On 28 April 2021, the UNESCO Cluster Office for the Caribbean and the UNESCO Regional Office for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (OREALC), in collaboration with the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL), hosted online the regional preparatory Consultation in the Caribbean Sub-region for the Seventh International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA VII).
This consultation aimed to build consensus among Caribbean countries on the key issues and priorities in the field of adult learning and education. It also contributes to promote regional dialogue and strengthen the decision-making process towards achieving the Education 2030 Agenda in the Caribbean.
More than 10 representatives from the Caribbean sub-region, including Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, came together to identify current key issues, discuss innovations, challenges and forward-looking strategies for renewing policies and interventions in adult learning and education (ALE) in their respective national contexts, and propose benchmarks and recommendations for CONFINTEA VII. The results will feed into the CONFINTEA VII Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean and eventually into CONFINTEA VII itself, which will be hosted by Morocco in 2022.
Adult Learning and Education is integral to learning and living, as it links education and the economy - leveraging the wide range of learning in schools, enterprises, or individual initiatives to develop fundamental knowledge, competencies, and professionalism in adults.
-- Saadia Sanchez-Vegas, Ph.D., Director, UNESCO Cluster Office for the Caribbean
Saadia Sanchez-Vegas, Ph.D., Director and Representative, UNESCO Cluster Office for the Caribbean, highlighted the integral role of adult education in learning and living, as it links education and employment, but also includes learning to live with others as productive global citizens. Claudia Uribe, Director of OREALC, pointed out in her speech that ALE is still an unfamiliar concept for the region and the lifelong learning paradigm has not yet been fully embraced. Therefore, UNESCO's goal is to learn from the experiences of countries, regional organizations and civil society to build regional consensus and set priorities in order to leave no one behind in education.
Werner Mauch, Senior Programme Specialist and Team Leader at the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, UIL, gave a brief introduction to CONFINTEA VII and presented the context of the sub-regional consultation. He pinpointed the importance of Adult learning to Education 2030 approaches such as Lifelong Learning, and he also stressed the importance for ALE in the COVID-19 response.
During the consultation, representatives from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), the Caribbean Association of Training Agencies (CANTA) and the International Council for Adult Education for the Caribbean (ICAE) shared perspectives from Caribbean organizations and civil society on the current state of ALE in their respective countries.
Sisera Simon, Head of Education Development Management Unit at OECS, identified the barriers to enhance digital learning, which consist mainly of lack of student connectivity and lack of financial, infrastructure, and human resources. Further concerns pertaining student dropout, mental health and wellbeing are increasing and need to be adequately addressed.
Following this, seven Caribbean countries, facilitated by Faryal Khan, Programme Specialist for Education at the UNESCO Cluster Office for the Caribbean, shared their perspectives on the development of ALE, focusing on previous achievements, current issues and challenges, as well as future planning to advance the Education 2030 Agenda. Challenges for ALE in the region during COVID-19 were also identified, which include access to internet for distance education especially for marginal groups, limited government funding for ALE, as well as lack of priority setting. In addition, in some countries the training opportunities for ALE facilitators are limited.
Despite challenges, Caribbean countries have made improvements in ALE participation and provision especially for women and people with special needs. Countries also presented one of their flagship ALE programmes as evidence of achievements since CONFINTEA VI.
There were also many commonalities among the participating countries in terms of perspectives for future development of ALE. Antigua and Barbuda and Saint Lucia, for example, emphasized the importance of inclusive education for vulnerable students and increasing educational opportunities specifically for persons with disabilities. Dominica prioritized ALE funding for marginalized groups such as migrants, adults with disabilities, adults disadvantaged due to lack of education and skills, residents of remote or rural areas as well as urban areas, and minority groups. Countries have also identified the need to increase teacher training, especially to reflect changes in the industry and new trends. Grenada highlighted the potential to increase the supply of qualified teachers, including through international cooperation in teacher training. Further, the need on improving the capacity of teachers to integrate ICT in the delivery of the curriculum and as a source of information on curriculum content has been identified. Belize and St. Lucia have noted the possibilities to support the opening of new ALE programmes and training facilities over the next 5 years and to refocus their efforts through collaboration with key stakeholders/partners to promote and support adult literacy initiatives, among others.
Pursuing ALE was a transformative force in my life. After the birth of my last child and as a woman, I decided that I needed to start my own business and build capacity, especially as a female entrepreneur, I wanted to go my own way.
-- Ellisha Fletcher, ALE student from Grenada.
Session 4, which was moderated by Latoya Swaby-Anderson, National Programme Officer for Education Team, UNESCO Cluster Office for the Caribbean invited adult educators and adult learners to share their experiences.
Esther Martin from Guyana shared her story, "I dropped out of high school at 17 but went back to school at 24 and became a primary school teacher. I have taught in both the private and public sectors in Guyana."
"After the birth of my last child and as a woman, I decided that I needed to start my own business and build capacity, especially as a female entrepreneur, I wanted to go my own way," said Ellisha Fletcher, ALE student from Grenada. "Pursuing ALE was a transformative force in my life,” added Ms Fletcher, “I saw the need to lift someone else's life as a mother - I chose the class to help my two young children get an education".
Grace Oliveras, ALE educator from Guyana, explained that during COVID-19, many of the ALE teachers benefited from the strategies of the Guyana Ministry of Education, which supported teacher training, switched to blended learning and developed individual strategies.
The last session invited the participations to join group discussions in virtual breakout rooms to discuss in-depth possibilities to enhance the provision of ALE through (governance, policy, funding, quality) and strategies to enhance inclusion in ALE programmes.
Brief introduction on global preparation of CONFINTEA VII
Werner Mauch, Team Leader MAL, UIL
Overview of the objectives of the Regional and Sub-regional Consultation for CONTINTEA VII in Latin America and the Caribbean region
Yayoi Segi-Vltchek, Senior Programme Specialist / Chief of Section Right to Education, UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education in Latin America, and the Caribbean