If you’ve seen the episode of The Simpsons when Homer becomes a teacher at the ‘Adult Education Annex’, you might think that adult education classes are all about teaching pointless topics such as ‘How to Chew Tobacco’ and ‘Funk Dancing for Self-Defence’.
However, careers in adult education are incredibly important, as they ensure that learning and education are open to people throughout the entirety of their lives.
Learning and education doesn’t stop when you leave school or university. Many people have the desire to learn new skills and acquire knowledge throughout their adult lives, either to help them progress with their current career, assist them when they want to change careers, or to allow them to learn things purely for fun and personal satisfaction.
What is adult education?
Adult education is pretty tricky to define. However, it tends to involve teaching people over the age of 18, who have left compulsory or higher education and are returning to education in order to learn new things. Most adult education takes place in the form of evening classes, as quite often it has to fit around people’s busy lives. However, adult education can also be explored in the daytime too.
After all, this broad area of education also covers the studies of mature students and people working towards professional qualifications as part of their job, such as trainee accountants studying for their ACCA (Association of Charted Certified Accountants) qualifications.
People who teach in this area of education might be teaching languages, art, cookery, literature, publishing, carpentry, I.T. and all kinds of different courses. They might be lecturing within higher education institutions (e.g. Birkbeck College, a specialist provider of evening higher education, and part of the University of London), adult community colleges, or further education colleges.
Some adult education lecturers might even work for private companies that offer niche business or I.T. skills courses. On the other hand, people who specialise in private tuition might be teaching people in the comfort of their own homes.
This area of teaching can be especially fun and rewarding, as your students are more likely to have a genuine desire to learn. However, teaching in this area is an entirely different challenge to teaching children. You may use different teaching methods and techniques, and you will need the ability to communicate with students on a much more equal grounding.
It’s also important to bear in mind that most adult educators work on a part-time basis. However, some people do pursue these careers full-time.
What will I be doing in an adult education career?
Careers in adult education teaching or lecturing are not simply about turning up in the evening, chatting a little bit about a certain subject and then going home to bed. These teachers need the right qualifications or experience, and need to do the same level of lesson planning, preparation and administrative work as other professional educators.
It really depends on the kind of class and the level of education, but most adult education lecturers will be responsible for overseeing and marking standardised tests too.
Some of these people may even offer a ‘distance learning’ or ‘e-learning’ service to their students, so that they can study at home. Consequently, they will need to produce and process all the relevant documentation and computer programmes in order to allow their students to learn in this way.
People that specialise in private tuition provide more personal and focused educational attention to individual students or small groups. They might deal with private family clients and provide school pupils with additional tuition to help them pass their exams.
Alternatively, these educators might be hired by local government or corporate clients and provide skills-based tuition to individual employees. They might even help foreign nationals who want to improve their language skills.
Furthermore, many private tutors may provide home-based tutoring to children with additional learning needs, or to children that can’t attend school for medical or social reasons. Private tutors can offer educational help in a wide range of subjects and at various academic levels. They tend to be self-employed or work on behalf of private tuition agencies.
To work in adult education or private tuition, you might need a degree in your area of expertise, a formal education qualification (e.g. PGCE, BEd etc.), or significant professional experience in a certain vocational area.
Alternatively, you could study for a Diploma in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector (DTLLS). Check out the Lifelong Learning UK website for more details! Again, as in all areas of teaching, you will need to undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS, previously known as CRB, or Criminal Records Bureau) check to teach in this area.
Adult education is frequently overlooked in terms of its importance, but it is an incredibly beneficial sector, in that it allows people a second chance to gain qualifications. If you would like to make a real difference to the lives of adults, whether in public institutions or as a private educator, this could be the perfect field for you to work in.