Regional Reports on the GRALE 5 Webinars on “Enhancing National Capacities for Monitoring Adult Learning and Education”

As ICAE, we have successfully taken our first step in working within and through our members during the recent GRALE 5 Regional Webinars that we co-hosted with the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) and the German Adult Education Association (DVV International) from 21-29 July 2020.
Our members across all regions actively contributed as speakers during the webinars. The speakers welcomed the participants, illustrated the importance of Adult Learning and Education (ALE) during a global pandemic, argued for the importance of linking CONFINTEA VII to the SDGs, and demonstrated the commitment of civil society organisations to contribute to the GRALE 5 survey in the lead up to CONFINTEA VII. More importantly, we were able to mobilise a significant number of our ICAE members, I would say close to 100 participants across all webinars, to actively participate, listen intently but also ask really important and at times challenging questions. 
If you missed your Regional Webinar, we encourage you to take the time and listen to the recording via the links provided:

We also have been given access by UIL to the PowerPoint presentations:
PPP in English
PPP in Spanish
PPP in French
While together we demonstrated through our numbers and our critical engagement that we are committed to contributing to the GRALE 5 process, there were a number of concerns that were raised by our members that we will raise with David Atchoarena, UIL Director, when the ICAE EC meets with him in early September. 
As you will see from the Regional Reports, the most common issue was the access by CSOs to the national focal points. UIL was clear that they were not able to publish a list of focal points. But we were invited to contact UIL to express our interest to contribute, and they offered to facilitate the introduction to the respective national focal points. Cecilia Palm, ICAE EC member from Sweden, as well as by Tom Sork, VP for North America, based in Canada, have both succeeded in identifying and making initial contact with their respective national focal points. However, we are aware that access to government ministries and UNESCO National Commissions will vary across the different countries. Therefore, we would like to hear from your own experience with contacting your national focal points. You can reach out directly to UIL in order to receive information about your national focal point:
The other question that was raised was about access to the GRALE 5 survey, given the Regional Webinars were all followed by briefings that was exclusively for national focal points. We are happy to report thatwe have secured a commitment from UIL to conduct a series of webinars for CSOs to provide us with more details about the GRALE 5 survey tool. ICAE will be coordinating with our regional members to identify the relevant dates and time, tentatively towards the end of September.
Finally, the ICAE has been invited by UIL to contribute a background paper on the role of citizenship education in ALE from the perspective of civil society organizations. This aligns with the thematic focus of GRALE 5 that aims to demonstrate the full potential of citizenship education in the achievement of the SDGs. I have often argued that CSOs are the most fertile sites for citizenship education, because we do not just “learn by doing”, but we “learn by being active citizens”. Our engagement, as ICAE, in the recent GRALE 5 Regional Webinars is just another demonstration of our commitment to “learning by being active global citizens”. 
Stay healthy, stay strong and stay connected.
Robbie Guevara
President, ICAE

Report on the Europe and North America Regional Webinar—21 July 2020
Tom Sork, ICAE Vice President for North America

The purpose of this first of a series of seven webinars was to brief various groups—including CSOs—on preparations underway for CONFINTEA VII in Morocco in 2022, including plans for the GRALE 5 survey and report.

Uwe Gartenschlaeger of DVV International and Werner Mauch of UIL presented during the session and entertained questions submitted by participants. The history of CONFINTEA and the roles of the Belem Framework for Action and GRALE were summarized to set the stage for what was a useful presentation on plans for GRALE 5.

UIL is in consultations with member states to identify “focal points”… individuals and organizations—that will be involved in implementing the GRALE 5 survey and preparing country reports. Of some concern among those participating in the webinar was that the UIL has a policy of not publicly identifying “focal points” for each member state, leaving it up to the focal points to make their role known to those in each country or to submit a query to the UIL who will forward it to the relevant focal point. Thanks to Daniel Baril of the Canadian Institute for Cooperation for Adult Education (ICÉA), we know that the ICÉA and the Canadian Commission for UNESCO will partner with the Council for Ministers of Education Canada (CMEC)—which is the focal point responsible for the GRALE 5 survey and Canada’s country report—and will be consulting with Canadian civil society during the process.

