Understanding Adult Educators Perceptions on Relevance of Adult Education to Community Development

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2012

27 Pages, Grade: A


Abstract The major purpose of this research article was to determine the nature and direction of perceptions of adult educators on the relevance of adult education to community development. The study was inspired by the belief that through its findings useful data can be generated for guiding modifications or revisions that may be needed to improve adult education provisions as a strategy to facilitate community development. The specific objectives of the study were to: determine the perceptions of adult educators on organization and implementation of AE programmes; explore the educators’ attitudes on current arrangement of AE towards community development. The research involved a cross-sectional survey design and data were drawn from 80 adult educators by means of self developed attitude questionnaire. Descriptive statistics was performed to determine frequencies, percentages and mean and rank of the items studied. Data from focused group discussion were manually analysed. The findings show that majority of adult educators in Morogoro Municipality have a negative attitude on the relevance of adult education to community development. In addition generally few of the educators were found to be not sure of adult education’s relevance. These findings imply that more efforts should be made to re-educate adult.

Key words: Adult education, community development, attitude, adult educator.


Community development and educational levels of individuals are essentially intertwined phenomena (Stavenhagen, 1998). Thus, in the past two decades, obligation to and importance of social development in Tanzania have firmly been recognized. Yet there have been several social models which were developed to enhance community development that are still questionable in terms of their effectiveness. Thus non-formal education designed to promote social development emerged in direct response to the problems and limitations of earlier modes of formal education for social change (Ewert,1989).And all societies undergo changes as multidimensional phenomena impacting on social, economic, and political systems, causing societal actions and reactions (Cranton,1996).

Community development is an ongoing process designed to influence changes for positive outcomes (Lawless & Smith, 1997). Realizing the importance of education as the pillar of national and/or community development the United Republic of Tanzania, through the Education Sector Reforms that began in 1995 strengthened these reforms together with other policy initiatives to ensure equitable access to high quality formal education and adult education in the country. This was achieved through facilities’ expansion, efficiency gains and quality improvement, accompanied by efficient supply and use of resources. These reforms were inspired by the understanding that it is through education that the nation can obtain skilled manpower to serve in the various sectors of the economy. It was realized that it is through quality education that Tanzania will be able to create a strong and competitive economy which can effectively cope with the challenges of development in the country in particular and in East African Region in general. Similarly, adult education is understood as a tool expected to make permanent changes in peoples' lives. It is believed that it can help to eradicate persistent poverty in the Nation by unleashing families' own skills.

In this way, education, adult education inclusive, is understood in Tanzania as a renewable resource which once attained is possessed everlastingly. This follows from the fact that without basic educational skills, adults cannot easily understand changes made

available to facilitate their community development. Consequently the Tanzanian Government introduced a number of neighbourhood adult education centres with an initial intent to make sure that all community members could read and write. The government is also set to supply fundamental ingredients for community economic development by ensuring that the beneficiaries develop new skills and thus become self-confident and contribute positively to the development of their communities.

Statement of the Problem

Linking adult education to community development has always been diffi­cult to do to the satisfaction of most practitioners (Smith, 1997). However, it is generally agreed that formal adult education is an organized learning activity designed for adult learners with goals and objectives to achieve. In the past, there has been a tendency to view adult education and community development as separate conceptual entities (URT, 2004). But there is a big problem in trying to see adult education in this way. For instance, recently, with an intention to facilitate community development, education initiatives in Tanzania, like the adult education programmes were established to serve as viable strategies for community improvement (Battiste et al, 1995). In this context, the central assumption was that adults must be assisted to understand the development plan and strategies of their community before they can be expected to participate effectively in implementing the necessary changes or development in their community.It was also realized that since majority of the community groups across the country are increasingly being involved in developing their own community-based initiatives, then adult education programmes should be made to play vital roles in facilitating community involvement and inclusion in peoples development initiatives (Spencer, 2006).Thus as contended by Goalathe, (2004) that lack of enough education to adults must be seen to be for enormous problems of underdevelopment to the generality of the people; a crisis that in turn, leads to failure of implementation of anti-poverty campaigns in many communities throughout the Nation. Hence it is believed that many of the community groups that have been established for social, political, and economic purposes may fail to perceive adult education as a primary goal, although they may readily agree that "learning" in this case through the arranged/planned adult education programmes, have a contribution toward the revolutionization of people’s lives (Randriamahaleo, 2004).Against the above, a number of questions remain unanswered as regards peoples overall image of adult education vis-à-vis the move towards community development across the Nation. For instance, to what extent are adult educators really convinced on importance or relevance of adult education to community development? What is the direction of their attitude in this regard? Whatever the answers to such questions, the value of adult education cannot be recognized or applauded by the people if those involved in its implementation do not see it as related to addressing the many problems they confront. And, given that adult education programmes need to be for guidance into a bright new world in which community development becomes a recognized and thriving part of the field, there is a need to explore and determine the attitudes of the adult educators themselves towards the relevance adult education programmes as viable means or tools to foster community development .

