ASPBAE@Crossroads – Rajesh Tandon of PRIA reflects on the Festival of Learning

ASPBAE’s first half century is indeed worth celebrating. Not many regional civil society organisations and networks have seen their 50th birthday. The vibrancy, dynamism and commitment in the basement of Hotel Santika (Yogyakarta) was indeed noteworthy and infectious. I felt the warm glow of comraderie and common purpose yesterday.

In the Indian tradition, 50 years is a transition point; after completing the youth and adulthood, individuals are expected to move to ‘vanaprasth’ stage—a stage of being where you support others to go through their journeys of life. There is not much written about life cycles of civil society organisations and networks. Therefore, ASPBAE’s ‘half-life’ is not to be assessed merely in terms of numbers of years of its existence, but also the nature of its contributions. Having looked back at the past 50 years, where does ASPBAE move in the next 50? Are we at crossroads?

ASPBAE’s crossroads are defined on three intersecting planes today.

First, the re-assertion of centrality of adult education and life-long learning for all in the digital age is critical ahead. Structured educational provisions are changing their nature and design, but still remain (like MOOCs) externally controlled and driven learning spaces. One of the core principles of adult education has been learner-centric, learner-driven and learner-controlled formats and opportunities. Cyber structures have even greater mind-controlling power than the traditional face-to-face ‘brainwashing’.

Second, there is a much wider choice of learning provisions today than before. Private for-profit providers of adult education—of both poor and excellent quality—are as active, if not more, as public and non-profit ones. Each type of provider seems to remain in its own orbit. Is it possible that ASPBAE could act as a convenor of various types of adult education providers to shape the future of adult education in different contexts? It may thereby ‘infect’ others with its own perspective and philosophy of adult education and life-long learning.

Third, the practice of adult education on the ground has to come to terms with rapidly changing realities. The new UNFPA report on youth suggests that countries of Asia-Pacific have nearly 1 billion young people in the 10-24 years age group. Their aspirations, needs and competencies have to be taken into account today on an urgent basis. Practitioners of adult education at local levels may need support in ‘connecting’ with this vast group of learners.

I have been thinking about these choices as ASPBAE moves ahead; the turns it takes on these cross-roads would not only shape its own character over the next 50 years, but also the meanings and metaphors of adult education in the Asia-Pacific and beyond.

Rajesh Tandon  President ASPBAE (1991-2000) Founder-President, PRIA, New Delhi November 19, 2014


Public Private Partnerships in Education should not promote outright privatization – a blog by Zehra Arshad, PCE Pakistan

Celebrating ASPBAE 50th birthday at the Festival of Learning (FOL) in Yogyakarta November 18-21, 2014 , I acknowledge ASPBAE in providing an opportunity to more than 130 participants representing coalitions, civil society organizations, researchers and like-minded activist  from around 35 countries to share experiences, learning’s and provide technical inputs to enrich the work of others in the education sector. The festival also adds to the growing knowledge on issues that require continuous research and attention. There is certainly much to celebrate as ASPBAE approaches its 50th year.

There is a continuous debate about Public Private Partnerships in education and its impact which is one of the burning issues of this region. ASPBAE gave opportunity to its member coalitions to explore the complex nature of the issue; discuss its challenges and develop strategies and solutions towards policy advocacy. ASPBAE also take forward these voices to high level policy forums for practical and needed interventions by states and the donor community.

Likewise other countries, PPP initiatives in Pakistan are generally perceived positively by the government and are being promoted under the support of bilateral and multilateral donors and being legitimized through legal frameworks. In certain situations PPP improves educational access; however this does not imply that it automatically removes inequities, issue of quality and learning outcomes. Additionally, the PPP initiatives have limitations of scaling up, if stretched beyond certain point it may develop the similar faults that are there in public system. There is also no substantive research that supports extra ordinary performance of PPP in education. The most prominent lesson is that PPP be considered as supporting initiatives towards achieving access to education but they cannot be seen as replacing the public education system. The PPP should not promote outright privatization. The challenges for PPP in terms of public policy and governance remain.

The PPP initiatives must not be seen by the government as panacea to address all educational ills. Thus government has to strengthen and develop its mainstream education system to develop a holistic view towards educational provision in light of 18th Amendment, particularly pertaining to Article 25-A, which grants the right to free and compulsory education.

The civil society needs to develop a unified stance towards PPPs in education. While some consider it a pragmatic solution towards reaching EFA goals, others see PPP as quasi-privatization. We need to develop more awareness amongst civil society representatives towards various aspects of this issue. The debate has to be research informed and geared towards developing common stance of civil society organist ions towards PPPs in education.

Credit goes to ASPBAE for providing opurtunities to explore and discuss this important issue but there is a need to have more large scale researches that can demonstrate the effects of PPP in education towards students’ learning outcomes, teachers’ working conditions and management practices and the issue of equity.


How can universities and civil society connect to support EFA?

