GLL – Swedish Study Circles

COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: on Larsson’s Study Circles

TOPICS: local global learning, development, Transformation, Adult Education

Step 4 – Part 1: Adult education/learning in civil society organisations and social movements

Keywords: Study circles, Sweden, civil society, democracy, pluralistic citizenship

Link to blog

Link to forum Link to Forum 2

Larsson, S. (2001) Study Circles as Democratic Utopia: A Swedish Perspective, in Bron, A.&  Schemmann, M. (eds) 2001 Civil Society, Citizenship and Learning. Bochum Studies in International Adult Education, vol. 2. Transaction Publishers, USA/UK

ARTICLE SUMMARY

In this article Larsson presents the case of the Study Circles as “a mass-phenomenon in contemporary Sweden.” (p. 1) Study Circles refer to both the content and the educational framework within which learning occurs.

Since the foundation of the first study circles association in 1912, Study Circles in Sweden were understood as a means to the advancement of education from the bottom up. Unlike traditional education, they were based on the following “grammar” derived from democratic principles of egalitarian participation:

“1) There are no examinations or merits to be gained; 2) Participation is voluntary; 3) One operates with the expectation of a limited number of persons in a circle, normally somewhere between 5 – 19 persons; 4) Time is often treated in a different way from ordinary schools – often study circles will meet for 3 hours once a week with a break in the middle. A study circle will often consist of 10 to fifteen of such meanings; 5) A circle will have a leader, who does not have to be an expert – it can be one of the participants. On the other hand, there are often experts acting as leaders.” (p. 2)

Study Circles have focussed on learning activities that would strengthen people’s active participation in democratic society by offering a plethora of topics that would represent diverse world views.

Historically, Study Circles underwent a transmutation.

Originally, their activities were entwined with the civil society movements that were the driving force behind the popular participation in the circles. In fact, “participation in study circles during the first half of the century was often part of a relatively strong, sometimes class based, relation to a specific movement.” (p. 3) From that perspective, study circles were “in sharp opposition to state and market.” (p.3)

In the course of the twentieth century, however, with the weakening of popular movements and the corresponding emerging of institutions of representative democracy within the state, Study Circles lost their relevance as loci of political activism.

Compared with the limiting effect that states exercise elsewhere on education, the role of the state in the Swedish Study Circles is ambivalent. In Sweden the state provides financial support to the study circles without imposing limits to their mission.

In discussing Study Circles, Larsson examines their relevance for and impact on today’s adult learning education in Sweden. He recognizes the loss of importance experienced by civil society movements over the last century, partly due to the emergence of a globalized society and what that entails. It seems that “the power and the possibilities of the civil society have been reduced, since there is less that is decided upon through democratic decision-making in the society as a whole.” (p.15)

This has led to a shift of focus in the activities of Study Circles. They went from being the educational arm of class-based social movements to being more and more involved with the pursuit of learning at the personal level. The effect on civil society and the state institutions is not to be found anymore in the action taken by the related popular movements, but in the small-scale influence that individuals may exert in their private political spheres.

The core pillar in the Swedish Study Circles still clearly rests on Oscar Olsson’s original view of “education for and through the people.” (p.12) He is considered the father of the study circles. In spite of their changing role, Study Circles are therefore still based on the promotion of equality, knowledge, active participation, democracy and diversity. These issues are by all means not clear cut and remain highly contested in the ways they may be achieved and by whom.

COMMENTS

Today’s function of Study Circles

Larsson recognizes how the function of Study Circles in relation to the State and Civil Society class-based movements has changed since their inception.  In particular, the promotion of action does not appear to be any longer the driving force behind Study Circles. Recognizing this loss of political traction reminds me of our discussions on Youngman and Freire with regard to the actuality of their views. I believe many of us have recognized the change in today’s context and conditions. Study Circles appear to have been highly adaptive to such changes.

Consequently, they reflect the shift from a context dominated by popular movements to one that values participation as “individual and private rather than something that is supporting the influence and power of a civil society versus other societal powers.” (p.13) Maybe one could argue that Study Circles were never meant to be the tools for political actions. In fact, even in the past, political action was the domain of social movements. What has changed is the intensity of how the learning activities developed in Study Circles would transfer to political action.

