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Adult Education In Canada And The United States: Now And Throughout History

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Adult education has grown and changed throughout the years in both Canada and the United States; however, the specifics of the system, programs, and advancements in these two countries have not been the same. Both Canada and the United States have reached a great point in their adult education programs, but improvement is always welcomed, as there have been developments throughout existence. The history of adult education dates back as long as the countries do and has evolved an unimaginable amount.

The start of adult education programs can be traced back as far as the 1700s in the United States and the 1600s in Canada (Sticht “Rise...,” 2007; “Chronology,” 2004). During the Colonial and National periods in the United States, a large portion of adult education involved apprenticeships for those aged fourteen or older and many opportunities for learning reading, writing, mathematics, and trades in commercial schools (Sticht “Rise...”, 2007). Tutors placed ads in local newspapers advertising adult education tutoring in the evenings (between 1733 and 1774 there were more than four-hundred of these postings) (Sticht “Rise...”, 2007.) Benjamin Franklin played a great role in the advancement of andragogy by starting the first subscription library in 1731. The library consisted of a group of volunteers that donated books to be purchased by the members. He later established Junto- “a club whose members studied and discussed intellectual concerns such as morals, politics, and natural philosophy (science and technology) as a form of self-improvement” (Sticht “Rise...”, 2007). These establishments later developed into present day libraries and “intellectual institutions” (Sticht “Rise...”, 2007). The Navy also played a great role in the advancement of adult education by employing schoolteachers for reading and writing tutoring for the seamen (Sticht “Rise...”, 2007). The Lyceum Movement-a national network of study groups whose goal was self-improvement through learning- began in the nineteenth century as the demand for knowledge became more popular (Sticht “Rise...”, 2007). By 1835, there were more than three thousand involved in the movement (Sticht “Rise...”, 2007). Through the 1800s came the establishment of public schools, by 1880 all thirty-eight states had them, and the growth of nighttime public adult education (Sticht “Rise...”, 2007). The 1900s involved some of the greatest advancements in andragogy in the United States through the creation of different groups, associations, and foundations. The National Education Association, Carnegie Foundation, and Ford Foundation helped to establish the profession of adult education (Sticht “Rise...”, 2007). They formed associations for educating and training professionals in the field of adult education, conducted research in and supplied information about adult education, and helped to shape policies on adult education at the state level (Sticht “Rise...”, 2007). The Adult Education Act of 1966 was passed as part of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society programs to help professionalize adult education and advancing literacy of native and foreign-born adults (Sticht “Rise...”, 2007; Sticht “Beyond...”, 1998). Amendments were added in 1970 to lower the age of participants from eighteen to sixteen and to expand the services provided from basic education for adults to secondary education, including GED tutoring, for adults (Sticht “Rise...,” 2007). Further amendments were added in 1978 and 1988 to promote the advancement of skills and to allow employers to play a part in offering literacy programs (Sticht “Rise...” 2007). The act was replaced in 1991 by the National Literacy Act, which helped to improve the availability of federal funds (Sticht “Rise...”, 2007.) These acts all contributed to the formation of AEFLA, Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, in 1998 (Adult, 2007). AEFLA had three purposes- to assist in the literacy and skill training of adults, to educate parents in order to enable their children to become more educated, and to help adults obtain secondary education (Adult, 2007).

The 1600s marked the beginning of recorded adult education in Canada when the aboriginal residents helped the arriving colonists with knowledge in local geography, climate, housing, transportation, and survival (“Chronology”, 2004.) Much advancement in Canadian andragogy took place through the 1800s with the beginning of the Mechanic’s Institute, which provided information and learning opportunities to workers in Quebec, Ontario, and Nova Scotia (Draper, 2008). In 1816, the First Common School Act was established, which allowed adults the right to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic (“Chronology”, 2004.) Also in the 1800s, the YMCA of Canada began offering adult education classes in the evening and, in 1899, Alfred Fitzpatrick founded Frontier College. Frontier College offered classes for adults who lived in rural areas (Draper, 2008). Between 1900 and 1925, the Worker’s Education Association was founded to provide learning opportunities to workers and the expansion of Universities throughout Canada continued (Draper, 2008). In 1919, the National Council of Education was formed and in 1946, Nova Scotia was the first Canadian province to establish an Adult Education Division as part of its Department of Education (“Chronology,” 2004; Draper, 2008). Canada also made huge contributions to international adult education through the establishments of the International Congress of University Continuing Education, UNESCO, and the International Council for Adult Education (Draper, 2008).

Adult education programs have grown tremendously throughout history and even in the past couple decades. Surveys are used to show how adult education is growing in both of these countries. Between 1994 and 1998, the International Adult Literacy Survey was conducted in twenty-two countries, including Canada and the United States, to evaluate literacy and adult education programs and participation. It showed the rate of participation to be thirty-nine percent in America and thirty-five percent in Canada (Tuijnman & Boudard, 2001). These figures are close but hours spent on education differed from one-hundred twenty hours in the United States and two-hundred fifteen hours in Canada. An important factor of adult education is the source of funding. In the US,



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