Courses of study offered for learners over the age of compulsory schooling. Sometimes used synonymously with evening classes, adult education encompasses a very wide range of provision, including prison education, education in the armed forces, adult literacy classes, and church‐based learning groups, as well as local authority and Workers’ Educational Association provision. It has a long history closely associated with ideals of social reform, self‐help, and self‐improvement, particularly among social classes who could not access adequate schooling or higher education. Direct forerunners of adult education were the ‘adult and benevolent evening schools’, the ‘young men's reformation and mental improvement societies’, and the mechanics' institutes of the 19th century. By the 21st century, however, adult education has lost much of its earlier, radical image. Theory related to the education of adults constitutes in itself a field of academic study, sometimes referred to as androgogy, to distinguish it from pedagogy, the theory related to the teaching of children. It is argued, for example, that some key characteristics can be associated with adult learners, which must be taken into account if they are to be helped to learn effectively. These include:
Roger Fieldhouse and Associates A History of Modern British Adult Education (NIACE, 1996).