Investments in adult learning and education (ALE) have steadily decreased in the last decade. Nearly a fifth of the UNESCO member countries reported spending less than 5% of education budget on ALE and a further 14% reported spending less than 1%, says a UNESCO report published by Institute for Lifelong Learning, based on data submitted by 159 countries, including India.
Adults with disabilities, older adults, refugees and migrants, minority groups and other disadvantaged segments of society are particularly under-represented in adult education programmes and find themselves deprived of crucial access to lifelong learning opportunities, says the study.
The UNESCO Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE) calls for increased investments in ALE from governments, employers and individuals to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to access and benefit from adult learning opportunities. It reminds member countries that investments in ALE have social, civic and economic benefits.
The publication also stresses the need to increase national investment in ALE, reduce participation costs, raise awareness of benefits, and improve data collection and monitoring, particularly for disadvantaged groups.
We urge governments and the international community to join our efforts and take action to ensure that no one no matter who they are, where they live or what challenges they face is left behind where the universal right to education is concerned, says UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay.
The report, which calls for major changes in adult education participation to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, recommends increased participation of women in the programme. Womens unequal participation in ALE comes with economic and social costs, it cautions. It is estimated, for example, that when women in the United Arab Emirates and Egypt participate in the labour force to the same extent as men, the countries GDPs would rise by an estimated 12% and 34%, respectively.
While the global report shows that womens participation in ALE has increased in 59% of the reporting countries since 2015, in some parts of the world, girls and women still do not have sufficient access to education, notably to vocational training, leaving them with few skills and poor chances of finding employment and contributing to the societies they live in, which also represents an economic loss for their countries.
By ensuring that donor countries respect their aid obligations to developing countries, we can make adult learning and education a key lever in empowering and enabling adults, as learners, workers, parents, and active citizens, adds Ms. Azoulay.
The UNESCO GRALE monitors whether Member States are putting their international commitments on adult learning and education into practice. The report, published once every three years, combines survey data, policy analysis and case studies to provide policymakers and practitioners with recommendations and examples of good practice. It presents evidence on how ALE helps countries address current challenges and contributes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.