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What Is Adult Education?

By Ken Black
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Adult education is a field of education that deals with the teaching of adults. There is no standard definition for what qualifies as adult education beyond this broad definition. This type of education may involve adult basic education, such as curriculum materials used to prepare individuals for a high school diploma equivalent certificate, such as a GED. It can also include many other various types of continuing education classes, some of which get to be quite technical and complicated.

Generally speaking, adult education is not considered to be typical university classes for those who have come out of high school. Though, by that time, these students are technically adults, this is considered a traditional college education. However, while simply going to college after high school graduation may not qualify, many colleges may have adult education classes or perhaps even an entire adult education school. This is especially true of community colleges.

Despite the occasional perception that community colleges or other adult education programs are remedial, this could not be further from the truth. Traditional education often follows a one-size-fits-all model that fails to cater to students--mainly because students must live up to one standard educational speed. But community colleges and adult education can provide learners with individualized support to fit their educational needs. For example, adult education programs often make it easy to connect with services such as Algebra 1 tutoring, which can support learners in approaching foundational math concepts in a way that works for them.

There are many reasons why one may choose adult education classes. First, an individual may want to get a high school diploma, or close equivalent. Second, some people may be involved in professions which require a certain amount of continuing education every so often. Third, some may be working toward a college degree in a non-traditional setting. Fourth, some may choose to take such classes for personal enrichment. All of these would qualify as forms of adult education.

Some of the more popular types of adult education classes are GED preparation, driving classes, foreign language, and professional development. In some cases, such as GED preparation or driving school, these classes may be required for any number of reasons. Those receiving citations for moving violations, for example, may opt to go to driving school in some jurisdictions to avoid points being placed on their license and allow them the ability maintain a safe driver's status. This could help keep auto insurance rates lower.

It should be noted that adult education does not only apply to more traditional instructional settings, the concept is far more extensive. For example, an employer may offer various types of educational classes for employees. These may or may not be directly related to their jobs. Educating adults is also done in prison systems throughout the world as part of an effort to rehabilitate offenders.

In a down economy, adult education takes on a very prominent role. Laid-off workers may seek job re-training programs to provide them with skills other employers may need in their respective communities. Often, the cost of such classes may be provided as part of a company severance package or as a state aid benefit.Those who take advantage of these types of programs may find their ability to market themselves to other employers increases dramatically.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By sunshine31 — On Jul 14, 2010

Crispety- I agree with you. Also, remember that community colleges offer adult education courses through their continuing education program. There potential students can choose courses relating to fitness, a special hobby like painting or jewelry making or perhaps even a course regarding a potential new line of work

In the continuing education department of a community college you will also find courses involving real estate and becoming an agent as well as becoming a real estate appraiser. In addition, courses involving insurance and property management designations are also available in this department. The adult education department of a community college is a real gem for the general public.

By Crispety — On Jul 14, 2010

Great article- I agree that many community colleges offer adult education courses. Sometimes public high schools also offer adult education classes at night.

While the community college offers classes both online and on campus, the high school usually offers courses on campus.

Mailers for both programs are usually sent out to local residents that might want to learn a new language, or perhaps complete their education by obtaining a GED.

Here most of the students are generally older so the non-traditional student tends to feel more comfortable with like-minded company.

By anon92044 — On Jun 25, 2010

Simple and concise.

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