The Bonn Conference on Financing Adult Education for Development was scheduled: as a 40th anniversary recognition of the work of DVV International; to provide an early opportunity to follow up on the Sixth UNESCO World Adult Education Conference (CONFINTEA VI) in Belém, Brazil; and to consider and promote action arising from the Belém discussions and Framework for Action, in the critically important area of financial support for adult education. In the event, the deferment of the Belém meeting from May to December 2009, made this probably the final major pre-Belém preparatory meeting, rather than the first post-Belém follow-up action meeting. With hindsight and in the light of the work done in the Bonn Conference, despite requiring very rapid programme adaptation, this perhaps proved to be no bad thing.
Unlike the big pre-Belém regional meetings at the end of 2008 and in early 2009, this was a global international event, with over 150 participants from over 50 countries in all major regions of the world. It thus enabled direct connection between the worlds and the needs of the “North” and the “South”, prompting frank questions such as this:
“Is it still and is it for ever to be one law (lifelong learning) for the rich and another (literacy and basic education) for the poor?”
A “Bonn Declaration” was planned, to summarise the essential thrust and outcomes of the Conference. An initial general draft went through several iterations. It was added to as the Conference proceeded, before being presented for vigorous scrutiny and comment in the final session. The final form included here reflects the points made there and in subsequent exchanges. The Declaration was widely distributed in July. It divides specifically financial from more general recommendations. Between these two there is a scene-setting context assessing the new circumstances. The final Declaration is included separately in full, in this volume.
Prior to the Conference a Background Note was prepared – A New Effort for New Times – Steps in the Long March to Belém. This reviews steps and landmarks over the previous 50 years, challenging participants to move adult education to the centre of the global development agenda – see the paper by Duke and Hinzen in this volume.
The opening session was chaired by Hinzen and addressed by Paul Belanger, President of the International Council for Adult Education (ICAE) and by Rita Süssmuth, President of DVV, whose paper is included in full below. Adama Ouane, Director of the Unesco Institute of Lifelong Learning (UIL) in Hamburg, had already spoken the previous evening (see below). Given Belanger’s role as Ouane’s predecessor at the Hamburg Institute, and so as host of CONFINTEA V, where Süssmuth presided, informed comparison and a sense of progress, offset by disappointment at setbacks, permeated the whole Conference. Both Belanger and Süssmuth captured this mood, in calling for new effort and new commitment.
The global economic crisis was a reason to invest more, rather than an excuse to invest less. Within a three-way balancing act, public, private enterprise, and individual learners, public resources are essential where there is a social need. The main sustainable infrastructure for investment is the infrastructure of people. Rather than speak of “aid” and “donors” we must think in terms of a real North to South resource transfer offsetting historical inequalities. In terms of, for example, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), adult education was everywhere yet nowhere; the exclusion of adult education was no less than a “crass economic error”. Another world was possible only if vital learning resources got through to people at the grassroots, building democracy in a broad-based way, including for instance a “democracy of health” via vital health education programmes.
Noting the silence of the G20 on adult education, Süssmuth, long a champion of adult education globally, called for yet another effort to raise its profile. We much continue to explain the vitality of learning and the full meaning of lifelong learning. Clear use of language and communication to campaign effectively was a recurrent Conference theme. We must press upon governments in particular that adult education is a human and civic right and a responsibility.
Commenting on the current high profile of a “creative class” in thinking about civic development, Süssmuth underlined the potential and creativity of all human beings, and the need for a full young and adult system of formal, non-formal and informal education to enable this. She brought out the universality of deprivation andneed across all societies, with examples of socially and vocationally excluded youth in the host country, Germany.
Chris Duke, Source: Barbara Frommann
Problems exacerbated by the world economic crisis went back to a culture of the short-term. This together with a shallow profit rather than investment mentality must be confronted. So must undervaluing the capacity of older people to think and contribute in societies of fast-changing demography. Süssmuth stressed also the capability and potential of resourceful new migrants: a good learning environment is about political, economic and cultural security as well as classrooms and learning materials. Refugees are often misperceived as weak; yet many are strong and resourceful, with powerful personal and cultural experiences to draw on. In this and other ways she brought out the need for a clear national political lead allied to local enablement – education and learning take place essentially in local community settings and local administrative jurisdictions.
