Centre for Continuing Education
I have been an adult learner as I entered TAFE colleges as a mature student to upgrade my skills in my area of experience and to acquire skills in life to cope with language development and life skills as a migrant. As in Australia, the technological changes are faster and economic factors affects job prospects I have to continually acquire new skills other than in my area of prior experience.
In addition, as a married person when I was unemployed I undertook part-time courses which I perceived to be opened to me to upgrade computer and communication skills and get valuable on the job training in clerical and accounting work, which enabled me to improve me self-concept and self-esteem as a learner and willing to learn as it benefits in my practical work and in day to day life and acquire social skills, which is vital to survive and grow in a different cultural situation than my own ethnic culture.
In my experience, as a mature learner as a migrant I identified as a learner to become a continuous learner through out my life given my socio-economic situation and the social, economic and political factors, which I became aware may affect my future as a learner and the choices I may have and their impact on the adult educational system in Australia.
In the following paragraphs I will discuss my history of experience analyzing critically using appropriate adult learning theoretical concepts the relationship between contemporary economic, social and political change and its impact on adult and vocational education policy and practice. As well, I will discuss critically the debate about the impact of globalization, lifelong learning and learning society on adult and vocational educational policy and practice in Australia.
Impact of political, social and economic changes as well as life-long learning and learning society on adult and vocational education policy and practices In Australia in the last decade the technological and social change has affected work patters, type of work and life in general including education. The speed of change also have accelerated because of internationalization of Australian economy and the process of globalization and its impact on work and social life in general in a positive as well as negative manner.
In addition, migration, aging of population has also has an impact on educational needs of the population particularly of the adult learning and the importance of knowledge as an important ingredient in producing wealth than ever before recognized by the educationalist and educational professionals and teachers in adult institutions in Australia. In the advent of globalization and its effects on unemployment adult learning became important as it has also to some extent increased inequality than ever before, which is recognized by the Government Institutions, which is responsible for education in Australia.
In Australia and in other Western countries the Welfare State is now transformed in to Competitive States in the era of globalization and there fore efficiency and skill development became an important as a policy imperative than equity and social justice in adult and vocational education to produce skilled workforce to the labor market and competency based vocational and adult educational practices in Australia became as policy imperative.
This demonstrates how political changes and political ideologies can impact on the vocational and adult educational policies and practices. In Adult and vocational education, behavioral, cognitive and humanist psychology plays a vital role in developing educational policies and practices. In the context of neo-liberal political climate in Australia and the impact of globalization made adult learning as a product and there fore is based on behaviorist model of learning paradigm rather than on cognitive and humanist psychological adult learning paradigms.
However, due to the increasing inequality in Australian society in general because of globalization and economic liberalization and the disadvantage faced by many groups in Australian society such as women, disabled, ethnic minorities, Aboriginals, mature aged students from low socio-economic backgrounds to continuing education in higher education. This has increased the demand for adult and vocational education and to recognize the issue of social justice as a policy priority within the efficiency and skill development priorities and not to disregard social justice all together.
But it is important in the contemporary society in Australia efficiency is the most important policy priority due to neo-liberal agenda in education and social justice is a secondary concern and there fore lifelong learning and continuing education for all adult learner groups and learning society even though there are institutional reform and recognition of knowledge society in these institutions due to budgetary constrains and political agendas is not feasible at least in the short-term.
However, the above mentioned factors and experiences are slowly changing the stakeholders in education such as teachers, students, educationalist and governments at all levels the importance of knowledge and its part in future economic prosperity. The continuing education or community education can be feasibility at least in the medium to long term in Australia. As well, these changes will be evolutionary than revolutionary in Australia given the conservatism in politics and society because of media and all the powerful groups managing the change and shaping the change than by activism and radical change.
That is according to the secondary research materials I have used in creating the new learning and knowledge by reflection I can say that the cognitive and humanist psychology will play an important role with behavioral approach because they give more insight in to learning process than behaviorist approach to adult learning and there fore continuing education can be accessed by all groups of adult learners and old people and encourage the adults to become life long learners after formal education.
As well, it also will change the adult and vocational policy and practices in a more progressive stage on an evolutionary path and may lead to already existing potential to become a reality in the medium to long term a learning society. In addition, adult education can also be based on community education. This can be based on reformist models of community education or can be radical version. It came in to existence in the western world including Australia due to inequality and disadvantage of some groups and similar groups get together to share information and knowledge for a common purpose.
This form of education can be formal as well as informal and its educational goal is to reform the social structure of society to become more egalitarian in nature in an evolutionary manner and raise consciousness of their social situation and take practical action to change that situation. These types of institution exist in Australia but at the periphery. Most community adult educational policy and practice is reformist in nature in Australian context.
These models of community education in adult and vocational education are based on social learning theories and sociological insights, which includes non-Marxist and Marxist approach to sociology and social development. Reflective experiential learning theory or model and life long learning In 1984 David Kolb in his book Experiential Learning: Experience as a Source of Learning and Development has highlighted a learning theory or a model which is practical to be used in Schools or in any organization where people gather.
