Adult Education as Social Capital Research Paper Starter

Adult Education as Social Capital

(Research Starters)

Many adults find learning to be a life-long process, and continue to take courses and learn new skills throughout their lifetimes. Nearly half of all adults over the age of 16 participate in some kind of education program by taking work-related or personal interest courses, pursuing a diploma or degree, or participating in other educational activities. In addition, many career fields require continuing education for their members so that they can stay current with state-of-the-art theories, techniques, and practices. Similarly, many employers not only actively encourage continuing education, but pay for some or all educational activities that are relevant to the job. Adult education and life-long learning are important not only for the individual who participates in such activities, but for society as well. At an individual level, adult education can contribute to the quality of a person's life. At a societal level, better education means greater human capital which allows a society to be competitive in the global marketplace and become or remain a world leader.



Educational Sociology > Adult Education as Social Capital


For many people, learning is a life-long process. Not content with the three R's of elementary school, the career preparation of high school, or even the major of college and university, many people go on to read voraciously, take continuing education classes, or even acquire other degrees in an attempt to increase their fund of knowledge. Others who were not fortunate enough to have learned the basics that are typically taught early in one's scholastic career go back to school to overcome illiteracy, obtain a general education development (GED) diploma, or get other credentials that will help them in their jobs or careers or even to change careers. Still other adults watch the technological advances enjoyed by younger people and are determined to keep up, learning to use computers, the Internet, and other technological artifacts in an effort to keep their minds active. In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly half of all adults over the age of 16 participate in some kind of education program (see Figure 1.)

The Importance of Continued Learning

Adult education and life-long learning are important not only for the individual who participates in such activities, but for society as well. From the individual's point of view, adult education in it many varieties can add significantly to the person's quality of life. Professionally, for example, continuing education courses can help an individual keep abreast of the latest research, techniques, and practices in his/her chosen field, thereby adding to the individual's worth as social capital and the concomitant ability to be successful on the job or in the career field. For those with less formal education, adult education can also give one the credentials needed to get a better job or enter a more prestigious career, thereby enhancing one's chances of upward social mobility, higher socioeconomic status, and better quality of life. For example, many adults who dropped out of school before graduation from high school later realize that many of the opportunities they would like to take advantage of are closed to them because of their lack of educational credentials. For this reason, many go back and earn a GED diploma, finish college, or gain other credentials that are needed for job or career success. Even when adult education is not in a career-related field, it can add to the quality of one's life and even one's health by keeping one's mind active and helping one relax from the stress in other parts of life. Further, whether adult education be undertaken for the purpose of social advancement on the job or for enhancing the quality of one's personal life, individuals can also gain increased social capital and widen their network of friends and acquaintances through educational activities.

Adult education is advantageous to society as well. Many adults go back to school or take continuing education classes in order to keep up with the rapid advances in technology that are used in the workplace. In recognition of the fact that the job skills acquired through continuing education can enable the organization to be more competitive in the global marketplace, many organizations encourage or even require employees to take job-related continuing education classes. Many even pay for these courses. The education of individuals within society provides the society with greater human capital which enables it to be more competitive in the global marketplace. In addition, the concomitant wealth and information that are accrued with the increase in education and knowledge help the society to be more powerful and influential as compared to less educated societies.


Adult Education in Correctional Facilities

A highly specified environment which illustrates the use and value of adult education is within the US correctional facility. There are several general types of adult education programs in correctional facilities.

* General education programs include the adult basic education curriculum, preparation for the general education development diploma, and other secondary education courses.

* Vocational education courses help inmates learn a trade or other practical skills so that they can more easily obtain a job once they are released from prison.

* Postsecondary courses allow prisoners to take College-level courses and pursue degrees.

* Life skills curricula can comprise any number of practical skills for living on one's own including managing one's money and financial planning; resume writing, job search, and interview skills; meal management and housekeeping skills; workplace etiquette; and violence reduction and moral reasoning.

* In addition, an increasing number of correctional institutions are finding the need for English as a second language (ESL) programs for nonnative speakers of English.

Although each course has individual objectives, the overarching goal for all educational programs in correctional institutions is to help prisoners obtain skills and credentials that will enable them to be effective, productive members of society once they are released and to reduce the recidivism rate. Whether or not these programs meet this goal, however, has been debated in the literature. Some researchers conclude that all attempts at education in correctional institutions are of value and help reduce the recidivism rate. Other researchers conclude that none of these programs is useful in achieving this goal.

Program Success

Jensen and Reed (2006) performed a secondary analysis of the adult basic education program, the general equivalency diploma program, completion of secondary education, vocational education, postsecondary education, and life skills programming to determine whether any of these programs work with today's correctional institution populations. Data for the study were found by performing key word searches of bibliographic sources including the Criminal Justice Abstracts from 1995 through 2003, various related refereed journals, the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, ERIC, and PsycINFO. To reduce the possibility of false negatives of false positives, the studies were reviewed and evaluated for methodological rigor using a priori principles developed by the University of Maryland. Studies were categorized into five levels. Level 5 comprised the most scientifically rigorous studies with characteristics that included random assignment of subjects to treatment and control groups and use of sufficient subjects for the results to be meaningfully analyzed using inferential statistics. Level 1 comprised the least scientifically rigorous studies. Level 1 studies did not have comparison groups and did not control for alternate explanations. Using these criteria, the pool of potential studies was reduced to include only studies that were categorized as Levels 3 through 5. Level 2 studies were included as a measure of the "preponderance of evidence." Limiting the studies analyzed in this way allowed the researchers to rule out alternative explanations for study findings. The dependent variable used in the analysis was recidivism rate. Program results were sorted into five categories:

* What works (i.e., programs reasonably certain to reduce recidivism and which should be applicable to other situations);

* What is promising research (i.e., analyses that do not yield results that can be generalized but that show promise for future research studies);

* What is a...

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