The US is currently nota UNESCO member state and therefore does not have a focal point for GRALE 5. When asked about how US organizations will be involved, we were told that discussions are underway with unspecified individuals about how the US might be involved. Non-member states are only given “observer” status at CONFINTEA so unless the US rejoins UNESCO, there will be limited opportunities to influence the GRALE process or actively participate in CONFINTEA VII.

We look forward to receiving updates from UIL about the GRALE process and how ALE organizations in the US can express their views on and hopes about the development of ALE prior to CONFINTEA VII.

Report on Follow-up Action to the Europe and North America Regional Webinar
Cecilia Palm, Member, ICAE Executive Committee from Sweden

The information given was very well presented and I wish I could get my hands on the UIL slides so that I could use them while informing in my turn here in Sweden. 

However, as I have been through quite a lot of written information on these matters, I would personally have preferred to hear more specific information about GRALE V and less about the process preceding this particular survey.
Once UIL answered my request to identify the focal point in Sweden, which was the Ministry of Education, it was fairly easy to contact them and find out who is actually in charge within the Ministry. Why couldn´t the information about the Ministry of Education be published on UIL’s website?
I gather that the survey was released in July and answers are expected by August 26th. The person in charge from the Ministry came back from summer holidays at the start of August, which doesn´t leave much time to involve NGO’s and other stakeholders in the process. UIL seemed to be prepared to extend the time for responding, let’s hope that the Ministry wants to ask for an extension.

Report on the Africa Regional Webinar (French) – 22 July 2020
Carole AVANDE HOUNDJO, ICAE Vice-President for Africa

The Regional Webinar on GRALE 5 for Francophone Africa saw the participation of 29 people out of the 55 people registered. The session was opened by Nicolas Jonas of UIL who immediately gave the floor to representatives of DVV and ICAE. Ms. Esther Hirsh from DVV took the floor to reaffirm the need to not fall into the trap of focusing only on literacy but rather to talk about lifelong learning that goes beyond the competences of reading and mathematics. SDG 4 reaffirms that no one should be left behind, to realize this vision it is necessary to see education holistically. Therefore, DVV encourages all Adult Learning and Education (ALE) actors (governments, civil society, private sector, etc.) to seize this opportunity to make ALE visible in this process of data collection for GRALE 5 and CONFINTEA VII.

Mrs. Carole HOUNDJO took the floor, as Vice-President of ICAE for Africa and as coordinator of Pamoja AO, a member network of ICAE and partner of DVV International. She reaffirmed the readiness of ICAE to continue to work with and through its regional and national members to achieve the objectives of GRALE 5 and CONFINTEA VII. ICAE’s expertise in advocating for ALE is well established. ICAE contributed to the success of the mid-term review of CONFINTEA VI held in Suwon in October 2017. Indeed, ICAE facilitated the participation of Civil Society from all regions and organized the Civil Society Forum which preceded the meeting. 
Mrs. HOUNDJO Carole stressed the fact that the concept of literacy is still strongly anchored in Africa because more than 27% of all illiterate adults in the world are in Africa and most of the countries of Africa have literacy rate less than 50%. In addition to this recurring problem of low literacy rates, the past three years have seen added security concerns that foster fear and a climate of chaos, leading thousands of people to abandon their villages and take refuge in slightly safer places.

As a civil society actor, ICAE wants the process of conducting the GRALE 5 survey and the organizing of CONFINTEA VII to be as inclusive as possible so that GRALE 5 can reflect the reality on the ground. After these words from DVV and ICAE, Mr Nicolas Jonas from UIL presented the Belem Framework for Action (BFA) and the UNESCO Recommendation for Adult Learning and Education (RALE). He stressed that it was in RALE that for the first-time adult education was presented as an integral part of lifelong learning. The RALE defines adult learning and education, and sets out 6 ALE objectives, identifies 3 fields of application, and covers 5 areas of action, namely, policy, governance, funding, participation, inclusion and equity, and quality.

