Adult Education: Why You Need It and What You Need To Know
“I left school years ago – why would I ever go back?”
Maybe you dropped out before finishing your primary education because you had to work for a living. Or you have a number of postsecondary degrees and feel like you’ve had all the formal education you can take. You might even be a stay-at-home parent who doesn’t see how sitting in a classroom is going to make your life better.
Many adults think this way, but that’s usually because they see adult education as an extension of subjects in school that they hated the first time around. However, adult education today is much more than that. It encompasses a wide variety of subjects and levels of learning, with foreign language classes, dance, cooking, and courses that will enhance professional development; and an enormous range of people – younger and older, educated and less educated.
No matter what your personal lot in life, it’s vital that you continue to grow and expand your horizons. Why? There are a huge number of reasons why continuing to learn is important for all of us.
- It teaches your children by example. Even if you hated school, chances are if you have kids you push them to go and do their best. But if they can see your disdain for learning, how much do you think your efforts to push them really mean? Continuing to educate yourself will show your children that you really mean it and may even help to develop a culture where there is a love of learning.
- More education often leads to more involvement. Too often, people who have neglected their education don’t get involved in their community or government because they don’t understand how they can help. As a result, they begin to disdain or even fear these institutions. But when they become educated about them and see that they can make a difference, far more people participate, improving things for everyone.
- It helps people to accept differences. In the same way that a lack of knowledge about community and government involvement can lead to having negative feelings about these institutions, remaining ignorant about beliefs and ways of life different from your own can lead to showing and cultivating disrespect and a feeling of superiority. Ultimately, this can lead to dangerous conflict, but it can be alleviated by the simple act of learning about other groups and how their ways originated.
- It encourages you to work for sustainability. You hear all the time about how everything is connected and we need to protect and preserve our resources so that they’re around for future generations. However, without specific teaching about what you should and shouldn’t do – not to mention why – most people opt for the path of least resistance.
- It allows your imagination to blossom. Imagination and creativity don’t exist in a vacuum; part of the reason we’re so good at making up imaginary worlds as children is the fact that we’re constantly being fed new information about the world. This encourages us to create and explore things, but as we get older, work and other responsibilities tend to take precedence and push any creative endeavors aside. Re-engaging with the part of your brain that enjoys taking in new information can help to pull your creativity to the forefront again.
- It can keep you engaged and feeling good. We’re not meant to live our lives trapped at a desk or stuck at home all day. People who engage in activities like adult education to learn new things and expand their worldview are often happier and more involved in the world around them.
What to Look for in a School for Adults
When trying to find the adult education school that’s right for you, there are a number of questions you should consider. Some of these are obvious; others, less so.
First and foremost, you should think about what you want to study and make sure that the schools you look at offer it. This might just be a single course or a short series, but it could end up being a certification program that you want to complete. But if you love a school and it doesn’t have the program you want, what’s the point?
After you’ve narrowed down the schools this way, the next more important factor is likely price. All adult schools are not created equal, so make sure that you look into this and check for any hidden fees.
The third thing that tends to be of major importance to most adults is flexibility. Chances are, you’ve already got a pretty busy life, with a job and possibly a family to take care of. Even if you’re gung ho about adult education, you’ve got to find a program that will fit your schedule and allow for some wiggle room if emergencies come up.
Can you take classes at night? What about on weekends? Will they let you take some or all of your coursework over the internet?
There are other things to consider beyond these three factors: how close is the school? What is the school’s reputation? Is it an accredited institution? The questions you ask will depend on what you want out of your school.
Common Mistakes Adult Learners Make
You would think that adult learners would be so practiced from their time spent in school as children that they would be the perfect students, but unfortunately that is rarely the case. Whether due to their experiences in life or their time away from the classroom, many adult learners have a lot to, well, learn.
Not setting aside time to study. Kids know that they have to study if they want to learn something, but for some reason, many adults seem to have forgotten this lesson. Build time into your schedule every day to study the work, or your time in the classroom won’t matter.
Not respecting the teacher or class. Adults are unquestionably busier than kids, and have far more responsibilities. But that does not mean that you can simply do the work on your own timetable or skip out on classes just because something comes up. Respect the process and you’ll come out on the other side better for it.
Not turning off their outside life. When you’re in class, your outside life should cease to exist except for emergencies. That means no talking or texting on the phone, no answering work emails, and no doing the grocery list when you’re supposed to be listening in class.
Not believing in themselves. One of the biggest reasons that adult students fail is because they simply don’t believe that they can do or understand the work. You have to believe that, if you had enough initiative and bravery to seek out the classes and attend, you have what it takes to better yourself.
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