2001 AUGUST 9


It is truly a delight to welcome everyone, especially our visitors from overseas, to the Sixth World Assembly and General Assembly of the International Council on Adult Education. That this is the first occasion that the Council will be meeting outside the developed world is particularly significant and a cause for celebration for us in Jamaica. On behalf of the people of Jamaica I would like to thank you for the honour bestowed on us.

I am truly challenged by your theme "Creativity and Democratic Governance. Adult Education: A Strategic Choice".

I am impressed by its timeliness as well as its multiple-layered connotation. For as I will indicate in this address, democratic governance does require indeed - demands - creativity and cannot be disconnected from the full participation of the citizenry. Hence the importance of adult learning.

You have made a strategic choice in taking a holistic approach to democratic governance, as insightfully captured in your comprehensive theme.

I am fascinated, too by the issues chosen for your three main plenary sessions, which reflect the deep thought and incisiveness which have gone into the planning of this assembly.

Clearly the international Council is on the cutting edge of the international discourse on development issues.

The focus on inclusive development, which centralises the participation of women; the look on governance from the point of view of the mobilisation of all citizens of the country; and the singling out of the Caribbean region for a special discussion all commend themselves.

Never before has the issue of adult education been as critical as it is today. For those who truly understand the challenges which we face in the world community, this is your most crucial and potentially far-reaching Assembly.
As you meet in these salubrious surroundings, please remember that there is a real world out there and indeed not too far from these grounds - which demands solutions which you can help to fashion at this conference.

Over a decade ago, the United Nations declared the International Year of Literacy. UNICEF, UNDP, the World Bank and UNESCO convened a World Conference on Education for All in Thailand.

This was followed by the Education for All Summit in New Delhi. The Delhi Conference issued a declaration which stated, significantly, that "The contents and methods of education must be developed to serve the basic learning needs of individuals and societies, to empower them to address their most pressing problems - combating poverty, raising productivity, improving living standards and protecting the environment - to enable them to play their rightful role in building democratic societies and enriching the cultural heritage".

The 1998/99 "World Development Report", put out by the World Bank looked at the issue "Knowledge for Development". In this report it stated that "lifelong learning is especially important in developing countries where most adults never received basic education during their youth…Despite the expansion or enrolment in recent decades, success in extending quality education to all has been limited and new challenges have emerged."

The 1997 Hamburg Declaration on Adult Education stated: "The challenges of the Twenty-first Century require the creativity and competence of citizens of all ages in consolidating democratic processes, strengthening and protecting human rights, promoting a culture of peace, encouraging active citizenship, strengthening the role of civil society and a new partnership between the state and civil society".

It is important that we position our deliberations in the light of globalisation and the developmental challenges which it poses.

We must start the analysis from where we are today.
Despite the grand claims of the globalisation enthusiasts and the neo-liberal thinkers, there has been no covergence of incomes and living standards taking place. In other words, globalisation is not a tide which necessarily lifts all boats. In fact, the stark facts indicate that it sinks many!

A study of 77 countries with 82% of the world's population shows that between the 1950s and the 1990s, inequality rose in 45 of those countries and fell in only 16. At the start of the Nineteenth Century the ratio of real income per head between the world's richest countries and the poorest stood at 3:1.

By the year 2000 it was 60:1.

The 2001 "Human Development Report", published annually by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and released recently, reveals some startling facts about global inequality and the state of the world.

The report shows that:
¨ The richest 1% of the world's population receives as much as 57% of the world's income;
¨ Twenty-five percent of the world's population accounts for 75% of world's income.

An earlier "Human Development Report" issued in 1999 had some more telling facts:
¨ The richest people in the world have assets which exceed the combined Gross domestic product of 48 least developed countries in the world;
¨ The fifteen richest persons had assets which exceed the total GDP of China;
¨ $40 Billion is needed annually to maintain universal access to basic education, basic care for all women and sanitation for the poor - which is only 4% of the wealth of the 225 richest people in the world.

