Rethinking youth and adult education in Latin America and the Caribbean

With adult education becoming an increasing priority in an ever more complex world, UNESCO launches a series of regional consultations to consider strategies, programmes and practices to ensure that lifelong learning is available for all.

The first one of five dialogues took place in Brasilia on April 25, 2016, in the framework of the national CONFINTEA +6  (Portuguese acronym for International Conference on Adult Education), engaging experts, practitioners and decision-makers working in the field of adult education and lifelong learning in Latin America and the Caribbean in a fruitful discussion. The meeting was also attended by UNESCO colleagues from the National Office in Brazil, the Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean in Santiago, and the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning.

During the meeting, Carlos Vargas, Senior Project Officer, from UNESCO´s Division for Education 2030 Support and Coordination, remarked that “Rethinking youth and adult education in Latin America and the Caribbean means acknowledging and drawing from a rich tradition of popular education in the region, that help envision alternative pathways for education and wellbeing”.

The regional meeting started with the presentation of the education goals of the new Agenda from Sustainable Development and the flagship publication Rethinking Education: Towards a global common good?”, published in 2015, in which UNESCO identifies issues likely to affect the purpose of education and the organization of learning in a world of increasing complexity, uncertainty and contradiction. According to the report, in 2011, close to 775 million adults were still considered to have insufficient levels of literacy. This problem could be exacerbated over the coming decades as almost 30 million children are currently deprived of their right to a basic education due to conflicts and crises, creating generations of undereducated future adults who are too often ignored in development policies. Furthermore, the proportion of the elderly in the overall population is projected to double by 2050.

Lifelong learning for all

It is against the backdrop of this publication that UNESCO has partnered with the International Council for Adult Education (ICAE) to organise a series of regional civil society-led consultations around the challenges of adult and youth education. The idea of the consultations is to allow UNESCO to gather valuable insights as to the challenges of adult learning in the region and to bring together the practices that are making a difference in terms of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all.

The consultation series also takes its lead from the indicative strategies of the Education 2030 Framework for Action and in particular Sustainable Development Goal 4 – on which UNESCO is the lead agency – which aims to ensure “inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all’.  Targets 4.4 and 4.6, respectively, seek to substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills by 2030, and to ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy by the same term.

Further dialogues are due to take place in the Arab Region, Africa, Asia-Pacific and Europe throughout 2016.