non-formal education is typically flexible, less structured, better equipped to innovate and to respond to learners' needs and possibilities. These are strengths, rather than weaknesses, in the education field. It has always been said that the challenge is to de-formalize formal education rather than to formalize non-formal education.

We need to learn to view education and learning as a continuum, where formal, non-formal and informal learning are intertwined throughout life. While learning to cope with formal adult education, we need to improve the quality and the status of non-formal adult education.

The book advocates for open and flexible lifelong learning systems, as proposed by the Delors report in the 1990s. It also promotes recognition and validation of knowledge and competencies acquired through multiples means. Unfortunately, it does not contribute to understand those multiple ways in terms of the formal, non-formal and informal continuum, and the need for recognition and validation of the latter.

5. Absence of informal learning
"It is important to note that much of what we learn in life is neither deliberate nor intentional. This informal learning is inherent to all experiences of socialization. The discussion that follows, however, is restricted to learning that is intentional and organized." (p. 17)
The book acknowledges the importance of informal learning - learning that takes place in everyday life. However, it announces that it will take into consideration only organized and intentional learning, that is, formal and non-formal learning. Leaving informal learning aside - learning that starts at birth and accompanies us until death - means leaving out a central component of Lifelong Learning.

On the other hand, there is confusion with the terms informal learning and informal education. The latter does not exist (note that ISCED 2011 refers to formal education, non-formal education and informal learning).
"Education is understood here to mean learning that is deliberate, intentional, purposeful and organized. Formal and non-formal educational opportunities suppose a certain degree of institutionalization. A great deal of learning, however, is much less institutionalized, if at all, even when it is intentional and deliberate. Such informal education, less organized and structured than either formal or non-formal education, may include learning activities that occur in the work place (for instance, internships), in the local community and in daily life, on a self-directed, family-directed, or socially-directed basis." (p. 17. What is meant by knowledge, learning and education?)
6. The role of State and Civil Society

Understanding education as a common good may help address old problems linked to the State/civil society distinction. Historically, State and civil society, often working together, have played a key role in adult education. Although we cannot generalize, some of the most innovative and transformative experiences have been on the side of civil society.

Governments are increasingly offering formal education to youth and adults with no or little school experience, although with a deficit and compensatory approach. Terms such as "over-age", "educational lag" or "incomplete schooling" have been added to the youth and adult education field. Critical analyses are needed to expose the misunderstandings and prejudices behind such terms.

Two concerns in relation to "civil society":

a) opening the concept and space of civil society to the for-profit private sector, through corporate foundations that are assimilated as NGOs, and increasing participation of the for-profit private sector in the provision of education and training for young people and adults; and

b) reducing the concept and space of civil society to NGOs. Lists of civil society organizations forget to mention social movements - workers, peasants, women, indigenous peoples, the unemployed, the land-less, etc. A major omission in general and in Latin America in particular, a region with strong and active social movements in most countries.

A renewed and stronger adult education implies (re)incorporating social movements as key subjects participating in relevant bodies and networks, engaged in the definition and implementation of policies, plans and programmes.

7. LifeLong Learning (LLL)

The book highlights Lifelong Learning as the paradigm and organizing principle of education in the 21st century. However, it does not contribute to deepen its understanding. The book is centered around education much more than around learning as indicated by its title - Rethinkig education - and its subtitle - Towards a global common good?.

The concept of LLL continues to be unclear and little used as an instrument for education and learning policies not only in Latin America but also in other parts of the world. It is often associated with adults and with adult education, even when the term lifelong should make it clear.

The community linked to early childhood development and education, and that linked to child and adolescent education, have not shown interest in LLL - something revealing and that should lead to reflection. Early childhood education and adult education have always been sidelined in national and international policies and goals. Today, early childhood has gained ground and visibility among others thanks to the articulated pressure and alliance of international organizations such as UNICEF and the World Bank, and to a strong raising awareness campaign. Nothing similar has happened in the field of adult education. Inasmuch as LLL continues to be associated with adults and adult education, it will not be understood as such and it will not be incorporated as a new paradigm for education.

