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Adult Education and Sustainable Development Goals

Adult Education and Sustainable Development Goals

Education is crucial at any stage of life, especially when you are handling all the troubles in your adult life. Even if you haven’t received a proper education as a student, adult education can make up for that and ensure us to be successful in life.

That’s why adult education and sustainable development goals set by the UN are interlocked with each other. I have often wondered about the relevancy of adult learning and whether it is detrimental or effective for our society.

In this guide, I will share my thoughts on adult education and sustainable development goals and how I believe they can change the world for the better.

So, let’s get started!

What are Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals or, commonly referred to as SDGs, is a set of goals set by the United Nations to tackle predicaments like poverty and environmental pollution and ensure prosperity for humanity. 

There are a total of 17 global goals for SDG. The UN hopes to fulfill all of these goals by the end of 2030. The SDGs tackle issues like health, education, gender equality, climate change, biodiversity, human rights, social justice and more.

These goals are interconnected, interdependent, and inclusive. Therefore, they don’t discriminate between age or gender and aim to leave no one behind.

Understanding Adult Education and its Role in Sustainability

As the name suggests, adult education is a form of education that targets adult individuals. There are multiple variations of education belonging to adult education. Generally, these forms of education are aimed at enhancing an adult’s technical and/or professional qualifications, enhancing their skills, competencies, and knowledge. 

Adult education plays a key role in sustainable development as it promotes the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainability. Implementing adult education worldwide can create favorable conditions for empowering active global citizens.

These people, in return, will contribute to the achievement of the SDGs and, ultimately, to the transformation of society. It can also help individuals and communities cope with the rapid and complex changes that are affecting their lives.

Adult education can provide opportunities for lifelong learning. This includes:

  • Adapting to the changing demands of the labor market
  • Enhancing employability and productivity
  • Fostering innovation and entrepreneurship
  • Supporting social inclusion and cohesion

This also helps to boost critical thinking, creativity, and values that are conducive to sustainable development, like equal human rights, diversity, peace, and environmental awareness. So, in short, adult education fills the need to achieve the goals set out by SDG.

Why Adult Education is Part of This

The main reason why adult education is part of the SDGs is because it is recognized as a human right, which SDG’s goal wishes to provide to the masses. 

Moreover, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to education,” and in SDG 4, it has been stated: “By 2030, ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy”.

Impact of Adult Education 

Now let’s take a look at the effect of adult education on the three factors of sustainability development when it is properly implemented on a global scale:

Economic Development

Arguably, the biggest impact of adult education will be noticed in the economy. We will witness a rapid enhancement of the human capital and the employability of individuals. 

This will also positively affect the marginalized in the labor market and open up opportunities for people with disabilities and low-skilled workers. 

Adult education will allow uneducated & only labor-based workers the opportunity to acquire and upgrade their skills and competencies. 

It will be their way to access formal or informal learning opportunities and obtain qualifications and certifications. This will ultimately improve their income and working conditions, leading to better economic development across the globe.

Adults will also support the transition to a green and circular economy. This will happen when individuals have the necessary skills & and competencies needed for clean and efficient technologies. And that said, skill & knowledge will be earned through adult education.

Social Development

When adults are introduced to education, it will shape social architecture & development significantly. It will enhance the well-being of individuals and communities. Some potential improvements that it can bring:

  • Foster social inclusion and cohesion 
  • Improve civic participation and engagement 
  • More Intercultural conversations, claims, and understanding, 
  • Peace and security

Adult education allows individuals to develop their personal & social skills. This includes access to information and services that allow them to exercise their rights and responsibilities and express their opinions and interests.

This sort of development will encourage adults to participate in social decision-making processes and to join or form associations and networks. This will help to develop cultural and recreational activities as well as engage them in social and solidarity actions.

As adult education promotes social justice and equity, its wide distribution will trigger us to address the root causes and consequences of discrimination, exclusion, and violence. 

This will later empower the most vulnerable and marginalized groups of society. Doing so will spread awareness and mobilize action on a global scale. That’s why adult education is crucial if we want to see social development all over the world and not just for a few limited groups of educated personalities. 

Environmental Development

One of the primary reasons for environmental damage and backward development is a lack of knowledge. 9 out of 10 people in the world breathe polluted air, but do they know the reason behind it?

No, and if they knew. I don’t think they would be putting their surroundings in danger unless there is no other way. And that is where adult education comes in.

Proper education & and knowledge distribution regarding the environmental situation of the world and what effects it will ensure:

  • Environmental awareness and literacy among adults
  • Proper understanding of environmental action and types of advocacies
  • Create environmental stewardship and responsibility among peers

Environmental education among adults will provide insights on problems like climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, deforestation, desertification, and water scarcity to the masses.

This will allow them to assess the risks and opportunities that they pose for human and natural systems and force them to adopt and promote sustainable lifestyles, which satisfies the requirements of the goals set by SDGs.

Due to these factors, I solemnly believe that adult education will trigger more significant environmental development than any other paths we have taken so far.

Addressing Global Challenges through Adult Learning

Adult learning can play a crucial role in addressing the global challenges and opportunities that the SDGs aim to tackle. It will do this by providing individuals and communities with the competencies and capacities that are required to face them and to contribute to their achievement. 