By Manzoor Ahmed, Professor Emeritus, BRAC University, Vice-Chair, CAMPE, Bangladesh
19 November 2014

– Faculty of Social and Political Sciences of University of Gadjah Mada (UGM) along with its Global Engagement Office were the host on 19 November, 2014 to a group of participants at the on-going 50th Anniversary celebration of Asia Pacific Association of Basic and Adult Education in Jog-Jakarta. Of various sites selected for visits as part of learning exchange, the UGM visit attracted the largest group of 18 visitors from some ten countries, including ASPBAE heavy-weights, such as, President Robbie Guevara, former President Sandy Morrison, Rajesh Tandon, Heribert Hinzen, Alan Tuckett, among others.

One of the oldest and largest universities of Indonesia, UGM was established in 1947 soon after independence of Indonesia. With 55,000 students, 6,800 faculty, and a reputation for commitment to quality and innovation, UGM was an ideal setting for exploring the question how tertiary education can shed its ivory tower image, engage with larger society and be a force for social change. Of particular concern to ASPBAE visitors was how universities can support the EFA goals, perhaps in partnership with civil society actors, in the context of the global development and education agenda for 2030, which will replace next year EFA2015 and MDG2015.

Dr. Aziz Purwanto, head of the Center for Academic Development, gave an explanation of the STAR (Student Teacher Aesthetics Role Sharing) initiative at UGM, designed to build the character of the graduates based on offering student-centred learning experience and valuing local wisdom. He spoke of the triangle of Pratap Triloka – observing purposefully; imitating critically and constructively; and constructing knowledge by adding, modifying and developing. Building the learning community, gradually and patiently, rather than just producing smart and competent graduates, is the goal, Dr. Aziz noted.

Heribert Hinzen, regional director of DVV for South and South-East Asia, providing a timeline since adoption of the Dakar EFA Goals in 2000 to expected adoption of EFA 2030 next year in Incheon, Korea said a “breakthrough” was made in the on-going discourse on post-2015 education and development agenda when unanimity was achieved taking “equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all” as the overarching goal. Now the challenge is to ensure that all, including the tertiary education sector, do their part to make it a reality.

Rajesh Tandon, co-chair of UNESCO’s “community-based research and social responsibility in higher education” described briefly the content of the empirical evidence-based study “Knowledge, Engagement and Higher Education – Contributing to Social Change.” He noted that higher education globally is in turmoil and is challenged, particularly in developing countries, to engage with society and its various driving forces to assist in coping with the critical problems in promoting sustainable development, and creating just societies where human dignity and rights prevail. “ Be knowledgiastic”  Tandon urged the higher education community and civil society, coining a term which for him meant “co-creating transformative knowledge for social change and changing the way we handle, use, build and understand knowledge.”

The rather brief and intense exchange set the stage for continuing the discourse between the ivory tower of the academia and the activist stance of civil society, and to find a common ground for working together to fulfill the common goal of social change through learning and human capability enhancement.


My visit to Satunama, by Yoko Aria, JAPSE (Japan Association for Promotion of Social Education)

Visit to Satunama – a non-profit organisation working for people’s empowerment through facilitation, advocacy, and training

– We 16 members, from Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Japan, Germany, Korea, Laos, New Zealand, visited the office of SATUMANA. It took an hour half by car from our hotel in downtown. Its building is an old big house with a lot of plants as like big garden.

SATUNAMA―experiences for empower the people to be leaders of every society

After explanation about the ambitious purpose of ASPBAE by Siriwardana, ASPBAE staff and self-introduction of each participant including three persons from SATNAMA, we started to hear the lecture about the outline of SATUNAMA from Mun Hanir, the head of it.

From this lecture, the origin of SATURAMA was founded by Unitarian Selfish Company from CANADA for supporting mothers suffered from Second World War in in this district in 1945. They started people-empowerment programs in 1970s and in 1998 they made wider structure of their activities and took their name ‘SATUNAM’ reflecting this advancement.

Through the questions from participants, we could learn about its challenging program ‘Civic Education for Future Indonesian Leaders, with the historical situation after 1998 with input from P. Harono Habi, an experienced member of SATUNAMA. We also learn the way of spreading their challenging educational ideas. They support the alumina of their class to start similar program at their districts for themselves.

We also learn about educational programs of SATRAMA now. Their long term classes take one month and their students are served their accommodation within and surround its office building. Students are selected through their experiences of activities. Although at the first stage student did not only take the class free but also were served the traffic fee, the student support conditions were gradually down and now they have to pay small money for class and without traffic support.

 Teachers training for educational reform in Myanmer

From our visiting members, we have two reports. One is about experiences of teachers training center in Myanmer. Hawng Tsai, Programme Officer of Thinking Classroom foundation (TCF) of Myanmar introduced vivid ongoing experiences of it. They started local meetings for teachers training, with gathering not only teacher but also parents and another. They will also national meetings in a bottom up structure from local meetings for targeting educational reform at the moment of democratizing society in Myanmer.

