Lesson 2 - National/International Dimensions and Continuing Tensions (Printer Friendly Format)

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Lesson 2 - National/International Dimensions and Continuing Tensions

In this session we will continue looking at issues that provide a general introduction to the broad field of adult education. Last time we examined the general parameters contained within the broad umbrella of programs and providers included under the label of adult education. We examined some of the various ways the term adult education has been defined and used in the literature, as well as identified some of the more common synonyms. We examined the primary organization structures through which adult education is offered--the types of agencies that offer adult education, and the professional associations fostering continuing professional development and identity for the field. You have spent some time developing your own working definition of adult education.

This lesson continues the overview of field of adult education by examining the national and international organizations providing the administrative parameters for adult education practice. We will also be examining more of the global dimensions of adult education. Finally, we will begin to examine the internal tension regarding the proper broad purpose of adult education practice, an issue that will be continued in Lesson 3 by examining the ideological frameworks under-girding professional practice.

Just a note about lessons throughout the course--they vary in terms of the amount of course content, but not the amount of actual work. For example, Lesson 1 had quite extensive course content provided for you. Lesson 2 will be providing less course content and requires you to provide it through Web searches for international statistics and data. Of course, you will also have reading assignments in our texts, as well as some downloaded readings. Lesson 2 will require you to be involved in extended discussions on three special message boards, but you will not have a synthesis question assigned in this lesson. It all balances out (every lesson will keep you busy, but in different ways).

Here is what I want to achieve in this second lesson:

Lesson 2 Objectives

By the end of Lesson 2, you should be able to

  • understand the national and international organizational structures supporting the adult education enterprise.
  • uncover important differences in adult education between various countries.
  • recognize the tension between professionalizing orientation and social change orientation as a broad purpose for the field.

Your Task:

  1. Complete the reading assignment for this lesson (refer to the Course Schedule section of our Course Syllabus for that assignment).

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Some National and International Adult Education Structures

In addition to the various providers of adult education and the professional associations providing professional development for adult educators that you studied in Lesson 1, governmental and non-governmental organizations also provide part of the structure the field of adult education. These organizations provide a means for coordination and advocacy for adult education within the United States and throughout the world. Government oversight varies widely from country to country. Formal adult education (institutionalized forms) tends to be seen most clearly in industrialized nations, where such formal delivery systems are at least partially subsidized by the government. In third world countries, formal education is usually augmented by non-formal delivery systems, which provide funds from a variety of private and voluntary groups. Within the United States, the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, provides the federal organizational structure and funding base for many aspects of adult education, particularly in the area of adult basic education.

On the non-governmental level, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is the most widely known coordinating organization dealing with adult education. Of particular significance have been the five international conferences on adult education (CONFINTEA), the most recent held in Hamburg in 1997. Other important players on the international scene supporting adult education include the World Health Organization (WHO), the International labor Organization (ILO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Bank, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The most prominent independent agency dealing with adult education is the International Council for Adult Education (ICAE).

Since information and transportation technologies are fast removing traditional boundaries and fostering the development of a global community, any overview of adult education must address the international and global dimensions of the field. This lesson will help you begin to develop this more global view.

 Your Tasks:

  1. Visit the U.S. Department of Education Web site <http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ovae/index.html> and explore some of the funding and coordination provided by that agency. If you are from a country other than the U.S., I want you to explore your own unique federal structures as well.

  2. Response ListDo a Web search of two other countries (I would prefer you to choose from two other continents) and explore the federal structures for adult education and the nature of the funding and coordination. Use the following Web site to access education departments in various countries and then look for sections linked to adult education: http://gksoft.com/govt/en. Many will offer the information in English. Share your brief synopsis of your findings by posting to our Web-based class list of responses.

  3. In addition, explore at least two of the following international agencies/organizations and read about their efforts. No need to post a report, just gain a sense of the magnitude of the adult education effort around the world.
    • UNESCO <http://www.unesco.org>
    • OECD <http://www.oecd.org>
    • World Bank <http://www.worldbank.org>
    • ICAE <http://www.icae.org.uy/>

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International Dimensions of the Adult Education Enterprise

Our discussions on the field of adult education in Lesson 1 necessarily focused on dimensions of adult education found within the United States and, to a lesser degree, North America in general. Obviously, adult education is not simply an American phenomenon. As you can see from the previous section, adult education takes place in every corner of the world. However, there are both similarities and differences between American adult education and adult education in other parts of the world. Such similarities and differences can be found in such areas as organizational structures, funding streams, and national priorities.

In Lesson 1, you examined the nature of participation in adult education in the United States through the data gathered by the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES). Unfortunately, the extensive nature of the NCES statistics on participation cannot be easily found in other countries. Yet data can be found to give a sense of the situation of adult education. Begin your study by accessing, through the following UNESCO Web site, the report "Global Education Digest 2005--Comparing Education Statistics Across the World" http://www.uis.unesco.org/ev_en.php?ID=6100_201&ID2=DO_TOPIC. Although the focus is broader than adult education, the implications for adult education are evident.

