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close this bookAdult Learning and the Changing World of Work - Report of Theme V - Fifth International Conference on Adult Education (UNEVOC, 1998, 136 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentFOREWORD
Open this folder and view contentsIV. PARTICIPANTS’ PRESENTATIONS TO THEME FIVE
View the documentAppendix A: Programme
View the documentAppendix B: UNESCO Institute for Education
View the documentAppendix C: About UNEVOC
View the documentAppendix D: The Advisory Committee and Contributors


R. Barry Hobart


Theme Five: Adult Learning and the Changing World of Work focussed on the most significant principles and practices that relate adult education to the world of work. In so doing, the specific realities of the world of work itself, the importance of the endeavours of education at all levels, the responsibilities of the political arena with respect to adult education, and specifically the broad social responsibility of adult education. The discussion and debate can be attached to twelve questions within the above four areas of principles and practices.

World of work

1. What are the changes in the world of work that must be addressed by adult education to ensure the genuine implementation of life-long learning, life-long career development and life-long employment?

We cannot deal adequately with the multitude of issues identified unless we come to grips with an acceptable meaning of the word “work”, and the phrases “world of work” and “market economy”. What human activities do these terms delineate? The various statements that addressed these issues revealed that, in essence, the participants were significantly divided among themselves in terms of their philosophy and value systems concerning genuine economic activity and concerning the human endeavours that should be classified in this arena. It was suggested that we need to “unpack” the concept of “work” and take a much broader view of what that term embraces.

To ensure that the above question is addressed adequately it was asserted that we must increase the role of the social partners in training and link training to the labour market. In conjunction with this, it was recognised that learning takes place through active participation of the learner, and by genuine and relevant experiences. Thus, the availability and responsibility of enterprises to provide genuine and relevant experiences to the learner are vital. In this regard also, trade unions must assume a very significant role in ensuring that this occurs.

With some measure of scepticism it was asserted that there is little real interest in adult education.

2. How can adult education co-operate with the world of employment and economic production to ensure the relevance, and employ ability, of human resources?

In addressing this question it was clearly recognised that unemployment is the most serious consequence of the changing world of work. The changes in the world of work include the globalization of the economy, the increasing significance of the informal economy and small business, but also the neglect to address the needs of this sector. Efforts must be made to construct bridges between formal and non-formal education in an effort to ameliorate this neglect. This neglect often resulted from the fact that the informal sector does not have the political muscle to compete with large scale enterprise and multinational organisations. Other important changes include: the mobility of workers through migration, through displacement resulting from political and social upheaval creating large numbers of refugees; The changing philosophy and concerns of people with respect to the role of females within the workforce, of the disadvantaged, the handicapped; The speed of technological development, urbanisation, excessive population growth and even the rapid spread of corruption within the political and economic arenas; Also the particular situations of economies in transition. Each of these were associated with change.

The concept of change and its challenge to every area of life, pervaded the discussion and debate among the participants. Some voiced the need to address more positively the reality of change, and, in this respect, adult education ought to cultivate the attitudes and competencies needed to react positively to change and to benefit from it. Others questioned the value of some areas of change that seem to be accepted without question. It was generally agreed that education for the world of work has a vital role to play in assisting the progress of humanity in the face of these changes, and to adjust to the inevitability of them. Thus, considerable emphasis was placed on the need for quality assurance, for the developing of standards, for counselling and guidance, for relevance, for flexibility and for instructors and apprentices to be linked to specific projects to acquire valid work experience and, thus, increase the likelihood of relevance in their teaching and learning. With respect to guidance and counselling, it was suggested that vocational guidance needs to be a life-long process in the face of the considerable job change that persons can expect today. Further, in the light of the considerable dislocation that people experience through unemployment, underemployment, job change, and the need for developing different competencies to be employable, it was suggested that counselling be broadened to assist people to face the stresses and traumas that these realities produce.

3. How can adult education support the development of democracy in the workplace through the collectivisation of employees, the appropriate role of unions, and the development of participatory management?

In addressing this question it was recorded that trade unions are concerned with the root cause of poverty. They are concerned with unemployment as well as employment. They are concerned with the genuine development of democracy. It was questioned whether, in many parts of the world, trade unions and workers are genuinely involved in the restructuring of institutions in order to assist them to become more democratic. In this context also, the issue of gender democratisation was addressed. In many locations of the work force, women are underprivileged and do not enjoy the freedoms and democracy available to men.

4. How can adult education encourage the assumption of responsibility by the various entities within the world of work for the protection of the environment?

This question led to an assertion that core competencies that include literacy, team-building, understanding of work processes, essential attitudes for effective performance in the world of work, for cooperation with co-workers and colleagues, for an appreciation of the environment and support for strategies of government and enterprise that are designed to protect the environment, all these and more are essential elements in this area of education.


5. How should adult education articulate with general education, technical and vocational education, higher education, and with training within the workplace in order to support the maintenance of people as effective and efficient employees within the world of work?

