Special Issue "Community Adult Education and Lifelong Learning"
Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2018).
Community adult education has a long history within the adult education sector, rooted, though not exclusively, in the radical tradition through the work of people such as Paulo Freire, Raymond Williams, Tom Lovett and Jane Thompson. As Freire (1972) reminds us, education is political. As educators we need to be aware, in the feminist sense, that the ‘personal is political’ or as in C. Wright Mills’ (1970) words the ‘public issues of structure’ are reflected in the ‘personal troubles of milieu’. Thus, the core of community adult education is to promote education for social purpose, social justice and social change. As Martin asserts, community adult education is ‘part of a broader democratic process’ (2008: 11). As the word community implies, it is located within a local social and economic context and provides an important learning context for local marginalised groups. Community adult education thus begins with the social reality of people’s lives in the community resulting in what Johnson (1979) terms ‘really useful knowledge’. Learning and living become integrated and in the process challenges issues of social and power inequalities such as class, gender and ethnicity. Community adult education also engages in democratic active citizenship with the aim of enabling adults to become ‘makers and shapers’ rather than ‘users and choosers’ (Cornwall and Gaventa, 2001).
The pedagogical practices of community adult education engenders democratic, participatory and open learning processes breaking down power relationships whereby, as Freire advocates the teacher learns from the learner and the learner learns from the teacher. Often this involves a critical pedagogical approach, based on Freire’s concepts of conscientization and praxis.
In recent years community adult education, particularly in the UK, has lost its way under as societies have become dominated by neoliberalism and marketization. Yet, in an era of a declining welfare state and economic crisis there is a strong need for community learning and education for collective democratic citizenship. Although written over ten years ago, the words of Finger and Asun (2001) remain relevant today in arguing that adult education from this perspective and practice will help us ‘learn our way out’ of the situation we find ourselves in. Or in the words of Raymond Williams (1961) it offers a crucial ‘resource for a journey of hope’.
Lifelong learning, as Field argues, ‘is the new educational reality’ (2006: 9) changing the way that society views education but there are differing theoretical, policy and practice perspectives about the purpose of lifelong learning and hence its relationship to community adult education. Since the 1990s, lifelong learning has become a prominent policy agenda across Europe largely promoted by the European Union and has grown out of the development to a knowledge society. However, the debate about lifelong learning centres on whether it is economically or socially driven. Those critical of lifelong learning assert that the emphasis is on an economic dimension with the purpose of upskilling people to improve a society’s competiveness and thus a focus on vocational education. The individual is left to take care of their own learning needs. This contrasts with the more collective approach of community adult education. Coffield (1999) takes this further and argues that lifelong learning has become a means of social control while also being viewed as a means for curing society’s ills.
On the other hand lifelong learning has opened up the doors to education for adults in further and higher education particular but also at the community level. Research indicates that participation in learning has social benefits for the individual and community. It can also bring changes to the self, enabling a person to view the world in a more critical and knowledgeable way (Merrill, Kurantowicz and Nizinska, 2014). From this perspective, links can be made between community adult education and lifelong learning; as Connolly (2007) states:
The distinguishing feature of the vision for lifelong learning include: a systematic, cross sector view; a view that accords centrally to the learner and the motivation to learn; and finally recognition of the multiplicity of educational goals, including personal development, personal development, knowledge development, economic, social and cultural objectives. These goals overlap with my vision of adult and community education, though not completely (2007: 113).
In this Special Issue we invite papers that explore the relationship between community adult education and lifelong learning, including in critical ways. The following are possible areas:
- Discussions about theoretical perspectives.
- An examination of pedagogical approaches.
- The role of the adult educator
- Issues of inequality, such as class, gender, and ethnicity
- Impact of community adult education and lifelong learning upon a community
Coffield, F (1999) Breaking the consensus: Lifelong learning as social control, British Educational Research Journal, Vol. 25 (4), pp 479-499
Connolly, B (2007) Beyond the Third Way: New Challenges for Critical Adult and Community Education in Connolly, B,. Fleming, T., McCormack, D., & Ryan, A., (eds.) In Radical learning for Liberation 2, Leicester, NIACE
Cornwall, A., & Gaventa, J. (2001) From users and choosers to to makers and shapers: repositioning participation in social policy, IDS Working Paper, No 127, Brighton, Brighton Institute of Development Studies
Field, J (2006) Lifelong Learning and the New Educational Order, Stoke-On-Trent, Trentham Books
Finger, M., & Asun, J., M., (2001) Adult Education at the Crossroads: Learning our way out, Leicester, NIACE/ Zed Books
Freire, P (1972) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Harmondsworth, Penguin
Johnson, R (1979) ‘Really useful knowledge’: Radical education and working class culture, 1790-1848. In Clarke, J., Crichter, C., & Johnson, R., (eds.) Working class culture: Studies in History and theory, London, Hutchinson
Kurantowicz, E., & Nizinska, A., (2014) Equality and improving retention practices for non-traditional students in Poland. In Finnegan, F., Merrill,. B & Thunborg, C., (eds.) Student Voices on Inequalities in European Higher Education: Challenges for theory, policy and practice in a time of change, London, Routledge
Martin, I (2008) Whither Adult Education in the Learning Paradigm?, Keynote Presentation, SCUTREA 38TH Annual Conference, University of Edinburgh
Merrill, B. (2015) Determined to Stay or Determined to Leave? A Tale of Learner Identities, Biographies and Non-traditional Students in Higher Education in Studies in Higher Education, Vol. 40 (3), pp 1859-1871
Williams, R., (1961) The Long Revolution, Harmondsworth, Pelican Books
Wright Mills, C. (1970) The Sociological Imagination, Harmondsworth, Pelican Books
Dr. Barbara Merrill
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