The session concluded on a quite political note: universal privatisation had been tried, if not tested to destruction, and found to be a failure in both North and South. It cannot provide an answer to the kinds of needs addressed in Education for All and the MDGs. Despite some differences, it was generally agreed that the global crisis would harm the poorer countries of the South most. This makes the politics of aid and development central in the quest for adequate financing for adult education.
As Bélanger expressed it: privatisation in education that dumps 40 % of the population in the waste bin is a very bad economic model! Education of all kinds for all must be seen as the century’s most important investment. Tactically it was important not just to ask for money but to have a clear strategy for how to use it.
The spirit of the session, and of most of the Conference, was one of strong will and campaigning purpose: if this is possible for HIV AIDS and for climate change, it is possible also for adult education.
Presentations in this session took stock of progress mainly since the previous Unesco World Conference, CONFINTEA V, in Hamburg in 1997. It benefited from three perspectives: an international intergovernmental perspective from UNESCO’s UIL Hamburg Director, Adama Ouane, an international NGO perspective from Maria Lourdes Almazan Khan, Secretary General of ASPBAE, and a national view from Roland Lindenthal, of Germany’s BMZ. Papers by Ouane and Khan are included in this volume.
Ouane commented on the fluctuating fortunes of adult education, between marginalisation and more focused government interest: there were 151 country reports for the 6th conference compared with 68 for the 5th. These showed that progress was being made on clarifying adult learning, seeing it as a right, and recognising its significance for meeting social and economic challenges. However, imbalances need redressing between vocational and other social purposes; a narrow skills focus is all too common. Seeing the need for the articulation of adult education with both the education and the development systems is a central challenge for CONFINTEA VI. It has been conspicuously absent from EFA, the MDGs, and around the G8 and G20 tables.
Discourse is still confused, especially around lifelong learning, adult education and adult learning, and this weakens the case. However, the Hamburg Declaration and Agenda for the Future is widely used in both policy and academic circles, and a paradigm shift is notably evident in Latin America. On the positive side, Ouane finds the gulf between governments and civil society to have all but disappeared
– something well demonstrated indeed at the Bonn Conference itself. Here participants from all sectors and regions engaged directly and openly, often on difficult and important issues, open to argument and willing to listen as well as to speak strongly from experience for a sometimes passionately held position.
Generally speaking the step from concept and proclamation to systematic action is yet to be taken; this should be central to the work of CONFINTEA VI. Also, without agreed concepts and tangible benchmarks it is not possible to track progress, a deficiency noted in Hamburg. Without a good evidence base, the case for adult education remains weak.
Referring to the 2009 MDG report and EFA, Maria Khan echoed the sense of uneven progress and huge persisting disparities in several regions, and for several key sectors including especially women. Nearly 50 states are seen as “at risk”, with rising levels of poverty, infant mortality etc. Like Ouane she stressed the importance of being clear as to what was valued, and then measuring that. Khan made some cautionary observations, drawing on experience of the 1998 East Asian crisis and in light of the new global crisis, in terms of its impact on development work in general and aid levels in particular. We have seen absolute falls in general and educational aid levels this decade. It is vitally important to see the daunting global crisis as a window of opportunity rather than the time to cut education and aid budgets.
Lindenthal took a different tack, concentrating mainly on how donors can make their aid most effective in its impact on development. He argued that each donor should concentrate on a particular limited field and on particular countries, with collaboration and rationalisation of effort – a division of labour – between donor countries and agencies, so that they did not all adopt the same development “targets”. Despite this concentration, he observed that nearly 100 countries do receive German aid, only 58 among them being partner countries.
John Oxenham, whose paper on “Returns on Investment in Literacy in Training and Education for Adults” is included in this volume, carefully analysed for the Conference evidence from a rising number of empirical studies in 32 countries. These show the contribution of literacy and numeracy programmes for unschooled and minimally educated young and older adults towards achieving MDGs and EFA. Conversely, their neglect undermines progress towards these goals. The research is still far from perfect or indeed adequate, and Oxenham is careful to show its limitations. None the less, his rate of return analyses suggest that investing in adult literacy in just as productive as investing in the other levels and sectors of education.
