CHALLENGES FOR ADULT STUDENTS IN FOSTERING EDUCATION
Higher education continues to change, particularly in terms of the student body. In the past, colleges and universities were often populated by recent high school graduates who were training for their first jobs. Today, the higher education institution includes people in just about every phase of life. No longer are people expected to stay in the same vocational field, and schools are increasingly gearing their programs and services to older learners who are interested in new fields, career changes, and simply learning about unique subjects. Of course, it can be a bumpy road for some adults, particularly if they have not been in school for quite some time. While some of these adults may be confident when it comes to professional skills, it can be an intimidating experience to step onto a college campus. With that in mind, here are a few of the major challenges that are sometimes experienced by adult learners. The first challenged has something to do with time and energy, and how it is prioritized. The job or the family takes too much energy and the person does not intend to use the free time left on learning activities. We call this category "lack of time and/or energy". At first sight, this factor falls well into Cross (1981) and Darkenwald & Merriam (1982) situational barriers, that is barriers related to the individuals situation such as job and family responsibilities. However, this factor also includes a reluctance to spend the free time left on learning activities, stressing that lack of time may not only be a question of the actual time available but also a question of how different ways to spend the time is prioritized, as indicated above. That job commitments take up too much energy, thus, does not necessarily mean that that the work is consuming so much energy that nothing is left for spare time. It might also be that the energy left is preferably being spent on something else than education. It could therefore also be termed "other activities given higher priority in relation to time and energy". When asking people, why they do not participate in adult education, the most often mentioned barrier according to numerous studies is lack of time and/or money (Bélanger & Valdivielso, 1997; Chisholm, 2004; Darkenwald & Merriam, 1982; Desjardins et al., in print). Lack of time, however, is a very vague construct and difficult to decipher. As Desjardins et al. (in print) phrase it, how much time is set aside for learning activities depends on the life situation. "Lack of time" may in fact say more about how a person prioritizes his/her time than how much time is left for other activities when work is over. According to a Danish study focusing on men aged 40-60 years with a short education (Christensen, 1997), men with a short education tend to focus on their family and their leisure-time and being unwilling to accept educational activities that threatens the dividing line between work and spare time. Also, Belanger and Valdivielso (1997) in a study found a positive correlation between participation in adult education and participation in other cultural activities like reading, use of libraries, and participation in associations, but at the same time a negative correlation between television viewing and participation in adult education and training. Further, lack of time may just be a convenient and socially accepted reason for not taking part in education and training, covering up other reasons. The importance of time and money as deterrents for non-participation might, thus, be overestimated (Cross, 1981; Darkenwald & Merriam, 1982; McGivney, 1990). McGivney (1990) points to the fact, that unemployed people - that is people without any job-related obligations - are less likely to take part in adult education and training than are employed people. Instead of lack of time and money, McGivney in a study from 1990 highlights the importance of attitudes and expectations:...
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