When thinking about social inclusion what comes to one’s mind is equality. The World Bank defines social inclusion as “the process of improving the terms for individuals and groups to take part in society”. But the truth is that some people become “invisible” to society. The question is why? The constraints that can cause social exclusion are basically the same that are stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as the reasons that cannot lead people to be treated differently.
One can even say that some of the things that make us unique are also things that can for example, put people in disadvantages, excluding them from all sorts of opportunities.
Considering that one of the goals of social inclusion could be giving a voice to the “invisible people”, could education give them a hand?
If one goes back to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, on the 26th article it is stated that “everyone has the right to education. (…) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups (…)”.
It’s undeniable that education levels and opportunities in life walk side by side. Although the world has so many examples of people that even with very low or no schooling at all, have reached the top, but those are more the exception than the rule.
The rapidly increasing needs of society along with the recent socioeconomic changes have made the need for lifelong learning stronger than ever before. Hence, it is imperative citizens all over the world adhere to the requirements of modern society and form global identities that will enable them to become competitive job seekers and efficient decision-makers within the community. Besides the requirements set by the worldwide job market, it seems that the individual and social benefits reaped by lifelong learning cannot be underestimated as well. In fact, all citizens - despite their age, sex, previous educational background or learning experiences - are nowadays motivated to set goals, take initiatives, collaborate with others and have the chance to acquire new skills and capabilities that will enhance the quality of their lives to a great extent. Needless to say that having the chance to shape their present and future, all people are encouraged to offer their own input to the world, gain valuable knowledge and become involved in community affairs. Additionally, when it comes to the social dimension of learning, values and ethics are strongly promoted. For example, potential learners are offered various opportunities to boost their social capacities by building on human relationships, making affiliations and expanding their own network whereas they start becoming accustomed to universal values such as respect and trust.
Apparently, Adult Education and the subsequent technological innovations have facilitated the human need and thirst for learning as they have created the conditions that allow sharing, collaboration and cross-cultural understanding.
So it’s fair to say, that education can bring visibility to those that for a reason or the order have become invisible. Whether it’s through learning basic, digital, social skills or any other skill, education does help people experience life differently. It enables them to be more present and in that sense to become visible again.
(This text was written by Ema de Freitas and Chara Kourlessi and it's part of a group assignment for the European Association for the Education of Adults online course "Adult Education in the 21st Century").