Med. adult education association proposed
A regional adult education association may be set up following discussions that took place during a Mediterranean Lifelong Learning Conference held recently in Sliema.
The conference was a follow-up to one that took place in Cyprus last year. It turned out to be a large and representative one. No less than seven Arab countries (Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia) took part, alongside Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Italy, Macedonia, Malta, Serbia-Montenegro, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey.
A Palestinian woman was prevented from participating at the last moment because of the curfew imposed by Israeli military forces on her home city of Ramallah.
The organisers were keen to achieve a gender and regional balance, and there ended up being more women than men among the participants.
Education Minister Louis Galea opened the conference, saying that the government's vision was to provide each person, at whatever stage in his or her life, with "the key to venture into a world of knowledge that will ultimately lead to peace and liberty".
The conference was primarily workshop-based. The three themes discussed in the workshops were "North-South/South-North relations in adult education", "Multi-ethnicity and adult education" and "Motivation and lifelong learning with special reference to the Mediterranean".
The dean of the Faculty of Education, Dr Carmel Borg, underlined the faculty's commitment to lifelong education and to the Euro-Mediterranean dialogue and augured that such ventures do not reproduce the kind of neo-colonial relations that have often characterised relations between countries with different GDPs.
Ms Joyce Pullicino, from the Education Division, provided an overview of adult education provision in Malta, attaching importance to the work of various agencies in the field, not only of the state but also the work of NGOs and institutions such as the university.
She also told the international participants about Maltese efforts in developing programmes of education across the entire lifespan, in accordance with the guidelines proposed in the EU's Memorandum on Lifelong Learning.
Professor Kenneth Wain, who is about to publish a book, The Learning Society in a Postmodern World (Peter Lang, New York), delivered the keynote presentation.
He focused on the genealogy of the concept of lifelong learning, referring to its earlier adoption by Unesco as "Lifelong Education", a concept which then had a strong humanistic theoretical underpinning. He lamented the fact that this concept has, in many instances, lost its broad humanistic appeal to become compatible, in certain cases, with the dominant ideology of the marketplace and with the current preoccupation with "performativity" (everything is measured in efficient outcomes) and with shifting responsibility and costs for learning onto the individual rather than the state.
Ms Rose Caruana addressed the delegates from the perspective of a volunteer working in the context of a Maltese NGO and underlined the difficulties involved as well as the different sources of satisfaction derived from this type of activity.
Prof. Peter Mayo highlighed the issue of multi-ethnicity as an important one for adult educators in this part of the world given the fact that the Mediterranean is being turned into a new "Rio Grande" with the influx in its northern countries of immigrants from its southern shores.
The draft for a final declaration was drawn up, agreed upon and is currently being modified and refined by participants through e-mail networking for eventual publication and presentation to a number of national, regional and supranational bodies.
The conference, which took place at the Preluna Hotel & Towers, was sponsored by the Department of International Cooperation of the German Adult Education Association with support from the University of Malta's Faculty of Education and the Guzè Ellul Mercer Foundation.
The convenors were David Caruana, Prof. Mayo and Dr Michael Samlowski.
The proceedings will be published early in 2004 in the German association's "International perspectives in adult education" monograph series.