Adult education basically refers to educating adults and also referred to as the continuing education. It is of major importance in the society because it assists adults in increasing their literacy levels and also in obtaining knowledge and skills that are necessary for employment and self sufficiency. It also assists the parent adults in obtaining the educational skills that are needed to become full partners in the educational development of their respective children. It also assists adults in completing their high school or secondary education. Unlike the young learners, adult learners are self- directed or autonomous in that they always know the importance of the programs they are undertaking. There are various adult learning and literacy festivities and events which promote the adult education across the world. This events and festivities share a common purpose for they act as the advocacy tools used in raising the profile of the adult learners and also lifelong learning. They also mobilize the individuals in taking the benefit of the multitude of the learning opportunities open to them. They also serve as a reminder to the fact that adult learning can be a powerful tool for change in the society. This research will focus on United States and Sweden as the selected countries.
The definition and purposes of adult education in Sweden
Obviously, the various deliverables in the research are different in the two countries as it will be established. In Sweden adult education is highly valued. The Swedish defines adult education as the practice of educating and also teaching the adults. This can be carried out in the work places through the continuing education or extension courses which are available at the colleges, universities, secondary schools, the lifelong learning centers, community colleges and the folk high schools. According to the Swedish, the aim of basic adult education is to help the adults achieve the knowledge and the skills which are necessary when taking part in working life or in the society as a whole. The adult education is also aimed at preparing them for their further studies. The aim of the upper secondary adult education is to assist the adults in acquiring skills and knowledge that are corresponding to the levels which are set for the young people at upper secondary school.
Adult education in Sweden is also aimed at assisting people with learning disabilities to acquire knowledge and skills which are corresponding to those which are acquired by the young people in special schools. There are many adults immigrants who only know their native languages. The adult education will assist these adult immigrants in acquiring the basic knowledge of the Swedish language (Sweden.gov.se, 2010). The liberal adult education is aimed at enhancing people's ability to influence their own lives and also foster a commitment to the desired development of the society. The liberal kind of adult education is also aimed at strengthening and developing democracy, broadening adult interests in the arts, increasing participation in the cultural life, individual creativity and also encouraging experiences. The other aim of adult education is intellectual growth. This is because many people will value learning for its own sake. Sweden has continuously held the adult education festivities and events in promotion of adult education. For example in the year 2003, the Swedish education ministry commissioned the Swedish educational broadcasting company for the adult learners' week. This learning festival took place from the 30th of March to the 4th of April in an open house which was prearranged at the UR. The main theme of the Swedish adult education festivities and events is to raise the awareness of the different and also interesting learning opportunities for the experience adult learners, reach the new groups of learners and also inform the decision takers on the various activities.
The definition and purposes of adult education in United States of America
The Americans define adult education as the extension of the educational opportunities to the adults who are above the age of general public education and have the willingness to further studies or training. Adult education in America has various purposes or goals. One of the main goals of adult education in America is the development of the intellectual powers of the mind this is because it awakens the innate powers of the mind so as to foster the accuracy and speed of the logical thought. The awakening of the innate powers of the mind also helps in raising the introspective awareness so that one is in touch with the full knowledge base and can easily access it either intuitively or from the simultaneous multiple perspectives. The awakening of the innate powers of the mind helps the adults to remain mindful at all times so that they may not be taken over by habits or conditioned programs. Another goal of the American adult education is the nourishment of behaviors that ensure survival of the human species, individuals and societies and behavioral change, and to foster social, economic and political changes in the society both culturally and structurally. In this country (America), it is estimated that around 86% of its adult population has completed high school and even continue their education up to the bachelor degree or even higher. It is also estimated that the university or college graduates receive higher salaries than high school graduates. This means that adult education is aimed at promoting the individual financially and even in his career field. It is true that the American society has a high regard for the adult education festivities and events because in the late 1980 the American association for the advancement of education fueled the move of creating a wider celebration of the adult education. The US also holds its adults learners week annually with the aim of facilitating environments which are conducive to the adults learning activities and also consider the adult learning process as a tool and a right for sustainable development. For example the US adult's education week focused on the congressional breakfast for the outstanding learners which was backed by a pack of activities for the AAAE members.
