在20世纪上半叶，成人教育一词最早流行在欧洲蔓延。在第二次世界大战后，欧洲终身学习实践的快速发展推动了成人教育（Aksakal和贺，2015年）的专业化。成人教育机构的设立，增加在研究，出版物和成人教育计划取得成人教育不仅是一个特殊的概念，也是一个运动的全球推广，尤其是在欧洲，成人教育和学习成为一体化运作的重要组成部分之一欧盟委员会和其他组织。到目前为止，世界大多数国家都意识到成人教育的重要性，并制定了一系列的政策或机构支持和规范他们的成人教育体系（Dimitrescu，Sârbu和拉克鲁瓦，2015年）。二战中，成人教育造成一定的社会条件下，例如，随着科学技术的进步的快速发展之后，产业工人需要提高自己更多的知识和技能，以满足社会生产的要求。In the first half of the 20th century, the term of adult education was first popular and spread in Europe. After the World War II, the rapid development of lifelong learning practice in Europe promoted the specialization of adult education (Aksakal and Kazu, 2015). Establishment of adult education institutions, an increase in research, publications and programs on adult education made adult education not only a special concept, but also a sport promoted worldwide, especially in Europe, adult education and learning became one of the important components of operation integration of the European Commission and other organizations. Until now most of the countries in the world are aware of the importance of adult education and have developed a series of policies or institutions to support and standardize their adult education systems (Dimitrescu, Sârbu and Lacroix, 2015). After World War II, the rapid development of adult education caused by some social conditions, for example, with the improvement of science and technology, industrial workers need to improve themselves for more knowledge and skills to meet the requirements of social production. And at that time the school education did not meet their needs. In this context, adult education gained rapid development. However, with the arrival of the Internet economy, the knowledge economy, as well as the differences of new generation of people in personality, ability and knowledge, people's demand for adult education will also change significantly, in the future, how to meet people’s new needs for adult education to continue to plays the positive role of adult education in improving their overall quality to meet personal material and spiritual pursuit to promote social and economic development has become au issue that educators who are engaged in contemporary adult education need to think about seriously (Kalenda, 2015). This essay understands the concept, characteristics and importance of adult education, based on analyzing future social demand for adult education to recommend on the development of adult education in future. First part presents the background and significance of the essay. The second part introduces the concept of adult education, followed by the characteristics of adult education, then, it presents the importance of adult education. Finally, it recommends on the future development of adult education.#p#分页标题#e#
2.1 Definition of adult education
There are many different researches on adult education, different researchers are from different perspectives to define adult education. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (1997) are from the perspective of education objects of define adult education: “it typically begins at the end of full-time compulsory education for those countries that have a system of compulsory education. More specialization may be observed at this level than at ISCED level 2 and often teachers need to be more qualified or specialized than for ISCED level 2. The entrance age to this level is typically 15 or 16 years”. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) points out that adult education is learning activities for people who are over compulsory school age and no longer attend school to meet their learning needs (Aksakal and Kazu, 2015). England and Wales Institute of Adult Education define adult education as all kinds of education offered for people who are old enough to work, vote, fight, get married and have completed a continuous learning (Fieldhouse, 1996). England and Wales Institute of Adult Education analyzes that objects of adult education are people who assume responsibility in a family and in a society, it emphasizes that the standard for a adult is psychological maturity, the mental resilience and the ability of assuming social responsibility of an education object must be basically mature, he should able to take the responsibilities to create wealth or provide labor for a family and a society (Fieldhouse, 1996). Based on the above theories, it can be concluded that adult education is a series of educational activities launched for physical maturity and psychological maturity objects.
Postan (2014), Neagu (2014) are from the perspective of education content to define the concept of adult education. Postan (2014) notes that considering from education content, adult education is a kind of content-specific educational activity. In developing countries, adult education is often regarded as a literacy education, which are activities to teach people basic literacy skills; while in developed countries, adult education is a complement for formal education, it is the activities of using leisure time to expand and enhance capacity. OECD defines adult education as follows: learning activities offered by adult education meet the learning needs of citizens at any stage of life, which include non-professional, professional, plain, formal, non-formal education with collective, social purposes. Neagu (2014) believes that adult education is social education based on real needs and future requirements of vocations and posts, it has different levels and various forms, it is implemented for incumbents throughout their life course and takes effect during a short period of time.