Diversity

With regard to diversity, Larsson emphasizes how Study Circles have provided an arena for the production of new identities, concluding that “the study circle tradition provides a system that is very much adapted to support diversity. We can also note that this is not only a potential but it is in fact used in practice as a place to produce and reproduce diverse identities.” (p.11) I find this specific point very important to our course and the relevant discussion on glocal education. I believe the relational nature of Study Circles provides a fertile ground for dialogue that would consider diverse narratives and discourses. That could be the prelude to the emergence of a transformative and then enactivist perspective and possibly a new holistic cultural paradigm based on Third-Culture building practices.

Global citizenship, European model.

I find Larsson’s article refreshing in its affirmation of the concept of “pluralistic citizenship.” (cited from Johnson, 1999) It reflects current approaches to people’s participation that transcend both Freire’s and Youngman’s class-based thinking. Of course, I recognize that his views are rooted in the Scandinavian tradition, quite different from the contexts discussed by the other authors. Nevertheless, his vocabulary is suitable for a comprehensive discussion of transformative education that relates to the changed landscape of the new millennium. I am saying this not because Freire’s observation on inequality and oppressions do not have merit nowadays, but because I believe we have now gained deeper, systemic insights into the relevant issues.

In Larsson’s words, the alternative to a traditional, juxtaposed idea of democracy

“will be a view, where there is no universal truth or ‘correct’ decision, but rather that democracy is about peaceful solutions of conflicting interests and world-views, in other words, negotiations and compromises between a multitude of groups in the population who have elected representatives. Possibilities to develop a diversity of opinions and form organisations based on this diversity become a prerequisite for such democracy” that would” embrace diversity and cultural pluralism.” (p. 9)

This will also entail politics of mutual recognition.

As an example of this kind of societal transformation, I would like to bring up the case of a EUROPA as outlined at http://www.euroalter.com/about-logo/ and http://www.euroalter.com/about/ . The language used in these web pages is consistent with Larsson’s findings and – in my view – also with the Cape Learning Region as conceptualized by Walters.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Cohen, J. L., & Arato, A. (1995). Civil society and political theory. Studies in contemporary German social thought. Cambridge, Mass. [u.a.]: MIT Press.

Larsson accept the definition of civil society given by Cohen and Arato. They believe that “social movements constitute the dynamic element in processes that might realize the positive potentials of modern civil societies.” Check this for more on Cohen and Arato: http://faculty.arts.ubc.ca/jbmurray/research/jbm_ayacucho.pdf

DISCUSSION

>>>>>

MARIE WROTE:

He does not mention the potential of the Internet as an opposite force to this, similar in a sense to study circles, but on a global scale.  I would argue that wikis, blogs, social networks, the diversity of web pages (self-promotional, knowledge-based, and otherwise) made available through the Internet offer similar eclectic, self-initiated, and non-hierarchical options to informal adult learning.  Because these go well beyond geographical state borders, are divorced from physical or locally situated constraints, they open up diverse knowledge building, and a kind of equality that restricts membership based on technological access alone. It remains to be seen whether this medium will reinforce collective participation in self governance or merely further fragmentation of local civil societies.

Hi Marie!

Thank you so much for your eloquent post. I found it meaningful, easy to read and well-written.

Here are some comments on the issue of changing educational venues.  On reading Larsson, I had this picture of a Swedish landscape scattered with small, self-contained communities, where people gather in cosy buildings with a very warm atmosphere to work on their social networking and personal adult education advancement. It is a comforting image, one that may reveal an aspect of Swedish society that may be hard to find in places outside Scandinavia. It is an image that may look quintessentially Swedish, and by extent is more familiar and palatable to Europeans, especially Northern Europeans, than to people in South Africa. I may be wrong, but this image may still dominate the Swedes’ approach to their adult education extension programs such as the Study Circles, because it is “culturally appropriate”, situated in the Nordic tradition. This may be a reason why immigrants are underrepresented in such context. As you point out, IT education opportunities are nowadays available. I wonder if they would satisfy the need for personal interaction sought after by the aging Swedish population. That would be the topic for another research project.

