Adult education has been defined many ways.  In a broad

sense, the term means involvement by a person in learning

throughout a lifetime.  This involvement can mean participation

in formal programs designed for adults, such as evening courses,

literacy classes, and lecture series, or informal learning

involvement, such as through a self-study effort or through

sponsorship of a church, community agency, or private group.

Some activities, such as training in business and industry, labor

union education, and military education, that can be either

formal or informal.

     A definition preferred by many involves the inclusion of an

educational specialist who facilitates, directs, or provides

resources to adults in the pursuit of learning.  The term "adult"

in such a definition usually refers to someone having assumed

financial and social responsibility for self and often for

others.  This emphasis on adult education specialists has

resulted from a move to professionalize the field during the past

30-40 years.  However, recent research activities have prompted

an additional meaning which highlights the potential within and

preference by many adults for considerable self-directed study.

Subsequently, the meaning of "adult education" continues to be in

a period of transition.

     Many terms also have developed in the past two decades that

are used synonymous with or similar to adult education.  Such

terms as recurrent education, education permanent, non-formal

learning, and continuing education can be found in worldwide

adult education literature.  In the United States a term

developed in the mid l970's, "lifelong learning," often is used

interchangeably with adult education.  In much of the rest of the

world a similar word, "lifelong education," is used to symbolize

not only education during the adult years, but also education

throughout life.

     An important feature distinguishing adult education and

professional involvement worldwide regardless of terminology, is

the nature of participation.  In many parts of the Western world,

adult learning usually is voluntary, meaning that participants

decide on content, duration, and format.  Elsewhere, though,

frequently there is more state control over curriculum and



             Breadth of the Adult Education Movement


     Adult education, perhaps because of its lifelong learning

characteristics, is a phenomenon that truly is worldwide.  In

fact, adults make up the most rapidly growing component of

education.  Most third world countries utilize adult education to

improve literacy, to upgrade occupational competence, and for

community development.  Most Socialist and Communist nations use

adult learning programs not only for literacy and national

development, but also for political indoctrination.  The Western

world also uses adult education for some of the above reasons,

but most efforts are either for promoting personal improvement or

for helping participants cope with the rapidity of social change.

Organizations like UNESCO, the International Bureau of Education,

and the International Labor Organization promote various adult

education activities that bridge national borders and beliefs.

     Several forces have come together during the past 25 years

to heighten the need for learning throughout life.  A major force

has been the rapidity and constancy of change.  A term introduced

in l970 labeled difficulties to cope with change as future shock.

More recently the miniaturization and expanding use of computers

has only served to heighten the social change being experienced

by many.

     Another force, and related to the first, has been changes in

the nature of occupational requirements.  The constancy of job

obsolescence, frequent requirement for retraining, and increases

in service occupations are some of the resulting features.  Even

in underdeveloped and non-industrialized nations, efforts

frequently are made by international agencies or local

governments to use advanced technology in solving many local

developmental problems, thereby creating huge education and

training needs.

     A final force has been the fairly radical changes in life

styles being experienced throughout the world.  For example, many

Asian countries are moving to emulate some Western world values.

Several Communist countries are having to cope with doctrine and

social approaches that have not lived up to initial expectations.

Many developing countries have experienced ever widening gaps

between the poor and the wealthy.  In much of the Western world

an increase in longevity, a constant necessity to cope with

economic inflation, additional leisure, and increased levels of

education have all combined to create large needs for adult



                   Adults As Learners


     A positive belief in personal ability to learn throughout life

appears to be an important by-product of

this growth in adult education.  But this positive view wasn't

always present.  It was deemed a major breakthrough in l928 when

American Edward Thorndike published research showing that

although learning ability peaked at about age 2l, the ability to

learn actually persisted thereafter.  Others carried out research

with adults in the l930s and determined that declines in ability

were less than previously believed.  In the l950s through

longitudinal research and improved test taking techniques which

removed speed of response, adults were found capable of gains

with age in certain conceptual thinking tests.  Researchers since

then have refined this knowledge and generally report the

potential of intelligence and aptitude improvement throughout


     The actual number involved annually in adult education is

difficult to determine because so many definitions of educational

participation exist.  Estimates based on U.S. Census information

suggest that 20 million or more adults participate in a variety

of formalized adult education programs each year.  Generally,

though, such numbers do not account for several additional

million involved in various informal learning activities.