His study worked systematically through each of the eight MDGs, showing in the different cases the evidence for gains from literacy and numeracy within adult education; no evidence is yet available in the case of MDG 7 on environmental sustainability, but in general there is sound evidence for allocating resources to these aspects of adult learning in order to approach all the MDGs faster. Oxen-ham ends with three cautions. He emphasises the delay and uncertainly involved in accepting innovation; that people and situations vary; and that a supportive, including especially a politically supportive, environment is essential for effective learning and its application.
In the subsequent panel session, Afghanistan’s Education Vice-Minister Mohammad Sarwar Hussaini brought home the huge need and shortfall in aid and resources of a country in extreme difficulty which is still experiencing an overall two thirds rate of illiteracy. Intra-governmental coordination is lacking, adult education continues to come last, and it is unrealistic to expect individuals to pay for courses.
Alcyone Vasconcelos spoke about EFA and the Fast-Track Initiative from a World Bank perspective, about the problems of measuring cost and return, and about managing relations with different governments and donors. One strong theme from this session, echoed in others, was the need for data analysis to catch up with data collection: there is a lot of information in the computers, but not the time to ana-lyse and tease out from it the lessons that it offers. Without better breakdown and analysis, progress and shortfalls cannot be tracked, and the case for appropriate funding cannot be made.
The paper presented by the Rector of Bielefeld University, Dieter Timmermann, on the Public Responsibility for Financing Adult Education, while concentrating on the situation in Germany also goes to the heart of a central issue of development, especially for the poorest of the poor. It considers the scientific debate about public responsibility and asks what the public responsibility is for financing adult education. Public interest is seen as essential.
A central and optimistic proposition is that lifelong learning cannot but grow as knowledge societies emerge. The example of Germany suggests that necessity will dictate this, with changing demography, loss of low skill jobs and so forth. The effect will be to broaden the public mandate for adult education, which suffers from being weakly organised and bounded (it is “everywhere and nowhere”). The issues are deeply political: a matter of what the public defines as being in the public interest. Is adult education a public good to be supported by the state? The public-private distinction is a political matter, influenced perhaps for example by a felt need for social peace. Social cohesion and citizen engagement feature as objectives alongside innovation and labour market objectives in the 2004 commission on financing lifelong learning, although competitive strength appears to dominate.
There are various causes for under-investment in adult education, including uncertainty about the scale of the benefits. Timmermann takes the example of Germany, and the different purposes which attract investment in lifelong learning, noting a steady decline in lifelong learning over the past twenty years. Timmermann’s full paper, which concludes with a model for co-financing lifelong and ends on an echo of the earlier point about the need for an education-friendly environment partly set by government, is included in this volume.
A long, full and heavy morning in plenary sessions constituted another kind of challenge for participants. The mould was broken in the afternoon by a participatory and interactive session which sought to name and confront challenges; several of the ideas generated here and in its buzz groups found their way into the Bonn Conference Declaration reproduced above.
Four speakers contributed quite briefly from the front. A lucid paper by Rajesh Tandon emphasises the turbulent times we are living in, and points out how economics and demography will make this the Asian century. He asserts that the case for financing adult education has yet to be effectively made, despite the huge and strident need as evidenced and illustrated in his own region, Asia. His paper is included in this volume.
Tandon characterised this international adult educator gathering in Bonn as like a religious sect of believers. They need also to address the non-believers. Has adult education been so successfully in mainstreaming that it has become invisible? Maybe some dramatic moves are needed to command attention: staking a claim for adult education as a top anti-terrorist measure; building a lobbying alliance of city mayors who operate at the delivery end for lifelong learning; finding our own Bill Gates Global Fund.
Carolyn Medel-Añonuevo of UIL emphasised the NGO or civil society and multilateral sectors as additional sources of funds alongside the familiar public, private
Source: Barbara Frommann
and individual. David Archer from the NGO ActionAid offered a sharp critique of the way the FTI was working, and also of the working of the IMF. He did not spare the adult education community: we need to make a much clearer and stronger case, shifting the almost exclusive focus of Education Coalitions beyond formal school systems. As an example of campaigning he explained the Global Alliance’s football link with FIFA to get the slogan “one goal – education for all” before three billion spectators. Finally, said Archer, let us put an end to short-term campaigns and insist on a longer term strategy for combating illiteracy and poverty.