Hubackova and Semradova (2014), Németh (2014), Manolescu, Tâlvan, Bozon (2014) were based on the purpose of education to define adult education. Hubackova and Semradova (2014) hold that the purpose of adult education throughout the education process is to promote adults to enhance capabilities, acquire rich knowledge, improve technical or professional qualifications to help them to find a right direction of development, so as to promote changes in their attitude and behavior. Németh’s (2014) definition for adult education is through any way to improve the technical, professional quality level of adults, improving their knowledgeable and development in order to reach the level of formal education, or exploring knowledge and skills in a new area. Manolescu, Tâlvan and Bozon, (2014) comment that the purpose of adult education is to improve the quality of workers, improving work efficiency and economic benefits and improving living standards, at the same time to cultivate citizens with ideals, morality, culture and discipline to create a good social atmosphere and promote social stability, unity. Lindeman (1988) believes that adult education is a life unfold, cycle process, the purpose is to make people's lives have value, so that they will obtain full meaning of life, opportunity to perform their personal characteristics, opportunities to learn for new purposes. The above definitions for adult education reflect the main purpose of adult education is to improve the overall quality of adults, so as to promote political, economic and cultural development.#p#分页标题#e#
Understanding of the concept of adult education should be noted the content of the following two aspects. First, adult education has a multi-level, multi-faceted nature, none of the above opinions enables the different meanings of adult education can be fully reflected in a same concept of adult education (Barrantes and Yagüe, 2015; Margrett and Lee, 2015). The concept of adult education is not single but complex, which combines the concept of lifelong education, it is related to the contents of different disciplines of sociology, philosophy, management, etc., so the definition and understanding of adult education needs to be observed and analyzed from multiple perspectives (Margrett and Lee, 2015; Margrett and Lee, 2015). Second, it is worth noting that the concept of adult education is not static since the birth, adult education is a concept which still continues to be built and improved, to define it should take certain historical range into consideration (Barrantes and Yagüe, 2015; Cucoş 2014). Therefore, it must be based on the practice of the current development of adult education and integrate with educational philosophy of the times to understand and grasp the essence of the concept of contemporary adult education. Development of adult education in the 21st century has its own unique characteristics of the times, namely, the lifelong characteristic of the education, the individuation of the education objectives, the autonomy of the education process, the open characteristic of the education objects, the diversification of the education forms.
2.2 Characteristics of adult education
2.2.1An important part of lifelong education
There are many similarities and differences between adult education and lifelong education. The similarities lie in that both have criticized traditional concepts of education, they agree with that school education is not the end of education in a person’s life, each person has equal access to education, education should be able to help to improve the overall quality of people, in order to meet the needs of a society and their own development (Dimitrescu, Sârbu and Lacroix, 2015). The differences include that adult education takes particular objects as the objects of education and focuses on educational activities of a particular stage of a person’s life. Lifelong education holds that during a human life, education is a continuous whole, from early childhood to adult education, they are closely interrelated, lifelong education emphasizes the overall planning of education, the education is not limited to a particular object, nor is it limited to a particular life stage (Dimitrescu, Sârbu and Lacroix, 2015). All in all, on the one hand, adult education is included in lifelong education ideas and practice system; on the other hand, the development of adult education promotes the continuous improvement of lifelong education system.
Compared with non-adult learning, adult learning has a clear independent characteristic, which is mainly reflected in the following three areas. Firstly, non-adult learners usually play the role of passive educated persons, adults are active persons who have a clear goal of learning. Secondly, non-adult learners almost entirely in the position of being arranged, adult learners are in the position of taking initiative in terms of selecting learning environment, content, methods and so on. Thirdly, non-adult learners are generally through unidirectional dissemination activities, such as educators’ interpretation to deal with learning, and adult learners complete learning tasks more through self-study activities (Rothes, Lemos and Gonçalves, 2014). After stepping into the information age, adults learn more proactively, which lies in that the pressure of fierce competition in modern society makes the impulse of adults’ active learning become more intense, improved labor productivity in modern society allow adults to have more available time, money and effort for learning, while the rapid development of modern information technology and its applications in an increasingly wide range in the field of education creates more choices, greater range of options, superior learning environment for adults’ independent learning (Bedrule-Grigoruţă, and Rusu, 2014).#p#分页标题#e#
Compared with minors, the vast majority of adults have played certain roles in society organizations, the time and space of their work and life are relatively fixed, it is difficult for them to learn in a enclosed space at a fixed time, under the traditional social conditions when there is generally a lack of education resources and uneven distribution of education resources, coupled with undeveloped information technology which is unable to solve the insufficient or uneven, for most adult individuals, their learning activities are usually limited by time and space, and therefore inhibiting their needs for learning (Richardson, 2013). After entering the information age, with the rapid development of modern information technology and its wide range of applications in the field of education, it provides a realistic possibility for adult learning beyond the constraints of time and spaces, coupled with the improvement of other conditions brought by social progress, the open characteristic of modern adult education becomes more obvious (Richardson, 2013).