This is a crucial task to undertake in that although the Government of Tanzania has been emphasizing on the importance of adult education to community development, yet most members of the community including adult educators may not always recognize the relevance of adult education to community development. For this reason, an attempt must be made to ascertain the manner in which adult educators perceive adult education programmes as tools for enhancing community development initiatives (URT, 2004).Specifically therefore the principal problem of this study is to work towards assessing, the attitudes of adult educators on the relevance of adult education in fostering community development in Morogoro Region, Tanzania.

The main purpose of this study was to determine the nature and direction of perceptions of adult educators on relevance of adult education to community development in Morogoro Municipality, Tanzania.

The specific objectives of the study were to determine adult educators’ perceptions on the adequacy or not of the current organization and implementation of AE programmes,

explore adult educators’ attitudes on the relevance of adult education to community development in Morogoro.

Reviewed Literature

Theoretical framework

This study was guided by theories of adult education known as “the second chance theory” of adult learning and “lifelong learning theory”.

It proposes and recognises that adult education play the role of ‘second chance’ opportunity in the life of the individual; offering the privilege of a new beginning for those who have been held back in social status through inadequate background or initial education and training (Rinne et al.,1992). The “second chance” theory of adult learning draws from the ideals of democracy to provide students with the means of enhancing their social status, participation and liberation in the society (Merriam et al., 2007). In this way, it argues that comprehensive theory of participation in adult education must take into account a wider range of explanatory factors than are presented in the traditional or existing lifecycle, motivational orientation or decision models. Also the Second Chance Theory of adult-education incorporates other sociological factors as well, and recognizes that, for adults, learning is a ‘discretionary’ activity competing with their other life activities of the individual (Cranton,2006).The theory thus attempts to explicate processes of adult education in a wider society context.

Such a theory presents a vision of adult education and community development that emphasise the continuous and unproblematic self-development of individuals. Lifelong learning is recognised in the literature as a central element in modern living, and as an essential tool in our current communication and informational age. In this regard, Hughes and Tight (1995) argue that current image of an independent learner accessing a continual cycle of adult educational services is a myth; one created to support the notion that, we live in a time of unprecedented modernisation and change, in which people can educate themselves independent of the need for organized learning procedures.

Adult education perspectives

One of the central characteristics of contemporary discourses on adult education is the emphasis on individual autonomy. Following this understanding individuals are encouraged to take control of their learning, working towards the promise of personal development. This is a theme of adult education theories worldwide, including those encompassed in Knowles’ concepts of andragogy and self-directed learning (1970), Mezirow’s perspective transformation (1991) and UNESCO’S notion of lifelong learning (Smith, 2001). Bagnall’s (1990) epitomises this individualist focus in his definition of lifelong education as “the preparation of individuals for the management of their adult lives the distribution of education throughout individual life spans…the educative function of the whole of one’s life experience and the identification of education with the whole of life”(p. 56).

In line with this emphasis on individual responsibility and readiness, some adult education policies focus on enabling individuals to access learning opportunities. In this way emphasis placed on equality of opportunity seems to refer to those individuals who have the economic, personal and time resources to access educational services, including the high knowledge-skilled learners that Brine (2006) identifies. Commenting in this regard, Lynch (2006) argues that, the individualist emphasis ignores the fact that the majority of citizens in society at any given time are not self-financing consumers (children, older people, unpaid carers etc.). Many are in no position to make active consumer choices due to the poverty of their resources, time and/or capacities.

