publications pile

Global report on adult learning and education (GRALE)

The Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE) provides a clear and comprehensive picture of the state of adult learning and education (ALE) around the world. Five reports have been published since 2009. 

GRALE monitors whether UNESCO Member States are putting their international ALE commitments into practice. The reports combine survey data, policy analysis and case studies to provide policy-makers and practitioners with sound recommendations and examples of good practice. They present strong evidence on how ALE can help countries address current and future challenges, including the Sustainable Development Goals.

GRALE 5 (2022)

GRALE 5 combines survey data, policy analysis and case studies to provide policy makers, researchers and practitioners with an up-to-date picture of the state of adult learning and education in UNESCO Member States, as well as a review of citizenship education, including global citizenship education. It provides recommendations for strengthening developments in adult learning and education and for promoting active and global citizenship. UNESCO’s report shows that while there is progress, notably in the participation of women, those who need adult education the most – disadvantaged and vulnerable groups such as Indigenous learners, rural populations, migrants, older citizens, people with disabilities or prisoners – are deprived of access to learning opportunities.

GRALE 5 partial cover

Previous GRALE reports


GRALE 4 (2019)

About the report

In almost one-third of countries, fewer than 5 per cent of adults aged 15 and above participate in education and learning programmes, according to GRALE 4. Adults with disabilities, older adults, refugees and migrants, minority groups and other disadvantaged segments of society are particularly under-represented in adult education programmes and find themselves deprived of crucial access to lifelong learning opportunities.

Calls for a major change in the approach to ALE

GRALE 4 monitors the extent to which UNESCO Member States put their international commitments regarding adult learning and education (ALE) into practice and reflects data submitted by 159 countries. It calls for a major change in the approach to ALE, backed by adequate investment to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to access and benefit from ALE and that its contribution to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is fully realized. The publication stresses the need to increase national investment in ALE, reduce participation costs, raise awareness of its benefits, and improve data collection and monitoring, particularly for disadvantaged groups.

Image features cover of GRALE 4

GRALE 3 (2016)

About the report

This report came at a time of great transformation. Rapid technological change, longer life-expectancy and mass migration are presenting individuals, communities, governments and employers with unprecedented opportunities and challenges. Meanwhile, global leaders have agreed on a holistic new vision for the future: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Against this backdrop, GRALE 3 identifies the benefits of ALE in three key policy domains:

  • health and well-being;
  • employment and labour markets;
  • social, civil and community life.

GRALE 3 is the result of a collaborative effort led by the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL). Alongside a distinguished team of editors and authors, UIL’s partners included UNESCO National Commissions and Field Offices, colleagues from UNESCO Headquarters and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, and a team of ‘critical friends’ from the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Global Education Monitoring Report.

Cover page for GRALE 3

GRALE 2 (2013)

About the report

As countries were preparing for the Sixth International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA VI) in 2009, the world was feeling the impact of the financial crisis that began in 2008. Nonetheless, the more than 1,000 participants from 144 Member States and civil society organizations listened to each other and collectively considered how adult education could be strengthened. The resulting outcome document, the Belém Framework for Action, reaffirmed that adult education is an essential element of the right to education and is fundamental “for the achievement of equity and inclusion, for alleviating poverty and for building equitable, tolerant, sustainable and knowledge-based societies” (UIL, 2010, p.6)1.

Moreover, it summarised the commitments made by Member States in the areas of policy, governance, financing, quality, participation, and adult literacy.

Ground-breaking analysis

GRALE 2 included ground-breaking analysis on literacy. It argued that traditional ways to define and measure literacy were outdated. Rather than categorising people as either ‘literate’ or ‘illiterate’, countries would need to regard literacy as a continuum, and as a process that learners engage in throughout life and in all areas of life. Accordingly, countries would need to promote lifelong and life-wide learning policies rather than quick-fix ‘illiteracy eradication’ campaigns.

GRALE 2 cover page

GRALE 1 (2009)

About the report

Produced in 2009, the first Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE 1) was the most comprehensive overview to date of the global state of adult learning and education (ALE). Designed for policy-makers, practitioners and researchers, GRALE I provided a strong basis for negotiations at the Sixth International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA VI). Many of its recommendations were taken up in the outcome document of CONFINTEA VI: the 2009 Belém Framework for Action.

Seen as a key ingredient

GRALE brought together findings and highlighted good practices from five regional and 154 national reports. It described how the role of adult education had evolved since the first CONFINTEA in 1949. Initially seen as a tool to promote international understanding, ALE is now regarded as a key ingredient for economic, political and cultural transformation of individuals, communities and societies.

GRALE analysed major global trends, showing how ALE could help countries adapt to the rapid pace and complexity of economic, technological and cultural change. It examined how women and men needed to adapt and re-adapt throughout their lives. In the context of globalization, shifts in production and new technologies, adults would need to keep on acquiring more information, upgrading their skills and re-examining their values.

GRALE 1 cover