Adult 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. It can mean any form of learning adults engage in beyond traditional schooling, encompassing basic literacy to personal fulfillment as a lifelong learner.

In particular, adult education reflects a specific philosophy about learning and teaching based on the assumption that adults can and want to learn, that they are able and willing to take responsibility for that learning, and that the learning itself should respond to their needs. Driven by what one needs or wants to learn, the available opportunities, and the manner in which one learns, adult learning is affected by demographics, globalization and technology.The learning happens in many ways and in many contexts just as all adults’ lives differ. Adult learning can be in any of the three contexts, i.e.

  • Formal – Structured learning that typically takes place in an education or training institution, usually with a set curriculum and carries credentials;
  • Non-formal – Learning that is organized by educational institutions but non credential. Non-formal learning opportunities may be provided in the workplace and through the activities of civil society organizations and groups;
  • Informal education – Learning that goes on all the time, resulting from daily life activities related to work, family, community or leisure (e.g. community baking class).


Adult education in Nigeria, as in the British West African territory of the Gold Coast, is almost entirely a matter of literacy campaigns conducted by government departments on the one hand, and extra-mural activity by the country’s one university college on the other. This article is concerned mainly with the extra-mural work, although something will be said about the increasingly important problem of bridging the gap between literacy work and university extra-mural education. The institution in 1948 of a university college at Ibadan, the capital of Western Nigeria, was one result of a decision by Britain’s wartime government to develop higher education in the Colonies, a decision which led also to the establishment of university colleges in the Gold Coast, East Africa, Central Africa, the Sudan and the West Indies, and of a university in Malaya. These steps were preceded by the appointment of a number of commissions, one of which made recommendations concerning higher education in the Colonies generally, while the others dealt with particular areas, one being West Africa. All the commissions strongly urged that at the university colleges which they proposed should be established there should be extra-mural departments to develop adult education, and except in Malaya this advice was everywhere followed. Several reasons were advanced for these recommendations, and received different emphasis in the different reports. They are worth mentioning briefly, because they indicate the kinds of functions which it was thought university adult education could serve in tropical colonial territories, and provide criteria by which the success of the work subsequently done can be assessed.

One which was stressed in several reports was the necessity for associating the staff and graduates of the new universities with the people of the colonies, in order to prevent their development into an exclusive, and perhaps intellectually arrogant, caste within the community. It was further urged that it was very desirable that the university should be fully aware of the educational needs of its region, and that an active extra-mural department could contribute to this. Thirdly, it was stated that colonial territories contained many adults who possessed the abilities and the interests which would have enabled them to study with profit at universities, but had not had the opportunity to do so, and that extra-mural facilities should be provided for them. Finally, emphasis was laid on the importance of adult education, especially as provided by universities, as a means of equipping citizens for the responsibilities of self-government in colonies approaching independence.

The adult education system refers to programs across the US that offer instruction ranging from basic literacy and numeracy and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) to high school diploma equivalency, and college and career readiness.

Need: In the US, over 30 million adults do not have a high school diploma and 20% of US adults with a high school diploma have only beginning literacy skills. The US ranked 21st in numeracy and 16th in literacy out of 24 countries in a recent assessment of adults’ skills.i Two-thirds of U.S. adults scored at the two lowest levels of proficiency in solving problems in technology-rich environments. Yet, the publicly funded adult education system is able to serve only slightly over 2 million young and older adults per year.ii There are waiting lists for classes in all 50 states.iii Current funding cannot begin to meet the need.

Providers: Adult education programs operate as free-standing organizations or as part of school districts, community colleges, municipalities, multi-services centers, libraries, faith-based organizations, housing developments, workplaces, and unions. Instruction is delivered by mostly part-time teachers and volunteer tutors.

Teacher Preparation: Given that the majority of adult education teachers do not receive pre-service training beyond an orientation, in-service training is critical to ensure high quality services.