The ultimate goal of the GRALE 5 surveys is:

  • advocacy to sensitize stakeholders on the importance of ALE,
  • to draw up a global inventory of what has been done, what remains to be done and to 
  • identify future prospects

The Regional Webinars were organized by UIL, DVV and ICAE to provide the necessary means to assist the national focal points to collect and contribute quality data for GRALE 5. The success of the operation will depend on the commitment and participation of the national focal points. GRALE 5 will focus on the theme of citizenship education for youth and adults and mark the starting point of a new global framework for ALE. 
The last part of the webinar was devoted to questions and answers. All the questions revolved around the importance of the participation of civil society in the collection of GRALE 5 data, for example:

  • How do civil society organizations participate in this action? 
  • What is the mechanism that UIL is proposing to the states to promote the participation of all stakeholders in the collection of data relating to GRALE 5?

Mr Werner Mauch from UIL responded by saying that UIL is available to transfer questions and concerns from Civil Society actors to the focal points. According to him this webinar is organized to show that the focal points exist and are appointed by the states. It is also a way of establishing dialogue between focal points and CSOs. Questions can be sent to UIL who will send them to the focal points. UIL wants to guarantee the independence of the focal point. The focal points themselves are interested in having a richer perspective, so in principle they will consult the CSOs. In other words, UIL favors the direct participation of focal points and the indirect participation of the CSOs.

Ms. HOUNDJO Carole took the floor to stress that the participation of all stakeholders in data collection is crucial so that GRALE 5 can truly reflect the reality on the ground. To do this, she suggested that UIL make the list of focal points available to facilitate monitoring. But this request was not accepted by UIL because they don’t want to put pressure on focal points. 

Mr Mauch emphasized that it is the Ministers who will form delegations for CONFINTEA VII, so he encouraged civil society to work to be part of the national delegations. Ms. Esther Hirsh suggested that civil society organizations get in touch with UNESCO National Commissions to get in touch with country focal point. She invited Civil Society to take its place in this process.
In conclusion, participants suggested that in the absence of contributing directly to data collection, it is important that civil society produce an independent report on the situation of ALE in each region.

Report on the Asia-Pacific Regional Webinar – 23 July 2020
Nani Zulminarni, ICAE Vice-President for Asia-Pacific

The Regional Webinar was opened by Werner Mauch from UIL, followed by Uwe Gartenschlaeger from DVV-International, who specifically linked GRALE5 and the CONFINTEA VII processes to Lifelong Learning as the overarching aim of UN SDG 4. However, he also emphasized that we cannot isolate our conversations from the reality of COVID19 and the important role that ALE has and will continue to play.

Maria Khan, ASPBAE Secretary General, clearly identified that ASPBAE was the regional host on behalf of the ICAE. She identified how in Asia-Pacific, both ASPBAE and ICAE, have been part of the CONFINTEA journey – like the critical role we played during the CONFINTEA VI Mid-term Conference in Suwon, South Korea. She concluded her welcome with a clear commitment of civil society to work with the national governments to achieve ALE but to contribute to the GRALE 5.

There was a second opportunity for civil society to contribute during the Asia-Pacific Regional Webinar. Nani Zulminarni, ASPBAE President and ICAE Vice-President for Asia-Pacific shared the capacity and the valuable experience of civil society organisations in monitoring ALE. A key argument was that CSOs are the biggest provider of ALE in the Asia-Pacific region. She further argued that CSO participation is not merely about showcasing good practice, but how such practice has always been linked to our commitment to policy advocacy to advance ALE, as evidenced by our on-going commitment since EFA, MDGs and now the SDGs.

Nani highlighted the specific contribution and credibility of ASPBAE in the monitoring and evaluation of ALE through the 2019 Spotlight Reports for the HLPF linked to the VNRs, the Youth-led Action Research linked to COVID 19 situation and our ability to engage other stakeholders, such as the academe, grassroots organisations and other NGOs. 

