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

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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.


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.


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


GLL – on Youngman’s Adult Education and Development Theory

COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: Samarbeta

TOPICS: local global learning, development, Third Way, Education, Marxism, Civil Society,

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

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Youngman, F. (2000). Adult Education and Development Theory in The Political Economy of Adult Education & Development, (Chapter 4). London: Zed Press.


In general, I believe that Youngman’s chapter suggests a Marxist perspective, reflected in his language and the initial references to Marxist scholars and thinkers.

His writing advances a Marxist political economy, in that the author recognizes that the ruling capitalist forces negatively impact on development efforts the South.

I feel that Youngman sees adult education a system framed within existing societal structures rather than as a process of growth and development. In other words, Youngman seems to miss the important distinction between adult education (structure) and adult learning (potential societal and personal growth). For Youngman, the state holds the key to education. He glosses over the transformational approaches inherent in so called “populist education,” “people-centered development,” and “third way” thinking, and forcefully returns to Marxist doctrines of development.

Youngman views Civil Society as a promoter of adult education, though he presents it in juxtaposition to the state and sees it as subordinate to the state.

Although he recognizes the interrelations between many factors and issues, he fails to suggest a framework within which transformation can occur. His Marxist approach, as summarized at the end of Chapter 4, does not include any reference to cultural diversity; instead it reiterates issues and taxonomies that have historically belonged to past discourses of Marxist thought.

In this chapter, I see very little that could be called “new,” let alone “revolutionary.” Youngman seems to have a hard time in breaking free from the Marxist/Capitalist dichotomy.


GLL – On the steady growth model


COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: Samarbeta

TOPICS: local global learning, growth, development

Step 2 – Part 1

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Marie wrote

Like you Oscar, I question the report’s prescription for economic growth. For example, how will  more productive, less labour intensive, technologies translate into new jobs on the one hand, while on the other hand one seeks to alleviate unemployment by devolving production to use more labour intensive employment?  Surely these are lower paying positions, and don’t impact the underlying power imbalance of who is in control of capital production? It seems to me that this problem of capital intensive technology replacing labour intensive production methods is a global issue and one that will require more than local efforts to resolve.

Thanks for adding spice to my comments! (-: I remember that the issues you raise were also discussed in the course on Work and learning, specifically with regard to possible future scenarios of the work market. (Beck, U. (2000). The future of work and its scenarios: An interim balance-sheet (Chapter 4). In The brave new world of work (pp. 36-66). Cambridge, UK: Polity Press)

The issue for me is on finding an alternative to currently employed paradigms that have failed repeatedly over the decades. We need to adopt a language that is innovative, in that it clearly diverges from current and past discourses. I believe that the language introduced in this course (annotations on local/global learning) and the terminology used in people-centered discussions is appropriate for such transformational shift.


Anita wrote:

I felt that the report’s recommendations about development were a bit vague in that they set out the goals and outcomes but not really how those could be achieved. I agree with Oscar that we need new ways of thinking, and therefore speaking (or vice versa I guess) about these issues if we are to achieve a different result in SA or globally. I think people are collectively working on re-naming and re-thinking but it will  take time and it seems clear we are not there yet. For example, I am struck by the extent to which the global response to the economic downturn has been to do more of the same. I think the emphasis on economic growth has to be abandonned in favour of language that is people-centred, and environoment-centred.


I couldn’t agree more with what you said. (which makes it easier for me to respond to your post). I also notice a tendency to go back to better times, when everyone was happy and dancing, at least according to many people’s faulty memory. This is particularly true for the way our current economic and social stagnation has been handled by the ruling class ( the same class, more or less, that has lead us into this mess). In the case of South Africa, I feel that – in a sense – part of what has been implemented there has been a bold experiment, an attempt at  breaking away from the past…oooo and what a past!  In spite of South Africa’s GEAR Program ( as mentioned by Mohamed) and the neo-liberal approach adopted, which proves that  policies have not always worked, I still believe that certain choices – particularly with regard to education – were intentionally transformational in nature. Besides, who is to say that continuing on a collision course based on a western notion of perennial growth would yield better results? By choosing to address socio-environmental issues over maintaining the advantages of an unbalanced economic system, South African policy drafters could take a step in the right direction.