Funding: The national, average annual expenditure per adult learner is around $800. By contrast, the national, average annual per-pupil expenditure on public elementary and secondary education nationally is over $10,000. Adult education programs receive less than 10% of the amount of federal, state, and local funding that goes to K-12, and less than 5% of what is spent to support higher education.iv


Adult education refers to learning out of the initial learning program a person has followed. In France, a majority of the population between 18-24 years-old attend schooling, whether general or vocational; at that stage, 11, 6% leave without any diploma.

Every other aspect of learning is considered as adult education.

Training is provided either through organisms such as the GRETA, AFPA and CNAM to quote the best known, but also by publicly financed non-profit private associations.

France has a also history of Folk education, l’Education populaire, which is stands by non-formal learning.

Senior education hasn’t an official denomination. It’s diffused through conferences which are left to the initiative of different public bodies:  public libraries, Collège de France (for Paris), l’Université de tous les savoirs (a 2000 initiative for vulgarizing science which has been renewed every year since).

The role of the university in adult training is growing.


What is typical for Adult Education in the country?
The population encounters adult training firstly through their employment. Indeed, 7 times out of 10, it’s the employer who encourages a new training. Every enterprise must contribute to a fund (a small proportion of the worker’s wage is dedicated to lifelong learning – at least 1,6%) for training which the workers can use when needed. The DIF (2) (Droit Individuel de Formation) are training hours the employee must take on his free time. The CIF (3) (Congé Individuel de Formation) allows a leave of absence to follow a training. This system benefits largely employees of large companies.

Training can also be suggested and supported by the job employment services during a period of unemployment.

The training is provided public bodies, private companies and private non-profit enterprises which operate on public resources. The main reason given by attendants for following courses is to improve one’s job (4). Furthermore, training includes the “validation of competences via the experience” system (validation des acquis de l´expérience – VAE) (5) which allows people the possibility to certify their non-formal learning.

Of 56 668  organisations, private for-profit enterprises represent 54% of the sector, private non-profit 20%, individual trainers 20%.

The GRETA is the public branch of the Ministry for Education dedicated to adult training. One can follow courses in most employment fields. A nationwide network, there are 210 GRETAs and at least one in every “department” (subdivision of a region).

L’AFPA (National Association for the training of Adults) is the first provider of training for adults. Working closely with the job centres (Pôle-Emploi), it offers a wide range of courses in many fields, is open to every audience and produces certifications for the new kind of jobs.


Employers training are base on employee choice Employers are train on the basic of adult education Employers training is base on his choice.
Adult education programs are community based Adult education programs operate as free-standing organizations Adult education is handle by reputable organizations.



Understanding similarities and differences among comparable educational programs for adults, locally and internationally, can help leaders adapt promising practices to their own setting.

The process and conclusions from international comparative adult education can facilitate global sharing and exchange. Analyzing similarities and differences across countries is parallel to comparative perspectives among diverse people and educational programs within each country. International interactions and exchanges can affect local adult education programs. Many American organizations have global connections, in which their staff members sometimes interact with people from other countries. In addition, some members participate in

association activities and read publications to learn about various concepts and practices from other settings that could be adapted to their own program decisions.














  1. Angelo, T. and Cross, K. P. (1993): Classroom Assessment Techniques. (2nd Ed.) Jossey-Bass, San Fransico.
  2. Aspin, D. and Chapman, J. (2001, ed.): International Handbook of Lifelong Learning. Parts 1,2. Kluwer Academic, Boston.
  3. Bell, B., Gaventa, J. and Peters, J. (1990, ed.): We Make the Road by Walking. Temple University Press, Philadelphia.
  4. Bengston, V. (1996, ed.): Adulthood and Aging. Springer, New York.
  5. Birren, J. and Schaie, K. W. (1996, ed.): Handbook of the Psychology of Aging. (4th Ed). Academic Press, Orlando, Fl.
  6. Boyte, H. (2004): Everyday Politics. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.

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