Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Differing perspectives on adult education and language learning: Human capital, empowerment, and poststructural theories

an essay by Anna Kaiper, University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Minneapolis, Minnesota USA published in New Horizons in Adult Education & Human Resource Development Volume 29 Issue 1 (Winter 2017)

First paragraph

Adult Basic Education (ABE) programs, and in particular, programs supporting adult English language learning, have been promoted throughout the world. Within the United States alone, over $512 million has been given to state ABE programs focusing on English literacy (United States Department of Education, 2016).

Globally, UNESCO's Education for All initiative has created numerous policies and practices for, and put extensive finances into, ABE programs to improve global adult literacy by 50% from 2000 to 2015 (UNESCO, 2013). And yet, while there are often both explicit and implicit assumptions made by students, educators, and policy makers alike regarding the purposes of adult English language learning, the numerous experiences, backgrounds, and histories of adult learners make one common narrative impossible to produce.

In this essay, I explore the differing theoretical perspectives of adult English language learning as a way to both broaden and disrupt the conversations surrounding ABE and English language learning. These frameworks provide reasons for and possible outcomes of adult language education, including education as a vehicle for job attainment and the increase of human capital, education as a means for empowerment and emancipation, and education as a mode for poststructural (re)constructions of identities.

Using these theoretical frameworks as a guide, I will explore both the strengths and weaknesses of each framework and note the interconnectivity of them all. I will also briefly discuss ways in which comprehensive understandings of these frameworks can lead to more nuanced research surrounding adult basic education and language learning.

Full text (PDF)

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