Archive for April, 2009

Campaigning for Youth and Adult Learning

Monday, April 27th, 2009

April 22 was the day of “The Big Read,” the global action coordinated by GCE, the Global Campaign for Education. E-Net Philippines organized the national event in Quezon City, while other E-Net members and partners took care of activities in other areas. Thea Soriano, E-Net national coordinator, sent the following report:

Maraming salamat sa lahat ng inyong suporta sa Global Action Week 2009!  

Compared to last year, we were able to mobilize more advocates this year. More than 6,000 participated (last year we were 4,500) in several activities that campaigned for Youth and Adult Literacy and Lifelong Learning. 

Many thanks to the following:

1. TEACHERS Inc and Teachers’ Dignity Coalition for spearheading the Big Read in Schools – Roxas High School, Sta Quiteria Elementary School, Baesa National High School, Digos City National High School, Tatalon Elementary School, Little Angels of St. Therese School (Dr. San Juan)

2. KUMPAS, Unang Hakbang, Home Along the Riles and World Vision Inc. for the community workshops held in Pasig City, Mandaluyong and Quezon City in the run up to the Big Read culminating activity.

3. Department of Education, in particular the EFA Secretariat, Literacy Coordinating Council, and the Bureau of Alternative Learning System, for co-organizing the Forum on Youth and Adult Literacy and Lifelong Learning on April 21 at the Bulwagan ng Karunungan.

4. Partners In Education for Community Empowerment (PIECE) for arguing for the case of youth and adults in armed conflict area in a simlutaneous Big Read in Tulunan, North Cotabato where LGUs, OSY, PTCAs, teachers (TDC) and other stakeholders gathered in a colorful and meaningful program.

5. People’s Initiative for Learning and Community Development (PILCD), SPPI of Samar, University of Cebu (CESDEV), Coalition for Better Education and ABK 2 with CCF and ESKAN for holding simultaneous Big Read on the 22nd in Baguio City, Samar, Cebu City and Toboso, Negros Occidental respectively.

6. Thank you to all legislators who took the time to lend their support to the campaign — Rep. Risa Hontiveros, Com. Sec Gigi Ricafort (representing Rep. Del De Guzman), Atty. Butch Abad (representing Senator Mar Roxas).

We are still tallying reports from members and partners, so the number may still increase. We are currently sending the scanned attendance sheets and pictures to GCE.

Maraming salamat rin sa volunteers mula sa E-Net Youth campaigners for EFA (PINASAMA Youth, PIGLAS Youth, Metro West Network, Unang Hakbang, KUMPAS Youth, KASECA Youth), KPACIO at sa Kabataan Kontra Kahirapan (KKK) and ASPBAE.
Tuluy-tuloy ang kampanya para sa edukasyon ng kabataan at adults. Asahan namin ang inyong muling suporta sa gagawing school opening activity (Bakit wala kami sa iskul?) at sa Alternative Budget for Education.

I was asked to speak at the forum organized by E-Net with Dep-Ed. The question they wanted me to answer was “What does civil society expect from Confintea VI?” I gave a brief background of Confintea, and scanned what happened after Confintea V in Hamburg, 1997.

Realistically, adult education advocates have modest expectations about a global conference like Confintea. Most of our work has to be done nationally and locally. Hopefully, in the context of so many causes competing for scarce global attention and resources, Confintea will call increased attention to adult learning and education. Hopefully, we can re-energize one another through such global encounters, and develop a momentum for our work at home.

We can definitely learn from the campaign launched around EFA II in Dakar. Compared to EFA I in Jomtien, there is a more active and effective civil society campaign, represented by GCE. Even if the struggle continues to be uphill, the civil society campaign around EFA 2015 has made progress partly because it has definite goals for its advocacy work toward individual governments and intergovernmental bodies. 

Applying lessons learned from EFA I, GCE pushed successfully for EFA II to have new money available for EFA, in the form of the Fast Track Initiative or FTI. It also succeeded in having a distinct follow-up mechanism set up – the High Level Group, though this has not been consistently high level. The annual EFA report is another useful tool for continuing advocacy.

It would be nice if Confintea VI results in something similar. But I don’t think we can set up another global coalition like GCE to pursue the campaign for adult learning and education. What we could do is to strengthen the section of GCE that focuses on Goal 3 and Goal 4 of EFA, which are about reducing adult literacy by half, and providing appropriate learning opportunities for youth and adults. These are relatively neglected goals, and need extra effort and emphasis.

