Community education can be a catalyst for socio-economic interventions. These interventions are aimed at strengthening local economic development through capacity building processes. Community educators along with organizations dealing with community development share a common vision.
They aim at facilitating change and transformation through empowering community members and local institutions. Through the Utilization and Evaluation Method (UEM), communities and institutions can learn how their educational programmes can contribute to the achievement of their goals. UEM is a method which improves efficiency and effectiveness of community education processes.
It is evident that having an evaluation tool provides the guidance needed for community education programming. Most funding organizations in the past did not place emphasis on evaluation, particularly those who operated within the development education for amelioration context. As a result, this has had tremendous implications in sourcing funding for many Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) operating in a community education today. This clearly demonstrates the need for an evaluation tool at the inception of community education processes.
It ensures that objectives are met, in line with the goals and community education takes place.
It is important for the evaluators to be tasked to examine the aspects of the community education programmes that would be cost-effective and easy to administer.
The UEM is a tool which is flexible and easy to administer. The focus of the UEM is that the outcomes of an evaluation of community education processes should be judged for its usefulness for its intended participants.
Therefore, UEM concentrates on the systematic collection of information about programme activities, characteristics, and outcomes to make informed judgments. These judgments should be in line with the programme, and the impact it will be having on creating social value.
One of the benefits of UEM for lifelong learning means, it is a learning process whereby participation of all stakeholders and community members must take place. Through participation, informed strategic development decisions can be made to reach set targets.
The continuum of learning brings new insights to the community education processes whiles empowering individuals. This leads to action in learning. The focus is on the continuous learning and acquisition of new skills and the improvement of quality of life in communities.
Furthermore through reflection on programme activities and improved follow up action , or as Paolo Freire calls it ‘Praxis,’ participants are empowered through the process of UEM.
The entire process of UEM enhances higher order thinking skills for self-determination amongst community member who participate in education programmes. Once Kolb’s Learning Theory is incorporated it strengthens the UEM. Kolb’s is of the opinion that reflection should ask questions such as what worked, what did not and what should be changed. Community members should be encouraged to use the UEM at regular intervals since it is multi-faceted and integrative.
This UEM relates to lifelong learning in various ways, which also includes the promotion universal participation of community members to have a higher impact. In addition, communities participating in their education programmes have a responsibility to stakeholders to provide evidence to ensure greater accountability and transparency.
Thus, the UEM can enhance the decision-making processes to be inclusive.
This results in a positive impact whereby communities have a sense of ownership of the community education process. Furthermore, communities build capacity for self-empowerment, resulting in a change of behavior and attitude. UEM fosters a culture of learning societies who think independently, communicate effectively, develops continuously and acts responsibly.
Intrinsic motivation amongst community members can be encouraged through the use of UEM. Immediate and effective feedback in active reflection is generated which is a constructive learning strategy.
Involving communities throughout the process of evaluation should be in the best interest of local communities that engages in continuous learning. Communities need to have more control not only over their own empowerment, but how the process of evaluation is understood and measured.
The UEM can be a tool used by government institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), researchers and donors who engage in community education processes. This means that the UEM in community education programmes requires a detailed understanding and strong commitment to ensure social transformation
Students at the University of Namibia in the Faculty of Education, Department Lifelong Learning and Community Education.