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Home » The need for cross-sectoral partnerships to tackle challenges in Adult Education

The need for cross-sectoral partnerships to tackle challenges in Adult Education

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UNESCO, the knowledge-based organisation that guides public policies through global data and scientific research, has eight education institutes. One of them, the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL), supports UNESCO Member States in the field of lifelong learning with a focus on learning ecosystems, inclusive learning and skills for life and work. 
The UIL does research, capacity-building, networking, publications and advocacy on lifelong learning, shaping the global discourse and supporting national and regional partners in making a case for education and learning throughout life. It puts specific emphasis on adult education, literacy and non-formal education.
The UIL employs the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a guide to action. It has special responsibility for supporting countries to achieve one of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
  • SDG 4: “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”
As for the other 16 SDGs, UIL is committed to reflecting the potential contribution of lifelong learning for achieving each of them. As our Collective, a “Leaving no one behind” approach is at the centre of their action plan. In today’s fast-changing world, learning experiences must be continuous, lifelong, and for everyone. Lifelong learning covers learning activities for people of all ages, in all life-wide contexts (family, school, the community, the workplace, and so on) and through a variety of modalities (formal, non-formal and informal), which, together, connect learning needs and demands. Therefore, it promotes and supports the creation of systems that provide education for people of all ages, to unlock their potential while contributing to the development of a more inclusive society. 
UIL believes that realising the potential of lifelong learning requires political commitment and the development of cross-sectoral and multi-level policies. That is why it is fundamental for UIL to work with partners at every level (local, national, regional and global) to support the development of projects and programmes. Only through collaboration can practical solutions be identified to address the challenges each Member State faces. 
Learning is a lifelong endeavour that takes place in formal, non-formal and informal settings. For it to happen, basic skills are key: literacy, numerology and basic digital skills are the first steps to a culture of lifelong learning and inclusion, enabling further processes of upskilling and reskilling. However, there are an estimated 773 million illiterate adults around the world, most of whom are women, while 46% of adult citizens in Europe still do not have basic digital skills (Eurostat, 2021).
Many countries do not provide sufficient learning opportunities for young people and adults who are out of the formal education system and in disadvantaged or vulnerable situations. As a result, alternative and non-formal education for youth and adults often suffer from a lack of policy attention and funding. As the skills and competencies required by today’s societies are rapidly evolving, the need to provide learning opportunities to individuals throughout life grows as well. Responding to this trend demands flexible learning pathways and strong links between formal, non-formal and informal learning, including frameworks for the recognition, validation and accreditation (RVA) of learning outcomes. RVA of all forms of learning is a practice that makes visible the full range of competencies (knowledge, skills and attitudes) obtained through various means in different phases of their lives. Additionally, it gives individuals an incentive to continue to learn, empowers them and enables them to become more active in the labour market and society in general. 
RVA of skills acquired in non-formal and informal environments is one of the pillars of any lifelong learning policy. In this context, UIL considers it crucial to use RVA for integrating outcomes of non-formal and informal learnings into national, regional and global Qualifications Frameworks. This step ensures that all young people and adults can learn and continue learning throughout life in a changing world, as well as access to educational institutions and workplaces. 
UIL’s Global Observatory of Recognition, Validation and Accreditation of Non-formal and Informal Learning (Global RVA Observatory) collects and disseminates best practices from RVA systems and models at different stages of development, to contribute to policy and practice in UNESCO Member States. In addition, UIL reviews and analyses the implementation of RVA policy and practice in the Member States. These studies can be found under RVA themes.
When it comes to inclusive learning, migration and displacement interrelate with education in complex ways. The support and integration of refugees and migrants remains a global urgent priority. In this context, education represents the hope of building a better future. To facilitate the transition of migrants and refugees into host countries, UIL is developing a research project on the RVA of informal and non-formal learning for migrants and refugees, to enable them to obtain recognized and accredited qualifications.
In sum, UIL’s global work, data, knowledge and support in lifelong learning strengthens each Member State’s education systems and enables sustainable and inclusive education for individuals of all ages and contexts.