Types of Adult Education for the Continuing Learner

When people talk about education, they often think about children, teenagers, and young adults sitting in classrooms. While it is true that the educational system is structured around a person’s younger years, education does not have to stop the moment a person drops out or graduates from high school or college. In fact, there are a lot of ways adults can continue to receive an education.

What Is Adult Education?

There is a whole branch of education dedicated to adults learning in the classroom. In fact, the term “adult education” refer an entirely different educational system specifically targeting adults to improve their skills, knowledge, and competencies in a certain field. You may know this by the term “continuing education,” or “recurrent education.”

It’s also known as “second chance education” because a lot of adult education is focused on adults who did not get to complete their basic education, but it has a negative connotation that all types of adult education involves adults who did not finish school.

Formal Education: Post-Secondary Education

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A lot of people tend to forget that post-secondary education is a type of continuing education or adult education because most of the people who attend college or universities are fresh high school graduates. While it is possible for people younger than 18 to attend (the youngest college attendee being an 11-year-old child prodigy in 1981), the average person who follows the educational system accordingly will graduate by the time they are 18.

And since most people attend post-secondary education after they turn 18, it can be a form of continuing education. Post-secondary education does not just include attending college of university. It also includes the specialized schools that college graduates can attend to enter a certain field. This includes graduate school, medical school, law school, business school, and more.

Post-secondary also encompasses vocational or technical schools. These are non-university schools where students can learn practical skills over academic skills for jobs that require a certain skillset from a person rather than a diploma or a degree.

Non-Formal Education: Seminars, Workshops, Conferences

Most continuing education outside of the classroom falls under non-formal education. While there is no official system like in formal education, there are other ways adults can continue to learn, especially in their field of choice. Attending events like seminars and workshops related to their work or personal interests can help them improve. However, unlike formal school settings where they have to meet a certain standard to pass, if they choose not to attend or complete voluntary non-formal education, there are no major consequences.

Informal Education: Continuing Education Through Life

Informal education is the type of learning that continues through life, regardless of age. For example, informal education is where a child can learn how to tie their shoelaces (because learning the skill would be impractical in a formal education system) or where a 60-year old person can learn how to use their smartphone.

Adults can continue to learn from their daily life activities, whether it’s at work, family, or around their community. They can learn to cook from television cooking shows, how to negotiate from their bosses, or which is the best way to walk to work based on their own experiences.

The Negative View on Adult Education

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Many people have a negative view of adult education for many reasons. First there is the belief that people who openly attend adult education are those who have not been successful in getting an education in their younger years. While a part of adult education includes adults getting their GED or attending college because they were unable to do so in their earlier years, this does not accurately describe all adults who are entering for a formal education.

Some formal education like post-secondary education needs to be taken by adults because the educational system prerequisites are structured in such a way that they will be adults by the time they are qualified to enter a certain school. For example, if you start preschool at 6 and follow the educational system without skipping any grades, you’ll be around 24 years old by the time you enter medical school.

And even if you are an adult getting a GED or college degree much later in life than the average person, there’s no shame in that. Around 1.2 million students in the United States drop out of high school for plenty of reasons. While it is possible to find work without a high school diploma, on average, people with high school diplomas and college diplomas earn more than high school drop outs. If you feel that going back to get a GED is going to help you towards finding a job towards a financially stable future, then you should be proud that you’re making the effort, not ashamed of your past.

The Benefits of Adult Education

Taking the first step towards adult education can be very rewarding. While getting a higher educational attainment even later in life does not assure you of a higher salary after graduating, it does open a lot of doors that couldn’t have been attainable with your previous educational attainment. And having a higher salary can lead to better financial security to help you and your family in case of health or well-being.

And even if it’s not a formal education you’re after, attending non-formal classes on hobbies and interests (yes, education is not limited to what it is you do in the office) helps you improve the way you perform in your hobbies. It’s a great way to learn tips and tricks from people also interested in your hobbies and meeting friends and acquaintances who share the same interests.

If you’re interested in attending continuing education, don’t let your age be a deterrent from going back to the classroom. Education is a life-long process, so no matter how old you are, it’s never to late to learn a thing or two. You’ll never know how much room you have for improvement unless you see for yourself.

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