One way to see the diversity in adult education is to examine the statistics on educational attainment in the adult population. As you remember from the NCES statistics, those with more education are more likely to participation in adult education activities. Reflect upon the differences in upper-secondary and tertiary education between the countries listed in Table A3.1a Educational attainment of the adult population (2001) (xls, English) <http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/7/31/1962541.xls>.

Another interesting study was done by OECD on adults participating in training. Important differences emerge between countries in the area of work-related training. Download Adults in Training: An International Comparison of Continuing Education and Training <http://www.olis.oecd.org/OLIS/1999DOC.NSF/LINKTO/CERI-WD(99)1> and discuss implications for adult education.

Your Task:

  1. Reflect upon the similarities and differences uncovered through the comparison of the studies above. Post your conclusions in no more than two paragraphs to the Lesson 02 - UNESCO Stats message board. What do the stats imply regarding priorities for adult education in other countries? Provide feedback to your fellow classmates on their postings.

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Agreeing on a Proper Purpose for Adult Education: International Perspectives

As Merriam and Brockett suggest in chapter 7 in their text, many writers are calling for the adoption of a worldwide vision for adult education. Yet common desires for adult education do not necessarily translate into common priorities and goals. International conferences have helped to generate a dialog to produce more uniformity on program purposes. An important step in such consensus building is reflected in the UNESCO report on the CONFINTEA V Midterm Review Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand held in Spetember 2003. Read the document of the CONFINTEA V Mid-term review meeting in 2003 in Bangkok, Thailand entitled "Recommitting to Adult Education and Learning" <http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0013/001361/136155e.pdf>.

Your Task:

  1. Based upon your readings and the CONFINTEA V report you downloaded, what are the major priorities identified for adult education around the world? As you reflect upon these priorities, what groups stand to gain and what groups stand to lose if the CONFINTEA V priorities are realized? Post your thoughts to the Lesson 02: CONFINTEA V message board. Discuss and debate with your classmates’ postings.

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The Continuing Tension Over Purpose in American Adult Education

The struggle over arriving at consensus over the proper purpose for the field of adult education is not only an overseas phenomenon. As you were able to see from Chapters 3 and 4 in Merriam and Brocket and Chapter 14 in Wilson and Hayes, one of the core tensions historically within adult education is whether the primary focus of the field should be on individuals or society. Some assume that educated individuals inevitably are empowered through their education to create social change in ever-increasing spheres. Others have argued that individual growth and transformation must precede any focus on social transformation. But the relationship between individuals and society is very complex. Personal growth and development obviously take place within a social context, but how does such personal change lead to a changing society? Some adult education theorists have suggested that since groups and communities, not individuals, create social change, education must necessarily focus on development of collective action, not individualism.

Both of your texts reference a classic article by Cotton written in 1964 that identified the tension in the field between what he refers to as social reformist and professional traditions. The Cotton article is available through the library's electronic reserves system. To access course reserves, please click the Reserve Readings link on the menu bar to the left. Then select the Library Reserves link to access the reading.

Whichever tradition you end up feeling comfortable with as a means to affect social change, Merriam and Brockett suggest adult educators agree on the following foundations for impacting society through their educational efforts:

  1. Foster collaborative learning in your programs to better prepare adults for meaningful social impact.
  2. Encourage the production of knowledge by the learners. The starting point for social change is the notion that people can create knowledge that is more relevant, useful, and empowering than knowledge brought in by outsiders.
  3. Help adult learners to understand the networks of power relations and empower themselves to change them.
  4. Maintain a focus on "Praxis" in your teaching efforts, underscoring the interrelationship of reflection and action, of theory and practice.

Your Tasks:

  1. Based upon your reading in our text and the Cotton article, what do you believe is the proper purpose for adult education within your professional practice setting (since purposes could vary from practice setting to practice setting) and why? Post an answer in no more than 400 words to the Lesson 02 - Proper Purpose message board. Be sure to read your fellow classmates’ postings and respond to a few.

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Review of Lesson 2

Take another look at the learning objectives for this lesson.

Lesson 2 Objectives

At this point you should

  • understand the national and international organizational structures supporting the adult education enterprise.
  • have uncovered important differences in adult education between various countries.
  • recognize the tension between professionalizing orientation and social change orientation as a broad purpose for the field.

Did the lesson and the assigned readings and activities help you to meet these objectives? Drop me an e-mail or use our Suggestion Box message board and provide me some feedback. I want this course to work for you, so helpful suggestions will be welcomed. Be sure to check the Course Schedule (on our Syllabus) frequently to make sure you are up-to-date.

In our next lesson we will continue to examine the diversity of purposes and goals served by adult education in its many forms. Adult educators come at their task with a wide variety of beliefs regarding the true purpose of education. It is inevitable that our class will reflect this diversity. Be ready to become even more philosophical in our next lesson.

Breathe deep, take a break, and go on to Lesson 3.

That's it for this lesson! Click on the Lessons tab and click on the Lesson 3 folder to begin Lesson 3.