History of Adult Education

History of Continuing Education Courses

Adult education programs have historically been used for continuing education, and they are specifically designed for people who are no longer in school full time. They are most commonly found in colleges, universities, proprietary institutions, public schools, and the government. Public schools often hold adult education courses at night in high school and other public education buildings. Colleges and universities may also hold extension courses that can be offered through the Internet, via correspondence or distance learning, or in the evening. The type of program will also determine if a degree can be awarded or not. Proprietary, or for-profit schools generally offer distance education course, and the government may offer training experiences for interested citizens.

Adult Education Courses of the 1700s

The first adult education programs were founded in the 1700s as apprenticeships. They were offered during the colonial period, and a person would learn a trade by working for a skilled master for several years. Reading and writing skills were also learned from mentors and these skills would help individuals to become successful employees.

Adult Education Courses of the 1800s

More adult education institutions arose in the 1800s. Many of the institutions were called lyceums and members of the groups held discussions, debates, and lectures. Chautauqua institutions also existed, and these groups traveled from town to town to present lectures.

Adult Education Courses of the 1900s

The government began taking a more proactive role in adult education during the 1900s. Legislation was created to provide federal funds for training in home economics and farming. Such acts include the Smith-Lever Act of 1914. This act was also enacted to finance vocational programs, and during the great Depression, these programs helped to create jobs for teachers whom had lost their jobs. The government also set up a program for veterans who wanted to go to school at the end of World War II. The program was known as the GI Bill, and two acts of the 1960s provided federal funds for training unemployed individuals. The Economic Opportunity Act also established the Adult Basic Education (ABE) program.

History Adult Education Courses of the Modern Day

Modern adult education programs are designed for students that are at least 18 years old. Some also allow younger students to attend if they are not currently enrolled in high school. Generally these individuals will need permission to enroll from a local government agency, a parent, or a guardian. Although at one time, these programs referred to teaching basic or remedial skills, but the current focus is on higher level problem solving, information literacy, and IT. Students may also choose to enroll in programs at community colleges, university extensions, and high schools. At one time, adult education referred to being taught remedial and basic skills. Topics that may be included in one of these programs consist of the following:

  • Citizenship preparation
  • Family literacy
  • GED classes
  • Workplace training
  • Adult Basic Education (ABE)
  • English as a Second Language (ESL)

These courses can also help students to increase their life skills, academic skills, and ensure they are ready to enter the job market. ESL courses will help students to learn English skills, and family literacy helps parents to become primary educators for their children. GED classes are designed for students that did not complete their high school education and need an alternative to their high school diploma. Course subjects include government, history, math, science, and English. Coursework will also help students prepare to pass the GED test.

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