In the first half of the 20th century, the term of adult education was first popular and spread in Europe. After the World War II, the rapid development of lifelong learning practice in Europe promoted the specialization of adult education (Aksakal and Kazu, 2015). Establishment of adult education institutions, an increase in research, publications and programs on adult education made adult education not only a special concept, but also a sport promoted worldwide, especially in Europe, adult education and learning became one of the important components of operation integration of the European Commission and other organizations. Until now most of the countries in the world are aware of the importance of adult education and have developed a series of policies or institutions to support and standardize their adult education systems (Dimitrescu, Sârbu and Lacroix, 2015). After World War II, the rapid development of adult education caused by some social conditions, for example, with the improvement of science and technology, industrial workers need to improve themselves for more knowledge and skills to meet the requirements of social production. And at that time the school education did not meet their needs. In this context, adult education gained rapid development. However, with the arrival of the Internet economy, the knowledge economy, as well as the differences of new generation of people in personality, ability and knowledge, people's demand for adult education will also change significantly, in the future, how to meet people’s new needs for adult education to continue to plays the positive role of adult education in improving their overall quality to meet personal material and spiritual pursuit to promote social and economic development has become au issue that educators who are engaged in contemporary adult education need to think about seriously (Kalenda, 2015). This essay understands the concept, characteristics and importance of adult education, based on analyzing future social demand for adult education to recommend on the development of adult education in future. First part presents the background and significance of the essay. The second part introduces the concept of adult education, followed by the characteristics of adult education, then, it presents the importance of adult education. Finally, it recommends on the future development of adult education.
2.1 Definition of adult education
There are many different researches on adult education, different researchers are from different perspectives to define adult education. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (1997) are from the perspective of education objects of define adult education: “it typically begins at the end of full-time compulsory education for those countries that have a system of compulsory education. More specialization may be observed at this level than at ISCED level 2 and often teachers need to be more qualified or specialized than for ISCED level 2. The entrance age to this level is typically 15 or 16 years”. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) points out that adult education is learning activities for people who are over compulsory school age and no longer attend school to meet their learning needs (Aksakal and Kazu, 2015). England and Wales Institute of Adult Education define adult education as all kinds of education offered for people who are old enough to work, vote, fight, get married and have completed a continuous learning (Fieldhouse, 1996). England and Wales Institute of Adult Education analyzes that objects of adult education are people who assume responsibility in a family and in a society, it emphasizes that the standard for a adult is psychological maturity, the mental resilience and the ability of assuming social responsibility of an education object must be basically mature, he should able to take the responsibilities to create wealth or provide labor for a family and a society (Fieldhouse, 1996). Based on the above theories, it can be concluded that adult education is a series of educational activities launched for physical maturity and psychological maturity objects.