Thursday, December 06, 2012

UNESCO and Lifelong Learning

Click here to read.
A student in last night's session of the GWU UNESCO seminar spoke on lifelong learning. I am old enough that my time in primary and secondary school are actually a small portion of my life, even adding four years undergraduate work. Even in those years I learned a lot reading and just living. Had I stopped learning at that point I would not have had nearly as interesting a life.

According to the Education For All (EFA) Global Morning Report for 2012 Summary:

  • Some 60 million primary school age children are out of school, and 47 percent of those will never go to school.
  • In 123 low and lower middle income countries, one fifth of young adults have not completed primary school.
  • Some 775 million adults are illiterate (probably more if literacy were defined as able to read adequately to work in modern industries).
If people stop learning when they are out of school, the world is in real trouble. Of course, a lot of learning any child does occurs out of school. One supposes that the less schooling children receive, the more they learn through informal means; daughters from their mothers, future farmers from adult farmers, future market stall operators from current ones.

Still I suspect that the pace of cultural change is increasing. There continues to be rapid urbanization, and the lessons learned in the rural areas will be less applicable in the city. Economic growth means that productivity increases, and that further implies that people work differently -- at different jobs or with different equipment and materials in their changing jobs. They will face different foods, different health challenges and opportunities, and different roles as citizens, neighbors, and family members. Thus there should be more and more learning required in the future, and much of that learning would be required out of school.

UNESCO has been carrying out a number of roles with regard to EFA. It sponsored the meetings at which the benchmarks for EFA were defined. It pioneered in the kinds of educational planning that would be required to achieve the benchmarks in early childhood welfare and primary schooling. It helped member states to develop the statistics to measure progress, and has used its convening power to organize meetings of educational officials and experts to monitor progress, and it has produced the annual EFA Global Monitoring Reports.

UNESCO has been less active with respect to livelong learning. It does have an Institute for Lifelong Learning, but does not carry out nearly as vigorous a program there as it does on schooling and especially schooling at the primary level.

UNESCO might be very useful as a forum for discussion of lifelong learning, as a clearinghouse for ideas, and as a laboratory for expression of ideas on the topic. It seems likely to me that governments will wish to take a more active role in the near future in promoting lifelong learning for their citizens. It may well be that after 2015 UNESCO can help those governments as it began to help governments in 1990 to implement EFA. 

No comments: