As adult educators, we are convinced that our work is necessary and creates benefits for the learners. The right to Lifelong Learning has been sanctioned in numerous international conferences. It is only with the help of comprehensive Adult Education provision that the goals of the global educational campaign “Education for All“ and the Millennium Development Goals may be achieved. Furthermore, it seems to be widely accepted that adult learning is the pathway for people to take full responsibility for their own lives and participate actively in the development of their communities. On frequent occasions we have stated the truism that Adult Education in itself cannot bring about the large political and social changes that we need in order to secure a sustainable future for our planet, but that, on the other hand, such changes will not be anchored in the people if they are not supported by education and learning.
Nevertheless, all over the world Adult Education does not rank as highly in the list of political priorities nor in public budgets as would be appropriate according to our convictions. The traditional concept of an educational system that rests on four pillars, basic education in schools, vocational training, higher education and Adult Education, has proven to be a mere illusion. Adult Education lags far behind the other educational sectors.
This is so because Adult Education has not been very successful in documenting with convincing examples and assured facts that it is beneficial both for the individual learner and for society in general. When trying to negotiate broader support for our field of work and secure room for it on the public agendas we are often restricted by the lack of data and indicators to prove its value, not only in the immediate area of learning and knowledge but also in adjacent areas such as health, environment, social inclusion, democratic participation, gender roles, and many more.
Competing with other educational sectors, Adult Education will only be able to secure its position if it succeeds to create stronger visibility for its work, underpinned by data and plausible results. Articles in this edition of “Adult Education and Development” are meant to contribute to this aim.
In a first section, we discuss the question of Adult Education and its positive impact. A review of current research demonstrates the connection of Adult Education with improvements in many social sectors, health, civic engagement, parenting, poverty reduction, well-being or even happiness. Nevertheless there is an urgent need for adult educators to incorporate elements of monitoring the results of their work and measuring them against carefully selected indicators, thereby proving that targets and methods were carefully chosen or, in cases of unsatisfactory results, facilitating the identification of erroneous assumptions and the application of corrective methods. Impact monitoring needs to be included as an indispensable element in project planning and implementation. Project organisers should be required to provide evidence of the benefits of their actions, for instance by comparing the data of baseline studies with those of subsequent tracer studies. Some selected examples from the Asian region show that such reports and investigations have, indeed, become a customary part of the practise of non-governmental Adult Education organisations.
Perhaps the most decisive goal that we aim at in Adult Education is to overcome social exclusion which obstructs the development of equitable and democratic societies in so many countries. In a range of articles that describe experiences from four continents we show Adult Education at work to achieve this goal. Adult Education tears down the fences that herd people into scheduled castes. Adult Education deals with the special exclusion that limits the opportunities of people with disabilities. Adult Education provides the enabling factors without which people cannot profit from vocational education and training. Adult Education transforms cultural differences into inter-cultural assets. Participative approaches in Adult Education encourage people to analyse their life situations and take their own decisions on how to improve them. Appropriate contents and forms of delivery of Adult Education allow pastoralists to enjoy learning opportunities that respect their values and their life patterns. Adult Education equips young convicts with enough self-esteem and social values to master their lives after their detention period. Adult Education combines basic education with productive work and creates viable alternatives for excluded women. Whichever way social exclusion restricts the possibilities of people to share, grow and prosper, there is always an answer with which Adult Education can counter these effects and overcome the barriers.
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