This question immediately led to concomitant questions: what sort of training is needed? what teaching/learning strategies are needed? how can people be prepared to maintain modern equipment, and the fast development and change in that equipment? how can we ensure genuine life-long learning for the world of work? how important are general education and core competencies?

Again, it was generally agreed that education and training must be more efficient, more accessible, more student-centred, more flexible, more relevant, recurrent, possibly modular and competency-based, available through distance education, with more effective teachers and trainers, and include significant on-the-job training. It was recognised that the supervisors of this on-the-job learning and experience be given appropriate pedagogical training in order for them to assume effectively this additional responsibility for training of their other employment responsibilities. There is an essential need for all providers of education and training for the world of work, including higher education, to articulate with each other in such a way as to provide genuine lifelong learning, and, as far as is possible, a seamless career path. This includes also a more genuine attempt to recognise international qualifications and experience and, as far as is possible, accept them as genuine qualifications for relevant employment.

The searching question was asked as to what elements in society are hindering training? It was felt by some that enterprise was frequently not enthusiastic, to say the least, and that sometimes formal education did not give the support to learning within the employing enterprise that is necessary. Many NGOs are not assuming their important role in education for the world of work. Unnecessary barriers exist to the opportunity for further education and career development. Prior learning and experience is not recognised in such a way as to encourage a seamless career path. Discriminatory factors such as sex, race, creed, class, or spurious and unreliable measures of academic ability and potential: all these contribute to the hindering of life-long learning and training, and of consequential human development.

6. How should adult education support the initiatives of non-formal education, small business enterprise and the self-employed with respect to the employment of people and to the effective and efficient performance of employees within the productive process?

It was agreed that the education and training system needs to be simplified and made more efficient. Further, for this question to be answered, it was felt that people must develop self-learning skills and assume responsibility for their own learning.

It was suggested that, while governments must assume a major responsibility in the area of the provision for education and training, nevertheless there is a valuable place for private providers. Some however, queried whether profit from private education was legitimate. The special needs of the rural sector were also acknowledged.

7. What teaching/learning strategies need to be supported, or developed and implemented, by adult education to increase its contribution to the efficiency of the world of work and to the fair and just distribution of the wealth generated by the world of work?

A complaint was voiced that training is often narrow and mechanistic. Emphasis was placed on the need for generic knowledge, skills and attitudes to be developed, for learning-to-learn competencies to result from general education, for a culture of learning to be established, for all players within the field, including private enterprise, to assume their appropriate responsibilities, and for early learning to be sufficiently challenging and enjoyable, with an appropriate degree of learner-autonomy, to motivate people to undertake life-long learning and to extend their personal knowledge and experiences.

Considerable discussion was given over to the need for teaching/learning strategies to be much more flexible and varied in terms of the needs of the learner. Also for curricula to be more relevant, more flexible, and developed and approved in the shortest possible time. Distance education was advocated, competency-based education, modular learning systems, computer assisted learning, on-the-job learning and supervised work experience, recurrent educational systems: all were seen to have potential value. It was agreed that specific target groups must be addressed and that existing competencies developed from prior learning and experience, must be acknowledged and harnessed in the learning process to avoid unnecessary repetition of learning.

Teaching/learning strategies that address the pressing issues of different cultural traditions, of genuine female participation in the world of work, of language, of literacy, of concern and responsibility for the environment, of responsible behaviour, of democratic rights were advocated.

Teacher/trainer was continually addressed. It was acknowledged that this preparation was generally either very inadequate or non-existent, around the world. The following were seen to have vital significance to this subject: the problems of (a) selecting suitable people for technical and vocational teaching, (b) developing in them high standard pedagogical competencies, (c) maintaining these competencies at a high level of proficiency, (d) ensuring that their technical knowledge and skills are kept up to date, (e) holding them within the teaching profession in the face of poor salaries and status, and (f) providing genuine pedagogical competencies in those who are employed in industry but who must also assume some training and supervising of learning responsibilities in addition to their general employment responsibilities.


8. What are the policies and legislation that need to be developed and implemented by governments to support the universal availability and effectiveness of adult and continuing technical and vocational education?

It could be expected that the area of politics produced some interesting differences of opinion. Much of this stemmed from the vast range of developments in the world political systems in terms of democracy and human rights. This reality was particularly recognised with respect to the transition countries. However, it was generally agreed that governments have a central role to play in ensuring the provision of education for the world of work, in providing adequate finance for it, in ensuring that other identities within a nation also assume responsibility for such financing, in addressing the issues of standards, access, life-long learning, and, some suggested, for innovation. But it was affirmed that each system must fit into the national and into the particular local context in which it operates. It was asserted that governments have a responsibility to ensure that the labour force can adapt to changing skill demands.

