Three challenges for a future: based on results of the international conference “Adult Education for Achieving the Goals of Sustainable Development”

Three challenges for a future: based on results of the international conference “Adult Education for Achieving the Goals of Sustainable Development”

On December 5-6, 2019, the international conference “Adult Education for Achieving the Goals of Sustainable Development (GSD)” was held in Minsk. About 130 foreign and Belarusian experts, representatives of government structures, and providers of non-formal education from commercial and non-profit sectors took part in it. The conference participants discussed experience of Belarus and other countries in achieving the GSD, as well as contribution of formal and non-formal adult education to this process.

2019 was a jubilee year for DVV International: 100 years of German Folk High Schools, 50 years of DVV International and 10 years of DVV International representative office in Belarus. Anniversaries were celebrated with many events in Germany and other European countries. The December meeting in Minsk was the continuation of professional discussions on the role of adult education in context of global challenges.

Belarus is one of the leaders at implementation of the GSD in the region. To achieve the GSD, Belarus adopted the National Strategy for Sustainable Socio-Economic Development of the Republic of Belarus for period until 2030. Under supervision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was formed the Council of Sustainable Development and created position of the National Coordinator. The Association "Education for Sustainable Development" is carrying out a lot of work to involve schools. However, lack of a holistic educational policy in the field of adult education, focused on the widespread availability of formal and non-formal education, impedes further popularization of the GSD among adult population of the country.

According to participants of the conference, leading positions of the Republic of Belarus in the field of sustainable development should be complemented by progress in adult education and lifelong learning. It was noted that priority tasks should include:

  • Improving educational policy, including through the implementation of the basic principle of sustainable development, "leave no one behind." Despite the high level of accessibility of education for children and youth, the country still has problems with ensuring wide participation of adults and introduction of tools to support socially disadvantaged groups. Today, a favorable situation has developed for solving this problem. The efforts undertaken within the country (development of Lifelong Learning Strategy and introduction of a national qualification framework, etc.) should end with introduction of the basic principles of “social utility” concept and development of mechanisms that promote equality of rights and social justice, respect for cultural and social diversity, creating responsibility for our common future. Active participation in international processes will also contribute to formulation of strategic objectives. In 2020, UNESCO member governments will be preparing country reports on achievement of the goals adopted at the UNESCO World Conference CONFINTEA VI on Adult Education (year 2009). CONFINTEA VII will be held already in 2021 and will become the platform where government delegations from around the world will discuss further steps to implement the Agenda of Sustainable Development 2030 through adult education.
  • Professionalization of adult education system. Achievements of the last decade - legislative consolidation of the term “additional adult education” and recognition of new pedagogical qualification of “andragog” are not yet sufficient to achieve a significant level of professionalization of the system. On the agenda are acute issues of stimulating specialized studies, changing approaches to collecting statistical data on adult education, introducing modern technologies and establishing a new type of educational institution for adults — local adult education centers that are able to respond to the challenges of current times and ensure availability of organized education in close proximity to a place of residence.
  • New thinking for city and district administrations. Ensuring the availability of local training will not only contribute to realization of the right for education for all and social justice, but will also become an additional incentive for the innovative development of the regions. The entry of Vitebsk into the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities has created interest to this movement from administrations of other cities in Belarus. Learning cities, regions, and organizations. However, for a complete localization of the GSD, we need full involvement of local authorities in development of access to adult education and widespread support of formal and non-formal adult education programs. Key tools to achieve this goal: expanding competencies of local authorities, inclusion into local budgets related expenses and development local strategies of lifelong learning.

To achieve sustainable development, political regulation, the creation of financial mechanisms and the introduction of new technologies are not enough. The most difficult and ambitious task remains to change thinking and behavior of citizens, to convey to them importance of obtaining new knowledge throughout life. This is one of the main messages of the conference. We hope that working together to develop adult education will help to lay a foundation for these changes.

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