Taking Lynch’s (2006) position into account, the focus on equality of opportunity has increasingly been joined by the perspective that emphasizes the intercultural nature of human learning; a perspective which views adult education as a means for social and cultural inclusion (Department of Education and Science, 2003). This is a new approach to adult education which offers broad support for the ideals of community education – empowerment, participative democracy and societal transformation – but then appears to return to the narrower practise of enabling access for specified groups in the society (Women’s groups, ethnic minorities and older people). In this regard, Keogh (2003) points out that ‘much community education in marginalized communities is a “second chance” compensatory model that is not expressly concerned with politicisation.’ Such a model adopts a ‘defect’ approach of providing access for marginalised groups, where the individual is responsible for change and improvement (Rogers, 2006).

Unfortunately, the individualists focus of these discourses and the streamed approach of encouraging access for ‘risk groups’ cannot facilitate the sense of collective responsibility, trust and action necessary for civil society. Supporting this conclusion Hargreaves (1980) argues that these approaches promote ‘the culture of individualism’ where education is diverted from its social and civic role to the ‘promotion of the educated individual. ‘Concurring, Vincent (1993) characterises the current ideological stance of adult education as ‘consumerism’, where policies centre on notions of ‘individualism- self-determinism’. Under such framework, through adult education, we can – in theory at least – least our own future, prepare ourselves for career, gain additional qualifications, develop our personalities or engage in new social activities.

The emerging concept of reflectivity is related to this idea of consumerism and the changing nature of modern society. Boud et al. (1996) define reflectivity in the context of learning as ‘a generic term for those intellectual and affective activities in which individuals engage to explore their experiences in order to lead to new understandings and appreciations (p.91).’This point is found reflected in the works of Mezirow (1991), Schon (1983), Freire (1974) and others. It is also found in the field of sociology, such as in Giddens, A. (1984) theory of reflectivity and in Habmans’ (1987) theory of communicative action. While these theoretical frameworks are very different from each other, they appear united by this shared interest in the idea, and consequences, of reflectivity.

The key assumption behind reflectivity is that education as a process of reflectivity leads hopefully, to a process of thinking about the world and our position within it; something that is seen as essential in the modern ‘risk’ society. As Crowly (2004) argues, new societal strategies for individual learning are predicated on the need to preserve human and social values in the face of certain irreversible social re-figurations, leading to the institutionalisation of what Giddens has called ‘manufactured uncertainty’ and the formation of what Collins (1996) has characterised as ‘risk’ society.

For critics of these theories, a crucial point about reflectivity is neglected. The focus remains on the individual who is seen as responsible for reflectivity and enacting change at an individual level. Mezirow’s perspective of education as transformation, for example ‘refers to the structure of cultural assumptions within which new experience is assimilated to –and transformed by – one’s past experience. It is a personal paradigm for understanding ourselves and our relationships (Mezirow, 1981).Furthermore, within the individualistic framework the analysis of power structures at a societal level is neglected in favour of this concentration on individual integration in to existing societal structures. Pursuing this criticism further, Inglis (1997) argues that theories like Mezirow’s ‘leads to an over-reliance on the individual rather than social movements as the agency of social change, and consequently, to an inadequate and false sense of emancipation.’

This type of individual reflectivity, according to Inglis (1997) concentrates primarily on the first stage of ‘situated pedagogy’ that Freire describes, where students identify ‘subjective problem –themes’ of concern to them and which carry an intrinsic motivation for reflection (Shor and Freire, 1987). This latter stage marks the move to action and transformation, not of the individual but of the institutional structures of the world. At this stage, ‘a critically transitive thinker feels empowered to think and to act on the conditions around her or him, and relates those conditions to the larger contexts of power structures of society, as well as individual context, are necessary for social and political transformation.

Participation in adult education in many European countries has risen over the past few decades with an average of 35 to 40 per cent of the population of Ireland, the United Kingdom and Norway engaging in some form of adult education (King et al., 2002; Sargant, 1996; Rinne and Kinives, 1996). National surveys in Ireland and the United Kingdom reveal that younger age groups have a greater level of involvement in formal education courses, as do males and people from higher socio-economic backgrounds (King et al., 2002; Sagant, 1996).The numbers of mature students re-entering formal educational systems has risen, reflecting the emphasis on re-training, certification and professionalism (Sargant, 1996; Morgan et al., 2000; King et al., 2002).

Such a trend is evidence of the influence of the ‘economic drivers’ that Tight (1998) identifies; as educational policies promote subject areas that are seen as economically important. Women have a higher level of involvement in the voluntary and uncertified adult education sector (King et al., 2002). This part-time and voluntary learning plays an important role for women with care responsibilities whose participation is limited by economic, time spatial factors (King et al., 2002). In Tanzanian context these same factors appear to be in operation.