What is important here in terms of glocal education – I think – is to imagine. Let’s imagine how the learning spirit typical of study circles would work elsewhere. For example, would it be relevant to the specific context of South Africa? And let’s imagine how learning approaches from other places would benefit the Swedish adult education environment. How would that affect society? Transformation in the global age is about new ways in which we can imagine a different world.

Oscar

>>>>>>>

Kathy wrote:

dear oscar and Marie

just to add to your images of fireplaces and cosy rooms – the same organisation who is using Reflect in SA has been piloting a few study circles. They are working in the rural areas of the eastern cape in one of the poverty nodes of South Africa. so the study circles will be happening in in mud huts around a fireplace. People believe that in these areas, the original home of Nelson Mandela, Ubuntu still exists.

I guess the methodology of Reflect and a study circle would complement each other as both allow people a space to explore and develop; to work without an ‘expert’ towards transforming ones own community.

kathy

Dear Kathy and Marie,

The image of people gathering in mud huts to learn is very empowering. My stereotyped image of Sweden was actually more representative of the past. I am aware that things have changed a bit (-: . My point was that, for the Swedes, that image still holds power over the way democracy may be understood as belonging to the people. It’d be interesting to hear about this point from some of our cohorters in Scandinavia.

Kathy wrote: “to work without an ‘expert’ towards transforming ones own community.”

That reminds me of how David Bohm envisioned dialogue. On this, I’d like to share the following excerpt from Klenemas (2008), which I believe reinforces the philosophical approach of the Study Circles.

(emphasis added) “David Bohm sees equality of/among the participants as an important feature of dialogue. He says that this equality can be reached through a fair hearing of all parties involved. This demands of course also a certain degree of openness among the dialogue partners and that everyone has the chance to participate.

Bohm claims that hierarchical power structures would be counterproductive to the interaction. In his eyes, a discussion – in contrast to a dialogue – aims at a win-lose situation, where the parties “play” against (i.e. not with) each other. In a dialogue, on the other hand, people aim to reach a win-win situation.

To say it differently, dialogue is not about convincing or persuading the other. (This would mean that I know everything about my opinion, but nothing or little about the others’.) It is through listening carefully to each other without judging the others’ opinions that everyone can create the “same” stock of knowledge. Bohm is not saying that you should suppress your opinions and feelings. On the contrary, talking openly about facts and feelings is also important to reach what he calls “coherence of thought”. He stresses that if there is a coherence of meaning (or thought) the process and outcome will be much stronger and more effective. Let me sum up these three features of dialogue with David Bohm’s words:

‘How can you share if you are sure you have truth and the other fellow is sure he has truth, and the truths don’t agree? How can you share? Therefore, you have to watch out for the notion of truth. Dialogue may not be concerned with truth – it may arrive at truth, but it is concerned with meaning. If the meaning is incoherent you will never arrive at truth.’ (Bohm 1996: 15f)”

This approach brings Freire’s ideas on conscientization into focus by making it the individual’s responsibility to find coherence among a diversity of thoughts and meanings. For me, as I pointed out in another post (Link to forum ), this would be a supporting pillar for a new thinking paradigm.

Oscar

SOURCES CITED IN THIS POST:

Kleinemas Hanne (February 2008) Excuse me, is this the way to intercultural competence, in Coyote #13, Intercultural Dialogue, Council of Europe & European Commission Youth Partnership, Strasbourg, France. Accessed on September 2, 2009 at http://youth-partnership.coe.int/youth-partnership/documents/Publications/Coyote/13/Coyote13.pdf

Bohm, D.(1996): On Dialogue. Reprint 2006. London/New York: Routledge Classics.

>>>>>>> cultural essentialist view<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Thank you Annika for your comments as an insider. They play well into the etic vs. emic debate. (The “emic and etic” perspective is used in anthropology and cross-cultural counseling.)