Additionally, when the numbers engaged in self-directed study

through study circles, independent learning, learning exchanges,

and learning networks are included, the enormity of involvement

can be seen.  Some researchers estimate that nine out of ten U.S.

adults annually engage in some form of learning endeavor.  Many

other countries especially the developed nations, experience

similar involvement in learning by adults.

     Such heavy involvement has not been limited just to younger

adults.  In the United States, the average age is around 30.

Participation by people older than 30 has increased, for example,

confirming that adult learning ability is continuous throughout

life.  As one indicator, in l980 there were 750,000 people 35 and

older involved with programs at institutions of higher education.

By the year 2,000 it is projected that this figure will about

double.  As another example the Elderhostel, a university-based

short course program for people over 60, was initiated in l975.

The program has grown annually throughout North America and

Europe; by the mid-l980s some 50,000 people participated in

Elderhostel programs each year.  Programming through community

colleges, university gerontology centers, senior centers, and

state or local aging commissions provide additional opportunities

for the older population.  Continuing education programs for

women, the disadvantaged, and those requiring English as a second

language are other examples of more specialized programs gaining

popularity in recent times.


                   History of Adult Education


     The history of adult involvement in learning dates back to

before words or symbols were recorded.  As humans have progressed

up the evolutionary ladder there always has been a need to learn

new things throughout life, such as sharing new hunting skills,

adding to tribal lore, or discovering new uses of items in

nature's treasure chest.

     The evolution of symbols, words, and languages most

certainly heightened the need for more formal adult education.

Historical figures like Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, and Jesus

spent considerable time in the education of adults.  The

invention of the printing press also changed the course of human

history in some fundamental ways and provided an abundance of

educational resources.

     The close of the l8th century saw adult education begin to

move from several centuries of primarily religious orientation to

a response to the advance of industrialization.  In Great Britain

this change also took on a flavor of concern by some for welfare

of the poor.  Schools for Bible reading began to give way to

adult schools where the poor were taught to read.  By the early

part of the l9th century Mechanics' Institutions were established

in the principal towns throughout England to meet some

educational needs of working class people.

     About this same time in Denmark, N.F.S. Grundtvig, searched

for a way to help Danes who had suffered various losses in the

Napoleonic Wars.  He used as a vehicle the folk high school, an

institutional setting for farmers and artisans to become aware of

their country's rich history, culture, and language.  There now

are some 90 folk schools in Denmark, alone.  In addition, there

are folk schools in other Nordic countries, the United Kingdom,

many European countries, several Third World countries, and North


     The development of public libraries in the mid-l800s, higher

education opportunities for adults that began around l900, the

Workers' Education Association designed for working class people

that began soon after that, and the Open University movement of

the mid l960s are additional Great Britain adult education

contributions.  The world-wide interest in literacy training,

especially in developing countries, during the past three decades

is another important historical feature.


The History of Adult Education in the US


     The US has experienced a rich history of adult education that

goes back to before the country was formed.  Colonists in the

l6th century required various forms of adult education, such as

religious training, political education, and apprenticeship

opportunities, just to survive the rigors of settling and

establishing a new country.

     Benjamin Franklin has been referred to by some as the actual

"father" of adult education.  This multi-talented individual

counted among his many accomplishments the formation of a men's

discussion club in l727.  Known as the "Junto," this club was

formed to explore through discussion a variety of intellectual

problems.  The University of Pennsylvania, the first American

public library, and the American Philosophical Society are only

some of the institutions that can trace linkages to the Junto.

     The growth of the country during the l9th century stimulated

considerable adult education innovations.  It was within this

setting that the first daily newspapers and several magazines

were established.  Although several universities had been

established prior to l800, they met primarily the educational

needs of only a few elite young people.  The need to spread

information beyond the minds of these few was great enough that

in l830 the first series of popular lectures for adults was

offered by Yale Professor Benjamin Silliman.  This "outreach"

idea spread and by the end of the century "university extension"

was a common feature of many higher education institutions.

