Updated: Oct 31, 2021
Editorial Chris Duke
[This issue of the Bulletin is unusually long and diverse. Readers are reminded that it is an open access publication. Anyone is welcome to share it, in full or a particular article or passage, acknowledging the original PIMA source.]
How will we remember 2021? The year of COVID-19 (variant Delta) and what it meant to oneself, one’s family, community, life, work, even country?. Maybe if we are in educational settings - school, community centre, or higher education institution (HEI) - for its transformative effect on teaching methods, market appeal, loss of income and insecurity of employment?
This Bulletin concludes with a vigorous account of personal life under C-19 for Lauren Spring, mother of a full-voice ‘class of one’, in days fragmented and time-contested by multiple demands as a lifelong learning facilitator teacher. This paper is linked with a new question for PIMA, about what prolonged pandemic means and is doing to and for young people of pre-school and early adult age.
New pedagogy prevails meanwhile, as a host of teachers and learners acquire new ICT (Information and Communication Technology) skills. And political language shifts from pandemic to endemic. The new narrative is ‘just another flu jab’, heralding a new normality, as health is balanced with or displaced by economics. What is the virus already doing to and for the young? And what should we in the We are ALE alliance, be doing about it?
Does this time of unsettling disruption and ambiguous transformation explain why, as history and allied subjects disappear from many educational curricula in favour of assumedly utilitarian STEM subjects, more and more history finds its way their way into the fiction and drama of print, film and other broadcast entertainment: out of the classroom and into the broadcast and other newer media.
The bigger world beyond ALE and LLL, like the TV dramas and other celebrations and nostalgic reminiscences of the past in the countries that I know best, is much focused on past heroes and highlights. In ALE the names and dates of key writers and reports cross the stage as anniversaries come around – the founding of DVV and the UK 1919 report, Freire, Faure, Delors, 1976 and Nyerere, early CONFINTEAs, the founding of ICAE. As we self-immerse in new forms of history, remember that ‘history’ is not just his-story of great men of the past, but a living and ever-changing reflection of our changing selves today.
ALE as Cinderella the Poor Cousin clings tenuously to the mainstream ‘education industry’, which tends like most other socio-economic sectors to focus inwardly: on its own health and welfare, identity, output measures and survival. Our great figures are long-sighted educators generous of spirit. Our anniversary dates are the birth of prominent institutions, new perceptions, and significant educational policy shifts. Here we add to this ALE ‘roll of honour’ with the upcoming 40th anniversary of PRIA, a very special ALE player that lives in the ‘real world’ of local field and slum in modern India, as well as on the global and national stage. And Paolo Freire’s anniversary lives on in next year’s global CONFINTEA consultation, as Fabiola Munhoz explains.
We might as active citizens also ask which are the big events in wider world history of the ‘I remember where I was when…’ kind. Here we choose two other anniversaries less obviously significant for ALE: the 100th birthday of PRC in China, and the 50th of Greenpeace. 2021 may also mark the acceptance of C-19 as the ‘new normal’. And it is the 20th anniversary of 9/11; the end of the USA's longest war, and a key change-point in the bloodied history of Afghanistan’s struggle. How do such big events affect the work of ALE? Do any of them signal tendencies towards or away from LLL for all? Or are these worlds mutually irrelevant?
There’s no doubting that climate change has become a dominant and urgent reality – competing with but far bigger and more important than the pandemic for attention and action. This Bulletin opens with the climate emergency and action to combat it – Shirley Walters on emergency, fear and apathy, Elizabeth Lange on civil disobedience, Katie Ross on regeneration. Brad Davison addresses directly the dominant socio-economic paradigm that has swept the world from the 1980s, and which, like wars, the ALE community tends to tiptoe past, as being ‘too political’. Traditionally adult education has focused more on individual learning and opportunity, avoiding the dirty hands of political ideology.
As Paul Stanistreet argues, however, this is no longer possible, even as we prepare in different countries and regions for the next big global ALE event, CONFINTEA VII in Morocco. There, top-down and bottom-up, governmental and civil society, arrangements, and processes come together. ‘Only connect’ is easier said than done.
Dividing the Bulletin into themes and preoccupations is a riddle. Separating climate change from the SDGs is an undesirable impossibility. Climate connects with or impacts across each of the Goals; but so does ‘Lifelong Learning’ without which, it is argued, no Goal can be attained, including Education Goal 4 itself. Likewise, C-19 affects in myriad ways the theme of our special interest group Later Life Learning, led by Brian Findsen; and with it other changing demography, and new perceptions of life roles and ageing driven by social as much as economic factors.
Another tension is increasingly and all but overwhelmingly these days found between the formal and often targeted subject matter – be it wealth or poverty, living standards, health or illness, happiness, loneliness or starvation, agriculture or manufacturing – and the tools and processes whereby we work towards them, including institutions, networks and lobbyists, as well as the new ICT.
A case in point is Bruce Wilson’s long reflective review of a Project about the contribution of the EU to the SDGs in Asia-Pacific. In the previous Bulletin, No. 37, seven different participants in that work told stories of what they learned from the process of participation: not only or mainly the formal project outcomes but the processes themselves, and how for some it changed them. Look at them again from this point of view: so much more diverse learning takes place than the formal outputs and deliverables reveal.
Standing back and offering an outcomes-oriented synoptic review, Project Director Wilson addresses outputs as intended in the contract with the EU; but his chosen focus is on the power of partnerships. Look similarly at Tom Sork’s note under ‘We are ALE’: that conference was the work of nine partner bodies; similarly, in Munhoz’s Latin American account. The Director of Greenpeace Australia-Pacific (GPAP) recently told a Zoom meeting in Australia that GP’s successful impact, and all it has achieved in capturing public attention, and now pushing the private sector into abandoning coal, is owed to finding and working with very many partners, and to coordinating all their efforts.
‘Process vs product’ is an unavoidable undercurrent running through most of the fields that PIMA addresses. Maybe it is time to bring it into the light for fuller scrutiny.
If that is for the near future – it is in a sense one theme of anniversary analyses – ‘looking back to move forward’ – this Bulletin also raises two new themes.
The first is tourism, a huge growth industry vital to some economies but seldom considered by the ALE community. Adults can usually play at home or abroad. Tourism takes many forms. Mass tourism in huge cruise vessels is being banned in some cities. Can tourism also possibly be a means for cross-cultural learning, within and between countries? Think about weekenders, holiday cabins and second homes, not always welcome in ‘host communities’, as a recent headline suggests: “Don’t like roosters and cow mess? Don’t come here, Spanish village tells tourists.” Wide-vision economist Chan Jin Hooi explores this subject, and Jim Walmsley offers comments within one country.
Contributions on tourism as learning in different countries, especially examples of well-managed mutual learning through tourism, will be welcome.
So will contributions on the impact of C-19 on young people’s development, identity formation and confidence, as regular routines of teaching, learning, formal curriculum, and assessment haves altered. Post-school institutions turn to the adult population to backfill vacant student places. Let us in turn look deeper into the pre-adult years, asking how damage can be contained and learning become an ingrained lifelong habit in these new times.