International Adult Learners Week 2005
Education for All in an Era of Increasing Mobility:
The Implications for Adult Learning
Oslo, Norway, 24 - 26 October
Opening speech 24 October 05
By Mr Sturla Bjerkaker,
Norwegian Association for Adult Learning, Norway
Dear Minister of Education, Mr Øystein Djupedal
Dear Director of UNESCO Institute for Education, Mr Adama Ouane,
Dear Adult Educators from all over the world,
I wish you very pleasant days in Oslo. I wish you new friendship, new contacts, creativity and new knowledge - as humanity is about touching other people´s minds.
On behalf of the Norwegian Association for Adult Learning, I wish you all very welcome to Norway and to this for us - and hopefully for you - important event - the International Adult Learners Week Festival 2005.
What is lifelong learning really about?
Lifelong Learning is about development. Development is about welfare. Welfare is about quality of life. Quality of life is about functionality in the society you live in. And functionality is about the ability to cope with life, to read and write and to cope with questions like health and consumerism; to be able to learn and live with other cultures, and it is about equal access to learning and learning on your own conditions.
Maybe this is what we should be talking about…?
I think we will
during these days!
- - -
Some times you do not believe what is happening in your life. This last year, I have had at least two occasions, when that has been the case; I could not believe it!
The first time the place was South Africa, just one year ago. I had the very great pleasure to be invited to the International Adult Learners Week Conference and Ceremony taking place at the great new conference centre in the middle of the beautiful city of Cape Town. In the evening, we were all settled, quite, calm and polite, in the conference hall for dinner and award ceremonies and speeches. There were a lot of good speeches and awards, but this is not what I remember the best. Because already before the third dinner course was served, we - together with almost all the others in the audience - suddenly found ourselves dancing and singing in between the dinner tables, and in front of the stage where a jazz rhythm and blues orchestra was playing and drumming. I could not believe it. But it happened. And it was great.
The second time the place is Oslo and we are here and now, hosting this years International Adult Learners Week. One year ago, I could not believe that we could. But we did, we do, not least thanks to Ms Else Husa, assistant director at the Ministry of Education, who joined us in Cape Town last year and was so impressed by what she saw, that she said she would go for having the event in Norway next time. She did, by dialogue with the Ministry of Education, she managed to do it, of course together with all the good helpers from the Ministry, the UNESCO Institute, the UNESCO commission of Norway, The National Institute of Adult Learning, VOX - and
the national NGO in the field of adult education, my own Norwegian Association for Adult Learning - NAAL
NAAL is the umbrella for quite many adult education associations, which, according to an OECD survey from 2002, yearly organise almost 70 per cent of the adult students in this country. My association is also hosting the National Adult learners Week, taking place parallel to the International Week. Its slogan is "learning for change". Tomorrow night we will have a common award ceremony in this room. It remains to see if we will be dancing high and low. It is really not the Nordic style to do so, it is too cold up here, but may be we should…
But it is a Nordic style to do adult education. We have a 150 year long tradition for democratic learning, or popular enlightenment, a term which is adopted from the founder of the residential folk high school movement, the Danish priest who gave his name to a European Union Adult Education Programme; mister Grundtvig.
Based on a high level of equality and solidarity, the adult education movements in the Nordic countries developed through the 19th and 20th century. The founder of the study circle, the Swede Oscar Olsson, expressed that the emancipation of the working class had to be an issue for the working class itself, and that education - for the people, by the people - was their tool to do so. The study circle have since then been one of the trade marks for Nordic adult learning, as it is the self managed group of equals learning from each others experience. Over the years, thousands and thousands of study circles have been organised, not only by the labour movement in order to emancipate the working class, but also for more individual empowerment, for competence development, gaining new skills or some times just for the joy of learning.
The Nordic countries have done some export of adult education, study circle methods and so on. Reasonable, may be, as we have come further in democratic development than many places in the world. We will not stop this work, we will go on cooperating with our partners in developing countries, and we will work through global solidarity networks as the International Council for Adult Education, co-funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For the second time we this year hosted a seminar named IALLA - the International Academy of Lifelong Learning Advocacy, at Buskerud Folk High School, organised by the International Council. Through the ICAE we have received a solidarity greeting to this conference from the Association for Adult Learners in Uganda. We will go on, looking upon lifelong learning as a crucial tool for development cooperation, but we may in the future organise our international work on a more and more equal footing.
The Adult Learning Documentation and Information Network which is coordinated by UNESCO Hamburg will also use this event to meet, as the Aladdin taskforce members are all present to inform each other of their progress in building a global network for documentation on adult learning. This is an opportunity to thank the Norwegian Ministry of Education for supporting the role the Norwegian Association for Adult Learning have been entrusted with in this work.
Other parts of the world have of course given great contribution to lifelong learning. The Brazilian Paolo Freire is well known for his work and book "Pedagogy of the oppressed". In this book, he gives a tribute to democratic learning through the living word. Let me quote him:
"… As we attempt to analyse dialogue as a human phenomenon, we discover something, which is the essence of dialogue itself: the word. But the word is more than just an instrument that makes dialogue possible; accordingly, we must seek its constructive elements. Within the word we find two dimensions, reflection and action, in such radical interaction that if one is scarified - even in part - the other immediately suffers. There is no true word that is not at the same time praxis. Thus, to speak a true word is to transform the world. …."
The world has become "smaller", in the sense that we can reach each other quicker and in the sense that we move beyond borders. Mobility is on the agenda, and new challenges arise. Learning against prejustice and learning for solidarity between races, sexes and cultures is also a very important issue in the follow up of the Education for All Goals.
At the end, allow me to return to South Africa, a developing country, yes, well…. But one of my obvious experiences, one of the things I really learned there, at the conference, at the work shops, at the study visits and not least by talking with people, was that we in the North have a lot to learn from the South, especially when it comes to human interrelations and communication, human dignity, politeness and how to look at learning as a tool to transform the world - even if the conditions to do so is rather poor.
And I learned how to bring joy into learning.
I wish you learning days in Oslo. Listen to the speeches. Take active part in the workshops. Ask people at the study visits. Talk with people. And have fun!
Once more be very warmly welcome - and thank you for your kind attention.