Madhu Singh: An advocate for the right to education for all


12 February 2019

Madhu Singh, one of the world’s leading experts on the recognition, validation and accreditation (RVA) of non-formal and informal learning and a long-time member of the UIL team, died suddenly on 11 December 2018 in her hometown of New Delhi, India.

Dr Singh gained her MA in Sociology, Social Anthropology, Economics and History from the Delhi School of Economics in 1975, followed by a doctorate from New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University in 1980. After gaining further professional experience at the Indian Institute of Education in Poona, India, where she worked until 1983, she studied the sociology of education during a research fellowship at the University of London.

After completing the fellowship, Dr Singh moved to Germany. She worked at the Technical University in Berlin as researcher and teaching assistant, while also studying in the university’s Department of Social Sciences in Education and Training for a DPhil, which she was awarded in 1996. Shortly after that, she started working for UNESCO/UNEVOC, which, at the time, was located in Berlin, as a consultant in the area of education.

From 1998 until her retirement in September 2018, Dr Singh worked as Senior Programme Specialist at UIL, raising awareness of the importance of RVA and its potential for improving the lives of youth and adults around the world, a cause in which she passionately believed.

In her most recent book, Pathways to Empowerment: Recognizing the Competences of Syrian refugees in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey (UIL, 2018), she urged stakeholders in those countries to develop recognition frameworks that enable the millions of people displaced by the Syrian conflict access to education.

A prolific author, Dr Singh’s books and journal articles highlighted the fundamental role RVA plays in ensuring the right to education for all. Global Perspectives on Recognising Formal and Non-formal Learning: Why Recognition Matters (UIL and Springer, 2015), for example, assessed RVA’s role in promoting equality and inclusiveness both in education and across society in general – one of the main concerns of her work.

David Atchoarena, Director of UIL, said: ‘Madhu Singh was a strong advocate of RVA, as well as a passionate defender of lifelong learning. Her sudden death is a huge loss to the Institute, both professionally and personally. In addition to her contribution to scholarship and practice in the field, Madhu was a committed and hard-working colleague who was well liked and admired within the Institute, both as a professional and as a friend. She will always have a place in the hearts of the UIL family.’

Dr Singh died before her final book, Recognizing Green Skills through Non-formal learning: A comparative study in Asia, co-edited with Margarita Pavlova, could appear. It will be published by UIL and Springer in summer 2019.

Madhu Singh would have turned 66 on 15 February.