Adult learning and education – A shared responsibility!

By Ehsanur Rahman, ASPBAE Executive Council Member representing South and Central Asia

Adults around the world are now global citizens. As citizens living in a global village, they contribute to development socially, economically, and politically, besides their roles to conserve the environment. The contributions vary in degrees, depending on how they are prepared to be an active member of the global society. SDG 4 on education, specifically through Target 4.6 on adult literacy and learning, is a tool where all governments have committed to adhering to and preparing citizens with literacy and learning proficiencies by 2030.

The progress on Target 4.6 (youth and adult literacy and numeracy) is expected to be measured by proficiencies in functional literacy and numeracy, and participation rates of those enrolled in literacy programmes – not just by recording changes in literacy rates, as done presently in most states.

Regarding proficiency levels, it is best to term them as ‘literacies’, rather than ‘literacy’. To be an active citizen, people now want to go much beyond functional literacy levels, which are mere foundational skills to equip one to learn further. The required proficiency of youth and adults thus entails technological literacy, financial literacy, social literacy, health literacy, emotional literacy, environmental literacy, etc. All these together prepare a person to play pro-active roles in a social, economic, and political world. For sustainability of these roles, ecological dimensions become cross-cutting across all proficiencies because, while we have borrowed the natural environment from the next generation, we are obliged to conserve it to return it to them keeping it unaffected, if not improved.

Having these multidimensional demands for learning by youth and adults, the learning process needs to be diverse, bringing it outside ‘formal’ structured formats of education. Given the practical engagements of youth and adults in various social and economic spheres of life and to prepare them to cope with changing technological and social conditions, there is a need for diversity in the methods of learning so that they can learn at their own pace.

The duty bearers around citizens, from both public and private sectors, are quite diverse and shoulder the responsibility of preparing youth and adults to be active contributors in relevant disciplines. There are dedicated government ministries and departments of education – social, economic, and environmental affairs, for example – as well as the private sector that are doing business in these fields. There are also NGOs, professional associations, media groups, and foundations dedicated to providing services at the community level or extending technical support at the macro level.

We now look forward to a shared responsibility for adult learning and education by all sectors. This is an urgent agenda in preparing people for the next decade and the targeted 2030 timeline. The international community, along with governments, have already committed to sharing the responsibility so that ‘no one is left behind’.

Here is an illustration of how the role-sharing mechanisms should look like –

Public sector roles: Policy support, regulatory framework development, financing, compliance assurance, targeted educational services.
Non-government sector (including private sector) roles: Technical services in policy and strategy development, ‘education watch’ services, research and innovation, targeted educational services.

International development partners’ roles: Resource support, technical support for systems upgrading, global knowledge management.

Let education become a shared responsibility to empower adult and youth learners assume active roles to face and resolve global, national, and local challenges, and to become proactive contributors to a more peaceful, tolerant, inclusive, and secure world.

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