The 2001 Human Development Report shows that:

  • 1.2 billion people live on less that US$1 a day;
  • 2.8 billion on less than US$2 a day;
  • Over 850 million people in the developing world are illiterate;
  • 2.4 billion lack basic sanitation; and
  • 2 billion do not have access to low-cost medicines such as penicillin.

In the developing countries 325 million children are out of school;
¨ 163 million children are underweight.

The world therefore faces an enormous development challenge. This challenge, I suggest, cannot be met without creativity and democratic Governance - but that cannot be achieved without a stress on adult education.

Globalisation, fueled by the Communications Revolution, has spawned a whole new era of development with new prerequisites.

The global economy is today information-intensive, not materials-intensive.

This means that a country's competitive advantage lies in skills-intensity and the quality and creativity of its labour force.

No longer in its abundant natural resources, geographical position or the price of its labour.

Foreign investors are looking to invest in countries with highly trained, highly skilled, flexible, creative workers.

Gone are the days when countries could compete on the basis of cheap labour. Companies are stressing productivity and efficiency and the bottom line is more influenced by the calibre of the human capital which they employ, not just physical capital.

A book published by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and titled "Competition: An Agenda for the 21st Century" puts it well: "Knowledge has become the primary ingredient of what we make, buy and sell. As a result, Managing it - finding and developing intellectual capital - has become the most important task of individuals, enterprises and nations." Information now constitutes as much as 755 of value-added in manufacturing.

If knowledge is the central commodity in the Information Society, then wealth has to be redefined in terms of knowledge-rich versus knowledge-poor countries. And competitiveness is determined more by the kind of people a country has, rather than any other asset.

Education therefore becomes even more paramount.

But not education in terms of traditional brick and mortar schools and institutions, because a characteristic of this Information Society in which we live is the rapidity at which technology moves. People have to be constantly updating their knowledge or else they will not be able to keep up with the pace of growth.

Moore's Law predicts the doubling of computer power every 18 months due to the rapid evolution of microprocessor technology.

Gilder's Law predicts the doubling of communications power every six months, due to advances as fibre optic network technologies.

In 2001 more information can be sent over a single cable in a second than could be sent during 1997 in a whole month.

It is said that the cost of transmitting a trillion bits of information from Boston to Los Angels has fallen from US$150,000 in 1970 to 12 cents today.

In this kind of world, if our people don't develop an addiction to lifelong learning; if they are depending on the information they learned in school - even in MBA classes - rather than continually investing in knowledge, then they will not be competitive and our societies will fall behind.

There is a great deal of emphasis on:
¨ opening up markets;
¨ getting the prices right;
¨ providing incentives to the private sector;
¨ privatising industries;
¨ adopting liberal foreign investment regimes.

But the 2001 "Human Development Report" rightly comments that "Technological change dramatically raises the premium every country should place on investing in education and training of its people.

At the heart of nurturing creativity is expanding human skills. To bring life to an environment of technological creativity, people need to have technical skills and government needs to invest in the development of those skills. This calls for a rethinking of education and training policies."

Whether you belong to the developed or the developing world, we will have to provide our workers with the appropriate skills to cope with new technologies. So countries seeking to attract greater investments, will first have to make an investment in human resources.

At time of intense competition for the investment dollar, countries must be acutely interested in increasing the attractiveness of their location. The world has been in the midst of a foreign investment boom which has seen global FDI flows increasing nine times since 1980.

FDI flows were estimated to have grown from US$860 billion in 1999 to US$1 trillion last year.

But 80% of those global investment flows went to just 10 countries - boasting highly skilled people, not those with low wages. So if we in the developing world wish to provide a decent standard of living for our populations, we have no choice but to stress adult education and lifelong learning.

The critical area of governance is not unrelated to the matter of economic development. For when countries fail to grow their economy and be competitive, it poses enormous challenges for democratic governance.

An abundance of empirical research has established the link between economic development and democratic governance.

While it is true that you can have economic growth without development, there cannot be sustained development without economic growth.

Rising expectations by the populace, coupled with stagnant economic growth lead to frustration, alienation and political turmoil - all of which threaten democratic governance.

We need to inculcate a culture of lifelong learning among our citizens. We must foster adult education that manages to instill the values and norms necessary for democratic citizenship.

