Reasons to be hopeful: Learning and becoming in a time of crisis

31 August 2021

Just published, the August issue of the International Review of Education – Journal of Lifelong Learning (IRE) was finalized immediately after the release of the sobering new report on the climate emergency by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). While the report is a warning to avoid further irreparable damage by taking immediate action on the climate crisis, it also provides reasons to be hopeful, as it places in the hands of citizens the opportunity to make things right and act decisively and ambitiously, as the report insists we must. It represents an unchallengeable mandate for far-reaching change, not just in national emissions policies, but in every aspect of the way in which we live, including, quite crucially, in education. We have an opportunity, surely the last we will have, to create societies that are sustainable and humane, and education systems focused on producing active, mindful citizens.

For this to happen, education must be lifelong and life-wide, open-ended and holistic, animated by creativity and common purpose. The six contributions to this issue offer different perspectives on how the potential of lifelong learning can be realized. They focus, respectively, on the constraining impact of social prestige on the choice of language of instruction in Burkina Faso; teenagers teaching their grandparents basic cell phone technology skills in Mexico; a non-formal vocational upskilling programme for women in India; unacknowledged community assets of out-of-school youth in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland); a measuring tool developed for gauging the effectiveness of a second-chance literacy programme for youth and adults in Colombia; and the piloting of an interdisciplinary “authentic development” course in Guatemala. 

As the Editor notes in his introduction to this issue, we need education ‘not for the world that was or is, but for the world that could be, the future we want to create’. That is why it is so critical that education gives us reasons to hope, and the resources and capabilities we need to challenge and critique, and to think and act together to build something new. It is also why he finds the Futures of Education initiative’s notion of “learning to become” particularly promising. We need to reframe lifelong learning, he argues, in terms of building capacity to act together for the common good, promoting a vision of education that is not just about learning to be, but learning to become, together.

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