2.2.4 Utilitarian characteristic
Modern adult learning needs have a utilitarian characteristic. When study modern adult learning needs, many researchers try to illustrate that modern adult learning needs are rooted in the pursuit of comprehensive development. However, in random interviews with adult individuals of all ages at all levels in various industries who have been undergoing formal adult education, Hubackova and Semradova (2014) found that, although these people voluntarily participated in the study, for the vast majority of the adult individuals, the motivation promoting their learning was mainly practical considerations of seeking survival and development opportunities in the modern society. These practical considerations can be divided into the following three categories. First is to seek more ideal social roles in order to achieve self-realization, second is to keep the existing social roles to avoid being eliminated, third is to find its role in the division of labor and the change of a society (Hubackova and Semradova, 2014).
Adult education takes practical skill operation as its center, focusing on what a learner needs in terms of the industry, trade and position it belongs to, attaching great importance to the targeted and practical teaching of certain industry. Therefore, in the content selection, adult education mainly pursues the necessary and practical principles, focusing on teaching based on that learners need (Kayman, Ilbars and Artuner, 2012). At the same time, the practicality is also reflected in the characteristics of a comprehensive study on the content. After induction, adults will apply their knowledge to showcase their talent. Therefore, the content of adult education must be comprehensive knowledge and skills that an adult must master to do its own work better. Adult education in the content does not need to be professional, but it involves quite a lot of disciplines. Such disciplines in general higher education often belong to different majors or even belong to different schools, and adult education integrates them together for training for a certain job, thus the teaching content is great comprehensive (Iucu and Marin, 2014).#p#分页标题#e#
2.3 Importance of adult education
2.3.1 Improve individual competitiveness
Adult education serves all kinds of incumbency employees, it can directly and effectively improve the quality of workers to have a direct effect on improving the level of productivity, thus promoting labor productivity and economic efficiency. In the era when science and technology advances, knowledge-based economy is emerging, the information society is coming, even highly educated members of a society are also facing the threat of knowledge aging. Learning new knowledge and understanding of new information, acquiring new technology to overcome the shortcomings in knowledge structure to actively adapt to social development brings new challenges to each member of a society, they all need to be completed through adult education. Therefore, adult education plays an important role in terms of improving the level of productivity in reality (Kayman, Ilbars and Artuner, 2012).
Rapid changes in industrial structure and work patterns make knowledge become the mainstream of social development, information and networks become the basis for social development, the integration of the global economy makes both developed and developing countries change dramatically in terms of industrial structure and work patterns. This on the one hand means that it should be through lifelong education and training to help those people who are about to lose or have already lost livelihood to regain new knowledge and skills for make a living and the chance for personal development; on the other hand, it also means that more jobs require a high degree of creativity, and acquiring the creativity will directly depend on innovation in education (Bedrule-Grigoruţă and Rusu, 2014).
