Mediterranean Lifelong Learning Conference
Proposes regional Adult Education Association
A Mediterranean adult education association could be set up following discussions occurring during the Mediterranean Lifelong Learning Conference that took place recently at the Preluna Hotel & Towers in Sliema.  The conference was sponsored by the Department of International Cooperation (IIZ) of the German Adult Education Association (DVV) with support from the University of Malta’s Faculty of Education and the Guze` Ellul Mercer Foundation.

This conference was a follow up to the one that took place in Ayia Napa, Cyprus, in May 2002. The Malta conference, whose convenors were Mr. David Caruana, Professor Peter Mayo and Dr Michael Samlowski, turned out to be a large and representative one.  There was participation, in the Malta conference, from no less than seven Arab countries (Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia) alongside Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Italy, Macedonia, Malta, Serbia-Montenegro, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey. One further prospective participant, a Palestinian woman, was prevented from participating at the very last moment, despite having all travel documents in place (including visa), because of the curfew imposed by Israeli military forces on her home city of Ramallah. The Tunisian delegation was headed by Mr Salem Mekki, State Secretary (with Ministerial rank) responsible for the national programme of adult education in Tunisia.

Most countries had more than one representative; some had three while others had two. The organizers were keen on achieving a gender and regional balance in this conference. It turned out that, over all, there were more women than men among the participants.

The Conference, chaired for the most part by Mr. David Caruana, was officially opened by Education Minister, Dr Louis Galea who said the Government’s vision was to provide each person, at whatever stage in his or her life (childhood, adolescence, adulthood) "the key to venture into a world of knowledge that will ultimately lead to peace and liberty" and gave a breakdown of statistics concerning attendance at the 100+ courses provided by the Education Division and his Ministry for those adults who want to further their education.  Other official presentations, on the first day, were made by Dr. Michael Samlowski , the IIZ-DVV’s Vice Director  who spoke on ‘Greater European-Mediterranean cooperation in adult education’, the Deputy Head of Mission at the German Embassy, Mr. Helmut Domas, Mr. David Caruana who provided details concerning the conference programme and organisational matters and Professor Peter Mayo who introduced the three workshop themes.

The conference was primarily workshop-based and the three themes discussed in the workshop were ‘North-South/South-North relations in Adult Education’, ‘Multi-ethnicity and adult education’ and ‘Motivation and lifelong Learning with special reference to the Mediterranean.’ The draft for a final declaration was drawn up, agreed upon and is currently being modified and refined by participants through e mail networking for eventual publication and presentation to a number of national, regional and supranational bodies.

Among others who officially addressed the participants at different stages of the conference were the Dean of the Faculty of Education (Dr.Carmel Borg), Ms. Rose Caruana from GEM, the acting Director General of Education/Director of Further Studies and Adult Education (Ms. Joyce Pullicino) and Professor Kenneth Wain. The Dean of the Faculty of Education, Dr Carmel Borg, delivered his address during the welcome reception. He underlined the Faculty’s commitment to lifelong education and to the Euro-Mediterranean dialogue and augured that such ventures do not reproduce the kind of neo-colonial relations that have often characterized relations between countries with different GDPs.

Ms. Joyce Pullicino provided, by means of a powerpoint presentation, an overview of adult education provision in Malta attaching importance to the work of various agencies in the field, not only state agencies (including her own department and those that fall under social policy) but also the work of NGOs and institutions such as the University. Ms Pullicino also provided the international participants with information regarding Maltese efforts in developing programmes of education across the entire lifespan, in accordance with the guidelines proposed in the EU’s Memorandum on Lifelong Learning.

Professor Wain, who is about to publish his book, The Learning Society in a Postmodern World (Peter Lang, New York), delivered the keynote presentation.  He focused on the genealogy of the concept of lifelong learning, referring to its earlier adoption by Unesco as ‘Lifelong Education’, a concept which then had a strong humanistic theoretical underpinning. He lamented the fact that this concept has, in many instances, lost its broad humanistic appeal to become compatible, in certain cases, with the dominant ideology of the marketplace and with the current preoccupation with  ‘performativity’ (everything is measured in efficient outcomes) and with shifting the responsibility and, in many cases, costs for learning onto the individual rather than the State.

It was Professor Kenneth Wain who convened the first Mediterranean Conference on Lifelong Education which took place in Malta in 1984 and the proceedings of this conference were published a year later under the title of Lifelong Education and Participation.

Ms. Rose Caruana addressed the delegates from the perspective of a volunteer working in the context of a Maltese NGO and underlined the difficulties involved in as well as the different sources of satisfaction derived from this type of activity. Ms Lydia Puigvert, from the University of Barcelona, introduced the first of the three themes for discussion in the workshop by focusing on the colonial power dynamics and potential anti-colonial dynamics involved in North-South/South-North relations in adult education with special reference to the EU and the rest of the Mediterranean. She was followed by Professor Peter Mayo who continued in the same vein highlighting the issue of multi-ethnicity as an important one for adult educators in this part of the world given the fact that the Mediterranean is being turned into a new ‘Rio Grande’ with the influx in its northern countries of immigrants from its southern shores.  Dr Dov Friedlander, from the Israeli Adult Education Association and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, carried out a very dynamic and interactive presentation on the question of motivation drawing on a variety of cognitive theories. The last three presenters led workshops focusing on the specific area of their 10-15 minute presentation each of which ended with two or three questions on which the workshops could focus.

Ms. Maha Saida from the United Nations Development Programme, Syria, brought to a close the events of the three days by providing, as the General Rapporteur, a critical overview of the main themes discussed throughout the conference and especially during the workshops.

The proceedings of the conference will be published early in 2004 in the DVV’s ‘International perspectives in adult education’ monograph series. In addition to the various presentations, workshop reports and final declaration, the proceedings will include short papers, from each participating country, consisting of an up to date overview of adult education provision in the country in question.

16 October 2003