Adult learning: UNESCO sounds the alarm

Despite the progress made, particularly with regard to the participation of women, those most in need of adult education, particularly disadvantaged and vulnerable groups such as indigenous minorities, rural populations, migrants, senior citizens, people with disabilities or prisoners often remain deprived of access to learning.

This is the observation raised in the fifth UNESCO Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE 5) which was published this Wednesday, June 15, 2022, on the occasion of the 7th International Conference on Adult Learning and Education. adult education in Marrakech, Morocco.

Thus, the UNESCO report suggests that nearly 60% of countries have seen no improvement in the participation of people with disabilities, migrants or prisoners. And 24% of them indicated that the participation of rural populations has decreased. Similarly, the participation of older people has declined in 24% of the 159 countries surveyed, says the report, which calls on Member States to improve their approach based on appropriate investments that guarantee educational opportunities for every adult.

In this sense, the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, called “governments and the international community to combine our efforts and take the necessary measures to make the right to education a reality for all, regardless of age, identity and place of residence“, noting that”the speed of technological and social change and the magnitude of global challenges require that citizens have access to new learning throughout their lives. Reskilling and upskilling through adult learning and education must become common practice. The ability to learn is the ultimate skill of the 21st century“.

On the other hand, more than half of the countries have reported an increase in participation in adult learning and education programs since 2018, however challenges remain, says the report which finds that while the participation of women and of young people has improved considerably, overall participation in adult learning and education remains insufficient.

Thus, the report states that in 23% of the 159 countries that submitted data for GRALE 5, less than 1% of young people and adults, aged 15 and over, participate in education and learning programmes.

In sub-Saharan Africa, according to the report, it comes in far ahead with 59% of countries declaring that at least one in five adults benefits from education and learning programs, noting that this figure drops to only 16% in countries with Latin America and the Caribbean and 25% in Europe. This high participation rate in Africa is explained in the report by a strong demand for adult literacy and so-called second chance education.

With regard to improving the quality of learning, the report finds that most countries have reported progress in terms of program quality, assessment and the professionalization of adult educators.

Similarly, more than two-thirds reported progress in their initial and continuing training, as well as in their working conditions, the report says, although this progress varies considerably by region and income group, noting that the quality of adult education is improved.

With regard to citizenship education, which is key to sustainable development, the report argues that responding to contemporary challenges, such as climate change and digitalisation, requires informed, trained, engaged and active citizens, who recognize both their common humanity and their obligations to other species and the planet.

According to the UNESCO report, citizenship education is a key tool in this effort, recalling a special thematic chapter in GRALE 5 which indicates that nearly three-quarters (74%) of countries are developing or implementing citizenship education policies.

The Global Report on Adult Learning and Education examines the extent to which UNESCO Member States are putting their international commitments on adult learning and education into practice. The reports combine survey data, policy analysis and case studies to provide policymakers and practitioners with sound recommendations and examples of good practice. Five reports have been published since 2009.

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