2022 saw the entering into force of the New European Agenda for Adult Learning, the adoption of the Marrakech Framework for Action and the Dublin Declaration on Global Education 2050, and, not least, the beginning of the Transforming Education process of the United Nations. All these strategies and initiatives show a strong signature of civil society in adult learning and education (ALE).
For the first time, a European declaration for Global Education explicitly refers to non-formal adult education and community learning, recognising the need to include all learners in global education and learning: “Global Education in Europe to 2050 will be forged in the context of […] growing recognition of the need to ensure that all education – formal, non-formal, informal, lifelong and life-wide, from early childhood education and care to adult education – should include learning for social justice, at local and global levels, as well as human rights, gender equality, diversity, sustainability, and peace.” (Dublin Declaration for Global Education 2050, p.3)
At the national level, the signatory governments commit to “Support efforts to strengthen the work in this field of, inter alia, youth organisations, civil society organisations, adult education and community organisations, people’s movements, local and regional governments, diaspora communities, peers and colleagues from other regions, and researchers, recognising their expertise in the field of Global Education.” (Dublin Declaration, p.4)
Commitments to increased funding, participation and skills for life
In the Marrakech Framework for Action, UNESCO Member States made a clear commitment to increasing financial resources for ALE: “We commit to increasing public funding and resource mobilization for ALE and to preventing regression in existing budget allocations. […] We are determined to increase public spending on adult education in accordance with country contexts aimed at progressively meeting the international benchmarks of an allocation of at least 4‐6% of GDP and/or at least 15‐20% of total public expenditure to education.” (Marrakech Framework for Action, article 29)
To increase participation in ALE, the Marrakech Framework for Action recommends the development of national benchmarks for participation: “We commit to significantly increasing participation in both non‐formal and formal ALE programmes, and encourage countries to set ambitious benchmarks for the participation of diverse groups of learners. To include vulnerable populations and adults currently unreached, we commit to promoting outreach and guidance systems to raise awareness of learning opportunities, expand participation and enhance learner motivation.” (Marrakech Framework for Action, article 32)
Recognizing the urgency and centrality of climate action for sustainability, we commit to promote education for sustainable development and to advance awareness on the causes and effects of climate change, so that all youth and adults can better understand urgent sustainable development issues and act as empowered citizens […]. (Marrakech Framework for Action, article 36)
Another great achievement is the recognition of the key role of ALE in sustainable development: “Recognizing the urgency and centrality of climate action for sustainability, we commit to promote education for sustainable development and to advance awareness on the causes and effects of climate change, so that all youth and adults can better understand urgent sustainable development issues and act as empowered citizens, by adapting their consumption patterns and lifestyles, and engaging actively in democratic debates and initiatives to protect and preserve the environment.” (Marrakech Framework for Action, article 36)
Similarly, the New European Agenda for Adult Learning calls for increased participation in ALE for social inclusion and sustainability. The agenda underlines the promotion of non-labour market skills and engaging people who are not (any longer) participating in the labour market. “Adult learning needs to go beyond the development of work-related skills. It is also important to foster greater awareness among the general population about the importance and benefits of participation in lifelong learning.” (New European Agenda for Adult Learning, article 20)
Transforming education means empowering learners with knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to be resilient, adaptable and prepared for the uncertain future while contributing to human and planetary well-being and sustainable development. (UN Transforming Education Action Track 2: Learning and skills for life, work and sustainable development)
Life skills – bringing together a wide array of skills needed in daily life, including global citizenship and environmental skills – play a particularly important role in the UN’s Transforming Education process: “Transforming education means empowering learners with knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to be resilient, adaptable and prepared for the uncertain future while contributing to human and planetary well-being and sustainable development.” (UN Transforming Education Action Track 2: Learning and skills for life, work and sustainable development)
This is not the end of the work, but only the beginning
The international and European ALE community can be justifiably proud of these achievements of the past year. EAEA, together with partners from the international, European, national, regional and local levels, was strongly involved in all these processes, bringing the voice of adult learners across Europe into the discussions and negotiations.
At the same time, we have to remember that the adoption of a resolution or a declaration is not the end of the work, but only the beginning: the implementation of these processes will also determine our advocacy work in the coming years. Civil society in ALE plays a central role in monitoring the implementation process and in addressing the necessary changes in policy direction to achieve the goals of the New European Agenda for Adult Learning, the Marrakech Framework for Action, the UN’s Transforming Education process, and the Dublin Declaration for Global Education 2050.