     Paralleling this university outreach was the thinking and

organizing by Josiah Holbrook of an innovative program.

Holbrook, initially an educator of youth, was influenced by

Silliman and became a popular lecturer throughout New England.

He helped to establish an educational society and nation-wide

network of local study groups.  Referred to as "lyceums," members

met to hear lectures on a variety of issues, and to help create

educational institutions like libraries, museums, and public or

"common" schools.  The first lyceum was started in l826 and by

l835 the movement peaked with about 3,500 local lyceums.

     Toward the latter part of the l9th century some new forms of

adult education began to emerge.  In l874 John Vincent helped to

establish at Chautauqua Lake in New York a summer institution for

Sunday school teachers.  Its popularity grew quickly and many

participants other than religious teachers began to attend.  A

subsequent broadening of the curriculum proved even more popular

and this rich heritage of classes, lectures, cultural offerings,

political discussions, and entertainment continues today.  Some

interesting offshoots of the Chautauqua movement also developed.

The Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle's home study

program and a monthly magazine existed from around l880 to l9l4.

Correspondence study and book-of-the-month reading clubs, too,

can be traced to Chautauqua.

     Tent show chautauquas were another progeny of the Lake

Chautauqua influence.  These traveling tent shows began in l903

when two enterprising lecture agents realized that a "circuit"

which brought lecturers, entertainment, and some culture to

people throughout the country would be quite popular and

profitable.  Peaking in the l920s, these traveling chautauquas

eventually gave way to radio, movies, and changes prompted by the


     The closing of the l9th and beginning of the 20th century

saw America taking a closer look at agriculture as a vital

component of a healthy nation.  In l862 the Morrill Act

established "Land Grant" Colleges of Agriculture and Mechanical

Arts in each state.  In l887 the Hatch Act enabled agricultural

experimentation stations to be developed throughout the country.

The l9l4 Smith-Lever Act established an Agricultural Extension

Service as a vehicle to provide agricultural adult education in

every state.  Thriving yet today but now known as the Cooperative

Extension Service, this organization provided to youth (through

its 4-H programs) and adults agricultural, family life, home

economics, leadership, and community development education.

     During the first quarter of the l900s there were several

other significant adult education events.  The Smith-Hughes Act

of l9l7 provided for vocational education through the public

schools for both youth and adults.  The heavy influx of

immigrants needing to learn English and other skills also created

adult education needs.  Their involvement in "Americanization

Programs" was an important impetus for the growth of public

school adult education.  These primarily "evening" schools

typically experienced steady growth in participants throughout

the teens and twenties.

     There also were established during this period two important

organizations concerned with professionalization of adult

education.  In l924 the National Education Association created a

Department of Adult Education.  In l926 the American Association

of Adult Education was created through initial financial support

by the Carnegie Corporation.  Research on adult education, the

development of professional literature, and an annual conference

were important by-products of such groups.  In l95l these two

groups were combined to form the Adult Education Association of

the U.S.A. (AEA).  Then in l952 a spinoff group was formed, the

National Association of Public School Adult Educators (NAPSAE).

Gradual decline in public school adult education programs and the

emergence new roles and clientele resulted in a later name change

to the National Association of Public Continuing Education

(NAPCAE).  To promote national unity and create a stronger

national voice for adult education, both AEA and NAPCAE merged in

l982 to form the now existing American Association of Adult and

Continuing Education (AAACE).

     The federal government's role in adult education began to

accelerate during the l950s and 60s.  The GI Bill of Rights

developed after WWII, expenditures for military education, and

involvement in labor force training through the l965 Manpower Act

represent some of this involvement.  Interest in civil liberties,

social change, and providing greater opportunities to poorer

people that developed during the l960s also stimulated some adult

education efforts.  The Economic Opportunity Act of l964 provided

funds for adult basic education (ABE), a program designed to

combat illiteracy problems.  In l966 the Adult Education Act was

passed to provide support and leadership for the still existing

ABE program.

