Reflection on Adult Education


Urban and rural adult education programs deal with many issues and challenges in their attempts to assist adult learners in continuing their educations. While many similarities exist between urban and rural learners, differences should also be considered in program planning and implementation.

Key challenges adult education programs must address include location to potential students, financing, and perception of education in general. In urban areas, adult education programs located along bus lines are important (Peterson), while in rural areas distance in general from participants is equally important (Van Horn). As a rural student, I had to plan out entire days for testing in locations some distance from my home any time a standarized test was required. Having a program center in a poor location can drastically effect a program’s ability to serve the adult learner. Additionally, both urban and rural adult programs count on government funding for program operations. This funding is based on class attendance, which can cause significant challenges for both geographic areas in budgeting and planning.

Adult learners also frequently have a low opinion of the educational process/system. In Van Horn’s article and study, “52 percent of rural and 47 percent of urban candidates” indicated an unhappiness with school as a key reason they did not finish high school  Additionally, 63 percent of rural and 56 percent of urban GED candidates indicated they did not enjoy school in general. (Van Horn) The video from this week shared similar understandings of education (Peterson), with Norris adding the complexity of various cultures having different levels of appreciation for education in general. (Norris) Showing adult learners the potential impact greater education can have on their life and job opportunities can be seen as a significant challenge to both rural and urban adult education programs.

Another similarity among both urban and rural adult learners is limited time for education. While more urban GED candidates were single parents than rural candidates, rural candidates were also slightly more likely to hold a full time job than urban ones. (Van Horn)With the strains of work, parenting, family, and limited resources, adult learners can find it incredibly challenging to fit education into their lives in any meaningful way. (Peterson)

When considering the needs of adult learners, an understanding of the current digital divide is also essential to providing necessary education. ” African Americans match Hispanics in home Internet access and make up only 23.6 percent of all Americans with Internet access in the home… Internet access in central cities is very low; only 22.8 percent of female-headed households have Internet access compared to 51 percent of households nationally. (Norris) With both rural and urban areas having lower levels of Internet access than the rest of the national population, and access to technology being significantly more difficult for those of a lower socioeconomic status, adult education programs need to have literacy opportunities for learners as well as take this lack of access into account in their programming. As a rural high school student without access to a home computer, I am very aware of how much more challenging even simple life tasks, like paying taxes or finding out library hour times, can be to these individuals.

Additionally, “About 87 percent of Internet content is in English and written at standard or higher literacy levels.” (Norris) For English Language Learners, who make up about half of all adult education students nationwide, this reality increases the divide between their needs and their access.

When considering adjustments to adult education in both the rural and urban environment, a few opportunities surface regarding what might make the biggest impacts. Offering opportunities for engaging in technology is a simple and effective way to increase technological literacy for both populations, and specifically aid them in becoming more employable.

Also, planning program locations intentionally to be located along easily accessible routes and close to population centers in rural communities is also an effective way to have a great impact. For urban populations, flexibility in class scheduling is particularly import for the high single-parent household population, and offering shorter and more intense courses in rural areas is equally valuable. (Van Horn)

Overall, adult education programs will have the greatest impact on students when they are able to position themselves as easily accessible resources of value to adult learners who have had negative experiences with the educational system and currently have limited time, material resources, and technological understanding.


Norris, D. T., & Conceição, S. (2004). Narrowing the digital divide in low-income, urban communities. New Directions for Adult & Continuing Education, (101), 69-81.

Carlye Peterson, Manager, Adult Basic Education at Minneapolis Public Schools, and Dr. Cynthia Digby discuss adult education in an urban setting.

Van Horn, B. L., & Kassab, C. (2011). An Analysis of Rural and Urban Pennsylvania Adults Taking, Completing and Passing the GED. Center for Rural Pennsylvania.


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