THE FUTURE OFADULT LEARNINGA FEW INNOVATIVE PROJECTSFROM ISRAELSUBMITTED TO THE ANNUAL MEETINGOF THE EAEAEUROPEAN ASSOCIATION FOR THE EDUCATION OF ADULTSAVILES, SPAIN 16-19 NOVEMBER 2006CONTENTSpages
The Future of Adult Learning: A View from Israel Adult
Education Association – Dr. Eitan Israeli 1-3THE FUTURE OF ADULT LEARNING: A VIEW FROM ISRAEL ADULT EDUCATION ASSOCIATION (IAEA)By Dr. Eitan Israeli, President IAEA
Learning: The Traditional Path
The concept as well as the practice of adult education, and not surprisingly, that of lifelong learning, has been rooted in the Jewish tradition since the writing of the Old Testament. The learning of the Five Books of the Bible began in early childhood, and continued in adolescence and young adulthood with the Mishna and Talmud.
Upon marriage, the young husband either started working or became a dedicated Matmid, that is, a scholar in Jewish studies who made learning his vocation. The ones who worked, they alternated between working during the day and studying during the evening and the weekend. Learning the Holy Scriptures was practiced individually, more so in small groups: Negotiating and analyzing the text, commenting on it, applying to daily life norms and ethics. Women were excluded from that intense web of learning, as their familial and motherly duties demanded all of their time. Still, informal groups of women used to study and some excelled.
Over the hundreds of years, Jews added to the Holy Scriptures the study of new commentaries and contemporary issues. Synagogues served as houses of learning, community centers of kind facilitated all forms of learning: Individual self study and discussion groups, learners' and text oriented, theoretical and practical, computer aided and mentor guided. Learning and writing goes hand in hand; critical and creative thinking fertile each other, and for the ones who avidly are engaged in learning – future learning is in effect the linear continuation of learning in the past
Questions about Adult Learning
Not everyone, though, in Israel is keeping up the Jewish tradition of learning.
Not too many adopt learning as a way of life. The majority are secular, not seeing learning as a religious commandment as the Orthodox Jews do. The same situation prevails with Moslems and Christians: The practicing religious study their holy scriptures and doctrines at designated times, while the non practicing have lost touch with the daily learning of sanctified resources. Their learning choices heavily depend on the social roles they have to perform throughout the changing phases of life.
Thus, they are exposed to the perplexing basic questions related to learning:
(a) The purpose of learning - shall I study for the sake of study or will it be instrumental to achieve pressing life goals?
(b) The scope of learning - shall I be specific in my choice of study or generalist?
(c) The management of learning - shall I study in big chunks of time and energies or shall I dilute it?
(d) The style of learning - shall I use my habitual learning style or shall I experiment with alternative ones?
(e) The outcomes of learning – shall I measure and weigh the outcome of my study in terms of cost effectiveness/ efficiency, or shall I treat them as they come?
Each question is sub-categorized to more questions, the result being confusion and indecision as to "right" answer and taking the right route of learning.
The Future of Adult Learning: The Don'ts
The future of adult learning and its significance to humans, does not lie, in this writer's mind, in the technology of learning. Admittedly, the emerging new technologies facilitate, urge, and tempt the potential learners to delve into those technologies. Yet, technologies aside and the learners lose interest in the subject matter, in its formulation, in its social and moral implications.
Likewise, the future of adult learning does not lie in its observable outcomes.
The need is there to evaluate and measure learning outcomes, basically in order to account for the expenses involved, be they by the state, the municipality, the contributing foundation, or by the individual. But in terms of the learner, any measured outcomes are only temporary, partial, and not fully indicative of the learning process. Let alone, the measured outcomes are not predictive of the "success" expected by the learner. "Success" of the outcomes of learning is misleading, since it is usually short term and idiosyncratic.
Thirdly, the future of adult learning does not lie in its organization and management.
Ideally, good management and effective organization of educational programs for adults help to attract participants and to bring about the participants' sense of satisfaction. Yet, so many learning opportunities are being missed despite good organization, and so many others do attract participants despite ineffective management. There is always a thin line dividing between success and failure of a program, the reasons being both external and internal. Unplanned factors intervene
and hamper the well planned-in-advance organization of the program; unplanned factors pop up and turn the program into a huge success. The list of factors is long, still uncontrollable to a great extent.
The (Near) Future of Adult Learning: The Do's
There seem to be four trends in the near future of adult learning.
First, the growing need of humans to indulge in ongoing learning throughout their life span. Learning which will serve their curiosity to know and which will help them function in a changing world. This trend is visible these days and will be stronger in the near future.
Second and third, content wise:
The reconstruction and re-structuring of the past - history, literature, culture, archeology, arts - with experts and semi-experts.
The re-examination and re-reading of Holy Scriptures of all religions, in order
to make sense out of them and make use of them in daily life.
Fourth, the crystallization and identification of learning styles, which will make learning most enjoyable, ongoing and effective.
The View from Israel Adult Education Association
The above said is relevant to Israel and it may be also relevant to other countries.
It emanated from the tradition of learning and the role religion plays in the modern state. It also emanated from an old-new territory, whose past is so rich and has much
to offer to the younger generations, in terms of their national identity and unity.
Yet is also emanated from the recognition of the value of learning, which is indispensable to personal and professional growth. Wherever similar factors prevail in other countries, those four trends may apply.
Israel Adult Education Association, as the roof NGO for adult education, is looking forward with already planned activities to further fulfill those outlined trends in Israel.
But a few of those programs appear in this brochure, others will be unfolding to interested people in the European arena.
We use the EAEA Annual Meeting in Aviles, Spain, which deals with the subject of The Future of Adult Learning, to humbly present this brochure and invite you, the reader, to interact and communicate with the Israeli delegation to the Meeting.