x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Teaching is the key to adult education

Investing in buildings is fine, but it's good teachers who are most needed to help those who seek adult education.

One can only imagine the determination a woman of 40 needs to admit she does not know how to count, and then to do something about it. But such was the determination exhibited by Mona, an Emirati woman from Ras Al Khaimah, who, as reported in The National yesterday, returned to education after missing out as a child.

Unfortunately very few teenagers understand the value of education - a value that becomes more obvious as one matures - and if schooling is interrupted, or if it never started, considerable willpower is needed to return to school later in life to catch up.

To come back to education as an adult shows you have a real commitment to learn. That's why those who do enter adult education deserve to be supported as fully as possible.

As we reported yesterday, however, this is not always happening as well as it might. Two separate studies suggest that the teaching environment in some centres of adult learning may be contributing to mature students underperforming on examinations or dropping out altogether.

Both the physical environment and the quality of teaching were questioned. Of the two, it is teaching that deserves the highest priority. Decent accommodation for classes and staff is of course necessary, but gleaming laboratories and computer hardware are not essential to this kind of education. Skilled, determined teachers are what's needed.

The director of the Ras Al Khaimah Education Zone, for one, has noted that salaries are often low, so that many of the teachers have day-jobs. This isn't the fault of the teachers, but it is an obvious indication that there is room to improve: if better pay and conditions were offered, specialised teachers with energy and devotion to the task could be found.

One school of thought suggests that online modules and other high-tech approaches are the way forward for adult education. We doubt it. Adult students arrive at school at all sorts of skill levels, some illiterate, some seeking only to sharpen an existing skill. Not all will be computer-literate, either, and the right place to start is not with software but with teaching.

Encouraging adults who need more schooling to get it offers benefits for the individuals and for society as a whole. The money and attention needed to make adult schooling first-rate will be a sound investment.