Adult Learning and Education System Building Approach

What is the Adult Learning and Education System Building Approach ?

“Adult Learning and Education System Building Approach” (ALESBA) is a tool, which can guide governments, civil society, universities and others in the complex task of system building, at the same time the approach is open to improvement, adaptation, and modification. ALESBA was born in East Africa but rests on a generic conceptual framework of what an adult learning and education (ALE) system constitutes and can therefore be adapted for use in any country. Underlying principles and considerations such as participation, partnership, ownership, capacity building and sustainability, among others, guide the implementation.

At the heart of the ALESBA lies a conceptual framework that captures the elements and building blocks of a comprehensive ALE system. A system is usually understood as an entity composed of different elements, structures and processes which are interconnected and interdependent with feedback loops. In the context of ALE, all elements and processes needed to deliver ALE services must be considered. System building includes the process of assessing and diagnosing the system and finding alternatives to improve the system, test the improved design, make adjustments and scale up interventions to reach a wider target group in a larger geographical area, e.g., nation-wide.

Why ALESBA in the region and next steps?

The East/ Horn of Africa region is challenged by the educational and livelihood needs of its rapidly growing population. Even after decades of sustained efforts to eradicate adult illiteracy, the rates remain high with gender and urban/rural disparities. The school drop-out rates continue to create groups of illiterate/semi-literate and unskilled/semi-skilled youth and adults with limited opportunities to improve their livelihoods. The need to invest in adult learning and education remains.

There is still a lack of conceptual clarity about the wider ALE sector and how to integrate adult
literacy with non-formal skills training, vocational and life skills, etc. Each set of actors emphasises differences in principles, purposes and practices rather than establishing connections and seeking cross-cutting alliances. The DVV International East/Horn of Africa region and specifically the Ethiopia and Uganda country offices with their government partners started to ask questions and realised that support the more technical components of adult education are insufficient and do not address the root causes for ALE service delivery.

This paradigm shift required the DVV International East/ Horn of Africa regional team and partners to step out of their adult education boxes and draw concepts and ideas from the fields of systems thinking, public administration, organisational development and governance. Gradually over time, a new approach to the work emerged organically, with lessons learnt every step of the way. This culminated in the development of the ALESBA. The methodology used to develop the approach is based on participatory action learning and research. Lessons learned as well as implementation of the approach and tools coupled with research from the diverse fields continue to inform the
further development of the approach.

Adult Learning and Education System Building Approach (ALESBA)

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