Interestingly, you confirm the lower participation of immigrants in the Swedish Study Circles, which in turn may highlight the Nordic nature of such particular approach to adult education and the difficulty in transcending its original cultural imprint. This is a good example how complex issues of glocal education are, highlighting the difficulty of applying ideas across cultural differences. With regard to Study Circles, hat many view as a well-organized approach may feel and look to others – e.g. immigrants, broadly generalizing – as constrictive and at odds with their own ideas of learning. At the beginning, in Sweden it was assumed that Study Circles would work well to address local adult education needs. It was a system that was culturally appropriate and responding to Swedish minds. Extending the system to “outsiders” may be tricky, as it may reveal that not everyone agrees on the original assumption.

On this particular point, I would like to write some considerations. Larsson says that, “Even though there was a strong tendency to celebrate scientific knowledge at the time, study circles gave in fact space for diverse world-views. In that sense pluralism was in fact supported in worldviews by the organisational structure of independent study associations with different ideological connections.” (p. 2) He continues with several examples of what this diversity of world views is about. His thinking betrays a basic essentialist view of diversity, one that is necessarily limited – at least at the beginning – to diversity as perceived within Swedish society, and therefore mostly relevant to aspects of Swedish civil society. Even when he mentions issues of globalization, he considers them from a Nordic perspective.

It would be interesting to know if non-autochthonous variations of diversity now exist along Larsson’s examples of diversity as cited in his paper, and how these levels interact.

Oscar

GLL – on Walters, S.Adult learning within lifelong learning

COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: Samarbeta

TOPICS: local global learning, development, South Africa, Adult Education, Lifelong Learning, Adult Learning, Active Citizenship, Civil Society,

Step 2 – Part 3: Adult Education, Development and Transformation: South African case study

Link to blog

Link to forum

Reading:

Walters, S. (2006). Adult learning within lifelong learning: a different lens, a different light, Journal of Education, No. 39 Adult Education Special Focus Edition, Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Identify and discuss the competing or contesting development theories within the paper.

he article doesn’t seem to discuss any particular development theory; instead, it deals with different approaches to education within a South African development framework. Issue of development surface during the discussion and are contingent to the author’s advocacy for a broader spectrum of adult learning policies and activities. One example: the white paper on “knowledge economy” in Western Cape, arguing for “an intimate relationship between economic development and learning.”

Are there competing perspectives on education, which you can identify in this paper? What do you think they may be? How do they relate to the development theories you discussed in Part 2?

First, Walters discusses Aitchison’s ideas, though I found it hard to follow her critique without having read his article. From my understanding, according to Walters Aitchison’s views stem from Dependency Theory, critical of neo-liberal policies, in that it sees educators as victim of global capitalistic practices, and Lifelong Learning as working to support them.

Walter uses Aitchison’s article as an introduction to her discussion of current perspectives of adult education and learning in South Africa.

First, her article considers the distinction between Adult Education and Adult Learning.

Adult Education:

This is a highly bureaucratized for of education that has two main functions:

  • Personal development for the middle classes;
  • Basic education for the poor.

In the South, Adult Education suffers from fewer resources, educational institutions and people’s expectations towards their personal ability and opportunity to learn.

I believe it’s premised on classical Modernization Theory

Adult Learning:

This is a holistic process “embedded in the political, social, cultural and economic processes of society.” It promotes the use of adequate, appropriate new language, and emphasizes the value of learning communities.

I believe this is premised on Populist Theories, particularly for its emphasis on people-centered education and the small-scale learning projects. It seems to me that Walters’ preference for this approach wouldn’t necessarily subscribe to the limitedness and fragmented scope of Populist learning venues. In fact, Walters considers the fragmentation of the last 10 years of learning activities in South Africa as a major issue, detrimental to the effectiveness of the relevant programs. However – so I believe – she suggests that Lifelong Learning is the kind of Adult Learning that can open the way to major changes in the difficult current living conditions in South Africa.

Lifelong Learning:

In the article it is presented as a contested concept rooted in two traditions:

Progressive tradition (Dewey) based on Social Capital Theory (my choice of terms):

Premised on the promotion of democracy and citizenship, it suggests a holistic approach to learning, and – from my understanding – it’s supported by Social Capital Theory. It covers activities such as `capacity building`, `staff development`, `health promotion`, `skills training` or `community development`, as identified in Walters’ analysis of learning processes in South Africa. (p.14)

This tradition appears informed by Populist theories, although, as I mentioned earlier, Walters seems to distinguish her position from the fragmentation and NGO’s dominance typical of Pupulism, advocating instead a more cohesive albeit diversified model for the South African national community.