Application of adult education to community development

Adult education programmes must aim at strengthening individuals to face challenges within and outside their community (Stavenhagen, 1998). The notions of educating, enabling and empowering are at the core of community development. Community development seeks to empower individuals and groups of people by providing these groups with the skills they need to effect changes in their own communities. These skills are often concentrated around building political power through the formation of large social groups working for a common agenda. It is the consensus in the literature that community developers must understand both how to work with individuals and how to affect communities' positions within the context of larger social institutions (Cowan, 2003).

By enhancing the knowledge of the adult, it is believed, education that is offered to the people at the community level can become more economically sound through the efforts of the people themselves. This is because a community knows and understands what its people need to make life better and more effective for the development of their area. In this way adult education, as a social activity, takes place within specific social, political and economic relations, and links with community development questions, both domestically and internationally (Spencer, 2006).In this regard, the aim of conducting adult education and community development initiatives is the same: to prepare individuals formally and informally for their different roles in their technological society. Both aim at influencing, informing, educating and training the adults. This means, essentially, then, that AE is about making learning as a lifelong process. By educating the adults in a community it aims at preparing them for community relevance and work, social networks and organising within local communities. In this way, community re-generation and community development are given strong emphasis.

The role of adult educators and their attitude on relevance of adult education

While community participation is a requirement for effective community development , there are few specific methodologies to help community organizers facilitate such participation. Adult education and community development share a number of parallel objectives: enhancing self-direction, self-reliance, and sustainable learning and development. While adult education is more advanced methodologically , the application of adult education principles to community development is only possible under certain Conditions. These conditions relate to power relationships, institutional structures , community dynamics , and the role of the community organizer . Once these conditions are recognized, adult education principles may be applied to community development programmes in order to facilitate the community 's involvement in its own needs assessment, project design, implementation, and evaluation.

Adult education has always been highly regarded in Tanzania especially in the post -independence era. In fact, in Tanzania education is seen as one of the frontal strategies in promoting social, economic, political and cultural development at both and individual, community, and national levels (URT, 2000). Nyerere (1978) indicated that, Tanzania is fully aware of the fundamental importance of education as a means of development and as part of development.

Mushi’s (1995) article, on The Fortunes and Demise of the Adult Education Drive in Tanzania’ supports the above observations. Mushi (1995) noted that adult education facilitators comprised primary School teachers and learners, who were expected to handle both the theoretical and practical aspects of the programme. The author contends that the majority of these had not undertaken any significant training in adult education principle or methods of working with adults, except the occasional seminars, which were too short to make them effective and they lacked resources. The absence of training and the lack of experience of the facilitators may be barrier to the effective teaching of adult learners.

In Kenya, there is evidence to suggest that adult education programmes had failed because of the poor quality of the teaching staff. According to Mushi(1995) and Siffuna (1999), the majority of teachers engaged in the adult education programme had had no training beyond a two –week orientation course Ramadhani (2000) and Kiwia (1990), when discussing perception of innovations, pointed out that, there is considerable confusion in the way teachers (facilitators) and other educators perceive the innovations. In his study, Kiwia (1992) revealed that some teachers (facilitators) regarded them as good and useful innovations, while other regarded them as mere experiment. From Kiwia’s point view, it shows that , basically, innovations are perceived as being very good and acceptable by some people , while others perceive them negatively, Kiwia (1992) argued further that lack of trained teachers to implement the innovations seemed to be a problem, which causes poor implementation, as well as the lack of a clear perception of the whole innovation. It is debatable whether trained teachers would necessary perceive rightly the innovation as intended. But it seems that the training would help the facilitators to deliver the information to adult learners who would, in turn get the right perception of the innovations.

The Facilitator is an important communicator of innovations or educational change. He or she is also a change agent. According to Rogers (1962) a change agent is a professional person who attempts to influence adoption of decisions, in a direction that he feels is desirable. In most cases, a change agent seeks to secure the adoption of new ideas, but he also attempts to slow the diffusion and prevent the adoption of certain innovations. As a change agent, the facilitators function as a communication link between social systems, a professional system and his client system. In this respect, facilitators do not merely give out information or knowledge, but rather creates a learning climate in which applications and capabilities can be learnt through a variety of instructional methods. The facilitators, then are required to construct a sequence of learning activities for his learners to engage in and apply (Mushi, 2005).This contention is supported by Bhalalusesa (2004), who asserted that the adult education teaching relies on volunteer facilitators, chosen from among men and women in the community, who can read and write.

