Top 11 Issues and Problems Affecting Adult Learners


Adult education as it is in Nigeria now covers adult literacy, home-crafts, and community development.

However, adult education should be seen as an integral part of a national plan for lifelong education and learning for its citizens. The scope of adult education should include every out-of-school education.

Anyanwu (1987) stated that adult education for men and women involves literacy classes, post-literacy or continuing courses (vocational), and evening classes of a general character.

It also stated that youth education activities cover general education classes, leadership training, scout and guides’ training, other youth activities, and on-the-job and in-service training for workers.

Some of the issues and problems associated with adult education include the following:


Logistic problems include the following:


Adult education embraces all organized educational processes that are outside the formal school system, e.g. adult literacy, functional literacy, remedial and continuing education, vocational education, agricultural education, extension education, liberal education, and workers’ education.

The Nardi (UNESCO) conference of 1976 implies that adult education should include all organized education processes that are outside the formal school system

The National Policy on Education (1981) submitted that it consists of functional literacy, remedial, continuing, vocational, aesthetic, cultural, and civic education for youths and adults outside the formal school system.

These are neatly stated on paper but in practice, most of these programs, do not quite exist and where they do, they are not properly executed in the respective ministries and departments concerned.

In Nigeria, the departments of adult education exist in the nation’s Ministry of Education, the danger with this arrangement is that adult education could be seen as being mainly concerned with literacy education.

They contain education and remedial education without necessarily addressing aesthetic, cultural, and civic education that could be carried out by other ministries whose primary objective is not adult education.

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For example, the Ministry of Information, Social Development, Youth, Sports, and Culture which has the responsibility for aesthetic and cultural education performs only festivals and cultural displays without necessarily any aesthetic and cultural education. It only entertains the audience.

The adult education department of the Ministry of Education should be better funded and organized to allow for lifelong education that will integrate both formal and non-formal systems of education.

Akinpelu (1980) noted that incidentally, the present structures, organization, and financing are far from adequate to achieve the idea of lifelong education.

The danger is that adult education has hardly been recognized as a distinct entity, autonomous and on par with normal education, yet its integration into the still fuzzy and vague idea of lifelong education is strongly advocated.

This problem was recognized when the 1976 Nairobi conference recommended that adult education should retain its identity in the lifelong education scheme and be accorded equal status with formal school education.

Over-centralization of adult education

Adult education is better planned and organized at the local to make the program culturally responsive. The present system of centrally imposed, curriculum, organization, and methodology will not be relevant for solving local community problems.

There is a need for a functional adult education department in every local education authority that will have the responsibility for identifying, planning, and funding the various adult education programs in the different localities.

The department should be headed by a professional who will identify the needs of the local community.

Inequalities of opportunities for adult education

There is unequal access to adult education in Nigeria. Some of the problems reside in the constraints of poverty, location, time, and interests.

There is a need for a wide diversification of adult education opportunities to allow for varying categories of adults to benefit from the different programs. Employers should also intensify staff development programs for staff of varying categories.

The low status accorded adult education

The low status accorded adult education in Nigeria, relative to the formal education system. This is reflected in the organization, funding, and attention to adult education.

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The status of adult education may not compare favorably with formal education until the various governments; federal, state, and local identify the variable potentials in adult education and make the necessary commitment to it, especially in terms of funding and recognition.

Non-implementation of the recommendation of the Nigerian National Council for Adult Education

In 1973, the Nigerian National Council for Adult Education recommended the inclusion of adult education in the curricula of all Teacher Education Programs.

This was, however, not implemented by all the faculties of education in the Nigerian universities.


Personal problems include the following:

Training of adult educators

Adult education has poor training. The scope of adult education is very broad and with corresponding broad objectives.

The diversified objectives demand diversified teaching methods whereas most adult educators had very little formal training and yet limited opportunities for staff development programs.

The most feasible solution to this problem is the integration of adult education into teacher education programs of tertiary institutions in Nigeria. This will improve the quality and quantity of adult education in the community.

The location of the adult education department in various ministries outside the Ministry of Education and its broad scope allows adult educators to receive their training in different isolated disciplines.

For example, the profession includes community and social development workers, agricultural and health extension workers, adult literacy personnel, and social welfare workers.

All these categories of adult educators pursue common objectives of affecting desirable changes in the attitudes and behaviors of adults yet they run different training programs in conjunction with their major discipline.

Introduction to basic research

Research is necessary to bring improvement into a system. Adult educators should be exposed to some basic action research during training. This will make them more competent and effective.

Adult educator’s condition of service

The condition of service of adult educators is not worth much to write home about yet they are teachers of peculiar learners.

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Some of them perform their functions in rural areas where there are no access roads, suitable accommodation, and social infrastructures.

Motivation is an essential factor for effectiveness. Adult educators therefore should enjoy the attractive condition of service in all its shades and dimensions.


Information problems include the following:

The problem of information dissemination in Nigeria

The mass media has been effectively used to reach a diversified and widely scattered populace. These devices include the radio, television, and newspaper. These devices are underutilized. These include libraries, museums, and adult education centers.

The few available facilities in this regard are limited to urban areas. There is a need for expansion of these services, especially in rural areas.

Lack of feedback

There is always the problem of a lack of feedback from program executors to their sponsors starting the extent of progress achieved in the implemented projects.

When this is done, reports are usually not comprehensive enough to allow another adult worker to continue the project where the former officer ended.

Indeed, there is also the need for a self-appraisal from the project participants stating the extent of their achievement and the magnitude of the accomplishment of the objectives of the project.

Lack of information on the association of adult education

In almost all the nations of the world, there are varieties of structures through which adult education services reach the people.

Since there is a dearth of information in the National Association of Adult Education, one is not quite sure of the exact number of adult education institutions in each of the member countries and even the specific functions of each institution.

Indeed, there is also a lack of exchange of information among the institutions of adult education thus depriving the whole adult education movement of the opportunity of benefitting from each other wealth of experience.

There is a need for close integration among the adult education movement to allow for the exchange of ideas.

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