The challenges that are often encountered in offering equality while responding to the aspect of diversity in adult education are common. These challenges become worse, especially when dealing with the non-traditional learners. Whatever the case, it is important that the aspect of equality and diversity is achieved in adult learning to ensure the goals of providing learning are attained, along with ensuring the diverse needs of the audience are responded to (Anna and Stella, 2002). However, this process is often constrained by various issues, for instance, limited income, language barriers, asylum seekers, physical and mental impairments, depressing previous experiences of education, together with various aspects involved in diversity. Low participation is still a significant problem in adult training, considering the fact that some of them have a feeling that whatever is being offered does not meet their needs. Providing equality and diversity which means closing the equality gaps, while providing support and opportunities to the adults to enable them to succeed (Hayes & Flannery, 2000).
Individuals have varying needs and preferences in life. However, coming up with a common approach to address the diverse needs are a challenge to many, especially the adult educators. However, it is important that equality and diversity issues are addressed in order to promote effective learning. This can be attained by ensuring a student-centred approach is applied. This approach ensures that the individual needs of the learners are central, when developing their curriculum. This entails identifying both the specific and additional needs of the learners, thus offering appropriate support, resources and attaining their ideal learning style, while offering them the access to the fair judgment. This is with the recognition of the fact that most people within the society have been completely locked out of the learning system due to the various challenges they have (Donohue & Education, 1992). For instance, the disabled within the society have always been ignored simply because the type of learning that is being offered does not recognize their specific needs. It is thus important to promote equality and diversity with the learning system to ensure the diverse needs of the society are addressed.
Learner-Centered Approaches to Address Equality and Diversity in Adult Learning
It is worth noting that in order to attain effective and participative learning within any learning environment, it is important that learners are placed at the centre of the system (Anna and Stella, 2002). This can be attained through approaches, inclusive learning and widening participation. According to Tomlinson report (1996), inclusive learning refers to the greatest degree of fitness or match between the ways in which the learners can study best, the content they want and need to learn, and whatever that is required from the educators for an effective learning to happen. This means that system has to attain its specific goals, while ensuring the specific needs of the learners are attained as well (Tomlinson, 1996). For instance, in a general community setting, there are the poorest individuals, the affluent, the physically as well as the mentally challenged, and people from diverse cultural backgrounds speaking different dialects. It is therefore important that these differences are identified and addressed within the teaching curriculum in order to ensure that each individual within the community benefits. Such a system will thus be considered as an inclusive system considering the fact that studying is centred on the needs of the learner (Kingsbury, 2011).
It is also necessary that the system meets the general challenges of the community, in order to ensure it gains support from the community. Furthermore, there have to be resources to support the preferred learning styles within the community in order to be considered an inclusive learning system (Tomlinson, 1996). Moreover, the Kennedy Report of 1997 emphasized on the significance of making learning accessible to the intended audiences. The report further highlights that some of the factors that may discourage or prevent adults from continuing with their learning process include the challenges in meeting the study costs, childcare support and lack of information. In order to enhance participation and access by the under-represented groups within the community, the adult educators are encouraged to consider widening participation rather than just increasing the number of participants. It is worth noting that the educator’s ability to draw diverse learners is one thing while ensuring that their needs are adequately satisfied is another important aspect (Kennedy, 1997). Provided that there is a poor access to learning for people with no pictorial signing or community language, disabilities, no crèche or information point, the allegation that learners have equality of opportunities in adult education will continue being open to challenges (Anna and Stella, 2002).
It is worth noting that credible equal opportunity procedures and policies are essential in responding to diversities, differences and inequalities existing among the learners. However, having a mere policy or procedure in place is not enough, unless it is supported by effective bottom-up and top-down responses (Kennedy, 1997). This also entails mainstreaming ongoing analysis of the existing procedures, policies, quality assurance, fee structures and the decision making processes in order to make certain that the equality issues are fully and centrally embedded. Furthermore, attaining equality and diversity in education means meeting the needs of the community, as well as those of the learners, considering the fact that most people will ignore learning, simply because they have a feeling that whatever is being offered does not satisfy their needs.
Summary of This Issue
Attaining equality and diversity is still a challenge in adult learning. This is because various learning systems have disregarded the specific needs of the learners. The barriers to learning that can discourage adults from enrolling or continuing with their learning process include financial challenges that limit them from meeting the learning costs, childcare support as well as lack of information (Wallace & Wallace, 2007). Furthermore, most of the learning systems disregard the various differences and needs that exist within the community. To attain equality and diversity in adult learning, a student-centred approach, which makes the needs of the learners the central point in developing the curriculum, is advocated for. This entail identifying the specific needs of the learners, as well as those of the general community, offering the required support and resources, whatever the learners intend to attain in the learning process as well as those required from the educators to make the learning process successful (Souza, 2009).
In addition, it is important to widen participation in order to improve access and participation, especially by the under-represented groups (Barnard, 2011). Basically, it is important to ensure quality and diversity are attained in adult learning to guarantee the specific learning needs of individuals, as well as those of the community in general are attained, while ensuring equal access is reached. However, one of the areas within the field of adult learning that should be further researched includes the aspect of appropriate learning styles that could be implemented to gain success. This is due to the fact that various learning styles have been suggested, but then, it is important that a suitable learning style is attained to ensure equality and diversity aspects are provided (Smith & Pourchot, 1998)
While providing education to the adults, it is important to consider equality and diversity. Equality is defined in terms of access, while ensuring the diverse needs of each individual learner are attained. This is considering the fact that needs vary from one individual to another. This also entails ensuring that there is a wider participation.