This model is based on the previous works of John Dewey, Kurt Lewin and Jean Piaget. The important propositions in this model, is that he formulated that learning is a process not a product in the first place. Secondly, learning is a continuous process grounded in experience. Thirdly, learning requires dialectically opposed modes of adaptation to the world. Fifthly, learning involves transaction between the learner and the environment. Sixthly, learning is a process of creating new knowledge.
In the Kolb’s model the first phase is the concrete experience in a class given by the educator in the form of case study, role play or testimonial or demonstration. Then in the next stage the learner is to review the experience in many perspectives in this process the learner asks questions such as what happened? What did you observe? This is called the reflective observation stage. In the third stage, of abstract conceptualization the learner develops theories and look at patterns.
In this phase they ask further questions like how did you account for what you observed? What does it means for you? How is it significant? What conclusions can you draw? What general principles can you derive? The final phase in this model is active experimentation and suggests ways to apply the principles they have developed in the previous phase. To develop the ways of using the principles developed they ask questions like how can I apply the learning? In what ways can I use next time? What can I do differently?
In effect this model makes the learner to create new knowledge drawing from his past experience to develop new knowledge, skills and attitudes that can be applied in their organizational settings. There fore, as demonstrated above this model, is useful to learners to learn life long irrespective of age, gender and other characteristics to develop fully their potential than the behaviorist model. This model in my view after critical review is applicable to develop adult and vocational educational policy and practices and there fore social development as a goal of education. Critical reflection
In doing this assignment and reflecting on my observation of my own experience and the secondary experiences and reviewing the literature on adult and vocational educational books, articles and as a tutor in social studies and previously as distance education student at a university I can draw confidently the adult and vocational education has evolved over a period of time and adult and vocational education in the current political and economic climate is mostly based on behaviourist model of adult and vocational education rather than on cognitive and humanist model of adult and vocational education.
However, due to the explosion of knowledge in the field of adult learning theories and models the other paradigms of life long learning and community education is becoming more recognized in some parts of the adult and vocational educational institutions in Australia. In my view, after critical reflection it may be due to the negative impact of globalization and the high unemployment of some groups in Australian society and the increasing income inequality in the contemporary Australian society.
In this context, I can say that social justice imperatives cannot be ignored and there fore alternative pedagogy must be considered so that education and continuous education is most accessible to disadvantage groups to some extent within the economic constrains of neo- liberal economic ideology. That is life-long learning is to some extent practiced in adult and vocational education but it is not adequate to cover all educational groups.
In the medium to long- term the life long learning principles and practices can be feasible in adult and vocational education systems in Australia. In effect, the change of adult and vocational education in Australia is an evolutionary process than revolutionary process given the social and political structure and also the economic system in Australia. As well, as in historical sense it has evolved over a period of time in an evolutionary way.
The process I used to research to do this assignment is to reflect on my observation on my own experience and see some patterns and also to collect authentic materials such as books on adult and vocational education from public libraries and synthesize the information and critically reflect on it to use this information as well as my experience to develop my own theoretical insight to evaluate my theories against the factual information regarding their applicability and feasibility currently and in the future.
As the time I allocated for research is limited and the variety of materials such as journals and other internet resources and articles would have been more useful to refine my theories and their specific applications. In this context, I will allocate more time to research and also use a variety of materials rather than concentrating on books from libraries as a secondary experience to be reflected to create new knowledge and its applicability next time.
The strength of my analysis of adult and vocational education on a theoretical level is adequate as it covers the necessary level of analysis and use of appropriate theoretical frame works applicable to adult and vocational education. As well, it also has used considerable books as a secondary research material to collect information and reflect on it critically to draw conclusions and to develop general principles of adult learning policies and practices. There fore, my critical reflection also is considerably very strong.
However, the weakness in the analysis and critical reflection is that I did not use a variety of secondary information and solely based on book references as the time is limited. Overall the strength of my assignment is far exceeding the weakness as I used a considerable amount of variety of books relevant to the subject concerned. Conclusion In my experience and reflection I have found that adult education is not neutral and to some extent it is affected by political and social agendas. It is not based solely on sound theories and ideologies pay a part.
That is a reality that I have theorized after the secondary information and synthesis. However, as knowledge becomes an important asset in determining the future economic and social development and knowledge management is vital educational institutions have to educate the aged population and use their experience and wisdom to social progress life-long learning principles and learning society principles have to be used as a base to formulate adult and vocational education which is compatible with the social and economic and cultural environment in Australia.
The change in adult and vocational education in my view will be evolutionary given its historical change in the past. It can be said given the liberal democratic structure of politics in Australia the adult and vocational education at least in the medium to long –term have the possibility to embrace life-long learning in to its adult and educational practice. In addition, learning society may be a possibility in the long-term as evolutionary changes take more time than revolutionary changes.
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