She further explained that in 2015, after SDG 4/Education 2030 was agreed upon by Member States, ICAE and ASPBAE continued its strong advocacy for ALE, cognizant that countries neglected it during the Education for All period. To provide evidence for financing SDG 4.4 and SDG 4.6, ASPBAE developed a regional paper and two country cases on gender; “financing and policy options for skills development for decent work of marginalized women” in 2018. An explainer based on this work has been produced in time for HLPF 2019. We are continuing this work with country cases in Bangladesh and Vietnam that will be finished this year. 

ICAE and ASPBAE are both committed to continue this momentum in ALE advocacy at the country level. ASPBAE is currently working with 10 countries, coming from the South East Asia, South Asia and Central Asia sub-regions, to push for ALE policies and financing. We will continue to mobilize national NGOs, grassroots organizations, academe and youth organizations in our ALE campaigns. In these 10 countries, we will also be actively engaged in the processes for the development of country GRALE reports, bringing our extensive experiences and data from the field as well as valuable recommendations for ALE policy and programs. We also look forward to the regional preparatory processes leading to CONFINTEA 7 in 2022. She concluded with a strong commitment of CSOs to work with UIL, but also with the national focal persons responsible for GRALE 5, as we have already demonstrated our capacity as CSOs to effectively conduct these roles remotely or fully online.

Report on the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) Regional Webinar (English) – 28 July 2020
Shermaine Barrett, ICAE Vice President for the Caribbean Region

The Regional Webinar on GRALE 5 for Latin America and the Caribbean had 26 participants. The greetings were delivered by the following persons: Werner Mauch for UIL, Beate Schmidt for DVV-International and Shermaine Barrett for ICAE. The main presentation was conducted by Raul Valdes-Cotera of UIL. 
The main presentation sought to give an understanding of the terms GRALE, RALE and CONFINTEA as background to the GRALE process. Raul Valdes-Cotera from UIL outlined the GRALE 5 process. Data will be collected around three key fields: Literacy and Basic Education; Professional Development and Continuing Education – Vocational Skills and Community, Popular or Liberal Education – Active citizenship skills with attention given to the theme of Citizenship Education.

The main presentation was followed with an open discussion session. This might have been a unique feature for the LAC English Webinar due to the size of the audience. During this time other members of the ICAE EC were called upon to make comments or share observations. These included contributions from ICAE Secretary-General Katarina Popovic, ICAE Vice-President for Latin America, Timothy Ireland and ICAE President Robbie Guevara.
A major concern for me remains the timeframe for data collection and the steps that will be taken to ensure the involvement of a wide cross-section of stakeholders including civil society organizations that are the largest providers of adult education. This is even more important as focus will be given to Citizenship Education.

Another concern is that some national focal points are still not yet identified. I was concerned about the number of attendees. This I believe could have been improved if more time was given to mobilize the countries of the Caribbean. Werner encouraged the attendees to channel any messages, views or questions they may have through the UIL to the focal points. I do hope this does not preclude civil society groups from direct access to the focal points. Despite these concerns I am anticipating the process and hope to be involved at national and even regional level.

Report on the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) Regional Webinar (Spanish) – 29 July 2020
Timothy Ireland, ICAE Vice-President for Latin America

The webinar was well attended and followed the format used in all the other webinars, with the usual greetings from representatives of UIL, DVVI and ICAE and then a presentation by Raul Valdes-Cotera from UIL, followed by a fair number of questions some of which were clearly answered and others not. The general evaluation especially among those participants from CEAAL was that the webinar was rather bureaucratic and not very dynamic nor inspiring. What most concerned the participants was the answer to the question concerning the names of the national focal points. UIL informed the participants that they could not publish a list of the names and that if anyone wanted to contact their national focal point it would have to be through UIL. The CEAAL participants considered that this matter should be taken up with UIL. National focal points represent the country and must therefore be identified. Civil society has the right to be able to contact the focal points freely as their representatives. The impression given by UIL concerning civil society participation in CONFINTEA VII was again that the Conference was an inter-governmental conference with delegations appointed by national governments. Some governments include representatives from civil society in their delegations. Others do not. The impression given was that CONFINTEA VII would not repeat CONFINTEA V in which representatives of civil society participated with voice but no vote. 

