Participants in Asia and Pacific regional CONFINTEA VII consultation call for strengthened adult learning and education ecosystem

26 October 2021

The Asia and Pacific region needs a strengthened ecosystem conducive to adult learning and education (ALE). This was one of the key messages that emerged from the Asia and Pacific regional consultation hosted by the UNESCO Bangkok Office in cooperation with the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) on 22 September. The meeting brought together around 150 representatives from civil society organizations, academia and governments from the region’s countries. The regional outcomes will feed into the seventh International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA VII), scheduled to take place in 2022.

Conference participants looked both at challenges to ALE in the Asia and Pacific region, and at innovative approaches to solving them, presenting bold recommendations for developing policies and practices that respond to the needs of youth and adults across the region.

More than half of Asia and the Pacific’s adult population have no opportunities to pursue their education up to tertiary level due to their socio-economic backgrounds. Participants in the consultation therefore underlined the critical need for an ecosystem of support – such as daycare centres, mentoring/advisory services, job placement support and financial assistance – that can sustain participation in ALE programmes among adults, and among marginalized women in particular. Both historically and in the present day, the Asia and Pacific region has the highest population of adult illiterates, the majority of whom are women. One of the main recommendations to emerge from the consultation was thus to call for a more equitable focus on the region’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged youth and adults.

Data from 30 countries in Asia and the Pacific, collected for the Fifth Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE 5), shows that COVID-19 has impacted adult learning and education programmes in 93 per cent of these countries. Participants in the consultation indicated that the pandemic highlighted the need to integrate innovative approaches into ALE, especially those using information and communication technologies (ICT), in order to foster inclusive and equitable participation among adults, and to take adequate account of the concerns of indigenous populations through citizenship education measures.

The consultation concluded with the following priorities and recommendations:

  1. An equitable focus on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged youth and adults across countries.
  2. Support for disadvantaged youth and adult through digital literacy and measures to bridge the digital divide, complemented with other low-tech and no-tech learning programmes.
  3. Promotion of citizenship education through ALE.
  4. Diversification of contents for learners with various needs through ICT, to be achieved through the reinforcement of capacities of ALE learning facilitators and service providers.
  5. Development of mechanisms of recognition, validation and accreditation for non-formal and informal learning, and appropriate equivalency programmes under a National Qualifications Framework.
  6. Promotion of open mindsets, as well as social and emotional skills, among adult learners.
  7. Effective partnerships and collaborations among all stakeholders to promote ALE.
  8. Effective advocacy backed up by clear evidence to promote ALE.

A report based on the discussions and outcomes of the consultation is in development and will be published soon.


The Kingdom of Morocco will host CONFINTEA VII, which will examine effective adult learning and education policies from a lifelong learning perspective and within the framework of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Participants will work together to develop a new framework for action that will replace the Belém Framework for Action (BFA), adopted at CONFINTEA VI in 2009.

At CONFINTEA VII, UNESCO Member States will discuss how to accelerate progress in adult learning and education in order to reach SDG 4 by 2030. Items on the agenda will include the integration of ALE into post-COVID-19 recovery plans, and efforts to put the International Commission on the Futures of Education’s ALE recommendations into action. The conference will lay the foundation for participants to establish thriving partnerships in the field of ALE.