     Finally, in l976 some federal legislation spearheaded by

Senator Walter Mondale was dubbed the Lifelong Learning Act.  The

legislation, itself, was approved but funds were never

appropriated.  However, the legislation drew considerable

attention to adult education, prompted new research and

literature, and helped facilitate some connections between adult

education activities in the United States and those in other



The Historical Heritage for Today's Adult Education Movement


     Two important events took place during the l960s which

affected the direction of adult education in the United States.

In l968 Malcolm Knowles, a professor of adult education,

introduced adult educators to the term, "andragogy." Andragogy as

a term to refer to teaching adults was not new, as several

European socialist countries such as Hungry, Poland, and

Yugoslavia had been using the term prior to l968.  Hungarian

educators, for example, place teaching and learning within a

system called "anthropogony," which is subdivided into pedagogy

(dealing with youth education) and andragogy (dealing with adult

education).  The ideas foundational to andragogy created

considerable dialogue, debate, and scholarship by American adult

educators during the l970s and 80s, and perhaps did more to draw

attention to adult education than any other activity during the

20th century.

     Another event during the 60s was the beginning of a focus on

adults as potential self-directed learners.  Cyril Houle, also a

professor of adult education, studied adult learning activity and

discovered three distinct learning orientations.  This prompted

subsequent research by Allen Tough, a Canadian professor of adult

education, who substantiated that most adults determined they

frequently express preference for learning to be self-directed in

nature.  The work of Houle and Tough spawned tremendous research,

literature, and debate that continues to today.


                  Professionalism of the Field


     Adult education worldwide has undergone considerable

transformation during the past few decades.  Changes in the

United States also have been quite remarkable in terms of not

only large numbers engaged in learning, but also the number

working in the field.


Who Are the Adult Educators?


     It is not easy to describe those who consider themselves

to be adult educators as so many people now work in

some capacity with adult learners.  In addition, many

adult education positions throughout the United States

are filled with capable and devoted people who do not have

a formal college degree or who have degrees in areas other than

adult education, including many volunteers, part-time adult

educators, and individuals for whom adult education

responsibility is only incidental to specialization in some other

area.  No reliable estimate exists because of such definition

problems, but it is believed that as many as l0 million people

work with adult education on a part-time basis.

     There are a variety of roles performed by people who

consider themselves to be professional adult educators, with

perhaps as many as 250,000 people making a full time living.

Continuing education administrators, in-service training

specialists in the medical field, adult education teachers,

professors of adult education, adult education counselors, and

trainers or consultants in human resource development are only a

few of the types of professionals that can be described.  In

fact, currently adult education is a growth area in terms of

available professional positions.


Training of Adult Educators


     The training of adult educators generally takes one of two

forms in North America.  One form is university training,

typically at either the Masters or Doctoral level.  The

first doctorates in adult education, for example, were

awarded in l935 by Teachers College of Columbia University. 

However, in the twenty years prior to l955, only fifteen

U.S. colleges and universities had established adult

education graduate programs.  It was at that point that some

sharing among these programs began to be formalized.

     Subsequently, in l957 through a Kellogg Foundation grant the

Commission of Professors of Adult Education held its first formal

meeting on the University of Michigan campus.  Twenty professors

representing l5 universities were present.  The organization has

grown steadily since then, to where currently there are some 250

members representing nearly l00 colleges and universities

throughout North America offering graduate courses or programs in

adult education.  In any given year thousands of individuals

graduate with a Masters degree and 200 or more graduate with a

Doctoral degree.  Few undergraduate training opportunities in

adult education exist, although some experts suggest they will

become more prevalent in the future.  Some other countries do

offer undergraduate training as well as graduate training.

     Another form is the in-service training of individuals who

in some manner work with adult learners.  This includes short-

term workshops, conferences, special institutes for teachers of

adults (often through local or state sponsorship), and federally-

funded projects.

     Professionalization of adult education also has involved the

formation of many associations in the past two decades

representing some aspect of the adult education field.  In

addition to AAACE described earlier which serves several thousand

adult educators through its national office or through various

affiliates, another large organization is the American Society

for Training and Development.  ASTD has more than 30,000 people

affiliated with its national organization or local chapters.