Report on the Regional Webinar Arab States Regional Webinar – 27 July 2020

The following is an edited extract of the intervention of Dr. Ikbal Samalouti, President of Hawa Association and Secretary General of the Arab Network for Literacy and Adult Education on behalf of the House for Adult Education and Learning and Development (AHAED), which is the umbrella organization of the four largest networks in adult education and learning, development and human rights in the Arab World.

Her intervention was divided to 3 axes:

First Axis: Why adult education and lifelong learning, importance of adult education and lifelong learning.
The outbreak of COVID-19, revealed the problems in the existing educational systems and the absence of a comprehensive vision and alternative plans in the world in general and the Arab region in particular. All aspects of economic, social and even political life were affected! School closure and the shift to distance learning and online education increased the inequity, deprivation and lack of educational opportunities in poor Arab regions, especially regions that suffer crises and conflicts. In addition, the pandemic is expected to result in the loss of 1.7 million jobs in the Arab region, resulting to an increase in youth unemployment by 1.2%. In addition, the Arab youth lack technological and life skills that qualifies them for the job market.

Adult education and lifelong learning can respond to the requirements of the new technological development, and the changing needs of the labour market considering the deficiency and weakness of traditional formal and formal education institutions. It provides a second opportunity, virtual and distance learning for those who have been deprived of education. However, despite the importance of adult education Sami Nassar indicated in his Arab report that 42% of the Arab countries, which were involved in the report preparation, allocate only 1% of the education budget to adult education, while trillions were spent on the military sector.

Second Axis: Role of the Civil Society (including its role in responding to the outbreak of COVID 19)
Civil society is the space between the citizen, stakeholders and the state, and it is by its nature free and independent. It brings together human beings who may be different, but united by a vision and mission based on achieving social justice and defending the right to education and cross-learning with all other human rights. It is the guarantee for achieving inclusiveness, inclusion, and alternative opportunities. One of the roles of civil society in responding to the repercussions of COVID-19, is directly linked to the task of GRALE 5. This involves, collecting and monitoring pilot experiences and models for distance learning, including for example, the first curriculum for the literacy of women and empowering them socially and economically under the auspices of UNESCO. In addition, civil society organisations can also assist with communicating with universities and research centres to conduct scientific studies to assess the role of civil society and measure the impact of its initiatives and models as an entry point to convince decision-makers of the importance of civil society partnership.

Third Axis: Future Prospects
Civil society is a partner, or it must be in all stages of planning, implementation, evaluation and accountability because it reflects the vision and demands of stakeholders from families, youth, teachers. We need regional and global coordination and integration, and a vision that unites us.
We need a strategic framework for innovative curricula and mechanisms for adult education and lifelong learning that are compatible with developments and development approaches.

Therefore, civil society requests to participate in monitoring the state of adult education and lifelong learning in preparation for CONFINTEA VII in 2022 with the theme on Citizenship Education. In the context of implementing the 2009 Belem Framework for Action (BFA) and the 2015 UNESCO Recommendation on Adult Learning and Education (RALE), we as civil society commit to contributing to…
1) Building civil society capacities for monitoring, evaluation and accountability recognising the importance of the GRALE 5 Report, its components and the documentation required.
2) Developing shadow reports of the national reports, to include qualitative issues that may not be mentioned in governmental statistical reports. This is confirmed has been well noted in the Fifth GRALE report since information were not comprehensive and does not represent all regions and categories and depends on the quantitative aspect.
3) Reviewing the indicators for measuring the achievement of SDG 4 and the impact of the Corona COVID 19 outbreak.
4) Ensuring availability and transparency of information and data and their distribution.

Please do not hesitate to contact us at anytime in case you do have any further questions. 

Your ICAE Team

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