In her study, Bhalalusesa (2004) also found that the facilitators received an honorarium of Tsh.10, 000 (equivalent to less than US 10 dollar) per month, from Action Aid Tanzania (AATz), a remuneration that may not be seen as sufficiently encouraging.

Relevance to cultural norms and values

Culture refers to the shared beliefs, customs, practices and social behaviors of a particular ethnic group (Natalie, 1975). The qualities that are in the people and group arise from a concern for what they regard as excellent in manners and scholarly pursuits.

The prevailing culture of a particular community might affect or enforce adult education implementation. Rogers (1962), when discussing the diffusion of innovation, pointed out that an important factor affecting the adoption rate of an innovation is the culture value of the potential adopters. This is because their cultural beliefs, particularly their customs of dealing with certain practices, may have a great influence on their adoption of the new idea being introduced in their culture. Malekela and Ndeki (2001), when discussing culture, pointed out that some communities do not perceive education as a valuable thing, while others highly respect it.

The influence of people’s culture can be observed in the seating arrangement of adult learners in a learning circle. For instance, in some African cultures, a female adult would not dare to sit beside her father –in law, while in the European culture it might be normal. A study by Swai (1999) revealed that women adult learners sat separately from men, in a class as a way of maintaining culture norms.

Culture plays a significant role in influencing the community, and adult learners in particular, in the perception and adoption of innovations (Swai, 1990). The adult learners behave differently, due to value, norms, traditions and inclinations that have been transmitted across generations. Many studies have revealed that there are gender inequalities among community members in Africa societies, in various aspects of development, such as in school enrolment, employment and in decision-making (TGNP, 1999).


This study employed a cross-sectional survey design whereby data were collected by means of a questionnaire at one point in time for quantitative data and the focused group discussion (FGD) was used to collect qualitative data. The design was considered to be favourable due to the resource constraints for data collection. It is a commonly used research design (Mwageni et.al, 2000) for an attitude study like the present one.

The study population was composed of adults involved in adult education programmes i.e. adult educators taking part in adult-education programmes in Morogoro municipality.

The criteria for selecting participants in the study depended on the experiences on the issues related to adult education and community development. Therefore, only people who were engaged in the delivery of adult education programmes were selected to take part in this study. Hence the specific sample group for the present study of attitude of adult trainers on relevance of adult education to community development consisted of adult-trainers in Morogoro Municipality.

Purposive sampling was used to draw the intended respondents into the study sample. The needed sample size was determined after knowing the total population of adult-trainers and the availability of resources. A total of 80 respondents finally took part in the study. This represents about 50% of the total target population 0f about 180 educators.

Data were collected using a structured questionnaire whereas Governmental and non-governmental institutions were involved. This involves an attitude scale on issues related to adult education` programmes and their relevance and linkage to community development.Likert scale was employed. The Likert scale in drawing the structure of questionnaire responses is the self report tool used for measuring attitudes or views of the people on a given subject (Babbie, 2001). The method was employed in order to enable the researcher to identify attitudes or views of adult educators on the relevance of adult-education to community development A.n informal discussion method was used to augment the data rising from the attitude scale.

According to Kerlinger (1983) the quality of data gathering instrument is dependent on whether they can measure what they are intended to measure. No single instrument is adequate in itself in collecting valid and reliable data (Hape, 2005). The researcher therefore used multiple techniques in which one instrument complemented the other.

Quantitative data were analysed to obtain descriptive statistics that were deemed relevant in describing the study phenomena. This is due to the fact that it is suitable for a study that involves a small sample drawn from a large population. Data collected were summarized, coded, entered, cleaned and edited by using a computer programme of the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS-Version 16.0).Qualitative data were manually analysed by grouping similar responses together, establishing their frequency of mention and rank. After the study completion the findings have been extrapolated to the general population.


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Understanding Adult Educators Perceptions on Relevance of Adult Education to Community Development
University of Dodoma
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understanding, adult, educators, perceptions, relevance, education, community, development
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Enedy Mlaki (Author)Joseph Manase (Author), 2012, Understanding Adult Educators Perceptions on Relevance of Adult Education to Community Development, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/194444


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