Pedro Morazan spoke about a global framework for financing development, and the impact of the financial and economic crisis, illustrated with statistics of the likely massive impact in the South. These include job losses exceeding 50 million, a startling rise in the number of the extremely poor, increased external debts and decreased inward flows especially for single and few-item commodity countries, and greatly reduced remittances. Development aid flows were falling and tended to fall further during recession, despite an obvious logic to the contrary.
In the concluding discussion it was agreed that sustainability, and specifically climate change, barely featured on the adult learning policy agenda; yet adult education was a key resource in tackling the environmental crisis. Competent governance and a key role for civil society are essential here, and in managing the crisis generally. It was recognised that the timing of the rescheduled CONFINTEA VI at Belém just before the World Copenhagen climate change conference meant that Belém could be overshadowed – but on the other hand that a strong message might be injected from Belém into the Copenhagen talks.
The Conference broke into more intensive dialogues in different working groups, first to examine some of the incentives for and obstacles to financing youth and adult education, later to explore some areas of good practice and innovation. Between these sessions there was a further plenary session examining policies and financing issues.
The groups concentrated in a highly disciplined way on issues that were important to deal with at Belém. In most cases the findings from these working groups were taken into the revised Bonn Declaration. They are included in the text include above, and not repeated here.
One group took as its subject EFA and the Fast Track Initiative (FTI). It found a woeful lack of knowledge about FTI, which should be remedied. With adult education as an essential, largely missing, ingredient of EFA, it called on national governments to do all they could to remedy this financially, but recognised that external aid was also essential in many countries to reach the required levels, thus honouring the Dakar promise.
One group especially emphasised the need to influence political will, and as the moderator saw it to stimulate politicians to learn more of the language, humanistic values and perspectives of adult education. It also emphasised the importance of links: between financing adult education and issues of health, sustainable development etc; and between governments and other organisations at all levels. A third emphasis was on the need for evidence and concrete examples to win hearts and minds, including effective indicators and benchmarking strategies.
This connects with the work of a group that looked at much of the practical detail of benchmarking, monitoring and evaluation, as well as at the purposes and need. It is essential that the right and important things are identified and monitored, but also that the whole business of evaluation is properly understood, fit-for-purpose, and therefore valued, if it is to be successful. In this way the group made something of an evaluation of evaluation itself, in the course of critiquing the several approaches presented to it.
The scope of what was evaluated came under scrutiny, including the conception of literacy – which should be broad on a continuum rather than narrowly mechanistic, and more than just skills – and the time-line for monitoring and benchmarking – long rather than short. We need to know what influences literacy, and what impact and influence literacy has. People should learn to become their own evaluators, able to learn and improve from experience. Some approaches such as the “school report card” had more impact than others – “the President notes it”. A good example which is published in this volume is contained in the paper by Sempere on the International Reflect Evaluation Framework. This is‚ rooted in the principles of participation which suggest that meaningful and democratic involvement in an evaluation can enhance the ownership of programmes by participants, promoting sustainability and transparency. Individuals are able to reflect on their own learning experience at the same time as the circle as a whole reflects on the collective learning experience. The expectations of participants are therefore just as significant as the programme objectives of implementers and the broader social goals of civil society organisations, governments and donors; all of which should be taken into account by the evaluation.
Attention was paid to where and how to start, and to the particular technical problems and larger obstacles to international comparative benchmarking – important to clarify if CONFINTEA VI is to make effective recommendations for ongoing monitoring globally, in the years following the Conference. It is good to start locally and nationally, and to use benchmarks as a starting point for national dialogue. For good international benchmarking, all parameters and elements must be clearly defined and agreed. Even then, there are formidable problems to do with heterogeneity of contexts, uneven quality of data bases, and uneven capacities to carry out benchmarking work. It will still not be easy for government representatives meeting at Belém to agree together and commit to international benchmarks.
These difficulties are no reason to shy away from the task. Good, easily used, and fully agreed tools are essential to provide the data, as a basis for making convincing arguments for the resources necessary for adult education. This may mean that for all the urgency we will have to “hasten slowly” at and after Belém, building up from local to national and then international benchmark data. The group observed in concluding that national dialogues about a benchmarking framework would therefore be useful and timely, even before Belém.