The general purposes of education shared by Sweden and the United States
There are common general purposes of adult education in these two countries. One of these purposes is the personal growth and development. This is because many o these adult students seek further education with the aim of self actualization and the promotion of individual growth. For example an individual might join a course or an educational program not just for the content but also for the contact with the other individuals in an agreeable setting. Another general purpose of adult education in these countries is the social improvement. Studies have indicated that many adults further their education with the aim of gaining new knowledge and skills which will help them in improving their personal or the career situation. For example a person who left the studies early might want to get a certificate that which cements of outlines his or her basic competence when it comes to the employment matters. Another general purpose of adult education in these two countries is the organizational effectiveness. This happens when groups, companies and another form of organizations finances or sponsors the learner's activities of its adult members, volunteers and employees with the aim of propelling them in to achieving the organizational goals. This is mainly achieved through the on-site human resource related development programs or through distance educational programs. Another general purpose of adult education in these two countries is intellectual growth where by adults prefer to further education for its own sake. The other general purpose of adult education which is shared by these two countries is the social transformation. This is because organizations which always favor the social change and policy advocacy may decide to reach their adult members through the adult education therefore changing the people and also challenging whish are existing in the social systems.
Barriers of adult education in Sweden and the United States
In these two countries (America and Sweden), the numbers of adult learners are high though they are encountered by some problems which bar them from achieving their adulthood educational success. For example there are busy mothers, fathers and single parent who have very demanding or tasking work schedules for they have to handle the house hold responsibilities and at the same time attend to their educational matters. In these countries you will find that some adults cannot successfully complete their studies because they are not financially capable of financing their studies. This is because they may be lacking employment or the incomes from their salaries are too low to cater for their education and all the other needs. Some of them cannot easily access the courses they want because of the language barriers. For example you will find that some languages are difficult to understand meaning a foreign adult student may fail academically or even take longer time in a particular adult education course due to lack of basics of the language in that country. Again, the systems of education tend to vary from one country to another. For example you will find that a foreign student may be confused by the country's education systems if it differs from his or her native country. For instance in some countries one is required to undergo some initial studies before enrolling for a degree and other countries have more study time when it comes to some courses unlike others. Other adults will commence some programs and they will fail to complete it because of difficult work schedules and complexities. For example the nature of some jobs calls for more time and the manual ones are too tiresome such that one has no energy to concentrate on the non-working activities.
Another barrier to adult education in these countries is transportation. Some of the adult students are too old to ride a bicycle to the colleges and others find the fueling of the vehicles to and from school too expensive to take care of. The increase in the numbers of the adult education students has been prompted by the discarding of the traditional model and the incorporation of the liberal or flexible approach of conducting and scheduling classes. This approach involves the modification of hours both at night and during the weekends so as to accommodate the adult student life's schedule (Dey, 2010). Unlike Sweden, the United States been crippled with ethnicity since the colonial period. Due to this ethnicity Black and Hispanic adult Americans could not be accommodated in the major programs of the then Native Americans.
The relationship between the informal education and continuing education in Sweden and America is very explicit. This is because in both countries it is clear that the continuing education is incorporated in the informal education. This is because the continuing education is not planned and examined formally. Again its structures and processes are not strictly adhered to as in the formal one. In Sweden you will find that the relationship between the informal and the formal types of education is positive because the formal and informal acquired competencies are recognized. This is because their status of recognition can give one the opportunity to enter into the formal education system therefore improving the employment possibilities depending on the labor market. You will find that in both countries there is the interdependence kind of relationship between the formal education, informal education and the professional development. This is prompted by the fact that for one to acquire the skills needs for employment he must pass through the formal education system. Again informal education can perfect some various areas of formal education more so in areas where manual skills are required. The relationship between professional development and the continuing education is dependent because adults will have to undertake some programs so as to perfect their work skills.
