2.2 Characteristics of adult education
2.2.1An important part of lifelong education
There are many similarities and differences between adult education and lifelong education. The similarities lie in that both have criticized traditional concepts of education, they agree with that school education is not the end of education in a person’s life, each person has equal access to education, education should be able to help to improve the overall quality of people, in order to meet the needs of a society and their own development (Dimitrescu, Sârbu and Lacroix, 2015). The differences include that adult education takes particular objects as the objects of education and focuses on educational activities of a particular stage of a person’s life. Lifelong education holds that during a human life, education is a continuous whole, from early childhood to adult education, they are closely interrelated, lifelong education emphasizes the overall planning of education, the education is not limited to a particular object, nor is it limited to a particular life stage (Dimitrescu, Sârbu and Lacroix, 2015). All in all, on the one hand, adult education is included in lifelong education ideas and practice system; on the other hand, the development of adult education promotes the continuous improvement of lifelong education system.
Compared with non-adult learning, adult learning has a clear independent characteristic, which is mainly reflected in the following three areas. Firstly, non-adult learners usually play the role of passive educated persons, adults are active persons who have a clear goal of learning. Secondly, non-adult learners almost entirely in the position of being arranged, adult learners are in the position of taking initiative in terms of selecting learning environment, content, methods and so on. Thirdly, non-adult learners are generally through unidirectional dissemination activities, such as educators’ interpretation to deal with learning, and adult learners complete learning tasks more through self-study activities (Rothes, Lemos and Gonçalves, 2014). After stepping into the information age, adults learn more proactively, which lies in that the pressure of fierce competition in modern society makes the impulse of adults’ active learning become more intense, improved labor productivity in modern society allow adults to have more available time, money and effort for learning, while the rapid development of modern information technology and its applications in an increasingly wide range in the field of education creates more choices, greater range of options, superior learning environment for adults’ independent learning (Bedrule-Grigoruţă, and Rusu, 2014).
Compared with minors, the vast majority of adults have played certain roles in society organizations, the time and space of their work and life are relatively fixed, it is difficult for them to learn in a enclosed space at a fixed time, under the traditional social conditions when there is generally a lack of education resources and uneven distribution of education resources, coupled with undeveloped information technology which is unable to solve the insufficient or uneven, for most adult individuals, their learning activities are usually limited by time and space, and therefore inhibiting their needs for learning (Richardson, 2013). After entering the information age, with the rapid development of modern information technology and its wide range of applications in the field of education, it provides a realistic possibility for adult learning beyond the constraints of time and spaces, coupled with the improvement of other conditions brought by social progress, the open characteristic of modern adult education becomes more obvious (Richardson, 2013).
2.2.4 Utilitarian characteristic
Modern adult learning needs have a utilitarian characteristic. When study modern adult learning needs, many researchers try to illustrate that modern adult learning needs are rooted in the pursuit of comprehensive development. However, in random interviews with adult individuals of all ages at all levels in various industries who have been undergoing formal adult education, Hubackova and Semradova (2014) found that, although these people voluntarily participated in the study, for the vast majority of the adult individuals, the motivation promoting their learning was mainly practical considerations of seeking survival and development opportunities in the modern society. These practical considerations can be divided into the following three categories. First is to seek more ideal social roles in order to achieve self-realization, second is to keep the existing social roles to avoid being eliminated, third is to find its role in the division of labor and the change of a society (Hubackova and Semradova, 2014).
Adult education takes practical skill operation as its center, focusing on what a learner needs in terms of the industry, trade and position it belongs to, attaching great importance to the targeted and practical teaching of certain industry. Therefore, in the content selection, adult education mainly pursues the necessary and practical principles, focusing on teaching based on that learners need (Kayman, Ilbars and Artuner, 2012). At the same time, the practicality is also reflected in the characteristics of a comprehensive study on the content. After induction, adults will apply their knowledge to showcase their talent. Therefore, the content of adult education must be comprehensive knowledge and skills that an adult must master to do its own work better. Adult education in the content does not need to be professional, but it involves quite a lot of disciplines. Such disciplines in general higher education often belong to different majors or even belong to different schools, and adult education integrates them together for training for a certain job, thus the teaching content is great comprehensive (Iucu and Marin, 2014).
2.3 Importance of adult education
2.3.1 Improve individual competitiveness
Adult education serves all kinds of incumbency employees, it can directly and effectively improve the quality of workers to have a direct effect on improving the level of productivity, thus promoting labor productivity and economic efficiency. In the era when science and technology advances, knowledge-based economy is emerging, the information society is coming, even highly educated members of a society are also facing the threat of knowledge aging. Learning new knowledge and understanding of new information, acquiring new technology to overcome the shortcomings in knowledge structure to actively adapt to social development brings new challenges to each member of a society, they all need to be completed through adult education. Therefore, adult education plays an important role in terms of improving the level of productivity in reality (Kayman, Ilbars and Artuner, 2012).
Rapid changes in industrial structure and work patterns make knowledge become the mainstream of social development, information and networks become the basis for social development, the integration of the global economy makes both developed and developing countries change dramatically in terms of industrial structure and work patterns. This on the one hand means that it should be through lifelong education and training to help those people who are about to lose or have already lost livelihood to regain new knowledge and skills for make a living and the chance for personal development; on the other hand, it also means that more jobs require a high degree of creativity, and acquiring the creativity will directly depend on innovation in education (Bedrule-Grigoruţă and Rusu, 2014).
2.3.2 Promotion of democratic consciousness
Adult Education in a traditional sense pays attention to how to improve adults’ cultural knowledge and skills, how to help people to get better jobs, to improve their ability to work and to produce more products. Walters (2010), Kokkos (2015), Schied (2014), Cristian (2014) points out that social function of adult education can not be ignored, adult education can foster adults’ democratic awareness; training their positive attitude for supervising and participating in public affairs, as well as helping them to assume civic responsibility and understanding civil rights. School education is an important place to develop democratic awareness and citizens’ quality, but culturing civil and democratic qualities by adult learning is also an important way. Democratic education and civic education can not be completed wholly in schools, thus the formation of civic, democratic quality and awareness needs to be more mature in practice through continuous development. Therefore, development of democratic and civic quality is lifelong training, in a certain sense, adult education when citizens accept after their participation in social practice is a more important way for them to accept democratic and civic education. Adults assume real responsibility of citizens in a society, they must think a question: what value they should have to become a citizen, they must continue to learn knowledge and skills in terms of democratic practices, as well as the attitude to treat other people, political values and social ideals, they must have moral character required for democratic and civil practice. All of these can not be finished in schools, they all require adults to learn and improve continuously to acquire. Thus, adult education is an important way to improve citizens’ democratic quality. Personally, adult education is not only able to convey more knowledge about democracy, but also provides more practice opportunities to help adults to improve their awareness of democracy and morality, as well as the ability and skills to participate in democratic politics. Considering from the entire society, adult education can play a positive role in spreading democratic education and civic awareness, fostering social management talents, maintaining social harmony and stability.