Adult Education: More than a Second Chance
More than a Second Chance introduces the concept of mature student programs. These programs are provided to individuals who are over the age of 18 that wish to obtain their high school diploma, increase a mark in a specific subject area, or upgrade their overall skills. Often, these programs get referred to as a “second chance,” making the assumption that the adults enrolled in the program are there simply because they dropped out of high school. This is not always the case, and with the continual immigration of individuals into our country, Canada faces additional challenges with determining the level of education that these individuals must achieve to have their previous education equated to that of Canada’s.
In my teaching experiences, I have worked with diverse populations in various settings. At Essential Skills Upgrading in Kitchener, I worked with adults with a number of cultural, language, racial, and socio-economic differences. Essential Skills Upgrading is an adult learning centre, with many of the individuals using the centre to work towards entering into college or writing their GED. At ESU, the students learn in a classroom setting with other adult learners. However, since each student attends the program to achieve a different goal, they tend to work on their own lessons at their own pace.
During my orientation, the teachers at the program explained to me that these individuals typically have a lower self-esteem, especially because they are adults who did not do well in school in the past or they have recently been laid off. Therefore, the teachers make the conscious effort to call these individuals “learners” rather than “students”. It was explained that many of the learners are currently using the centre because they did not have positive experiences with the education system in the pass, thus leading them to do poorly in school, be truant, or drop out. Therefore, the use of the word “learner” is to remove that negative mindset, boost their morale and self-esteem, and ultimately allow them to do better in school.
While working with one of the learners at Essential Skills Upgrading, she opened up to me about her life and the struggles that she has gone through. She explained to me that her and her family lived in Palestine for a number of years before coming to Canada. She was a teacher in Palestine, teaching the Arabic language to young elementary school students. The learner told me that her life turned around when the war in Iraq began. She was afraid to put her three children in school in fear that they would be unsafe. Finally, in 2008, she immigrated her family to Canada to start a new life. Since her education was not recognized at an equal level in Canada, she must attend the program to upgrade her education.
This just goes to show that we cannot buy into the specific viewpoints that surrounds the adult education sector. Everyone has a story and each person is working towards their own end goal. We must be supportive in every venture that a student takes.