Skip to main content

Globalisation and the Education of Adults

Article Category

Article available in the folowing languages:

Blurred boundaries of adult education

Effects of globalisation processes can be observed across the whole world but also across various areas. An EU-funded study examined the influence that these actions and measures exert on the nature and scope of adult education.

Industrial Technologies

The different ways diverse actors influence transnational policy development in adult education can have an effect on state policy. The three-year EU-funded GLOBE-A (Globalisation and the education of adults) project examined this link in three socioeconomic and political systems representing the north-south cleavage. It focused on adult basic and secondary education, spanning four countries and in collaboration with two international organisations. Researchers highlighted the complex relationship between state-led institutions active in adult education and their member states in the context of inter-institutional collaborations on common issues. A consequence of these collaborations is the blurring of boundaries between traditional education fields in the more economically advanced regions. Collected data showed that international or regional non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have increased their visibility through lobbying and direct involvement in transnational policymaking. Multi-actor and multisite perspectives helped deepen knowledge on the complex relationship between states, intergovernmental bodies and NGOs and their potential for state policy changes. Research on nationwide policy and its implementation at school level showed the dependency of education on global trends, state characteristics, socioeconomic conditions and local politics. In particular, these issues have been magnified as a result of the 2009 global economic crisis which actually boosted inter-institutional collaborations. By contrast, recent reduction of inter-governmental payments have been detrimental to support for adult education. Additionally, analysis of country-relevant data showed how national policy developments and their effects on education also depend on endogenous and exogenous factors. A divide still exists between northern countries, like the United States, and southern countries, such as Argentina and Brazil, on the perception and reception of as well as influence on transnational policies. Moreover, there is a tendency in mass schooling countries to use adult education for cases of public school failures. This is in contrast to more traditional state policies that use adult education to increase access to public education. The study showed that there is a common trend towards illiteracy-free societies where, despite country-specific characteristics, adult basic and secondary education rationales have shifted substantially. This phenomenon was visible in both the northern and southern countries examined, except for one – Brazil. However, differences remain between north and south regarding the use of public interventions in adult education. Project work advanced understanding of the nature and scope of adult education under conditions of globalisation and international cooperation, which can be useful for policymaking.


Adult education, globalisation, transnational policy, GLOBE-A, non-governmental organisations

Discover other articles in the same domain of application