Doing it For the Adults – Adult Education and Lifelong Learning in 2009

The general importance and specific merits of adult education have been increasingly discussed in the press over the last year. Of course, there are numerous reasons for this growing interest – the most obvious being the many sudden recession-fueled enrollments to universities by adults over the last six months – as older learners seek to spruce up their CVs and to make themselves more employable.

Another factor (which is highlighted by the latest report from Professor Tom Schueller and the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education) is the gradual aging of the UK population – which is perhaps best exemplified by the notion that the first woman to reach the age of 120 is alive and approaching 60. In 2007, the average UK life expectancy at birth (according to the Office of National Statistics) is just over 79 years, an age that has increased by around five years since the early eighties – and that has led to projections that the life expectancy of those born in 2006 is 88.1 years for males and 91.5 years for females.

These are the factors which led to the report by Schueller and NIACE, which highlighted that whilst the average amount spent on the education of an 18 to 24 year old is £8,000 by the government, the numbers are drastically different for older learners – with 25 to 50 year olds receiving just £300, 50 to 75 years olds receiving £86, and those over 75 receiving just £60.

Unsurprisingly, the report calls for change in this respect – and particularly investment in education that is less front loaded and more equally steered toward promoting lifelong learning. The report, and much of the press that surrounded its release, discussed the three significant benefits to individuals in lifelong learning (these are particularly visible amongst those educated in prison): Human Capital, Identity Capital and Social Capital.

Human Capital refers to the ‘learning’ part that is the primary reason for education at all ages: to gain skills and knowledge that are both academic and practical – weather to make the individual more employable or better suited to a particular job or profession.

The latter two, Identity Capital and Social Capital are of particular importance to older people. Identity Capital refers to the self-worth gained from learning, i.e. being challenged, overcoming obstacles and achieving – all aspects of life that are perhaps overlooked especially as an individual reaches retirement age. Additionally, Social Capital refers to the development of a social network through education, those friends and peers who can support and help during times of need.

The importance of the above to adults of all ages is gradually being realised both by institutions, the government and the public at large, and it seems that 2009 is likely to herald an intriguing development in how we view adult education and its worth to everyone throughout their lives.

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Understanding Continuing Education and Training

Continuing education usually refers to any form of post high school education, used to earn additional certification or as a requirement to maintain a professional license. This form of education is entirely meant for individuals who already have degrees.

Continuing education can take the form of online degree or certificate courses, seminars, conferences, workshops or self-guided study. Unlike other types of education, continuing education has no specific format or duration. Some programs may take a day while others span several weeks or months.

Students pursuing continuing studies for personal advancement usually do not receive college credits as the courses are not considered part of the formal training. Attending a conference or seminar that is open to the public, for example, does not give you any education credits.

Continuing education programs enable people who have already earned a college level degree to pursue additional education or advanced training.

Many careers require individuals to enroll for continuing study from time to time so as to keep up with emerging development in the field. This form of learning is referred to as mandatory continuing education.

Because of the highly competitive job market, professionals whose careers do not require continuing education often undertake it as a means to make themselves more marketable to potential employers.

Thanks to the advancement of the Internet technology, it is possible to complete continuing education online from the comfort of your office or home – providing you have a computer and reliable Internet connection.

Online continuing education programs are ideal for individuals who need an extremely flexible learning schedule. The main advantage of these online programs is the fact that student’s can access them during their free time – meaning professionals don’t have to give up their full time jobs to pursue higher education.

These programs usually provide the student with all the materials needed to complete a certain course: books, lecture notes etc. The students are supposed to complete the coursework at their own leisure, including sitting for the final exam.

While most online programs are entirely based online, some programs provide a low-residency format where most of the work is completed online, but the students are expected to go to the college for a week or two every semester to get practical experience and network with their faculties and peers.

To complete an online program, you need to have the necessary motivation to study during your free time.

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