GLL – On people-centered development


COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: Samarbeta

TOPICS: local global learning, people-centered development

Step 2 – Part 1

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This brings up the issue of people centered development, which was the topic of a book by David Korten that I have re-read recently. He defined people-centered development as follows:

“It is an approach to development that looks to the creative initiative of people as the primary development resource and to their material and spiritual well-being as the end that the development process serves.” (p.201)

“People-centered development places substantial value on local initiatives and diversity. It thus favors self-organizing systems developed around human-scale organizational units and self-reliant communities.”(p.300)

I like the way these quotes allow me to reflect more on our interesting discussion and readings.

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

Summary available at:

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 – on Barriers to education in South Africa

COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: Samarbeta

TOPICS: local global learning, South Africa, development

Step 2 – Part 1: on Barriers to education

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Land, S. (2006). Barriers to education faced by educationally deprived adults in Muthukrishna, N. (ed.) Mapping Barriers to Basic Education in the Context of HIV and AIDS: A Report on Research conducted in the Richmond District, KwaZulu-Natal Pietermaritzburg: School of Education and Development, University of Kwazulu Natal.

What are the main barriers to basic education identified by adult learners in this study?

According to the this study, the following are the main barriers mentioned by interviewees:

Poverty and unemployment

  • Having to work as “slaves” for the family,
  • Finding money for transport;
  • Lack of transport (especially, lack of affordable transportation);
  • Fear of crime, i.e. fear of being attacked on their way to school;
  • Gender issues, i.e. discrimination against women accessing education;
  • Status quo in the family, i.e. “education should not change power relations between husband and wife.” (p.89)

Social breakdow

(few people agreed on):

  • Social breakdown in families impact on education;
  • The use of drugs and alcohol impacts school attendance;

Health issues

  • Poor health, disability, and illnesses;
  • Suspected learning disabilities; (suggested by the researches)
  • Loss of parents to HIV/AIDS (which forces some children to drop out of school);
  • HIV/AIDS would cause lack of income, (p. 93), and fear (p. 95);

What are the main factors identified by adult learners in this study that support their efforts to learn?

These factors are:

  • Motivation to learn;
  • “Implicit perception of whites as potential employers, “ which would support the learners’ contact with white teachers;
  • Some hoped for increased chances of employment;
  • Interest in overcoming sense of inadequacy;
  • Support from family (which even strengthens their parental roles);
  • Employer support;

Discuss this comment in her Conclusion, Land (2006) comments that “It is tempting to salute the resilience of adults who survive and retain the will to learn in situations as severe and discouraging as those described above. However, doing so would, in a sense, sanction the conditions under which they live in, by intimating that they are bearable”.

Yes, this comment has merit and relates to what Gloria wrote in the forum (“The costs of global influences, cultural transformations, are borne more heavily by marginalized groups which has led to social separation”.) and also to Marie’s post (“Risk that global/local learning will evolve within a society in a way that culturally disempowers local community, contributing to continued economic injustices and environmental degradation.”)

This relates also to the traps of governmentability, defined by Foucault as “A form of power that is exercised through an ensemble of institutions, procedures, analyses, and reflections, which results in the formation of a specific governmental apparatus (Foucault, M. “Governmentality.” In The Foucault Effect, edited by G. Burchell, C. Gordon, and P. Mills, pp. 87-104. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991). (Fenwick, p. 42

As seen earlier in the program, similar issues are also brought up by Chappell et al. in “Selfwork”.

They suggest that, despite all the good intentions, we may still remain trapped in the cultural framework from which we have emerged, and in which we operate. Such view remains for the most part unchallenged and is self-perpetuating. In this regard, Chappell et al. mention that in some cases “the self participates in its own subjugation and domination whether it is through ‘false consciousness’ produced by membership of a particular social group, or the internalisation of social ‘oppression’ through individual ‘repression’ ”. (Chappelll, C., Rhodes, C., Solomon, N., Tennant, M. and Yates, L. (2003) “Selfwork” in Reconstructing the Lifelong Learner: Pedagogy and identity in individual, organisational and social change (2003) by C. Chappelll, C. Rhodes, N. Solomon, M. Tennant & L. Yates Routledge Falmer, London, p. 6)

Foucault (1980) wrote how, when subjected to the  perpetual surveillance of normalizing practices that classify, measure, and judge them, people begin monitoring and regulating their own behavior to conform with pre-established standards. Eventually, they become self-policing, their “selves” becoming objects of their own critical gaze of measurement and control.” (p. 42) In this way, individuals retain their independence from the institutional context, but also grow into it.