Lifelong Learning Policies and Strategies available at UIL-UNESCO's website (documents sent by countries throughout the world) show that: (a) LLL is used in the most varied ways, and (b) the concept is often not properly understood. In Europe, LLL is understood as lifelong learning, covering all ages. In Latin America, Asia and Africa, LLL is generally associated with adults and with the world of work.

8. Alternative knowledge and education systems
"Alternatives to the dominant model of knowledge must be explored. Alternative knowledge systems need to be recognized and properly accounted for, rather than relegated to an inferior status. Societies everywhere can learn a great deal from each other by being more open to the discovery and understanding of other worldviews. There is much to learn, for instance, from rural societies across the world, particularly indigenous ones, about the relationship of human society to the natural environment" (p. 30).
The book emphasizes the importance of alternative knowledge and education systems, and the need to take them into account and preserve them. In our first meeting in Paris, we had an interesting exchange on the topic. I talked about Sumak Kawsay and Sumaq Qamaña (Buen Vivir, in Ecuador and in Bolivia, respectively), inspired in the cosmovision of Andean indigenous cultures. They are not only alternative visions of knowledge and of education, but alternatives to the development paradigm. The book includes a box on this issue.

The objective is important and valid, but we are far from it. The expert group was integrated by specialists from different regions of the world, but all of us share the Western culture, and the book reflects it. Most bibliographic references and quotes are in English and French. Maybe the greatest contribution of the book is acknowledging the existence and importance of such alternative knowledge systems, and the need to incorporate new and relevant voices to a multicultural dialogue.

* Included in: ICAE, Voices Rising 497

To learn more
» Daviet, Barbara, Revisar el principio de la educación como bien público, Documentos de Trabajo No 17, Investigación y prospectiva en educación, UNESCO, julio 2016
» UNESCO, Rethinking education in a changing world. Meeting of the Senior Experts' Group, Paris, 12-14 February, 2013. Report prepared by the UNESCO Secretariat.

Related texts in OTRAƎDUCACION

» Formal, non-formal and informal learning
» Lecturas sobre el 'Buen Vivir'
» Goal 4: Education - Sustainable Development Goals | Objetivo 4: Educación - Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible
» Aprendizaje a lo Largo de la Vida (ALV)
» Giving up to a literate world?
» Necesidades y deseos de aprendizaje de jóvenes y adultos
» Educación: términos discriminadores que mejor no
» From Literacy to Lifelong Learning | De la alfabetización al aprendizaje a lo largo de la vida
» Literacy and Lifelong Learning: The linkages
» Sobre aprendizaje de jóvenes y adultos | On youth and adult learning

Formal, non-formal and informal learning


Formal education. Education that is institutionalized, intentional and planned through public organizations and recognized private bodies and, in their totality, make up the formal education system of a country. Formal education programmes are thus recognized as such by the relevant national educational authorities or equivalent, e.g. any other institution in co-operation with the national or sub-national educational authorities. Formal education consists mostly of initial education. Vocational education, special needs education and some parts of adult education are often recognized as being part of the formal education system.

Non-formal education. Education that is institutionalized, intentional and planned by an education provider. The defining characteristic of non-formal education is that it is an addition, alternative and/or a complement to formal education within the process of the lifelong learning of individuals. It is often provided to guarantee the right of access to education for all. It caters for people of all ages, but does not necessarily apply a continuous pathway-structure; it may be short in duration and/or low intensity, and it is typically provided in the form of short courses, workshops or seminars. Non-formal education mostly leads to qualifications that are not recognized as formal qualifications by the relevant national educational authorities or to no qualifications at all. Non-formal education can cover programmes contributing to adult and youth literacy and education for out-of-school children, as well as programmes on life skills, work skills, and social or cultural development.