Historical influences of adult education
One of the historical influences of adult education in America was the rise of big businesses and the technological advancements such as factories which required skilled workers. This was in the year 1910. In Sweden the adult education was propelled by the most intense revolution. For example the industrial bourgeoisie's had the interest of having the kind of manual labor that was capable of participating in productivity. The emerging working class had the interest of directing the new training possibilities and conditions which where brought by the production process. The working class also had the interest of creating the conditions of self emancipation and also in overcoming the social divisions which were directly related to labor. It was also influenced by the social classes which were uniting with the aim of creating new states so as to acquire alternative to training as a means to achieving national unification and the fortification of the governing classes (Federighi, 2010). In both countries you will find that due to the increasing technologies there is need for further education so as to increase the skills and knowledge of the required by the employers.
The economic states of the citizens have influenced the adult education in these countries both positively and negatively. For example people who are getting higher incomes or salaries are increasingly going for adult education but on the other hand people who getting poor salaries or income are unable to complete their adult studies or even enrolling. Due to recession many people are losing their jobs and unemployment rate is rising. This means that they are not capable of paying for their education (Lucifora & Biagi, 2005). These adult education programs are very expensive and it therefore makes difficult for many to afford. Statistics in the US and Sweden indicate that all adult education students, even the most rich all wealthy depend highly on the external factors for their financial survival in this academic institutions. Due to these financial difficulties these two governments have moved in to ensure that they assist their respective adult students with their financial constrains. For example in the United States of America you will find that most of the adult education students in the post secondary institutions highly depend on a combination of direct support and tuition from the state or government for their financing. There is also federally backed which act as the central financial underpin for the adult education students. The financial assistance from the governments has assisted the respective adult education students in to completion of their academic programs and also many adults are now encouraged into continuing their education since the economic barriers are minimized by the government funding.
Some of the political factors that influence the adult education in the America and in Sweden include the government and the legal procedures. These two governments have formulated policies on how to fund adult education so as to promote the skills of the national work force. In the United States you will find that some of the legal procedures are required before a person enrolls for the adult education program. The work of the government involvement in these countries is to ensure that regulations are followed so that the standards of this adult education programs can be maintained. Political instability makes it difficulty for many adults to pursue further education because of either fear of the physical violence or lack of finance. It is explicit that many unstable countries always have fallen or unsteady currencies, many people lose jobs and others may get hurt when the quarrelling groups come in to contact. For many years there has been political peace in both Sweden and America. This has promoted the stability of these governments and that's why there are well planned and equipped educational programs and institutions where the adult students can enroll for their education without major difficulties. Stable governments also promote adult education in that they collect enough revenues that enable them to finance adult education thus encouraging many adults in to furthering their education due to the lessened financial constrains.
There are some social factors which affect the nature of adult education in America and Sweden. For example you will find that some individuals will attend the adult education for its own sake. Others will go for it due to prestige. For example you will find that learned people are highly valued in the society because they are believed to be knowledgeable. In the American and Swedish societies you find that no one wishes to be left behind as the others get richer in skills and incomes and that is why employees will opt for adult education. Other social factors affect adult education negatively. For example during the periods of racism in America the blacks and the Hispanics were segregated and they therefore couldn't gain access to this education and only a few managed to attend. There are various factors that influence the nature of education both in Sweden and in America. They include the race ethnicity, religion, and socio-economic especially the influx of immigrants which characterizes the two countries. Most of the immigrants had low incomes so they tended to attend the adult education institutions that fitted their economic and social level. Another social factor that affects adult education in both Sweden and America is related to the growing diversity of the population. This is because apart from providing education to the growing number of the minorities many universities also have to provide education to the older population which is always seeking the long life learning opportunities. This means that there will be a social dissatisfaction with the higher education and the universities and they therefore have to pass immediate cost and needs to the adult students and other student who are the part of the institution.