The world is witnessing on erosion of the traditional values associated with the emergence of democracy. Democracy cannot survive without a set of overarching values which pull the nation together and which commit the society to ideals and virtues beyond purely individual interests.

Rampant, runaway individualism, an excessive focus on materialist values, hedonism and self-interest robs democratic society of its vibrancy and resilience.

The disillusionment with politics in many Western democracies is not just due to the failure of politics to deliver on its promises and expectations, but to a growing atomism in society.
By educating people as to their responsibilities as citizens and as members of the human family, we can go a far way in strengthening the democratic foundations of our society.

But we have to build this learning society. We have to foster a culture of learning.

This has to start from early.

It is only when individuals themselves have internalised the value of learning; only when they have this internally-generated passion that they will want to feed it throughout their lives.

It is my sincere and passionately held view that a great deal of the success which societies enjoy in the future will come from the work of groups like yourselves who are in the vanguard of the movement for democratic participation and an involved citizenship.

Information is not only the key commodity driving the New Economy: it is the key plank on which the principles of democratic governance are built. An informed populace will not make unreasonable demands on the state at a time when transnational corporations and powerful supranational institutions like the WTO and the IMF exert more influence and power that a number of sovereign political states.

Information will make citizens understand that the commodities of the South continues to lose ground to technological substitutes in the north and continue to fetch increasingly lower prices. They will understand why the 21st century state cannot do many of the things and carry out some of the welfare functions which it used to shoulder.

Information will also make citizens aware of the challenges and opportunities of globalisation.

As a developing country faced with the challenges of globalisation and the peculiarities of our own history, we have a natural interest in fostering adult education. We are particularly concerned at this time in building up our social capital and in fostering in our society a sense of communal bond, trust, cooperation and peace.

Let me tell you about a programme being developed by our main adult education organisation in Jamaica, the Jamaica Movement for the Advancement of Literacy (JAMAL), as well as by our national training agency, the HEART/NTA.

This is a programme called the High School Equivalency Programme and is designed as an alternative education programme equivalent to the formal technical/vocational training programme.

One of the objectives of our Ministry of Education is for the achievement of universal secondary education to grade 11 by the year 2005. This goal cannot be achieved, we recognise, through conventional means only.

Through the High School Equivalency Programme educational opportunities will be presented to more persons than through the existing secondary system.

At the core of the High School Equivalency Programme will be the following components:
¨ Communication
¨ Computation
¨ Society and Citizenship and
¨ Science and Technology

One of the most noteworthy things about the programme is the comprehensive, all embracing and holistic approach which is being proposed. It is not just proposed to enable people to earn a living; but to help teach them how to live. It is not enough to simply impart technical and vocational skills.

At the heart of the philosophy underlying the High School Equivalency Programme is the desire to create the Sovereign Learner; the person who has learnt how to learn; who has learnt how to gather information for himself or herself and to process that information adroitly.
At the 1997 Caricom Heads of Government Meeting we defined "The Ideal Caribbean Person" as one "capable of seizing economic opportunities which the global environment is presenting…a person who demonstrates independent and critical thinking and who has an informed respect for cultural heritage".

A society dedicated to lifelong learning and adult education will be on the cutting edge economically, technologically and morally. This last category is vitally important. One of the key aspects of the High School Equivalency Programme will be the Society and Citizenship module. Through this module, people will develop positive reinforcing relationships in the home, at the workplace, in the community and in broader civil society. Educational philosophy has to move beyond Intelligence Quotient assessment to Emotional Intelligence assessment ---from IG to EQ.

And last but not least, it has to involve both men and women. We cannot afford the colossal waste of a significant part of our human resource which happens when we fail to provide equal opportunity for our women.
Empowering women is a necessity for democratic governance and the maximising of productive capacity.

Let me again express my appreciation on behalf of our people for choosing Jamaica for this important Assembly.

I would also like to thank the members of the local Council on Adult Education for their own tireless efforts in promoting adult education locally and in working to get this significant convention here. The work of adult education is the work of nations. We must not fail.


<< Back to Speeches