Adult Learning and Education: A neglected academic discipline in Bangladesh

SM Ruhul Alam : Adult  Learning  and Education promotes personal and professional development that  supports adults to be engaged  more  actively  with their own societies, communities, community organizations as well as environments. It  also fosters sustainable and comprehensive financial development by enhancing job prospects for people.  In other words, adult  learning  and education  is  an effective tool in order to improve health, promote civic education, fight against adverse effect of global warming, promote  community managed disaster risk reduction approach, establish human rights, reduce poverty , bring about community welfare as well as  make sustainable learning societies and so on. Hence, adult  learning and education programs (e.g. Master of Education in Adult Learning and Education / Doctor of Philosophy in Adult Learning and Education) are offered at renowned universities around the world.

However, no university in Bangladesh offers any program (M.Ed./PhD) in Adult  Learning  and Education (ALE). What’s the reason for this gap? In our society many people ,including the educated people, still believe that adult education means to provide with literacy and numeracy courses at night schools in informal settings to illiterate  old people. Nevertheless it is an unconvinced notion that reflects the shortsightedness of a vast number Bangladeshis. Encyclopedia Britannica considers adult education as a ‘continuing education’ that is undertaken by or provided for mature men and women. It means adult education is relevant not only to illiterate people but also to literate people. Next , there is another myth regarding the age of adult learners. In Bangladesh  many people believe that only old people are eligible to be adult learners. This notion is incorrect because  globally the minimum  age of an adult learner is twenty five. It means young people are also eligible to get adult education.

Why is the ALE program  important? An analogy from IT sector will elucidate the answer. we regularly update computers by installing the latest version of software so that computers can  provide optimal services very effectively. Likewise an adult educated person needs to be update with the latest knowledge, skills and technology as it is essential to evoke that learning doesn’t necessarily stop as soon as one leaves high school or tertiary education.  Adult  learning  and education gives adult learners the chance to make progress in their professional lives as well as  grow  required new skills. The program also helps develop competencies and skills in helping adults  to learn within a wide range of social, institutional and cultural contexts.

The  objectives of Adult  Learning  & Education programs is different from the MBA program. The objective of the MBA program is to train men and women with the knowledge, analytical skills as well as management skills to grow their leadership to run organizations in order to compete in a world that is gradually categorized by rapid technological  advancement, variety in the workforce and sudden unexpected challenges while the objective of  the ALE program  is to develop specialists and thoughtful practitioners who will eventually shape community and community organizations in ways that support lifelong learning with a view to bringing adult learning as well as social development together, enabling  adult learners to explore the intersection of these two fields as it applies to their own unique contexts. In other words, the objective of  the ALE program multidimensional. This is the uniqueness of the  ALE program.

Bangladesh , a country having about 180 million people, desperately need the ‘ALE practitioners’  for its socioeconomic development. There are plenty of opportunities for ALE practitioners  to: provide functional literacy programs for adult learners who have never got any chance formal education in their lives;  provide functional as well as remedial education program for the young people who precipitately dropped out of formal  primary or high school education system of Bangladesh;  provide supplementary education for various completers of formal education system to develop their elementary knowledge as well as skills;  provide in-service as well as technical and  specialized  training  for various types of workforces and specialists to develop abilities;  give the adult people of Bangladesh aesthetic, traditional as well as  civic education to make them responsible citizens.


Writer: SM ruhul alam, English Language Faculty  Member, University of Buraimi, Oman








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