Another social factor which influences education in these two countries is gender. Since time immemorial there have been the issues of gender stereotyping in the society whereby the females are perceived to be weak and not capable of engaging in to demanding tasks. Due to this sex kind of stereotyping many husbands have assumed that their adult spouses cannot successfully enroll into the higher education and therefore inhibiting them from enrolling into the adult education course. However thanks to civilization many married females are now enrolling in to adult education programs compared to the past years. Other social factors which affect adult education in the two countries include the self concept and the family or work backgrounds. For example adults like to be identified with their age. Some adults will assume that their age is above the school going and they will therefore leave schooling to the young population therefore denying themselves some good opportunities which include upward mobility in their respective jobs. The adult students from unstable families as a result of marital conflicts may find their education uneasy to handle because some of these marital conflicts tend to be stressful especially when they lead to divorce. Adult students from the work backgrounds where the management doesn't advocate for education for upward mobility might find it difficult to continues or even enroll into adult education program for they may get little or no funding thus finding it difficult to finance their higher education.
There are some cultural issues that affect adult education in both Sweden and the United States. For example the cultural attitudes have a very big impact on the adult's attitude to learning this is brought about by the different national characteristics that make it dangerous for the adults to assume that another countries educational ideas, performance and institutions are better than those from their native countries. This is very common in Sweden and in America because some students hold the culture that some of the degrees and diplomas from their native countries are not as valuables as those from the other countries like the United Kingdom and they therefore make arrangements to continue their education in the foreign countries. Another cultural factor that affects adult education in these two countries is the time orientation. This is because the American and the Swedish cultures are very much time oriented. For example in America time is highly valued and utilized and even the education system is geared towards the appropriate time management. This makes some of the minority groups to be disadvantaged by the education system because their culture do not do not stress or even emphasize the sense of urgency. Examples of this minority groups include the native America and the Hispanic Americans. Also in Sweden the Swedish-Finns also do not value time orientation and some of them are highly disadvantaged in the Swedish educational system because their cultures also do not stress the sense of urgency as it is required.
Another cultural factor that affects adult education in these two countries is the social class and ethnicity. It is believed that low social class people who come from the minority ethnic groups are seen to be the under achievers. This is not make some of the adult to lack the motivation to continue with their education since there assume that they might not be successful in the completion of their studies. Again the people from the lower social classes tend to lack enough financial capability to further their education because for most of the do not have good jobs which can bring enough income to fund their education. Another cultural factor that affects adult education is the cultural belief that females are naturally weak. This assumption makes the adults females feel less attracted in continuing with their education because some of them also believe that they cannot make it. Some females may also be denied the opportunity to continue with their education because their husbands or parents fail to fund them due to the assumption that females are less important in the society an d their continued education will be of no essence in the society.
Myths surrounding adult education
One of the issues that relates to adult education in America and Sweden is the myths surrounding it. For example you will find that most of the adults fear the continuity of their education because of the surrounding people in the society. Some of the myths provide a negative view of the adult education. For example it is believed that continuing education is only meant for the smart people. This happens to be false because adults always have an already built in kind of knowledge of experience and life of which they can always draw upon. It is also assumed that advanced education is only meant for the young. This is not true because some college students are in their 60s, 70s and 80 yet the average age estimated for the college students it at 30s. Others assume that the cost of the advanced adult education is not worth the expense. This is definitely false because a college degree graduate will always fetch a lot of money in the job market compared to the high school graduate. It is also believed that adults make too much money for aid. This is of course untrue because aid in these two countries is always available for the adults who even make more than $80,000 annually (Wetzel, 2008).
