Practitioner and policy maker Sturla Bjerkaker has played a key role in fostering international dialogue in adult education for more than twenty years. After joining the field as publisher at the Folk University Press in 1987 and publishing materials for the folk high school movement, he became principal of the Nordic Folk Academy in 1990, which acted as the center of curriculum and continuing professional development for educators working in the popular education field of folkbildning. In all of his positions and now as Secretary General of the Norwegian Association for Adult Learning, Bjerkaker has brought a breadth of vision that has stretched the influence of adult learning and education at national and international levels.
Bjerkaker’s advocacy, diplomacy, and practical organizational skill have been transformational for the International Council for Adult Education (ICAE). He has helped strengthen its administrative base, create tools for the development of emerging leaders in the field, and engage with partnerships in civil society to strengthen the position of adult learning. He joined the committee of ICAE at a time of significant upheaval and took responsibility for managing the relations with international development agencies, helping them through high levels of diplomatic skill and tenacity to secure a fresh mandate for international advocacy-based work on behalf of marginalized and under-resourced communities. Bjerkaker also led the re-shaping of ICAE’s constitution as a platform for expanding its membership and brought the same leadership to the internal workings of the association. As a member of the Board of the European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA), Bjerkaker joined the EAEA constitution committee.
While at ICAE, Bjerkaker’s organizational skills and powers of persuasion with funders helped turn the idea of an annual International Academy for Lifelong Learning Advocacy (IALLA) into a reality. The development of the IALLA, first at Buskerud Folk High School in Norway, is a product of creative partnership. It brings emerging leaders in adult education together to develop a shared understanding of the global challenges facing adult learners and those who work with them. The IALLA model is now replicated in at least two of ICAE’s own regional associations—Europe and the Asian Pacific.
There are other significant achievements that highlight Bjerkaker’s creative and distinctive work. He has assisted in the shaping of Norwegian legislation for adult learning, translating the aspirations of adult learners and teachers into measures that command the confidence of legislators and administrators. He also tirelessly promoted international cooperation, using study circle methods in many cases, to strengthen links in the Nordic region and especially in fostering north-south links and promoting popular education.
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