Taking into account the issues identified in your discussion of both readings, discuss the view that South Africa offers a microcosm of global inequalities where a small population has a very high standard of living and a majority of people live in impoverished contexts? Indicate whether and why you agree or disagree.

In Land’s article, the researchers admit that there had been a slight misunderstanding in the level of expectation participants had with regard to their participation. Some thought that by cooperating with the researchers, something might have been done to alleviate the level of their personal despair. This brings be to the following comment:

In a polarized context like South Africa’s, where there is indeed a microcosm of inequalities. our discussion has pinpointed various aspects of such inequalities. Above all, access to education still eludes the vast majority mainly due to lack of available financial resources and appropriate investments. This maintains the status quo, with a rich minority living alongside a very large, poor minority.

I believe that we need to return to the etymological meaning of the word hope, otherwise the risk is high for people to become disillusioned. The UNDP report, like many others like it, may serve the purpose of stirring the lethargic attitude found in the universe of development agencies, but does little to change the balance of power in praxis. This should not come as a surprise, if one looks at who is actually controlling international organizations (certainly not disenfranchised, undereducated, destitute people).

GLL – on UNDP South Africa report 2003

COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: Samarbeta

TOPICS: local global learning, South Africa, development

Step 2 – Part 1: on UNDP South Africa report 2003

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Here are my comments on the UNDP South Africa report (2003).

United Nations Development Programme (2003). South Africa Human Development Report. New York: Oxford University Press.

What do you consider to be three of the most striking features of South African society, as described in the reading? Explain why you have selected these three features?

The legacy of the apartheid era still bears on chances to establish a form of sustainable development in the country. Apartheid-era policies were “not based on improving the living conditions of the majority of South Africans, and thus became unsustainable.” (xv)

The new South Africa emerged from such scenario. Today, from my understanding of the Report, the striking features of South African society are as follows:

1) Issues with regard to the commitment to transformation by South Africa’s leaders (xi), which touch on social capital building (xviii) and on the failure of the South African government’s policies (xv);

2) Widespread issues of inequalities and poverty — both inherited from the previous apartheid era and resulting from current policies (xi); these issues include unequal income distribution (xvi);

3) Issues of unsustainable environmental approaches (xviii);

4) Issues relating to the multicultural and multilingual make-up of South Africa’s population.

With reference to this last point, the report introduction fails to mention the richness found in South Africa’s cultural diversity, which is, however, recognized by the country’s constitution. Such omission makes me wonder whether racial tensions and intercultural dynamics have been intentionally left out, or else are by now considered as a marginal issue. I would prefer a pro-active and forward-thinking conceptualization of South Africa’s language and cultural diversity, envisioning a context where the many facets of the country’s cultural diversity and sometimes fragmentation will enter the equation of sustainable development, also through a relevant transformative approach to education that will recognize such diversity as a powerful learning asset.

Identify and comment on key development issues, related to social transformation, confronting the South African society.

The Report cites 5 central challenges confronting the future of sustainable development in South Africa:

  • The eradication of poverty and extreme income and wealth inequalities;
  • The provision of access to quality and affordable basic services to all South Africans, especially the poor;
  • The promotion of environmental sustainability;
  • A sustained reduction in the unemployment rate,
  • And the attainment of sustainable high growth rates.

These five challenges interface with the striking issues identified in the first part of this post.

In general, I found two main ideas in the introduction of the Report that are worthwhile mentioning:

a) The idea of engaging all stakeholders in a networked effort to establish viable sustainable development policies and relevant actions, and of holding them accountable for achieving such objectives (xii);

b) The idea of tapping into people’s resources (“unlocking people’s creativity”) (xv).

I also want to mention that the Report consistently emphasizes “high growth levels” and the “growth path” as unquestioned paradigmal goals of successful future policies. I find it strange and also disconcerting that a report premised on effective, dialectic, relational and system-oriented solutions (references are found throughout the introduction) would not take a more critical stand towards the questionable developmental model based on the equation progressive, steady growth equals development.

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