Some of the global challenges and opportunities that adult learning can address are:

Poverty and Hunger

One of the most critical global challenges is poverty, and tackling it is the top priority of SDGs. Adult learning can help in this sector. It can do so by providing the necessary skills and knowledge that individuals need to survive. 

This way, most people will be able to:

  • Increase their income and livelihoods
  • Access and produce food
  • Improve their nutrition and health
  • Reduce their vulnerability and resilience
  • Provide social protection and safety for themselves

In short, with the guidance of education, uneducated adults will have more job opportunities to improve their existing skills, which will help them to improve themselves financially and take care of their food & nutrition demands by doing so.

Health and Well-being

A big concern, especially in third-world countries where education hasn’t spread properly, is health. With proper implementation of adult education, this situation can improve. 

This knowledge will equip communities & individuals with the skills and knowledge needed to prevent & treat diseases, promote healthy lifestyles, and ensure quality health care and services.

This way, people will have a way to deal with physical and mental stress, improve a healthy lifestyle, and ensure the well-being of others. 

Education and Lifelong Learning

Adult learning can help individuals and communities to achieve their educational goals and aspirations. It can provide people with the knowledge they need to:

  • Complete their formal education
  • Acquire new skills 
  • Gain competencies in a changing world
  • Obtain lifelong learning opportunities
  • Gather the necessary qualifications and certifications to succeed 
  • Improve their literacy and numeracy
  • Boost their learning outcomes and satisfaction

All of this falls under the SDGs that the UN hopes to ensure by 2030. And that’s why Adult Education is one of the key concepts for SDG to become successful.

Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment

A big challenge that people face when it comes to establishing the SDGs is women’s empowerment. There are places across the globe where women are still oppressed. They don’t know about their rights, nor do their peers.

That can be changed if we can implement adult education across the globe. As with proper knowledge, people can challenge and change the social and cultural norms and practices that discriminate against and oppress women and girls.

This will allow women to:

  • Access their rights and freedoms, 
  • Participate and lead in all spheres of life 
  • Equally, control resources and opportunities
  • Contribute to the economic and social development
  • Prevent and respond to gender-based violence

Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability

As mentioned in the environmental development aspect of adult education, we can take better steps to protect nature if everyone is aware of the current environmental situation and knows how to take proper steps to prevent that. 

We can’t stop climate change and ensure environmental sustainability if we don’t know what are the causes and effects of climate change and environmental degradation. 

But with adult education, we will be providing unaware individuals with the skills and knowledge they need to understand:

  • The scientific and social dimensions of these issues 
  • How to assess the risks and opportunities these issues pose for us 
  • Ways to adopt and promote sustainable lifestyles and practices
  • How to participate in environmental governance and policy-making 
  • Proper steps to support and implement environmental solutions and innovations

The situation is simple: if we have knowledgeable adults, they will be able to make the right decisions to help support the sustainability of the environment and prevent climate change.   

Common Challenges in Implementing Adult Education Programs for SDGs

Despite the potential and importance of adult education for sustainable development, there are several challenges and barriers that hinder its implementation and effectiveness. 

Some of the common challenges adult education implementation will face are:

Lack of Political Commitment and Support

One of the core reasons why education for adults is difficult to implement is not getting enough support or commitment from the governing bodies.

Adult education is often neglected or marginalized in the national and international development agendas and policies. This is primarily due to the lack of political will and recognition of its value and relevance. 

Most of the time, education projects like these are underfunded and under-resourced compared to other sectors and levels of education. This results in inadequate and unequal provision and quality of adult education programs.

Not only that, but adult education is also subject to frequent changes and uncertainties, as there is a lack of continuity and stability in political leadership and governance.

Minimal Efforts in Coordination && Collaboration

Adult education is often fragmented and isolated as there isn’t much effort in coordination and collaboration among the various stakeholders involved in its delivery and management.

It is also challenged by the lack of communication and dissemination of its achievements and impacts because there aren’t any effective monitoring and evaluation systems and mechanisms in most cases.

Limited Access and Low Participation

Most of the time, people disregard adult education programs as they seem inaccessible and unattractive. It can be due to the lack of availability or diversity of education programs. 

This is especially true for the most disadvantaged and marginalized groups of society like women, youth, migrants, older people, disabled and low-skilled workers. 

When such an atmosphere is created, individuals interested in these programs are affected by the lack of motivation and demand of adult learners. And there isn’t much awareness or recognition of their needs.

Therefore, most of the time, it results in people quitting or just not participating in the first place. 

If we can fix the lack of:

  • Incentives and benefits
  • Flexibility and convenience
  • Quality and relevance

Then, adult education programs can become successful. Otherwise, it will be left unassessed because of the lack of appropriate and transparent assessment, irrelevant certification systems, and useless mechanisms.

Final Words: Adult Education and Sustainable Development

Adult education and sustainable development goals go hand in hand and are a vital component of global peace. Proper implementation of the concept can provide individuals and communities with the competencies and capacities that are required to face global challenges and opportunities.

However, it faces several challenges and barriers that hinder its implementation and effectiveness, and it is up to us to ensure proper implementation is being handed out to the masses.

Rebecca White
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