The proposal to have an adult learners’ charter and a global network of adult learners can mobilize additional energies for our campaign. I have asked E-Net and other education advocacy groups in the Philippines to devote special effort to organizing parents both for their own learning needs, and to help their children.

The day after the conference at DepEd, I traveled with the ELF staff to the gathering of electric cooperatives and the National Electrification Administration, NEA. That introduced them to another arena for adult learning and education – on renewable energy, climate change, and consumer advocacy. We hope to mobilize these new energies for the campaign for adult learning and education in the Philippines.

Learners’ Voice

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Edinburgh was the venue of a recent conference I attended in preparation for Confintea VI, the international conference on adult education convened by UNESCO every 12 years.

What was unique about his conference was its emphasis on the adult learners themselves. Majority of the participants were not learning providers, policy makers or researchers, but representatives of adult learners’ associations.

It’s been a long time coming.

Even at the last Confintea V in 1997, there was already talk of giving space and hearing to the voice of learners. But other than some personal testimonies, learners’ voices were less heard compared to those of policy makers, researchers, and learning providers.

One decision in Confintea V which opened greater space for learners was the adoption of the UK proposal to adopt their practice of an annual Adult Learners Week, which includes giving recognition to outstanding learners and learning groups.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that at least in the UK, one further step has been taken by setting up “Learners’ Forums” as a mechanism for interface between government and adult learners.

There is little overt opposition to the idea that learners should have a voice in making policies and designing programs on adult education. It is akin to the key principle of “quality assurance” as customer satisfaction. What better way to insure satisfaction than getting the learners to participate at all stages, from planning to evaluation?

But one of the earliest lessons I learned about politics, is that it must combine the “power of principle” with the “principle of power.” Unless learners organize themselves and engage in persistent advocacy, whatever commitments are made in Confintea will remain at the level of rhetoric.

At the Edinburgh conference, I suggested that we should help develop learner-leaders who can carry the advocacy positions of adult learners.

I had in mind one of the early vision statements of the Education for Life Foundation “Toward a community of leaders and learners.”

We need a partnership of a network of learning providers (and allies among policy makers and researchers) with a network of associations of adult learners.

At Confintea VI, we hope that whatever we have managed to build in various local communities and countries can be brought together to form a global network that will insure that learners’ voices are given the hearing they deserve.

Ed dela Torre/April 8, 2009

Confintea VI and Beyond

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

ELF was present at Confintea V (Hamburg Germany, 1997), which declared that adult learning is 1) a right, 2) a tool, 3) a joy, and 4) a shared responsibility.

I don’t think that Confintea VI (Belem Brazil, 2009) needs to add further to this list of roles and reasons for adult learning. The spirit that should prevail is captured by the slogan “From rhetoric to action.”

Perhaps it may need to re-emphasize the continuity “from literacy to lifelong learning.” Up to now, many governments limit their interpretation of adult learning to basic literacy, and this is understandable since over 770 million adults are classified as illiterate. Hence one of the 6 goals of Education for All (EFA 2015) is to cut in half the number of illiterate adults by 2015.

In the Philippines, we still await the results of the 2008 FLEMMS survey. This should update the figures on basic literacy and functional literacy. I do not think the figures for basic literacy will change much. In the 2003 FLEMMS survey, 93.4 percent of Filipinos and Filipinas 10 years old and above were basically literate.

However, the figures for functional literacy could be much lower than the 84.1 percent in 2003. Part of the reason is that the Literacy Coordinating Council has adopted a more demanding definition of functional literacy:

“Functional Literacy is a range of skills and competencies – cognitive, affective and behavioral – which enables individuals to live and work as human persons, develop their potential, make critical and informed decisions, and function effectively in society within the context of their environment and that of the wider community (local, regional, national, global) in order to improve the quality of their life and that of society.”

Compare this new definition of functional literacy to that used in 2003:

Persons who can only read and write are considered basically literate (Level 1). Persons who can read, write and compute (Level 2) and persons who can read, write, compute and comprehend (Level 3) are considered as functionally literate.

Hence, a functionally literate person is one who can read, write and compute or one who can read, write, compute and comprehend. Persons who graduated from high school or completed a higher level of education were automatically considered functionally literate in the tabulations.

I was part of a technical working group that drew up questions for the 2008 FLEMMS that would reflect this new definition. Our apprehension is that given the new, more demanding standards, there is great likelihood that a much lower percentage of Filipinos and Filipinas will qualify as functionally literate.

And yet this more demanding definition is more aligned with the spirit of Confintea. While we look to basic literacy as the entry point to lifelong learning, we emphasize the open-ended horizons of adult learning.

Ed dela Torre/April 7, 2009