Skip to Content
From the Editorial team

Learning in a close urban community

Authors: Karoliina Knuuti Published:

As more and more people become packed into cities, all aspects of our lives, including learning, will be urbanised. But does the environment have any effect on learning at all? The text is an editorial written for issue 4/2019 on Adult Education and Urban Learning.

Rents skyrocketing, unfriendly neighbours, homelessness, deepening income division and pollution.

Better income, more social relations, more cultural events and a more extensive public transport.

The listings above are about two sides of one topical coin around the globe: urbanisation.

It is estimated that, by 2050, 6.5 billion people will be packed into urban centres around the world – that is two-thirds of the projected world population.

Urbanisation tends to be debated in the frame of the negative side effects of inexhaustible opportunities, as was done also in the listings above.

Nevertheless, as more and more people live in cities, every single aspect of our lives will be urbanised. Also, in a rapidly changing world, learning is required from everyone from cradle to grave, whether we live in cities or not.

It is still quite a rare thing to hear about how urbanisation affects a particularly big issue of our era – learning.

IN ORDER TO CHANGE THAT, the last theme issue of 2019, which is also the last issue of the decade, is called Adult Education and Urban Learning. It is a collocation that is not often talked about and hard to find in academic databases, even though it might be easy to understand the idea.

When defining the collocation, however, the main question is: does learning in urban surroundings somehow differ from “traditional” non-urban learning? If so, why and how? Or even: does the environment have any effect on learning at all?

Without a well-established concept, our reporters, staff editors and experts from the fields of education and a variety of other fields were given the opportunity to imagine rather freely what urban learning could be like. We find the results in the approaches of the many articles in this issue.

One thing that was recognised more than anything as examples of urban learning were city libraries. Urban learning, however, can also include fancy urban learning centres, casual encounters on a university campus, cafés that hold events, primary school trips in the urban environment and people on the brink of survival meeting each other in the bread queues.

To summarise our findings, cities are full of places of learning that most often go unrecognised.

Based on this theme-issue-sized research, the code word is community. Urban learning can take many forms and can happen in countless different places, but it is almost always first and foremost about learning together – mostly in a nonformal way.

It is learning that happens when a lot of people are living side-by-side and are meeting other people to talk to or to do things together with them. In a way, urban learning is then at the heart of nonformal learning itself.

Viewing the matter from the point of view of education then, the image of close urban learning community is quite the opposite of the much more often repeated pictures of loneliness, isolation and social malaise.

Share the article


Karoliina Knuuti (MA) is a journalist and a photographer who worked as the editor-in-chief of Elm Magazine 8/2017-01/2020. Contact: karoliina.knuuti(a) Show all articles by Karoliina Knuuti
Back to top