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What Is Adult Education?


What is adult education? So many adults are returning to the classroom that the term "adult education" has become somewhat confusing. Adult education in the widest sense is any form of learning adults engage in beyond traditional schooling. In the narrowest sense, adult education is about literacy, about adults learning to read the most basic materials. So adult education encompasses everything from basic literacy to personal fulfillment as a lifelong learner, even the attainment of advanced degrees.

The Basics - Literacy:

One of the primary goals of adult education is functional literacy. Organizations like the U.S. Department of Education and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) work tirelessly to measure, understand, and address adult illiteracy in the U.S. and around the world.

"Only through adult education can we address the real problems of society – like power sharing, wealth creation, gender and health issues," said Adama Ouane, director of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning.

Adult Basic Education:

In the U.S., each state is responsible for addressing the basic education of their citizens. Official state websites direct people to classes, programs, and organizations designed to teach adults how to read prose, documents like maps and catalogs, and how to make simple computations.


Adults who complete basic adult education have the opportunity to earn the equivalent of a high school diploma by taking the General Educational Development, or GED, test. GED prep resources abound online and in classrooms around the country, designed to help students prepare for the five-part exam.

Beyond the Basics:

Beyond the basics, adult education is synonymous with continuing education. The world of lifelong learning is wide open. Whether you are...


...you are engaged in adult education.


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