This approach reminds me of Dewey’s ideas on social change, reform, democracy, and personal responsibility that we discussed in previous courses.

The ultimate goal of this tradition appears to be the promotion of widespread Active Citizenship beyond its functional support of the marketplace, as a way to implement people’s participation and growth in civil society, as postulated in the 1998 UNESCO’s Mumbai Declaration.

[Active citizenship] “connects individuals and groups to the structures of social, political and economic activity in both local and global contexts, and emphasises women and men as agents of their own history in all aspects of their lives.” (UIE, 1998)

To me, this is a particularly important point, which I would like to address more in depth in a separate post

Institutional, bureaucratic tradition based on Human Capital Theory (my choice of terms)

Premised on the promotion of human resources development, it suggests an economy-based approach that is informed by Theodore Schultz’ Human Capital Theory, and therefore supported by Modernization Theory. More specifically, it seems to relate to reformist and Social Democratic views within this latter theory.

Discuss how these competing perspectives are manifested in the policies discussed in this paper. Identify and discuss the global and local agendas which may be evident in the policies discussed in this paper.

I want to start with a reference to the old Apartheid system, and how its education perspective affected both the oppressors and the oppressed. Succinctly, I believe that the education system subjected the white majority indoctrination, whereas it served as a tool of repression towards the black majority. Both segments of society internalized the essence of such education approach, together with relevant discriminatory and repressive policies. In the end, in such context there were no winners, only losers.

Walters cites the 1994 ANC’s Policy Framework for Education and Training as laying out the vision for future Lifelong Learning policies according to the progressive tradition described earlier.

Later, with the establishment of the National Qualifications Framework in 1995, there was a shift towards an institutionalized for of Lifelong Learning policies, which apparently – according to Walters – were drafted on imported models from other “British” countries. Whatever the reason, Walters seems to have identified a line of continuity between the Apartheid-era education and the current bureaucratic conceptualization that has diverted from the initial “people-centered” ideals.

Walters present a variegated scenario of interacting perspectives. Civil Society Organizations carry out their Populist missions; governmental agencies are still acting within the context of their institutional/bureaucratic tradition.

There is also the example of local governments embarking on a voyage of discovery by implementing truly innovative ideas such as the Learning Cape Festival, trying to strike a balance between “home” and “global market” needs and priorities. In an attempt to provide a “troubled space of possibilities”, “the LCF has helped to move ideas of lifelong learning beyond ‘romance’, to ‘evidence’ and ‘implementation’.

To me, this latter case represents a real transformation of intents and actions – like in Startrek’s voyages – “to boldly go where no one has gone before.” It is in fact a great example of how local administrations may raise to the occasion and supersede the traditional role of states.  As I pointed out in a previous post: what is more effective and people-centered than a local government that is mindful of peoples’ needs and of the impact that political decisions have right there where laws are made? The flexibility inherent in such form of self-government also includes the recognition and inclusion of minorities and issues of marginality, but also the ability to engage in effective networking among all parties and stakeholders. This may result into a multileveled dialogue aimed at the development of experiences of lifelong learning towards the construction of professional competencies and active citizenship at the local, national, and international level.

True, at times this may sound like an experiment, but – in my opinion – it’s something worthwhile trying, also considering that over the decades there have been many examples of successful local governance.

Write a synthesis (2 paragraphs) of Walters’ main argument in this paper and share with your group.

Synthesis

Adult Education in South Africa still suffers from an overproduction of bureaucracy that reminds of Apartheid-era policies. To escape such conundrum, it’s necessary to move from Education to Learning. As a form of Adult Learning, Lifelong Learning represents a perspective of hope by which South Africans will be able to overcome current conditions of underdevelopment. In its progressive form, it will help shift education policies from an emphasis on centralized bureaucracy towards the benefits of active citizenship.