It was thought that appropriate planning and policy-making in this area of human endeavour was very frequently inadequate, and what planning did exist, was often not implemented consistently. However, it was felt that many governments do not have a real interest in adult education. It is therefore the responsibility of relevant parties in this area of education to create a climate of demand for it. It was also asserted that governments in developed countries have an international role to play in establishing the centrality of effective education for the world of work and its availability around the world.

9. How can adult education for the world of work be co-ordinated effectively among the various ministries within a government that have some responsibility for training and employment (such as ministries of education, vocational education, higher education, employment, rural industries, tourism, etc.) and with NGOs and other organisations that have political clout?

It was recognised that the responsibility for training tends to be fragmented among government ministries. This causes unnecessary duplication, unhealthy rivalry, gaps in the provision of training, and significant variation in standards and access. It was strongly advocated that education for the world of work must be co-ordinated in such a way as to remove the above weaknesses. This co-ordination would also include universities, NGOs and private providers. It was recognised that training is often confined to enterprises, and is not adequate, especially among small business enterprise. However, work includes peasants who do their own fishing, and other similar examples. Thus, the provision of training must be more effectively co-ordinated and far more co-operation among providers needs to be established.

An indication of the critical situation facing training was given by the disclosure that seventy percent of the workforce for the next twenty years are already adults - thus only thirty percent will be able to get new training. Even if enterprise provided for training adequately, there would still be a problem in terms of workers up-dating their skills and keeping abreast with changes in the global market.

10. What financial support needs to be given by governments, and other entities, to formal and non-formal adult and continuing education for the world of work?

There was some degree of sympathy expressed for the plight of governments with respect to finance. Unemployment is a very costly burden. Many countries are finding it difficult to compete on the global market and obtain sufficient finance from exports. However, it was also recognised that available finance can also be seriously affected by corruption, and lack of the political will to endorse the primary need for effective education and training for the world of work. Thus, it was agreed that it is a primary responsibility of governments to prioritise this area of human endeavour as a very significant requirement for funding. It was stressed that this funding must also give full support to the many different rural efforts. Some concern was expressed that fees charged in developing nations for training excluded many potential learners and exacerbated inequalities. This could be contradicting the responsibility of governments to ensure access and equal opportunity to all citizens for adult and continuing technical and vocational education and training.


11 How can adult education contribute to the removing of the disparities of economic return from employment - among countries and within countries - stemming from such factors as sex discrimination, exploitation of the disadvantaged, the internationalising of work, the restructuring of economies, migration, etc.?

The discussion and debate addressed this important issue again and again. It was affirmed that every worker has the same rights and that all persons should have equal opportunities to advance their personal growth. Yet, it was also recognised that the informal sector is neglected and often exploited through low wages. A specific example of this was given in terms of the increasing number of young people in developing countries that are becoming hawkers of products from the developed world. Another example was given in terms of the tendency for enterprise to reduce the work force by half, pay twice as much for the those remaining in employment, and to expect three times as much from each worker. To ameliorate the consequences that the above question implies, it was stressed that we must aim for and emphasise employability, and not just employment as such. Further, it was continually stressed that education for the world of work must engender entrepreneurial competencies in the learner so that personal initiative and personal freedom may be supported and lead to successful enterprise.

In this context the question was asked as to what constitutes “livelihood”? An answer to this question will determine responses to many other questions related to the generation of wealth and its just distribution.

It was also emphasised that specific target groups must be addressed. For example, the question was posed as to how training is provided to a geographically dispersed and culturally diverse population in a cost effective way? An answer to that question is relevant to many areas around the globe.

With respect to the just inclusion of females within the world of work, an interesting perception was given that in many respects it is also men who need liberation. They tend to be under the pressure of expectations of the male role that lock them into a predetermined life-style and set of responsibilities and an excessive orientation to income earning. Changes in these expectations would not only liberate many men who feel uncomfortable on some of these alternative roles, and, consequently, frequently see themselves as failures, but also it would support the development of a more equal opportunity arena for females within the world of work.

12. How can adult education for the world of work contribute significantly to the social effectiveness, social responsibility, personal actualization and the empowerment of people within the arena of work?

It was clearly recognised that change is inevitable so we must all prepare for it. Sometimes we are dragged into change that we do not welcome. These changes not only relate to the world of work, but also to social, cultural and religious changes. In some countries they also stem from the shift from living and working in rural settings to necessary urban environments for employment.

For these changes to be addressed it was recognised that recurrent and life-long education must be fully developed. This is essential to the effective development of democracy. Further, that individuals must acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes to assume responsibility for their own learning.

It was also generally agreed that all education for the world of work must be sufficiently comprehensive to contribute to the development of the learner as a mature, autonomous and socially responsible person, as well as assisting them to acquire relevant occupationally-specific competencies.


The above should impress upon us the wide spectrum of responsibilities involved, and the need to ensure that all those who are engaged in this area of human endeavour co-ordinate and co-operate in their individual efforts to work together as partners towards achieving the goal of providing for all people effective, efficient and continuing education for the world of work.