There are nearly 200 professional associations, advisory

councils, and informational clearinghouses in the United States

in some way dealing with adult learners or professional adult


     Scholarship in adult education also is quite extensive.  For

example, the Adult Education Research Conference and the Lifelong

Learning Research Conference are only two of several national or

regional adult education research conferences held annually in

North America.  Research exchanges across continents also are

taking place.  International conferences on adult education,

international faculty exchanges, and international study tours on

adult education topics take place each year.  The number of

professional journals publishing information related to adult

education also grows steadily.  Most countries, for example,

publish one or more adult education journals or magazines, often

international in scope.  In the United States, Adult Education

Quarterly and Lifelong learning are only two of approximately 30

journals related to adult education with a national readership.

     Literature in the world related to adult education has grown

tremendously during the past 20 years.  Thousands of books

broadly related to adult education can be found in a typical

university library.  Some publishing companies now focus many of

their efforts just on adult education.  Finally, there now exist

several annual writing awards for adult education literature.


          Adult Education Programs in the United States


     There are some similarities across national boundaries in

terms of available adult education programs.  For example, most

countries have adult literacy campaigns.  Job training programs

also exist most places.  Other examples could be listed.

However, there frequently are programs specific to the cultural

heritage or special needs of any particular country.  This i

certainly true for the United States.

     The constantly changing American society and fairly rapid

movement from a rural society to an urbanized nation in the past

30 or 40 years has resulted in a variety of specialized training

needs.  Changes in family structures and differing life style

preferences also have created a variety of educational needs.

     Adult education responses to such change have taken many

shapes and forms.  One group of programs has been under federal

or national sponsorship.  The oldest of these is the Federal

Extension Service.  Linked to Cooperative Extension Services in

every state, the organization provides leadership and resources

aimed at a variety of adult needs.  The Department of Education

is another sponsor of various programs or projects affecting

adults, such as adult basic education, English as a second

language, and continuing higher education.  The U.S. Department

of Labor also provides leadership for adult training through such

programs as Job Corps, job retraining, and the Job Training

Partnership Act.  A variety of national foundations, too, supply

national leadership and financial support for activities related

to the education of adults.  Various other government agencies,

national organizations, and professional associations promote

various types of adult education efforts.

     At the state level several agencies or organizations provide

support for adult education.  For example, State Departments of

Education sponsor various programs related to such areas as

literacy training, vocational training, and adult education

designed for special populations.  State-wide professional

organizations, foundations, and associations are other such


     The local community typically is the largest provider of

adult education programs.  Public schools, community education

programs, community colleges, universities, and vocational-

technical schools sponsor a variety of adult education programs.

Cooperative Extension, churches, labor unions, libraries,

museums, art galleries, proprietary schools, training divisions

in business and industry, voluntary agencies, social service

agencies, senior centers, and Y-programs are among the many other

community organizations providing adult education opportunities.


                       Some Special Issues


     There are several special issues that need to be mentioned

for the reader attempting to understand adult education,

especially adult education in the United States.


Marginality and Fragmentation


     Even given the impressive number of American adult

education programs, participants, and professionals,

the majority of public dollar support for educational

still goes to the education of youth.  On the other

hand, the pressures to provide education of various types for

adults mounts daily.  This has created a situation where adult

education officials typically have to fight very hard for

adequate financial support; frequently, adult education programs

must pay for themselves or even make a profit for a parent

organization who in turn will utilize those monies for other than

adult education.

     Several Foundations have supported adult education in

various ways as a means of increasing the viability and priority

of the field.  The Kellogg Foundation has been one of these

providing considerable support during the past three decades.

The Foundation's support has ranged from assisting to build

continuing education centers on college campuses initiated in

l95l to more recent efforts to bring some unity to the field.  In

the l980s they provided support for three such projects:  l)  A

Lifelong Learning Leaders Retreat for representatives from 2l

professional adult education associations to develop various ways

of working together more effectively; 2) in cooperation with the

National University Continuing Education Association 40 leaders

from academe, business, government, and industry were brought

together to discuss future problems and opportunities for higher

education; 3) in cooperation with the University of Georgia

initial efforts have been made to establish a National Center for

Leadership Development in Adult and Continuing Education.