To establish a holistic approach to learning, it’s important to create opportunities for institutional structures to “connect up” with agencies and organizations that are the expression of civil society. As a model for this new, challenging framework of co-operation, Walters presents the Learning Region as a new “troubled space for possibilities.” Thus Lifelong Learning offers a way to merge “romance”, “vision”, and structural intervention in a diversified education framework that will eventually – and hopefully – transform current conditions. This holistic, systems-based, and increasingly complex scenario can only be understood through  “telescopic” lenses that will allow for broad and comprehensive analysis of this very rich field.

In my view, Walters seems to herald a more post-modern role for the state, one not necessarily premised on making executive policies, but rather on creating the framework and conditions for broad cooperation on a variety of issues among the most diversified universe of agencies, people, stakeholders, and individuals.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Aitchison, J. (2003 a) Struggle and compromise: a history of South African adult education. Journal of Education Number 29. Pietermaritzburg. University of Natal. 125 – 178.

Aitchison, J. (2003 b) Brak! – vision, mirage and reality in the post apartheid globalisation of South African adutl education and training. Journal of Education Number 31. Pietermaritzburg. University of Natal.  47 – 74.

Edwards, R and Usher, R. (2005) A troubled space of possibilities. Lifelong learning and the postmodern. In Sutherland Peter and Jim Crowther 2005 Lifelong Learning concepts and contexts. London, UK. Routledge. 58-67.

UNESCO Institute for Education. (1998) The Mumbai Statement on Lifelong learning, Active Citizenship and the Reform of Higher Education. Hamburg. UIE.

European Commission Memorandum on Lifelong Learning, 2002 www.bologna-berlin2003.de/pdf/MemorandumEng.pdf

GLL – Role of the state / Utopia

COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: Samarbeta

TOPICS: local global learning, utopia, “Small is beautiful”, Trent, government

Step 2 – Part2: on Populism and Adult Education, Frank Youngman

Link to forum

Link to blog

ON THE ROLE OF THE STATE / UTOPIA

Marie wrote:

As I write this, the idea that local solutions are the answer seems a bit utopian to me, but perhaps with tweaking, this is a good starting point for solving the current global economic/environmental/polarity crisis.  I have often observed in Canada’s North that the breakdown of indigenous linguistic/cultural systems goes hand in hand with environmental degradation and that little of comparable value is given in the exchange.  It seems to me that sociocultural diversity is integral to environmental diversity and that both are required for the long term health of their systems.

Hi Marie,

Allow me to interject some thoughts on this last statement.

For me utopia is to believe that a distant, centralized government may know and do best what’s needed to ensure that people, locally, may have a chance to have a life that is worth being called one. I instead do not consider utopian when we envision a world made up of interconnected realities – each in its own right, with its own characteristics and traits – that are capable of micro and macro manage (as a wholistic result) their own affairs. I am obviously not talking about a return to the Middle Ages, when – at least in Europe – city states were acing each other off in a localistic and futile attempt to overcome their enemies. I am talking about a mature international framework that may eventually replace our current allotment of countries that base their existence on at times artificial justification for their independent statehood. My previous post gave as an example the situation in my home region. I am not trying to suggest that that framework is a model of universal applicability, but I just want to present it as a viable alternative to “government as usual.”

In other words, like economist Schumacher used to affirm: “Small is beautiful,” which would also apply to the size of government and of “administrative areas” (for lack of other words). In fact, I would argue, what is more effective and people-centered than a local government that is mindful of peoples’ needs and of the impact that political decisions have right there where laws are made? The flexibility inherent in such form of self-government also includes the recognition and inclusion of minorities and issues of marginality. True, at times this may sound like an experiment, but – in my opinion – it’s something worthwhile trying, also considering that over the decades there have been many examples of successful local governance.

Cheers!

Resources:

http://www.smallisbeautiful.org/about/biographies/schumacher.html

http://www.schumachercollege.org.uk/learning-resources/links

http://www.smallisbeautiful.org/about/biographies/schumacher.html

If you look for some inspiration, I find this collection very empowering: http://www.smallisbeautiful.org/about/efs_quotes.htm

GLL – State and Civil Society

COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: Samarbeta

TOPICS: local global learning, development, Third Way, Education, Marxism, Trent, active citizenship, co-participation

Step 2 – Part2: on Populism and Adult Education, Frank Youngman

Link to blog

Link to forum

Wonderful comments! Thank you.

