Heribert Hinzen comments on the article “The challenges regarding data production”
Former Director of DVV International, Former Vice-President of ICAE
This is a well done and nicely written article, covering an important, but unfortunately very often neglected area in our field of adult learning and education (ALE). Therefore it is a great contribution looking at data production in a full issue on role and impact of adult education.
I was lucky that I could even congratulate César in person and bring copies to him and other members when we recently met for the Editorial Board of IRE, the International Review of Education. Journal of Lifelong Learning, published by UIL, the UNESCO Institute of Lifelong Learning in Hamburg.
César has been close to UNESCO for a long time. What is most relevant in the context of his AED contribution is his work in UIS, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics in Montreal. Therefore we can be sure that he knows the subject very well.
2000 was the year when in Dakar the World Education Forum came up with the challenging declaration on Education for All (EFA). I recall being there on the German delegation, engaging in heated debates trying to bring ALE closer to the priorites in the list of those areas which later may receive funding via the inclusion of EFA into the MDG, the Millennium Development Goals. We did not really succeed, and later in civil society circles and in our advocacy we were using EFA also with a second meaning as “Except for Adults”.
The outcome document of Dakar was the EFA Framework for Action. This requested to start the EFA Global Monitoring Report on a yearly basis to provide data. It may not be argued that the GMR produced data, but it compiled what was available from relevant sources, including UIS. No doubt, the GMR helped to understand where policies and practices on country level were implemented with having EFA in mind. On top of all the data and statistics, the GMR took yearly a major theme like Youth and Skills, Literacy for Life, Gender, or Quality.
I recall a challenging period of being a member of the Editorial Board of the EFA GMR, again a welcome opportunity to advocate for a better recognition of ALE. The frustrating information that there were not enough data available from member states to really monitor the practice in the development of ALE globally was almost repeated in every meeting. It seems that only now with the Agenda 2030 and Goal 4 of the SDG that slow and small changes are coming as several indicators target youth and adults outside the formal education system. The new GEM (Global Education Monitoring Report) will hopefully deal in a successful way with the challenges of data in ALE.
If we throw the net a bit wider searching for data we could trace the results of earlier studies and surveys, especially dealing with participation. We have the Adult Education Survey (AES), the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), and Competencies in Later Life (CiLL) – all producing relevant data.
In the German structure of adult education we have quite robust statistics for the system of the vhs (Volkshochschulen, literally translated as folk high schools, community-based adult education centers) of the last 55 years already, collected and published on a yearly level by the German Institute for Adult Education – Leibniz Centre for Lifelong Learning (DIE). In substantial reports on roughly a hundred pages all data on participants, aggregated by gender and age, courses, lectures, institutions, legal frameworks, finances etc. can be found and used for all kinds of further analysis. In addition, ever since 2007 there are combined statistics that look at other adult education providers like the trade unions, the catholic and protestant churches as well as the residential colleges. All of this helps in planning at the local level, and of course in advocating for policies, legislation and finances of ALE. Actually, even the instruments used could be interesting for UIS and GEM.
Therefore, I agree with many of the points raised by Cesar, and the difficulties in producing data when the political will is not strong enough. However, it is possible and necessary, when the will is there and the required resources provided on a regular basis. If I were asked what I find most important in the development of the vhs in Germany which today are providing services to around 9 million participants every year then I would raise two points: One is related to what we celebrate in 2019 as 100 years ago in 1919 the vhs became a constitutional matter as they were made part of the first democracy in the Constitution of the Weimarer Republic. Secondly, the governance structure for the vhs and its services for professionalization include the vhs-statistics, the best source for monitoring and evaluation, strengthening impact and advocacy.
Links to the AED 85/2018 publication in three languages: English, French, Spanish
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