 Beyond passivity―some practical experiences in JAPAN

The other report from us is practical experiences of Development Education Association & Resource Center (DEAR) in JAPAN. Makiko Kondo, a core member of DEAR reported their practical experiences of their educational programs. One example is a case of some young mothers’ class. The other is the experience of some programs in districts where people terribly suffered from the big disaster in 2011. They tried to encourage mothers and residents to change the conditions for themselves beyond their passivity, about some restriction for a park in the former case and about the process of reconstruction in the latter case.

Although political situations are deferent from each of three countries and also among the countries of participants, in our discussions we could mention the vivid essence of each experience especially about educational practices and movements for democratic and political empowerment of people.


Nitin Paranjape of Abhivyakti (India) blogs about his visit to APIKRI – fair trade promoters

The learning exchange indeed. The visit to APIKRI, the fair trade promoters, was an opportunity to know about how small and micro producers of art and craft material find and create their own market. Based in Yogyakarta the organization founded by 25 small handicraft producers and NGO activists in 1987, is able to facilitate 200 plus small producers to sell their products locally as well as in other countries. Some of the products are made from leather, bamboo, shell, wood, ceramic and metal like silver, copper etc.

What was impressive was to communicate behind-the-scene stories of struggle, context and creation. Their philosophy to highlight people and their lives instead of mere product was inspiring. Apart from finding market Apikri also strengthened capacities of small producers in business and other matters of understanding fair trade practices and principles like payment of fair prices, ensuring no child labor, creating good working conditions and respect to environment.

Participants who visited Apikri also shared their own experiences in promoting livelihoods in Fiji, Bangladesh, Samoa, Pakistan, Nepal, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and India. The director Amir Panzuri was friendly and gracious host. He answered our questions and was also keen to know about fair trade in other countries. We learnt a lot of fair trade, fair price going to producers and other interesting insights about design and Organisationally management.

The learning exchange was enjoyable process and at the same time enabled members to share their own stories and build ties of friendship amongst themselves.


Governments, civil society, universities – The golden triangle for quality education

A blog by Heribert Hinzen of DVV International

– Today was the day of learning exchanges. It started with an orientation, including relevant information on cultural conducive behavior, and especially relevant expressions in Bahasa Indonesia.

I joined the group that left for the University of Gadjah Mada (UGM), with around 60 years the oldest, and with more than 50,000 students one of the largest universities in Indonesia. We wanted to look at reforms in tertiary education. Participants from UGM and ASPBAE were heartily welcomed by the Global Engagement office which is part of the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences.

We experienced a full-fledged seminar with Sandy Morrison as Chair, an introductory remark of the ASPBAE President Robbie Guevara on the need to connect the work of civil society with universities, and then three presentations covering a wide range of issues.

Dr. Aziz Purwanto, the Head of the Center of Academic Development, started off with a highly interesting contribution on new approaches to student centered learning at UGM, with a shifting role of the teacher to be a facilitator and learning partner, but deeply rooted in local wisdom. Dr. Rajesh Tandon, former ASPBAE President and Co-Chair of UNESCO Chair on Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education, looked at Knowledge, Engagement and Higher Education as potential contributions to social change. How to link learning with community service, and how to link research with community knowledge were some of his key points. In between I could provide an overview on the current post-2015 debate on education and development, and the role universities could play, especially for adult education and lifelong learning. ASPBAE Executive Council member Dr. Timote Vaioleti provided an inspiring and reflective summary, and offered a vote of thanks. A joint lunch and tour through parts of the UGM compound and buildings rounded the rich experiences of an interesting learning exchange.

However, what does this call to re-connect mean for ASPBAE in respect to policy and practice of the advocacy and capacity building work of the members with universities as strategic partners? Not an easy question, but maybe a key issue in the next phase of a broadening of the partnership base for successful gains towards a new global goal which will “Ensure equitable inclusive quality education and lifelong learning for all by 2030”. I am convinced that this cannot be reached without an engagement and involvement of all in a golden triangle of governments, civil society, and universities.


Be knowledgiastic! – ASPBAE President Robbie Guevara blogs about his visit to the University of Gadjah Mada

I hope that my auto correct will keep the spelling of the title of my blog today.  This word was created by Rajesh Tandon to describe the combination of attitudes (Enthusiastic, Active and Encourage) we need to have to learning, specifically in the context of higher education, if we are to achieve knowledge driven social change.

At the heart of the three presentations we had today at the University of Gadjah Mada (UGM) was the need for the universities not just to change their pedagogy, not just to prepare students to be lifelong learners who are able to adapt to the rapidly changing contexts, but to transform themselves. This can be facilitated by a holistic engagement strategy that encompasses a scholarship of engagement,  community engagement, and transforming to an engaged institution.

Heribert Hinzen expanded the range of engagement to encompass not only the local but to be globally engaged. This complemented the presentation of Dr Aziz Purwanto of an innovative pedagogy that transforms Teacher-Centered Learning to more Student-Centred Learning based on local wisdom.

I think as civil society organizations our advocacies do not only need to transform local,  national, or global policies, but to advocate to transform university policies and institutions to be partners in the production,  dissemination, and renewal of knowledge towards addressing the need for quality education for sustainability.