I see how we get into troubles when we try to find a solution of universal applicability. When dealing with the complexity of the issues under discussion, I feel that there should be first a clear framing of local conditions (factors, stakeholders, agencies, state, goals, resources, outside influences, etc.). That would allow for contextual and systemic analysis that may yield different solutions to different areas.

One example. In my home area (The autonomous province of Trent) the provincial government is enacting education and learning policies in contrast to those put forth by the state (national government). In this regard, it is acting more as an entity akin to Civil Society, in that its actions are parallel but distinct to those of the state. However, view from within the provincial borders, the provincial government acts like a state, and deals with a complex and variegated  universe of local NGO’s, which diversifies educational opportunities for the people.

I believe there is merit in Gloria’s comments on whether Civil Society is indeed capable to sustain a viable system outside the state’s control (I am paraphrasing; I hope I am correctly interpreting Gloria’s thoughts). In my home region, the local provincial government is acting as the main reference agency, at the center of a web of other agencies and relevant relationships. I would agree with Gloria that, in that specific geographic, cultural, historic, social and environmental context, things are better served with the local government acting as a clearing house, making relevant laws – through political debate – that provide a shared framework for civil society.

Words that come to mind when thinking of such synergistic approach are — dialogue, inclusion, motivation, social capital, co-participation, and active citizenship. It also reminds me of a “connective model” for work and learning in general.

Link: A Roadmap to Work and Learning

GLL: on local global learning, citizenship, democracy, social movements

COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: Samarbeta

TOPICS: local global learning, citizenship, democracy, social movements

Step 1 – Part 2: on global/local learning

Link to blog

Link to forum

Comments on the Commentary.

The commentary is very useful in introducing a common language for this course. It suggests terms that I feel comfortable working with, as they allow me to pursue the systems thinking approach that I have used in previous courses. The “global/local” intersecting variations of learning can only be understood as the results of their contextual, cultural, geographic, economic, human, sociological components, only to cite some of the aspects that concur to finalizing the learning experience at the start of the third millennium.  Some of these terms are: world without borders, border pedagogy, citizenship, democracy, and social movements.

Though the assertion that we live in an interconnected world is not new, it introduces a discourse based on systemic patterns. Because of that, it is unlikely that “globalization creates cultural convergence or growing sameness – otherwise referred to as homogenization,” as the processes inherent in globalization are way to complex to allow for such narrow scenario.

I’d like to comment on the three scenarios presented on pages 1-2 concerning the conception of globalization as westernization (to which, of course, there is some truth).

This scenario happens in the face of increasingly desensitized populations and individuals who have become uncritical of and possibly overwhelmed with processes of cultural colonization. We do have a chance and the choice to remain involved in the governance of globalization processes, which would lessen the danger of the establishment of a world-wide America-style society.

“Other commentators link the interaction with processes of globalization and their impact on local contexts to growing fragmentation and cultural diversity. They argue that global influences, be they global media or global markets or global theory, are always adapted to fit local contexts according to local conditions and cultural patterns. Through the dynamic interplay of the global and the local, global social movements, for example, may take different forms, engage in different practices and make different impacts depending on local particularities.”

As suggested in my last comment above, this would only be possible if people retained their critical thinking attitude towards globalization processes and the changes they represent. It is an approach that I find highly desirable.

“Another perspective which has relevance for global/local learning, is the view that the new transportation and communication systems have intensified intercultural relations leading to what commentators refer to as the ‘hybridization’ of cultures. This is often associated with people who, because of work, education or for political reasons, move to other areas and come into contact with other societies and cultures for varying lengths of time.”

This is the case of “transient people,” who freely move between cultures and countries. It is a phenomenon of global proportions – with which I can personally identify – that have been the topic of Intercultural Communication research for several decades. Within the discourse of “cultural transformation” and “third-culture building,” I believe that these processes can provide a platform for global/local learning opportunities. It is well known how a host culture can affect outsiders. It is also clear that single individuals can have an impact on another culture (development workers, teachers, missionaries, etc.). It would be interesting to find out more on the interplay between the two players (host culture and transient person), and how the relevant original cultures may interact within this constellation.