These governments should ensure that they educate their citizens on the advantages and benefits involved when continue his education. According to the US department of labor 80% of adults who engage in continued education are likely to graduate with a bachelor or a Masters degree compared to the less than 50% those who attend college immediately from high school. To encourage more adults to continue their education, these governments should formulate the procedures which will eliminate the concerns and raise the awareness of these benefits. The adults should be educated that advanced courses leads to an improved career, by increasing the chances of promotion, salary increments and the fact that one will become marketable in his field of career. These two countries should also understand that increased rates of continued education can lead to improved lives of the employees and can inspire the young into improving their education.
Another issue facing adult education in America and Sweden is based on some of the barriers of higher education especially the cost. Some of the universities and colleges charge their courses so expensive such that the adult students cannot afford without assistance either from the government or other private organs. The Swedish and the American governments should formulate policies that will ensure that the adult students are funded so that their financial responsibilities are lessened. These policies may include the federal or state backed loans or grants and also government funding either in the tuition or direct financing of the adult student's education .This means that many will be motivated to further their education for their own betterment. This government should also ensure that their respective education systems are reformed to accommodate these adult students. This is because many employees and the house-helps have time especially during the day to attend their lectures. These reforms should involve the provision of classes at the evening and even during the weekends so that the adult student may have enough time to attend their academic slots or school schedules. Another barrier is the geographical location of the adult students' homes and work places. It is clear that many will not have enough time for travelling especially in the far institutions due to tight schedules. This is because many colleges may be located very far from the people homes or places of work meaning many adults will have to travel many kilometers before they get to their respective colleges or universities thus inconveniencing them when it comes to time management. These governments should therefore devise ways to provide adults education closer to counteract this tight work schedules. E-learning is one of the alternatives which can assist the students in completing the academic tasks at home. The e-learning will enable many students to get the content from the lectures through the internet and also even sent their finished assignment through electronic mails thus making it easier for the students to do their assignment without covering long distances. This is very important in counteracting the distance barrier and also reducing time management inconveniences.
Demand for adult education fluctuates together with the economy sometimes. When the performance of the economy is good and then workers in this sector become hard to find, most employers do relax on their standards. This has ended in most of them hiring workers who don't have a GED or even perfect English proficiency that is required in United States for example. This makes it difficult for adult learners to get maximum support from their instructor since English is mainly used as the language of instruction. Those who are immigrants usually face the highest challenges in such cases. The moment economies soften employers then change and become more selective. This creates a challenge for students because they find that they must have extra education if they have to land jobs in the adult education sector.
Adult education classes have to face major changes in terms of funding. This has caused the number of teaching staff to keep on fluctuating year by year. In both countries, budget pressures have been attributed to the limited funding in adult education. The result of this is that most programs are forced to rely more on volunteers where governments and other organizations don't make up any difference. United States is one of those countries where there are unique immigration policies. Additionally, this country has relative prosperity compared to others. This has thus affected the number of immigrants entering United States. This has created a demand for English to Speak of Other Languages (ESOL) teachers every academic year. This is always a pressing problem for adult education in United States.
Sweden has restructured its education system. The reason why this was done was to make sure that the final products of their education system have the qualities and attributes that are desired in the market. This strategy has very negative effects on adult education values. The major education values that have been affected of late due to restructuring are creativity and humanism. This has lowered the quality of education that is provided to adults in Sweden. Gender aspect is one of the most important things in adult education development in Sweden. Sweden has experienced an inequality in the working life between women and men. It has become always difficult to break traditions that adult students have on course choices. Educational tracks for adult students have always proved a continuous challenge. Most studies have indicated that efforts in trying to improve on this have always been very weak. It has been established that the number of women enrolled in municipal adult education has always been higher compared to that of men. For example, in 2006/2007, women made 67% of the total enrollment. On top of this, they have the tendency of making gender-related and traditional choices in municipal adult education. Programs of care and nursing are dominated by women while technical oriented ones have been dominated by men. The major problem in such situations is that women eventually end with results that are not promising as those of men. A report from Swedish Trade Union Confederation has indicated that even after attending municipal adult education, women find it difficult to land jobs after vocational training. It has been an issue since women have been known to be less successful compared to men.