“Only through adult education can we address the real problems of society – like power sharing, wealth creation, gender and health issues,” said Adama Ouane, director of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning.
What is adult education? So many adults are returning to the classroom that the term “adult education” has become somewhat confusing. Adult education in the widest sense is any form of learning adults engage in beyond traditional schooling. In the narrowest sense, adult education is about literacy, about adults learning to read the most basic materials. So, adult education encompasses everything from basic literacy to personal fulfillment as a lifelong learner, even the attainment of advanced degrees.
What is the importance of adult education in India?
“No nation can leave its security only to the police and the army, to a large extent national security depends upon the education of citizens, their knowledge of affairs, their character and sense of discipline and their ability to participate effectively in security measure.” —Kothari Commission.
Democracy without education is meaningless. It is education and enlightenment that lifts a nation to the heights of progress and greatness. Unfortunately, the situation as it obtains in India in respect of education is not only distressing but disgraceful and deplorable. At present about 60% of the people in India are illiterate; they cannot differentiate a buffalo from a black mole.
The problem in India is that we have adopted democracy without preparing the ground for it by educating population. But even now it is not too late if the program of mass Adult education or Social education is undertaken in right earnest as a mass movement. No doubt the provision of universal, compulsory and free primary education is the only solution to the problem of illiteracy. But the country cannot afford to leave out a whole mass of adults and grown-ups of our society from the benefits of the literacy-drive. Apart from the political justification to the problem, Adult education is needed because it is a powerful auxiliary and an essential incentive to primary education. No program of compulsory universal education can bear fruit without the active support and co-operation of adults. It is, therefore, imperative that educational facilities should be provided to adults.
Adult education, as the term signifies, is the education of grown-up men and women who are above eighteen years. Bryson says, “Adult education includes all activities with an educational purpose, carried on by people, in the ordinary business of life that uses only part of their energy to acquire intellectual equipment.” Ernst Baker says, “Adult education is given on a part-time basis and, therefore, given concurrently with work and the earning of a living.” Maulana Azad re-oriented the concept of Adult education for preparing every citizen to play his part effectively in a democratic social order. So he renamed Adult education as ‘Social Education’. In our country, adult education is imparted tinder two aspects: (1) Adult Literacy i.e. education for those adults who never had schooling before; and, (2) Continuation education i.e. education for those adults who had some schooling before.
The scope of Adult education is very comprehensive. Social education covers all those topics that are not touched by education in general at school. Topics like religion, politics and family planning can now be discussed with adults who have a mature understanding. Moreover, it aims at giving a new orientation to the outlook of adults to suit the dynamic world. Then, the growth grooves of each individual are different from those of others. Social education harmonizes differences in growth and it also provides an opportunity for growth to those who have not been able to grow properly or completely earlier.
About the need and importance of Social (Adult) education Swami Vivekananda remarked: “So long as the millions live in hunger and ignorance, I hold every man a traitor, who having been educated at their expense, pays not the heed to them. Our great natural sin is the neglect of the masses and that is the cause of our downfall. No amount of politics would be of any avail until the masses are well educated, well fed and well cared for.” National development and reconstruction is closely allied to Adult Education. If democracy is to survive, we must educate the masses for social education is the new hope for illiterate masses. Social education is heeded to widen the intellectual and political horizon of the illiterate adults. It is also needed to sharpen the aesthetic sensibility of the adults and to set the cultural tone of the community. Moreover, social education is needed in order to guide in spending their leisure in healthful recreations and useful activities. Lastly, illiteracy and ignorance is a sin; an illiterate adult is a burden on society. Adult education emancipates people from the tyranny of illiteracy.
Swami Vivekananda’s words are certainly of great importance. On the practical plane, however, there are some difficulties that confront the social education planner or worker. Some of the main difficulties and problems are : isolation of adult education in education, accommodating difficulties, age structure of the adults, the family circumstances and background of learners, occupational grouping, cultural background, socio-economic background, geographical location of the social education centre, level of the social education worker teacher, lack of proper knowledge of adult psychology, paucity of leisure lack of equipment, lack of motivation, fatigue of adults and their constitutional and temperamental lethargy, lack of proper publicity, hostility from certain vested interests, poor supervision of centers and half-hearted implementation.
There are several barriers which adults face when it comes to their learning. Adult learners are affected by the lack of time balancing career and family demands, financial situation or lack of transportation. It is important to assist the adult learner in transitioning through these critical times in their lives yet immersing in professional growth and development. Teachers, employers and family members should all encourage the learner in achieving their desired professional development goals. Keeping adults motivated, instilling in them confidence, reinforcing positive self-esteem allows for them to develop into lifelong learners. Throughout our lives we will be continuous learners attaining new knowledge and skills. Another obstacle is the fear or we might say shyness, in some cases: ego, that prevents an adult from going to an institution or someplace like that where he’s going to learn something for beneficial purposes or not. Therefore, it should be primary subject to keep them inspired, encouraged and motivated.
The difficulties have to be overcome either by cleverness, or by fact or by compromise, or may be, by intentional avoidance. Only then we can hope to spread Adult Education. The purpose of all good teaching is to produce changes in human behavior. All adult education teachers must adopt a positive approach; he should help the adults learn quickly and effectively and willing by using any of the three prevalent methods – the Teacher Dominated methods, the Learner Dominated Method or the Co-operative Method. He may make use of any or all the seven types of aids given in the Government of India Handbook on Social Education viz, Spoken words, spoken words reproduced through radio or recording, written words, chart, graphs and maps, objects produced or reproduced as models, demonstrations, pageants, dramas, television and other objects represented as pictures, pictures reproduced by episcopate-slides etc., actual objects, field trips and specially arranged exhibitions, museums or films shows.
Gandhiji’s idea of social service for college students during the vacation and, later on full time basis will prove invaluable in this regard. Young men and women taking up Adult education as a drive should be fired with a missionary zeal to eradicate illiteracy and ignorance from our country. The slogan should be “Each one, teach one.”
Happily, greater emphasis has been laid on Adult Education in the Seventh Five-Year Plan. The tenth point in Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s 20-point Programme-‘Expansion of Education’-also makes special mention of stimulating Adult literacy. Sizeable funds have been allocated and separate staff, including the block and Aanganwari people has been deployed to foster Adult education. Adult education officers have been appointed in each college and they supervise the running of adult schools by student volunteers. The programme of Adult education has to be undertaken on war-footing.