Within the complexity of a web of cultures, robotic sameness remains an impossible scenario. In fact, I agree that “People are forced to find their way through seemingly chaotic series of social ands cultural possibilities.”

Suggested links on people-centered development:

In the literature for this course there are many references to people-centered development. I would like to suggest the following resources that I have found very helpful in learning more about the issue.

Korten, D. C., & Klauss, R. (1984). People-centered development: Contributions toward theory and planning frameworks. West Hartford, Conn: Kumarian Press.

Summary available at:

http://www.crinfo.org/booksummary/10323/

David Korten is president and founder of the People-Centered Development Forum. He is an associate of the International Forum on Globalization and a member of the Club of Rome. He is the editor of Yes! Magazine

GLL:Example of global/local learning

COURSE: Global/Local Learning–GLL

FORUM: Samarbeta

TOPICS: local global learning, Trento, cultural diversity

Step 1 – Part 1: example of global/local learning

Link to forum

Link to blog

Illustrative example of “global/local learning”

My example stems from the historical, political, economic and cultural context of my home region (Trentino- South Tyrol), which is home to several languages and relevant traditions: German, Italian, Ladin, the dialects of individual valleys and the languages of newly arrived immigrants from Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe. Within and beyond its geographic borders one notices a complex interaction among local and global cultural components. The region reaches out to the world, but also functions as a laboratory for cultural learning processes that are enfolding within its borders. By embracing the challenges and complexity of the larger globalized context, the local context transcends the limitations imposed on it by outdated nationalistic views. Let’s now examine some local aspects and how they intersect with old and new global trends.

Local context

The autochthonous populations in the region have lived peacefully together for many centuries. Such experience has resulted in some kind of mutual learning that, unfortunately, suffered a set back during the nationalistic conflicts of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Global influences

Today this original local context has been “broken into” by recently arrived immigrants, who are undoubtedly influencing the established socio-cultural-economic processes. The perennial flow of international tourists is another example of intersecting local/global experiences.

Adherence to the spirit and policies of the E.U. and the creation of a Euro-region that includes the Austrian Tyrol further contribute to shaping the interconnections between the region’s local and global characters.

These “external” phenomena strongly influence local learning attitudes and policies. (I believe that these phenomena are by now so embedded at the local level as to have lost their “external” character).

Issues of access and power in future scenarios

COURSE: WORK AND LEARNING

FORUM: The future of work and education

TOPICS: Doornbos, power, access, active citizenship, motivation, elite workforce,

Doornbos, A.J., Bolhuis, S. and Simons, P.R. (2004): Modeling Work-related Learning on the Basis of Intentionality and Developmental Relatedness: A Noneducational Perspective. (link to Itslearning)

As pointed out in other posts on this last block of readings, issues of power, inequality, and access will continue to affect future policies of work and learning.

I believe that there is a real danger of creating a framework of affordances that is restricted to those who are “in the system,” leaving the others out. Examples of such a development are at hand both in workplace training and in formal education.

Doornbos et al. – however – recognize the impact of issues of power and access in workplace learning contexts, whereas they assume equality of access in formal education settings.

“Cliques, politics, and power may intentionally or unintentionally influence the distribution of opportunities to learn. Those with more access to power can claim learning opportunities, and they can also deny opportunities for learning, whereas those with less power may find access to what they want difficult. In contrast, access to learning is assumed to be equal within a formal education setting” (p. 257).

Unfortunately, the article does not seem to add much with respect to such assessment. This could lead to the establishment of what Rifkin calls (see his article) an elite workforce.

The risk is real, as also recognized by George Papadopoulos in his assessment of access policies. (see article Lifelong Learning and the Changing Policy Environment)

I feel that current and future policies of work and learning should frame the discussion within an open system approach similar to the one suggested by Marsick and Watkins. That would ensure permeability of access within and across interrelated work-and-learning contexts. By doing so, we could transform (and not just reform) today’s approach into a new challenging and promising platform that would offer opportunities for open participation, motivated interaction, transnational co-operation, active citizenship, and diversity of learning styles and educational pathways.

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