Unfolding Learning Societies:

Experiencing the Possibilities

Special Issue of Vimukt Shiksha

June 2002

"But we are all Seekers. We all want to know why. Man is the asking animal. And while the finding, the belief that we have found the Answer, can separate us and make us forget our humanity, it is the seeking that continues to being us together, that makes and keeps us human." - Daniel Boorstein, The Seekers

We have published two books on the theme of unfolding learning societies in March 2000 and April 2001. These books were published with the hope that they might contribute to expanding a process of critical and constructive reflection about the vision, processes, and actors driving the Education for All Campaign. After the first two books, it is difficult to assess how successful we have been. Unfortunately, those racing to meet narrow EFA targets — fueled by political and technocratic hype — have been unwilling to pause and reflect about the ideas and concerns being raised and the relevance of these in relation to what is happening at this time in the world. [It is probably this inability of the EFA experts to genuinely "listen" which can best explain the reason why the drive for EFA is sputtering (some would even say floundering) in most parts of the world.]

However, when we start to examine our efforts outside the narrow frameworks of elite education experts and institutions, we see that there is an urgent need for the kind of thinking and conversations that we are trying to catalyze with this series. The violence carried out by "educated" leaders before, on, and after September 11th highlights the serious "crisis of the schooled" that confronts the 21st century. In many places of the world, September 11th has opened up spaces for critical discussions around education, as many people are starting to realize that healthy societies will not emerge simply by getting all children to school, improving school facilities, or achieving high test scores. And that meaningful learning cannot be nurtured in environments of fear, violence, compulsion and competition. In addition, the recent meetings of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre (Brazil) have expressed a deep concern with the dominant paradigm of Development and the Global Economy. Some new spaces are opening up for imagining the possibilities of another kind of world, and with this, another understanding of education.

Furthermore, these publications have definitely led to new spaces and opportunities for learning and growing amongst the Shikshantar network. We have been able to connect to inspiring experiments from different part of the world and to more deeply nuance our understanding of learning societies. In the process, we have understood that different places/contexts have different questions, different processes and different possibilities. This special issue of Vimukt Shiksha seeks to share some of these diverse experiments and contexts with you in an effort to further experience the possibilities of learning societies.

We will repeat the warning that we issued in the previous two books: this is not a how-to manual, it is not a prescriptive workplan, and it is certainly not a United Nations declaration. For those in search of quick-fix, ‘replicable’ solutions, it will be a great disappointment. Rather, this book should be taken as an invitation to get involved in an organically evolving and textured discussion, which has great implications for the future of humanity and for all life on this planet. Unless each of us sees ourselves as a unique "co-creator" and takes an active role in creating our own learning communities, the concept of learning societies will remain hollow. No degrees or diplomas are required to do this – only an honest commitment to make oneself vulnerable to the inspiring and moving processes of life.

We invite you to join us in experiencing the possibilities of learning societies. We have created a space on our website to host more peoples’ ideas and to help connect people who are interested in working further on the concept of learning societies. Please visit the Learning Societies Discussion for more information.

– the Shikshantar Andolan


Editors’ Note
Manish Jain Rediscovering the Co-Creators Within
Part 1: Splashing into the Unknown
Satish Kumar Life Is All About Learning
Sanat Mohanty The Altars of Constructs
Dayle Bethel Recovery of Community for Learning Societies: Learning from a Japanese Educational Pioneer
David and Carole Schwinn A Call for Learning Democracy
Shilpa Jain Resisting the Tyranny of Indicators: Regenerating Learning Ecologies
Part 2: Giving Rise to New Melodies
Bliss Browne Cultivating Hope and Imagination
Nitin Paranjape Let Us Dialogue, Reflect, and Create Our Destinies!
Coumba Toure Rebuilding Learning Communities in Mali: The Institute for Popular Education
Olivia Scannell A Long-Term Partnership with the Poorest People: Breaking the Chains of Exclusion
Oby Obyerodhyambo Sigana: Re-engaging Contemporary Cultural Reality
Claude Alvares Launching the Multiversity
Part 3: UnEarthing Multiple Worlds
Dana Stuchul, Gustavo Esteva and Madhu Suri Prakash From a Pedagogy for Liberation to Liberation from Pedagogy (original)

From a Pedagogy for Liberation... (published version)

Patrick Farenga and Susannah Scheffer Reflections on Growing Without Schooling
Lisa Aubrey Moving Beyond Collective Learning from the Global North and Bringing Humanity Back to Itself
Jessica Hutchings Decolonization and Aotearoa — a pathway to right livelihood
Marianne Knuth and Marianne ‘Mille’ Bojer Pioneers of Change: Nurturing a Learning Community for Systemic Change