The 68th AAACE annual Conference of the American Association of Adult and Continuing Education’s (AAACE) was this year held in St Louis, 8-11 October, focussing on the themes of human rights, empowerment and environmental sustainability.
The Hyatt hotel, under the view of the St Louis archway, provided us with a meeting place for adult educators, researchers and others across the USA and across the world to meet and exchange ideas together. AAACEs partners working in different spheres such as e-learning, research and literacy also attended the conference.
St Louis, once the centre of East-West traffic in the USA and third largest port, is today perhaps best-known today for its Gateway Arch, an astonishing architectural feat of engineering completed in 1965. The stainless-steel parabola designed by Finnish architect Eero Saarinen, commemorates the role St Louis played in the western expansion of the USA. You can take a ride up to the top and explore the wonderful views on the tallest standing monument in the USA. There is also a first-class museum under the arch and opportunity to sail up the Mississippi River in a steamship as the early settlers did in days gone by.
The agenda for human rights is as we know a central tenet of adult education, with policy bodies and adult education associations having a long history of advocacy with and for learners. Economic empowerment is also part of the daily engagement in adult education, work and learning and the theme of environmental sustainability provides a new and important area for exploration. It reminds us of our obligations in shared spaces in the local, national and global context and the interdependency which exists for healthy living, economic sustainability, human growth and social development.
AAACE's mission is to provide leadership in the field of adult and continuing education through expanding opportunities for adult growth and development; unifying adult educators; fostering the development and dissemination of theory, research, information, and best practices; promoting identity and standards for the profession; and advocating relevant public policy and social change initiatives. Approximately 200 papers were presented from the 400 or so attendees. The subjects of the paper’s contributions were classified under26 different areas of practice ranging from adult basic education to colleges, universities, minority issues, distance learning, military education, health, workforce development, and people with disabilities. Papers included those based on research as well as other practice formats.
AAACE also confers several categories of awards annually at its conference which recognise and honour exemplary contributions to adult continuing education. The awards are a highly visible component of the association's statement about standards of excellence in the field and recognize individual and team efforts for leadership, service, knowledge, learners and practice in the field. The AAACE National Awards Programme is held annually during the AAACE conference. Prizes are awarded in several categories including -outstanding adult education programme, outstanding literature in adult education and an outstanding award for community, minority and non-formal learning.
I also attended the pre-conference of the Commission for International Adult Education (CIAE) which provides a forum for the discussion of international issues related to adult education in general, as well as adult education in various countries around the globe. This year’s commission was a two full-day event and was attended by approximately 30 people and included partners from several African countries as well as several European Countries. Delegates presented papers on several key themes which included quality assurance, politics and sustainable adult learning. The Commission holds its annual Pre-Conference in conjunction with the AAACE Annual conference. The purpose of the Commission is to develop linkages with adult education associations in other countries., to encourage exchanges between AAACE and association from other countries, to invite conference participation and presentation by interested adult educators around the world and to discuss how adult educators from AAACE and other nations may cooperate on projects of mutual interest and provide benefits to those we serve.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of attending both the conference and CIAE preconference. These events provide an opportunity for sharing ideas, meeting new people and learning from new forms of communication in one of the world's most advanced countries. I feel privileged and honoured to have been invited to join such an amazing gathering and can recommend it to anyone who wants to find new challenges in a supportive friendly environment.
AAACE’s next annual conference will be hosted in Reno, Nevada at the end of October 2020.
Look out for further details on the AAACE website.
Pictures of those attending the CIAE pre-conference meeting in St Louis: