Adult Education: Definition and Purpose

The complexity of adult education has been made worse by the breadth of activities undertaken. The settings of where it happens make it even harder to describe what it entails and what it does not, especially to a non-academic audience. This paper attempts to explain the concept of adult education to community leaders who are in the process of improving the social conditions of their community. They need the information to decide on the policies that they will need to make in ensuring the members have better lives. Through the description of adult education, they can close the gap that exists between the educated youth and the adults who might have missed education opportunities.

Definition and Description of Concepts

Adult education has gained several definitions is misunderstood in so many ways. The basic meaning is any form of learning that one undergoes after the basic education, which normally ends at the age of twenty years for an average individual. This is confused with the concept of a forty-year-old going to class. If the adult goes to class to finish on a basic level of education, it does not qualify as adult education. To expound on this idea, adult learning can be explained in the form of different circumstances. One, taking up a baking class in a local community program to build upon the baking skills or just for the fun of it. In addition to that, a person can decide to take up another degree, which they have an interest in after they are done with another one. Lastly, one can take up a diploma even after attaining the age of 25. All these qualify as adult education due to the aspect of voluntarily deciding to take part in such programs.

Adult education is a vital part of an adult’s life. This part of the learning system, contrary to child education, entails a lot of activities that are essential in equipping them with new knowledge, skills, attitudes, and, even more importantly, new values (Keddie, 2018). It can also be seen as a way in which an adult voluntarily decides to take part in extra learning activities beyond the conventional basic education which is regulated. It is different from child education as an adult has job experiences and is seen as willing to add more knowledge to what they have already accumulated. Therefore, adults commit to learning as part of their daily routine (Keddie, 2018). Adult education gives a reflection of the willingness on the side of the participant to take responsibility for the learning. It may help in quenching an individual’s thirst for knowledge.

There are distinct features of adult learners that differentiate them from young learners as well. While adult learners demand more respect from their teachers, as they are probably older than their teachers, young learners are expected to respect their teachers who are more experienced and even much older. The places in which adults learn range from home to jobs, with some of them acquiring knowledge from friends, churches, and unions. There are no specific locations where they can acquire their knowledge. On the contrary, most young learners have areas that are designated for them to assemble and learn together as a community (Keddie, 2018). An exception to this is the group of handicapped kids. It is also very easy to gauge young learners’ understanding as compared to adult learners. This is because in most cases, there are no examinations provided to adult learners, as they are only expected to apply what they have learned in their areas of interest.

In the delivery of knowledge or skills to an adult class, the teacher has to assume that the learners are no longer children who depend on others to understand concepts. The teachers, therefore, teach them as more dependent people. The teachers also ought to understand that these adult learners are people who have been shaped by a different family and job responsibilities and have the foundation required (Keddie, 2018). The learners have different social roles and the knowledge delivered is aimed at ensuring that the role is well defined before knowledge is passed. The specific knowledge passed is majorly for immediate application and not to be stored by the learner. These factors are often taken into consideration before the program for education is even established. It is for this need for more knowledge that adult education is seen as a way of seeking solutions to different problems, unlike child education which only focuses on a specific subject (Keddie, 2018). The motivation that the adults have is not instilled by an external party, rather, it comes from within.

Adult education is a way in which individuals execute the ideas they have in mind to achieve an end goal. Acquiring skills in the late ages of life has to be done with a goal in mind (Keddie, 2018). For instance, a human resource manager who has already been in the field for a while can be motivated to take up an extra course that is in line with his or her job. It can be done to either get a promotion or to make their work easier. Either way, they do it with an end goal in mind. Other individuals decide to take up computer courses because the knowledge of computers is very essential in different fields. In addition to that, other managers could be the reason why adults decide to gain more knowledge in several fields. It can be listed as one of the requirements in a company set up to have skills in the computer, therefore, requiring each employee to present the required documents. It is important to note that even though adult learning is voluntary, some organizations list training as a requirement for better service delivery. However, they involve the learners in the process of coming up with the program to give them the confidence that leads to active participation in the learning.

Adult education can sometimes be funded by the government in institutions as a way of equipping a nation with skills to improve its economic conditions (Fletcher, 2018). Over the centuries, adult education is a concept that has captured the interest of policymakers. With adult education, they can plan on how they can help in reducing the dependency rates of the adults on the working youths. This is an essential part of the goal of a government that is goal-oriented. Therefore, adult education cannot only be looked at from the individual perspective, but generally as a social benefit to all members of the state.

The Context of Adult Education

Adult education can take place in several contexts: formal adult education is done in an institution and is accompanied by a curriculum and has some credentials to it. Non-formal adult education is similar to formal education, except that it has no credentials. It is mostly done within organizations as training is conducted to equip employees with additional knowledge. Lastly, informal adult education which neither has a setup nor credentials. It is an ongoing learning process in which knowledge or skills are acquired on a daily basis as people carry out their daily routines.

The Purpose of Adult Education

Adult educators term adult education as a move toward equipping the adults with skills that are necessary for the changing social roles and responsibilities of society. As different people mature, they discover different functions socially and they are necessitated to be more mature in their activities. this sounds like a large task to other educators and they tend to break it down to reducing the level of wrongdoings by availing the information to members of the society who might have missed the opportunity in the early ages (Fletcher, 2018). Adult education provides a clear path of how human beings become more mature and, by this, he refers to the ability of the adults to coexist peacefully and love each other. Adult learners are in a position to attain their purpose and live a more meaningful life. In attaining one’s goals through adult education, one can live a happier and healthier life, making it easy to promote a generally happy community.

This is not to say that this form of education is as easy as it sounds in theory. The ways through which the information is delivered to the adult learners can be hard to determine, especially because most of them find information hard to grasp. Although adults have experience and are willing to learn, some of them find it hard to understand most concepts, and this challenge is posed to the facilitators. The learners mostly understand through demonstration and therefore providing them with learning materials is not an effective learning technique. On the other hand, the materials are not easily available to the facilitators, which have to be published first before being sent out to them (Fletcher, 2018). Adults also require a little more discussion of concepts for better understanding. This makes it hard for the teachers to decide on the effective ways that produce good results from the learners.


Fletcher, C. (2018). The theory of community education and its relation to adult education. In Adult Education for a Change (pp. 65-82). Routledge.

Keddie, A. (2018). Adult education: An ideology of individualism. In Adult education for a change (pp. 45-64). Routledge.

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