Informal learning. Forms of learning that are intentional or deliberate but are not institutionalized. They are less organized and structured than either formal or non-formal education. Informal learning may include learning activities that occur in the family, in the work place, in the local community, and in daily life, on a self-directed, family-directed or socially-directed basis.

Incidental or random learning. Various forms of learning that are not organized or that involve communication not designed to bring about learning. Incidental or random learning may occur as a by-product of day-to-day activities, events or communication that are not designed as deliberate educational or learning activities. Examples may include learning that takes place during the course of a meeting, whilst listening to a radio programme, or watching a television broadcast that is not designed as an education programme.

Source: Glossary, International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 2011

We start with official ISCED (UNESCO) definitions since there are many misconceptions and confusions with the terms formal education, non-formal education and informal learning (learning that takes place in formal, non-formal and informal contexts).

Many people mention formal education and non-formal education, and forget about informal learning. Others skip non-formal education. Many speak of informal education, which does not exist. It is very common to associate non-formal education with adult education and to think that adult education can only be non-formal. Some people consider that Lifelong Learning and informal learning are equivalent. And so on.
("Education 3030. Incheon Declaration and Framework on Action for the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all - approved at the World Education Forum 2015 held in South Korea - refers to "non-formal and informal education", paragraph 10).

There are little or no problems with formal education, another name for education that takes place within the school system. However, people tend to think that the school system does not include higher education.


There are more problems with non-formal education. The very limits and differences between formal and non-formal education are often unclear. There is teaching in both of them; there may be evaluation and certificates in non-formal education.The main difference is that the latter is less structured and more flexible, and that it can be provided by multiple agents, governmental and non-governmental. Non-formal education serves people of all ages and at all education levels.


The biggest conceptual problems relate to informal learning, which is "intentional or deliberate but not institutionalized." ISCED classification refers to formal education, non-formal education and informal learning, because there is no teaching involved in informal learning; it is autonomous learning. ISCED adds another category, incidental or random learning, defined as "various forms of learning that are not organized or that involve communication not designed to bring about learning." I prefer to include it within informal learning. What matters is that it is learning (intentional or not) that is not mediated by teaching.


Formal, non-formal and informal qualify the context and the mode in which education and learning take place. These three variants do not run separately; they are intertwined, not parallel lines. There are many commonalities between formal and non-formal education. There is informal learning in formal and non-formal contexts (playing, reading, talking with classmates or teachers outside the classroom, using the internet, etc.).


Formal education occupies a relatively short period in life, generally during childhood, adolescence and youth, although it may also take place in adulthood. Those with masters or doctoral studies may spend 20 years or more in classrooms. There are also those who have no or little schooling, and whose learning experience comes mostly from informal learning.

 

Non-formal education (courses, workshops, seminars, conferences, etc.) can occur along formal education, and also before and after it is completed. Many people end up having more non-formal education than formal education. The Internet has contributed to expand and diversify non-formal education.

Informal learning takes place throughout life, from birth to death. Most of what we learn in life comes from informal learning, although very often we are not aware that we are learning. Some of the most important information, knowledge and skills are developed in an informal manner, in the family, in the community, in the school system, at work, while practicing sports, talking, reading and writing, in contact with nature, with mass media, with the arts, with internet, etc.


Lifelong Learning integrates these three types of learning: formal, non-formal and informal. Every person has a specific combination of them and specific life learning trajectories. Some have a lot of formal and non-formal education. Everyone benefits from informal learning, which is essential for life, for work, and for living together.

To learn more

» Council Recommendation on the validation of non-formal and informal learning, Official Journal of the European Union, 22 Dec. 2012.

Related texts in this blog

» Saberes socialmente útiles
» Comunidad de Aprendizaje
» Aprendizaje a lo Largo de la Vida
» Reaching the Unreached: Non-Formal Approaches and Universal Primary Education
» Lifelong Learning: Moving beyond Education for All
» On Lifelong Learning | Sobre Aprendizaje a lo largo de la vida
 

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...