Adult education as a Key to the 21st century according to 5th international conference on Adult Education
There is no doubt that adult education has become a very important issue in the last decades. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), sponsors a worldwide conference to discuss this subject, at least once every decade. As UNESCO is part of the United Nations Organization (UN), the attendance of the majority of UN members is guaranteed. For this Conference, 149 countries assisted as well as representatives from Non Government Organizations (NGO) and Intergovernmental Organizations. In 1997, the 5th International Conference on Adult Education was convened by the UNESCO and it was held in Hamburg, Germany, starting on January 14th to July 16th. During several years in advance, various preparatory conferences were also held in order to delimit the most important topics that were discussed.
Acknowledging Adult Education as a Key
After all those years of preparation and as a result of the work in the conference, several conclusions stood out. At the end of the conference “The Hamburg Declaration on Adult Learning” set as one of the most important conclusions, that adult education was a key to the upcoming twenty first century. What exactly is the scope of such statement? In previous years adult education had been already recognized as a right and during the conference it was also declared as a duty and a necessity. Although its importance had been widely recognized for many years before in another conference, it was the first time it was also raised as a key factor for the future development of the world.
New opportunities and objectives for adults in the field of Education
Adulthood has become an excellent opportunity to develop personal identity and set new goals by reflecting and shaping new ideas on fundamental factors such as culture, gender equality or social and economic differences. A lot of personal benefits can be obtained from the education at this stage of life. But education also takes part in every aspect of life. One of its fundamental purposes is to improve social conditions. It can be present or absent and the consequences of both situations become always visible in the society in one way or another. When education for adults is acknowledged as a key factor for the future, it is also acknowledged the decisive participation from adults to foster justice and democracy, technical development, social progress, environmental sustainability and personal abilities that can be applied to reach fair and peaceful agreements into the society. Beyond personal benefits, through education, adults may redefine its participation in the society, according to their new and enriched knowledge. The final declaration also included women, disabled, migrants and any other minority as part of the groups who should also receive the necessary assistance and protection to be part of the beneficiaries of the opportunities for adult education.
To ensure the compliance of the objectives, in the reality it is also necessary to guarantee the proper access to resources and advantages that allow fulfilling the proposed objectives. This is why it was also stated in the conference, that the Right to get education throughout life comprises the possibility to reach the resources, to write and read, to analyse information freely as well as develop the necessary skills to apply and practice all the acquired competences.
Now, in the new millennium, with the advent and expansion of new technologies, such as internet, satellite television and expanded radio waves, the opportunities to obtain education at any age has been increased. But it is not enough. New methods of education, new resources and new opportunities to access the educational system must be implemented and this new century is ready to embrace them.
This is why the final declaration of Hamburg and its subsequent conclusions state hat adult education is considered as a key in the 21st century. The consequences of having a new generation of adults increasing their capacity to learn and understand the new realities of the society will ensure a better world.