The later set of working groups on Good Practices and Innovations mainly tested the issues raised in plenary sessions, by analysing different country experiences, and drawing on the agency experiences mostly of NGO members in the groups. Examples of country studies are included in this volume from Slovenia (Zvonka Pangerc Pahernik) and Uganda (Michael Bazira). Apart from points that found their way into the final Declaration, an important theme was the importance of involving learners in campaigning, and of making campaigns themselves people’s learning processes. Learner and local actor involvement in project design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation were also stressed.
Viertel takes a Kyrgyzstan example of the work of the European Union’s agency to support development through education and training, the European Training Foundation or ETF. As she says in a paper included in this volume, “amounts of donor resources do not always do the trick when addressing complex problems. It is the intervention approach that matters – developing local capacities for change, and solutions that fit the context.”
Ireland’s paper echoes themes explored in the much earlier round of poverty studies referred to in the background paper to the conference and included in this volume: how to scale up community grassroots efforts coming from civil society side and the “learners” end’ to achieve national impact. This means managing the relationship between state and civil society agencies. Ireland illustrates beautifully how this dynamic was played out after CONFINTEA V in the case of Brazil where “the State Forums of Adult and Youth Education were inspired by the process of mobilisation set in motion by UNESCO for CONFINTEA V, held in Hamburg in 1997”. Here “the forum is understood as a democratic, horizontal, plural and critical space for articulation”. However, in this example, “the report, which was painstakingly elaborated and approved at the National Meeting, was later substituted at the Latin American Regional Conference held in Brasília in 1997 by a report prepared uniquely by the Ministry of Education”.
Over time however
“there has been a clear shift in the relation of the forum movement with central government. Created initially as a space of resistance and opposition in the face of sparse government investment and interest in adult and youth education, the forums have now come to occupy a position as a ‘privileged interlocutor”…
The need to avoid “biting the hand that feeds you”, whilst wishing to assert independence and the necessary distance, creates tension. The forums have, if anything, maintained a defensive stance reacting critically to government proposals whilst offering few alternative propositions. Ireland concludes that there is still distance to go; the learners themselves still remain virtually voiceless in the movement’, but on the positive side
“the space created by the forums appears to provide fertile terrain in which actors from different sectors and different traditions can present conflicting positions… there is little doubt that the forum movement, despite its limitations, constitutes one of the most important expressions of AYE in recent years, and has proved its capacity to mobilise and articulate during the preparations for CONFINTEA VI in December 2009.”
Source: Barbara Frommann
Finally, one group, in examining innovative financing adult education for development, analysed and commended the distinctive model developed over the years by DVV International itself. Not a funding agency as such, it was none the less a conduit for support from BMZ German Government funding to NGOs in many countries. It worked as a professional partnership organisation, managing seed funds for capacity development in the South, and modelling the benefits of professional North-South partnership and sustained long-term commitment.
The last plenary session of the Conference before the final review and summing session up heard several presentations from international and aid-oriented bodies, beginning with one by the Assistant Director General Education of UNESCO.
Drawing on a recent UNESCO study, Ana Luiza Machado spoke very practically about the prerequisites and benefits of effect partnerships in this arena, specifically multiple stakeholders approaches, arguing for a public lead in this area of public good. Partnership has many meanings. A sense of ownership is important, as is understanding and using the different contributions of different partners. This requires clear allocation of roles and responsibilities. Trust is essential for “win-wins”, with transparency and clarity as a basis for sustainability. Time spent in planning partnership work is therefore a wise investment.
Machado notes that there is no universal formula that will work for all settings; we must continue to learn from experience. We should expect enhanced benefit rather than reduced cost, such as the innovative capacity that comes with pooling different approaches and with the broader participation in decision-making involved. Private sector companies stand to gain in terms of their CSR (corporate social responsibility) reputations. We can expect longer term and spin-off benefit, as well as greater impact through multiple stakeholder partnership.
In the following discussion, the Executive Secretary of ADEA, Jean-Marie Ahlin Byll-Cataria, who also chaired the final Conference plenary session, asserted that partnership was essential for development, and cautioned against a dependency mindset that would make development depend on external aid. National governments must be in the driving seat, and adopt a holistic cross-Ministry approach with a shared vision and understanding of both development and adult education.