2.3.2 Promotion of democratic consciousness
Adult Education in a traditional sense pays attention to how to improve adults’ cultural knowledge and skills, how to help people to get better jobs, to improve their ability to work and to produce more products. Walters (2010), Kokkos (2015), Schied (2014), Cristian (2014) points out that social function of adult education can not be ignored, adult education can foster adults’ democratic awareness; training their positive attitude for supervising and participating in public affairs, as well as helping them to assume civic responsibility and understanding civil rights. School education is an important place to develop democratic awareness and citizens’ quality, but culturing civil and democratic qualities by adult learning is also an important way. Democratic education and civic education can not be completed wholly in schools, thus the formation of civic, democratic quality and awareness needs to be more mature in practice through continuous development. Therefore, development of democratic and civic quality is lifelong training, in a certain sense, adult education when citizens accept after their participation in social practice is a more important way for them to accept democratic and civic education. Adults assume real responsibility of citizens in a society, they must think a question: what value they should have to become a citizen, they must continue to learn knowledge and skills in terms of democratic practices, as well as the attitude to treat other people, political values and social ideals, they must have moral character required for democratic and civil practice. All of these can not be finished in schools, they all require adults to learn and improve continuously to acquire. Thus, adult education is an important way to improve citizens’ democratic quality. Personally, adult education is not only able to convey more knowledge about democracy, but also provides more practice opportunities to help adults to improve their awareness of democracy and morality, as well as the ability and skills to participate in democratic politics. Considering from the entire society, adult education can play a positive role in spreading democratic education and civic awareness, fostering social management talents, maintaining social harmony and stability.#p#分页标题#e#
Literacy is not just the knowledge in terms of science and technology accepted from schools, it is more knowledge of humanities and social science accepted, including knowledge relating to philosophy, history, literature, sociology, etc. (Kokkos, 2015; Schied, 2014; Cristian, 2014). From the perspective of literacy, adult education as an extension of school education can greatly improve adults’ literacy rate, improving their reading and communication, writing, arithmetic, communication skills, as well as helping them to get the basic skills for become a qualified family member, a resident of a city and an employee (Kalenda, 2015; Walters, 2010). And it can meet adults’ needs in cultural and spiritual aspects.
Literacy is which people need to use in their daily lives, such as writing, communication, reading and so on (Schied, 2014; Cristian, 2014). These knowledge and skills are usually acquired from schools, for those who have accepted higher education, they generally have these basic capabilities, but for those adults who do not accept the education, they are likely to lack capabilities in this regard. They need to improve these capabilities through adult education. In addition, with the increase of social civilization, the importance of literacy also will improve, high literacy means better relationships, more jobs, and therefore, even for those who have accepted higher education, they also hopes to further improve their quality, while adult education gives them a second opportunity to accept education to help them to improve their literacy. As economic conditions improve, people gradually freed from the dilemma of the basic necessities of life. Popularity of electronic appliances, but also people can get rid of physical labor and housework drag, modern people are beginning to have more ample free time. Improving external conditions, so that people began to focus on spiritual life enrichment, expect a personal effort to achieve self-improvement. To achieve high-level, high-quality spiritual pursuit, by a one-time schooling is difficult to achieve, and only relying on the support of adult education is possible to reach the purpose (Hubackova and Semradova, 2014).
As economic conditions improve, people gradually freed from the dilemma of the basic necessities of life. Popularity of electronic appliances, but also people can get rid of physical labor and housework drag, modern people are beginning to have more ample free time. Improving external conditions, so that people began to focus on spiritual life enrichment, expect a personal effort to achieve self-improvement. To achieve high-level, high-quality spiritual pursuit, by a one-time schooling is difficult to achieve, and only relying on the support of adult education is possible to reach the purpose (Hubackova and Semradova, 2014).
2.3.4 Improve the quality of citizens
Adult education plays a role in promoting social progress, building a highly civilized, highly democratic, modern society. Improve levels of development of democracy, rules of law is an important symbol of national modernization. And it is based on the level of education of all citizens. In addition to taking of political, economic, legal, administrative and other means, a variety of issues in modern social life are solved more through by way of education to improve citizens' morality, civilized and law-abiding awareness, level of scientific life. For members of a society, aiming at them to carry out a variety of educational activities to enhance the degree of civilization of citizens, cultivating the civic concept and rules of law, democratic awareness of citizens and protection of civil rights are important aspects of the role of adult education (Walters, 2010).#p#分页标题#e#
Since the establishment of modern school system, schools take the responsibility that other social activities can not replace in fostering and shaping younger generation. However, since the 1960s, the contradictions, ills in school education are also increasing. For example, phenomena of truancy of a large number of children, school violence, excessive emphasis on educational background leads to a serious gap between schools and a society (Cristian, 2014). In this case, people generally want to fundamentally reform the old educational system and combine family education with school education and adult education, as a complement to school education, adult education has a positive effect for personnel training (Cristian, 2014).
