The Future of Adult Education

It’s impossible to know what the future holds. Even Paul the psychic octopus didn’t always get it right! Remember when the world was supposed to end in 2012? Or what about 2013? Or… actually, every year someone predicts the world will come to a dramatic end. If you’re reading this, it obviously hasn’t – not yet anyway!

Nobody can ever guarantee what’s going to happen in the future. What we can do is make predictions. Before we look at what the future looks like, let’s take a look at the past…

The History of Adult Education

Believe it or not, all the way back in the 1700’s, apprenticeships were one of the first ever Adult Education programmes. Back then in an apprenticeship, the student would learn an art or trade by working for what they called a ‘skilled master’. They would work for them for a certain number of years. These ‘masters’ also would teach their apprentices how to read and write.

Many years later, into the 1800’s, there was a much wider variety of Adult Education institutions. Some of these institutions were study groups called ‘lyceums’. Members of these study groups held discussions as well as attending lectures and debates.

During the 1900s, the government began taking more interest in and had a  more important role in adult education. Many pieces of legislation began popping up, such as the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, which provided funds for training in farming and home economics. Three years later, the Smith-Hughes Act was put into practice in finance vocational programs.

Today’s programs focus on a wider range of higher-level skills that include problem-solving, literacy, and IT. Students can enrol in adult education programs in secondary schools (that hold night classes), colleges, university programs, and even prisons. The government also funds the majority of adult education programs.

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The Future of Adult Education

Technology in the future of adult education

Technology will have a massive part in the future of adult education. There is increasing demand for technology that can completely change the experience of learning. Technology has already had an incredible effect on workplace learning, which doesn’t usually take place in formal training programmes. It removes obstacles such as the location of employees or clients.

Already, people are able to work on their courses and send their work via apps on their mobile phones. Seriously, 25 years ago did anyone ever imagine that they would be able to do that? Technology makes the simple things like that so much easier.

The Ed Tech Developer’s Guide says that educational apps and games have the potential to improve learning, skills and behaviours such as self-regulation, perseverance and understanding their growing learning potential. The quality of education mostly relies on of the mode of delivery. There is high-quality online learning, and there is high-quality classroom learning, just as there is low-quality learning in both settings.

Adults have plenty of potential, and if there are more investments made in our adult education, they can be connected up with new opportunities. Many people think that adult education will become an even longer, more purpose-driven pursuit. As the population grows, more adult learning organisations will inevitably have to pop up.

How can we prepare for the future of adult education?

The future of Adult Education needs to include support for millions of adults who would benefit from accessible learning to help them with their basic skills. This would enable them to get back to work, or even retrain across any sector.

The government should be prepared for jobs that don’t exist yet. They should offer more support services and education providers that help adults take their first steps back into employment. Currently, people who undertake adult education courses do not rely so much on the benefits system. They are finding employment easier and becoming active citizens. Therefore, the government would benefit from offering the extra adult education services. Our blog on The Positive Impact of Lifelong Education has many stats within it proving that people find it much easier to get back into work after taking an adult education course.

Schools and colleges should make sure they are inspiring their students and setting out clear pathways to employment. These educational places should be more involved in working with adult learners. This may be through mentoring programmes and through volunteering. There should be a better and much more accessible careers guidance for adults as well as young people. Skills development and training alone isn’t necessarily always enough for everyone to get them back into employment. However, we should not assume that adults don’t also need support in navigating the world of work.

Who really knows…

So, we’ve gathered that nobody can guarantee the future. Nobody knows exactly what will happen with adult education. What’s important is that it has plenty of potential and its future sure does look bright!