Any form of learning adults engage in beyond traditional schooling
Adult education, distinct from child education, is a practice in which adults engage in systematic and sustained self-educating activities in order to gain new forms of knowledge, skills, attitudes, or values. Educating adults differs from educating children in several ways given that adults have accumulated knowledge and work experience which can add to the learning experience. The science and art of helping adults learn, the practice of adult education is referred to as Andragogy, to distinguish it from the traditional school-based education for children pedagogy. Adults are mature and therefore have knowledge and have gained life experiences which provide them a foundation of learning. An adult's readiness to learn is linked to their need to have the information. Adults frequently apply their knowledge in a practical fashion to learn effectively. The purpose of adult education in the form of college or university is distinct. A common problem in adult education in the US is the lack of professional development opportunities for adult educators. Most adult educators come from other professions and are not well trained to deal with adult learning issues. Therefore, adult education is often a social policy of the government. Also, the purpose of adult education can be vocational, social, recreational or for self-development. One of its goals may be to help adult learners satisfy their personal needs and achieve their professional goals. Eduard C. Lindeman was the first expert who gave a systematic account of adult education. At the same time, he believes that adult learners should not only learn for the needs of work and survival but also give adults the opportunity to enrich themselves. He insists that adult education is an inspiring life-changing tool. Otherwise, Lindeman also proposed that the most valuable resource for adult learners is the learner's experience. He believes that the purpose of adult education is to give meaning to all kinds of experience. In addition, Lindeman believes that adult education is an important means of improving society. The basic function of adult education is to promote the physical and mental development of adult learners. He argues that adult education is a powerful tool for social activists. Through adult education, the personal code of conduct and cultural knowledge of adult learners should be improved to gradually improve the social atmosphere and order.
The principles of Andragogy flow directly from an understanding of the characteristics of adults as learners and can be recognized when we understand the characteristics of adults, and see the way those characteristics influence how adults learn best. Malcolm Knowles introduces Andragogy as the central theory of adult learning in the 1970s, defining Andragogy as “the art and science of helping adults learn. Knowles's Andragogy theory helps adults use their experiences to create new learning from previous understandings. Andragogy proposes the following six main assumptions about adults as learners: 1) An adult has rich experiences that accumulated through family responsibilities, work-related activities, and prior education； 3) Adults need to know why they need to learn something. This learning model makes them think that they are the masters of learning, thus encouraging the confidence of adult learners to learn actively.
Adults have many responsibilities that they must balance against the demands of learning. Because of these responsibilities, adults have barriers and challenges against participating in learning and continuing their education. Distance and/or online learning can address some problems with adult education that cause these barriers. Understanding what motivates adult learners and what their barriers are, can assist in enrolling more adult learners. Particularly, adults aged 16 to 25 were on average about three times more likely to participate than older adults aged 56 to 65. Moreover, the Eurobarometer survey shows that participation rate declined from younger to older adults. Participation rate of European countries was 59% for adults aged 15-24. The rate began to decline 38% for adults aged 25-39 and it also fell down to 31% for adults aged 40-54. Participation rate was 17% for adults above 55. Reason of why older adults' participation declined relates mainly to lack of promotion and support. Moreover, lack of motivation and unavailability of learning opportunities could be additional reasons of older adults' low-participation). Specifically, the participation rate was 57.6% for adults who completed college or university education; while, it was 15.5% for adults who did not complete high school. Deterrents are characteristics that explain why adults respond in negative manners to participate in education and learning. Deterrents faced by adults are multifaceted, including both external and internal factors. It is well known that adults those less educated, low skilled and unemployed are less likely to participate in education/learning. Adults tended to say that they were busy with their daily routines. Adults feel they do not have time to learn because they are busy at work and home. In other words, AE programs and courses do not always suit the needs of adult learners. Adult education has been shown to have a positive impact on the economy. Adult education provides opportunities for personal growth, goal fulfillment and socialization. Researchers have documented the social aspects of older adult education. The development of social networks and support was found to be a key motivation of adult learners.
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