     The formation of the American Association of Adult and

Continuing Education in l982 is another sign that the field may

be becoming less fragmented.  In addition, organizations like the

U.S.'s Coalition of Adult Education Organizations and Canada's

International Council for Adult Education serve to provide some

overall coordination of adult education efforts.


The Problem of Illiteracy


     Functional illiteracy among adults, or the inability of

an individual to use reading, writing and computational skills

in everyday situations, is a world-wide problem.  In more

advanced developing nations like Argentina the rate is about

20 percent; it is about 80 percent in most African

countries.  Unfortunately, the problem becomes more bleak each

year due to huge population growth, limited finances, and

inadequate food supplies to maintain even minimal health


     The problem also is immense in the United States.  Even

though a l982 report by the U.S. Bureau of Census showed that 7l

percent of all Adults had earned a high school diploma, some 27

million adults cannot read and write well enough to fill out a

job application or understand the label on a bottle of medicine.

An additional 45 million read with only minimum comprehension and

an estimated 3.6 million adults speak English poorly or not at

all.  Thus, more than 70 million adults are essentially

nonliterate people.

     Unfortunately, all public and private literacy training

programs combined reach only about 4 million adults.  In

addition, it is estimated that the number of those who cannot

read grows each year by more than two million.  This situation

affects the country in many ways.  One estimate puts the costs of

welfare and unemployment compensation due to illiteracy at 6

billion annually.  The loss of personal dignity, self-respect,

and ability to provide for others is immeasurable.  Unless

drastic corrective measures are taken soon, an all-out war on

illiteracy suggests one expert, two of every three Americans

could be functionally or marginally illiterate by the year 2000.

     There are three primary means used in the past 20 years to

combat illiteracy.  The first has been considerable amounts of

federal money, often supplemented by state support, for such

programs as adult basic education.  Most major cities and many

smaller ones in American have ABE programs offered primarily

through the public schools and/or community colleges.

Unfortunately, monies spent seldom exceed l00 million nor reach

more than 2 million people annually.

     Other literacy efforts have been mounted by two

organizations located in Syracuse, New York, which work primarily

through volunteer teachers.  One is Literacy Volunteers of

America, Inc. (AVA), a national organization founded in l962 by

Ruth Colvin.  It operates on the premise that well trained and

supported volunteers can become effective tutors of adults.  In

the past several years, LVA has grown to more than 200 local

programs in most states.  During that period, nearly l00,000

volunteers and dedicated professionals have helped improve the

abilities of more than l00,000 adults in basic reading and

English as a second language (ESL).

     The second organization is Laubach Literacy International

(LLI).   LLI was established in l955 to extend the work of

literacy pioneer Dr. Frank Laubach who had pioneered a system for

teaching some illiterate adults in the Philippines during the

l930s.  His approach, adapted to hundreds of languages worldwide,

is still used today.  Laubach Literacy Action was organized in

l968 by tutors in America who wanted to do something in their own

communities.  This volunteer membership arm of LLI has some

50,000 trained individuals who work in more than 600 communities.

Each year about 60,000 adults are helped with reading, writing or


     The newest literacy effort is a Coalition for Literacy

formed in the early l980s.  The Coalition is a group of U.S.

organizations, including various professional associations,

literacy groups, and private businesses, working toward the

eradication of illiteracy.  In the mid-l980s the group launched a

national multi-media ad campaign to focus national attention on


     Several states also are increasing their literacy efforts.

For example, California invested nearly four million dollars in

their public libraries to establish literacy programs.  Michigan

established a goal of reducing its 800,000 illiterates in half by

l990.  Other states have made special efforts to reduce

illiteracy among special populations such as minorities or

incarcerated people.  In addition, higher education institutions

have increased research and training related to illiteracy.  It

is hoped these efforts may help reverse this national problem and

serve as a model for other nations.


Continuing Education for Women


     The woman's movement during the past two decades has

affected the adult education field.  To begin with, advanced

degrees awarded to American women increased dramatically

during the l960s and 70s according to the National

Center of Education Statistics.  For example, women received one-

third of all Master's degrees awarded in the early 60s; that

figure had increased to more than half by the l980s.  The

proportion of Phds earned by women increased similarly from l6 to

32 percent.