Other contributions addressed different aspect of finance and policy, often echoing themes already rehearsed in other sessions. Arne Larsen, drawing on NORAD experience, held it as an “uncontested given” that adult education is a basic tool for development; yet education is not a priority sector, and we see a new generation of non-literate school-levers growing up. Among today’s challenges are the following: making the benefits of adult literacy and education as self-evident as those of child education; providing high quality benchmarked adult education; adopting a holistic approach and strong advocacy; integration into sector plans and education policy dialogue; and connectedness with such major issues as those of the environment.
From the European Commission (EU) Jacque Malpel spoke of the need to campaign for overseas aid within Europe, as well as considering the most effective ways of delivering aid to sustain development, such as South-South capacity-building.
An implication of discussion in this session was the need to define better just what we are advocating, when we lobby for adult literacy and education, as well as being able to count and measure what is being done. In other interventions it was observed how hard and rare it still is for civil society organisations to break into donor-government “clubs”. Timmermann called for an end to empty exhortation, a better evidence base, and better assessment of what is achieved and what fails. He also asked whether education indeed is an accepted public good, or whether this is, rather, just a wish. If it is accepted, does this mean leaving things to the state? And if so, is this good or bad? Tandon called for an end to the contradiction of massive state bale-outs saving banks and companies in the North, while proscribing State intervention of the South. In short, stop exporting to the South approaches that have failed in the North.
The final afternoon of the Conference took the form of a Panel Plenary Session with platform comments from Adama Ouane, Jorge Teles, Evelyn Viertel, Ana Louisa Machado, Roberto Guevara and Alan Tuckett. It critiqued and further developed the Bonn Declaration on Financing Adult Education for Development, in looking ahead and seeking change through CONFINTEA VI at Belém.
The resulting Declaration, the focus of the afternoon, is included in this volume, above. The mood of the afternoon well reflected the ambivalent and almost schizophrenic condition of the whole Conference. Perhaps it also reflected the inevitable condition of the adult education community worldwide: properly pleased with progress on various measures, especially in battling illiteracy, and on improved ways of working, especially in bringing together the efforts of governments and civil society; but deeply disappointed at what has not been achieved in the 12 years since Hamburg, and at the absolute regression in many places and on several measures. The disappointment of Belém-deferred, and uncertainty as to whether the global crisis really could be used as an opportunity for significant change – or would it be “back to business as usual” – hovered mostly unspoken over proceedings. An example of this ambivalence was the way that the environmental issue slipped in and out of sight and focus during the Conference, compared with the more tangible illiteracy statistics.
The informing spirit of the final discussion was a wish to find another way, and to make a fresh start. This call was clearer than the answer as to how and what this would be. One is reminded of the earlier call to find new language and ways for “talking to the unconverted”, without abandoning core values and purposes.
There was also a sanguine expectation that things can now change, that the day of civil society and the NGOs had come, that governments can now be persuaded to see adult education as an essential condition for sustainable development, treating and financing it accordingly. This was balanced by an urge, most clearly articulated by Adama Ouane, to be realistic in what is asked and how this is expressed. Ouane was equally clear that the need – to combat illiteracy, to move universally beyond the literacy and basic skills agenda to lifelong learning for all, to raise investment and to work in partnership – was at least as strong as ever. We must find ways to break out from any sense of being at a dead end.
Other speakers echoed these sentiments, calling for more creativity and finding new sources of energy and resources instead of repeating old approaches. Using the media better for advocacy, making advocacy itself an adult learning process, and strengthening South-South networks and cooperation, were given as examples. Maybe the gathering should have brainstormed more on the shifting power balance in the world, and the likely implications of this over coming decades for development? Within governments, a need was again asserted for inter-departmental coordination (but not for more bureaucracy or empty advisory council-type talking shops). The need to turn rhetoric and policy into implemented and evaluated activities was paramount.
In concluding the proceedings and congratulating DVV International on its excellent work in fostering international dialogue of this kind, Alan Tuckett too reflected on the necessary combination which did and must motivate participants here, and adult educators generally: realism combined with passion and inspiration, and a sense of being powerful together. We need to imagine beyond what we now see and do, then convince others, and together carry forward what we visualise into tangible action.
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