Hutchinson, former Secretary of the National Institute of Adult Education
(England and Wales) and former President
and life-member of the European Bureau for Adult Education
convened three international conferences on adult education since the war-at
Elsenore, in 1949; at Montreal, in 1960 and at Tokyo, in 1972. At all of them
the need was asserted for national and regional co-operation between the public
and private agencies that actually provide adult education, country by country.
Formal co-operation through councils, associations, institutes and so on
has now been established in a fair
number of countries; but even nationally it is easier to admit the needs than
to do anything practical about them. Ethnic, social, political or religious
divisions painfully stultify good intentions.
When they are
emphasized by barriers of language, custom and unhappy memories of things past, it is easy to
understand how difficult any progress becomes. Inter-governmental bodies, from
the United Nations Organization and its satellites downwards, are enmeshed in
protocol. They show no particular enthusiasm for attempts to create less formal
links between non-governmental bodies and the individuals who support and serve
them, although their declared purposes are less likely to be fulfilled without
such reinforcement. Of course there are happy examples to the contrary, but as
a generalization it will stand.
background, the European Bureau of Adult education can look with some
satisfaction at a record of development and achievement now extending over
twenty years. Its experience may have
some relevance in areas where the difficulties are even more formidable.
Although it still
rests too much on the faith and works of a few people, particularly its
original Dutch sponsors headed by its secretary, mr G.H.L. Schouten, the
Bureau now counts over one hundred associates in a dozen countries.The Ditch
government has given disproportionate support with no strings attached, perhaps
because it sees more directly the quality of the Bureau's work. Mr L.B. van
Ommen's address to the twentieth
anniversary meeting in September last year(..., is typical of the
practical and candid attitude of the Dutch people to the whole business of
What, then, from
a narrow base in a small country, has the Bureau achieved? First and foremost,
by persisting in the promotion of conferences, seminars and study visits, it
has brought people together often enough to give a human and personal dimension
to the idea of co-operation. Freed from the exigencies of protocol, it has been
able to draw into some measure of dialogue those who do the daily work, rather
than those who legislate, enforce and administer general policies.
accepting that Euclid is still valid for our time and space and that parallel
lines meet only in infinity, it has tried to promote convergence between the
two levels of co-operation, governmental and non-governmental, particularly in relation to the Council of Europe and its
Council for Cultural Co-operation.
It produced under
contract with the council, a first comparative study of emerging policies for
recruitment, training and status of adult educators in six countries.
It has recently
prepared a preliminary study of legislative developments that will be the
working document for a specialist meeting to be convened by the Council this
international meetings within my memory have asked for multi-national
directories, glossaries and abstracts as essential aids to communication and
understanding. The Bureau is currently working on all three. A first draft
Directory covering eleven countries was circulated for scrutiny and comment in
1972 and is now being revised and enlarged. A two-year experiment in the
production of three-language abstracts of current writing is being evaluated.
The new task is to obtain the support needed for the continuance and expansion
of this hard-won experience on the lines indicated in the report of the
UNESCO-IBE documentation meeting reported in the last issue of this journal. A
comparative glossary of terms in English, French and German is also in
preparation with reasonable hope of publication within the next year.
The Bureau is
accommodated in the headquarters of the Dutch National Association for Adult
education on concessionary terms. It also has access to the excellent
Documentation Centre maintained by the Association in the same building. Served
by a full-time deputy-secretary- Mr Schouten's serviced are entirely honorary-
and part-time clerical help (which must be able to work in three languages),
the present scale of the Bureau's work would clearly be impossible if it did
not foster goodwill and effort from its associates: the same will undoubtedly
be true of the International Council. Two recent examples may be illustrative.
In November 1972,
a seminar in which the preliminary work was done for the projection legislation
mentioned earlier was arranged in Oslo by the initiative of the Norwegian
national body, Samnemnda for Studiearbeid, with financial support from the
Norwegian Ministry of Church and Education. In March 1973, two groups in the
United Kingdom, concerned with provision
for residential adult education, sponsored a conference on that theme with the
help of the National Institute of Adult Education. Financial assistance was
obtained from the Calouste Gulbankian Foundation. These are only the most
recent of a long succession of similar joint enterprises: others are in
prospect between 1974 and 1976 in Germany, Switzerland and Ireland.
Registered as a
foundation under Dutch law, the Bureau is directed by a steering committee
which is as representative of areas and types of adult education as possible.
The provisional constitution, under which it has worked for the last decade, is
under scrutiny in an attempt to strengthen the responsibility of its associates
for its future maintenance. In this as in other spheres people are, perhaps
understandably, more willing to pay for the milk by way of grants and other
assistance for particular projects than they are to keep the cow alive by
contributing adequately to the maintenance of the body itself.
"European"creates its own problems. It is associated with the
post-war history of division between East and West. The Bureau's present body
of associates are in the Western group of countries and come mainly from the
North and centre than from the South. This is simply a response to the facts,
and interest and involvement from the East would be more than welcome.
Individuals from most of the socialist countries have attended seminars and
other meetings over the years, but the institutionalizing of these contacts
remains difficult. If we have sense enough in the world to maintain the present
climate of détente, more may become possible.