Adult education, distinct from child education, is a practice in which adults engage in systematic and sustained self-educating activities in order to gain new forms of knowledge, skills, attitudes, or values. It can mean any form of learning adults engage in beyond traditional schooling, encompassing basic literacy to personal fulfillment as a lifelong learner.
In particular, adult education reflects a specific philosophy about learning and teaching based on the assumption that adults can and want to learn, that they are able and willing to take responsibility for the learning, and that the learning itself should respond to their needs.
Driven by what one needs or wants to learn, the available opportunities, and the manner in which one learns, adult learning is affected by demographics, globalization and technology. The learning happens in many ways and in many contexts just as all adults' lives differ.
Adult learning can be in any of the three contexts, i.e.:
Formal – Structured learning that typically takes place in an education or training institution, usually with a set curriculum and carries credentials;
Non-formal – Learning that is organized by educational institutions but non credential. Non-formal learning opportunities may be provided in the workplace and through the activities of civil society organizations and groups;
Informal education – Learning that goes on all the time, resulting from daily life activities related to work, family, community or leisure (e.g. community baking class).
The World Bank's 2019 World Development Report on The Changing Nature of Work argues that adult learning is an important channel to help readjust workers' skills to fit in the future of work and suggests ways to improve its effectiveness.
^Baumgartner, Sharan B. Merriam, Rosemary S. Cafarella, Lisa M.; Caffarella, Rosemary S.; Baumgartner, Lisa M. (2007). Learning in adulthood : a comprehensive guide (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. p. 7. ISBN978-0-7879-7588-3.