2.4 Future development trend of adult education
Although the current adult education has been paid attention by governments and it has made great progress, the development of adult education is still facing many difficulties and problems, such as the fairness of adult education, less opportunities for underprivileged people to accept adult education, too single adult education contents, too much emphasis on skills training and upgrading, which is not conducive to a greater role of adult education in other areas, single adult education forms and means add more difficulty to adult education (Kokkos, 2015; Schied, 2014; Cristian, 2014). To solve these problems, the author recommends the following suggestions.
2.4.1 Diversification of adult education object
Hamburg Adult Education Declaration points out that only people-centered development and full respect for participation of human rights can bring a lasting and equitable social development. On this basis, The Future Programme of Action notes that the challenges in the 21st century need people of all ages and all genders to participating in lifelong learning equally and equitably. Only in this way can each person take the advantages of their creativity and potential to make the world move towards sustainable development and equitable development (Kokkos, 2015). However, a serious problem that the current adult education faces is that those who participate in adult education often have a better educational background originally, facing the challenges of the new century, it must establish a new concept of adult education. Adult education is not only carried out for trained, powerful social elite, but also provided for marginalized population and illiterate population, giving them necessary knowledge, and skills to use the knowledge (Kokkos, 2015).
2.4.2 Diversification of adult education content
Over the past, adult education has an emphasis on training of knowledge and skills, it tends to be tools (Schied, 2014), in the 21st century, it has been given a broader mandate. According to its functions, adult education can be divided into compensatory education (including literacy education, basic cultural education, academic education), continuing education, adult vocational education, social and cultural life education. It meets the various needs of a society from a variety of different ways. Target of adult education in the 21st century is diverse, it can make a significant contribution to culturing broad-minded citizens with knowledge, promoting economic and social development, promotion of eliminating illiteracy, poverty eradication and protection of the environment (Schied, 2014). #p#分页标题#e#
2.4.3 Diversification of forms of adult education
Adult education as a part of lifelong education needs to fully mobilize all social resources to participate jointly, so as to form partnerships of public sectors, private sectors and communities (Schied, 2014). The role of a country in adult education will be strengthened. Within a government, adult education is not only the responsibility of Ministry of Education, all departments should participate in adult education. At the same time, cooperation between ministries it is also very important. Lifelong education system is not a closed system, but an open network. In this network, all levels of governments, schools and communities play their different strengths to absorb multi-channel social capital to offer wide range of learning opportunities. Future schools, workplaces, libraries, art galleries, museums, science museums, families will become places for adult education, higher education will be more open to adults. Development of information technology provides adult education more choices (Cristian, 2014). In addition to the traditional use of television, radio, video tapes and other means, now using the Internet to provide education and training for adults allows many adults to learn on their own time schedule, which makes learning more convenient and flexible, more intuitive and fun. Use of the Internet will become an important form of adult learning (Cristian, 2014). Another important change of adult education will be enhancing community participation. Hamburg Declaration takes the participation of communities in adult education as a means of strengthening democracy. To strengthen democracy must first enhance the atmosphere of learning to promote the participation of citizens and enhance people's creativity. Communities are not only places for adult education, but also the beneficiaries of adult education. Mobilizing community resources for adult education, expanding adult education channels can promote adults to participate in community activities to develop proactive and active citizenship in participation, developing personal responsibility an enhancing mutual understanding between people to create learning communities. And adult education also promotes the development of communities (Cristian, 2014).
Adult education is a supplement of school education for adults, as educational activities, the educational content is specific, designed to improve the overall quality of adults to promote political, economic and cultural development. After World War II, with the improvement of science and technology, industrial workers needed to update and improve themselves for acquiring more knowledge and skills to achieve the requirements of social production. At the time, school education simply could not meet their needs. In this context, adult education gained rapid development (Kalenda, 2015). Active role of adult education in enhancing their overall quality, meeting personal material and spiritual pursuit, promoting social and economic development and other aspects, most countries in the world have been aware of the importance of adult education and developed a series of policies or institutions to support and standardized their national adult education systems (Kalenda, 2015). With the advent of the Internet economy and the knowledge economy, adult education needs to be improved in the diversification of objects, diversification of content, diversification of the forms of education.#p#分页标题#e#
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