     Women also make up slightly more than half of all

participants in continuing education programs.  Several adult

education programs for women have been established around the

country.  The University of Michigan, for example, has an active

Center for the Continuing Education of Women.  Saint Mary of the

Woods offers a women's external degree. DeAnza Community College

has a re-entry educational program for low income women.  The

Denver metropolitan YWCA created a women's apprenticeship

training program.  Hawaii developed a state-wide continuing

education program for women.


Training in Business and Industry


     Some experts estimate that as many as 40 billion dollars

are expended annually in training efforts and that amount

may reach l0 percent of all corporate revenues by l990. 

The constancy of change and technological development has

created a continual march by most adults toward occupational

obsolescence.  Borrowing from nuclear physics the notion

of half-life, it is assumed that new information, technology,

and development constantly evolve such every 5-l0 years a person

becomes roughly half as competent to do the job for which

original training was intended.  Subsequently, many adults

must turn to periodic educational experiences to maintain,

regain, or obtain new competence.

     The response by organizations and professionals in the past

few years has been phenomenal.  Training units, assessment

centers, job clubs, career counseling, apprenticeship

opportunities, workers' sabbaticals, and training by phone,

computer, and satellite are only some of the programs in

existence today.  The numbers involved professionally as trainers

and consultants also has increased dramatically in recent years.

In addition, nearly 300 U.S. colleges and universities are

involved with preparing professionals for human resource

development work.

     Federal legislators also are responding to the growth in

training activities.  Such programs as the Job Training

Partnership Act, the Vocational Education Act, and the tax code's

employee educational assistance provisions provide some financial

support for training.  Emerging federal legislative thinking

includes such ideas as providing tax credits for training, using

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) for retraining, and the

establishing individual training accounts patterned after the



                           The Future


     Several trends with implications for adult education appear

to be emerging.


Changing Demographics


     The American Citizenry is becoming older.  Today's newborn

can expect to live nearly 75 years. Males who are 65 today can

expect to live to age 80.  Women 65 years old can expect to live

another 19 years.  Also, as was noted earlier many older people

are expecting and even demanding more educational opportunities. 

Add to this the fact that the population overall is achieving

ever higher educational levels, time for leisure is increasing,

and learning needs of various special populations are increasing,

it appears likely pressures for more education throughout life

will become even greater. Subsequently, demand for both adult

education programs and trained adult education professionals

is likely to grow in the future.


Community-Based Programs


     Another apparent trend is the development of various

community-based programs that typically are independent from

governmental or traditional adult education agencies. 

Frequently known as grass roots operations, the missions and

operation of such programs usually are in the hands

of participants, themselves.  In other words, participants

become empowered to act on their own behalf.


     One such example is the Highlander Research and Education

Center in New Market, Tennessee.  Initially founded by Myles

Horton in 1932 as the Highlander Folk School, the organization

has been active in various social issues since then.  Its

dedication to the belief that poor, working-class adults can take

charge of their lives and circumstances has been a growing

inspiration to the empowerment notion.  Subsequently,

organizations like the National Congress of Neighborhood Women,

the Parent-Child Development Center, the Mountain Women's

Exchange, the Boston Indian Council, learning exchanges, and free

universities use a wide variety of educational techniques in

helping people meet their own educational needs.


The Haves and the Havenots


     There is one final trend to be mentioned here with

implications for adult education.  There appears to be

developing in the United States, as exists in many

other countries, very real divisions between what has been called

by some the "haves" and the "havenots."  The growing affluence of

some (for examples, the "yuppies" of the mid-80s) in contrast

with the declining purchasing power of others as exemplified by

illiteracy and unemployment are creating the potential for

clashes of values and expectations.  Thus, a potentially large

task for future adult educators may well be to not only help with

problems of job training and illiteracy, but also with values

clarification, communication, and the empowerment of people.


          Roger Hiemstra

          Professor of Adult Education

          Syracuse, New York




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June 1, 2003