Adult Learning: Education at any age

EE explores the options of education courses for adult development.

After years of school and learning, most of us hit the real world running and embark on a career path which we hope brings us satisfaction and financial stability. We then work and time passes; some carefully claw their way up the corporate ladder, others get all the lucky breaks and become successful by being at the right place at the right time. Still others flit between jobs and positions because they have the attention span of a gnat.

At some point, something strange and depressing happens. And it happens to everyone, even those in highflying challenging careers. You start to question whether this is it; and by ‘this’ you refer to your life and more specifically your job. It doesn’t matter if you are a banker, architect, janitor, doctor or even a SAHM (stay at-home-mum for all those acronym junkies out there); that WTF moment can be an epiphany or utterly bleak.

Now what?
It is at this precarious moment that you can either step off the career ladder, move back in with your parents, become a menace to society or do the adult thing and indulge in the ever so exciting, but slightly intimidating world of adult education. This doesn’t mean you have to go back to school per se as there are easier ways to improve, learn new skills and begin the process of changing your life or career.

Parlez-vous any other language?
One of the most accessible ways to get those brain cells sizzling is to learn a new language or even improve on the language you already speak. Being bilingual is a huge advantage even if English is generally regarded as the language of global business.

The world’s most spoken languages include Mandarin, Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, Portuguese, French and Hindi amongst others. All these languages can be learnt either though private tuition or language institutes like the British Council, Alliance Francaise and Instituto Cervantes. If you’re an expatriate, take the chance to learn the local lingo.

From the boardroom to the...
Sometimes a momentous event like the birth of a child, losing your job or just realising you need a drastic change leads to the opportunity to re-train your skill set. Returning to university may not appeal so taking a short-term, hands-on approach is more not only more interesting but cheaper.

If you love cooking or baking, there are a myriad courses available from home cooking / baking to the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu culinary institute. Many professionals decide to undergo vocational training which can lead to starting a new business or having a completely different job like teaching, carpentry, interior design... the list is endless. Sometimes the most successful businesses are those that have evolved from a hobby into money-making enterprises.

Back to school
Returning to tertiary education to pursue an MBA or a degree in another field can be a monumental decision, particularly if you are of a certain age, i.e. the dreaded middle age. It is at this point in your life when you probably have a family to support, a mortgage and all those unappetising features of adulthood. Mature students are no longer a rarity and it has become easier to go back to school with options like distance learning and part-time studies. It is interesting to note that the demographics of the average mature student are: married, middle-class, 35 years-and-above, Caucasian, mother!

Distance learning: education which is conducted via correspondence and electronic media where the student is not expected to physically attend class

According to a newspaper report, over 10% of students enrolled at British universities last year were studying through distance learning mostly due to family, financial and job commitments. Although there are disadvantages like limited access to study resources, not being able to bond with other students and the necessity of being disciplined enough to put enough effort into studying on your own; the numbers are going up.

Distance learning courses are offered by most major universities in the US, UK, Europe and Asia and degrees range from diverse subjects including fine arts, education, classical studies, pharmaceutical sciences, anthropology, law and archaeology.

Studying part-time: Attending a certain number of hours a week, e.g. two days per week or night classes

Again this is suitable for those who have commitments which don’t allow for full-time study, and most universities offer flexible study options. Many MBA students choose this option while keeping their day job.

Enrolling as a mature student
Not the most glamorous of labels, but anyone over the age of 21 is actually considered a mature student. Now if that doesn’t make the average 40-year-old feel like breaking out the Zimmer frame, nothing will! If you are able to fully commit to a period of study, then going back to school full-time is the way to go particularly if you want to attain higher qualifications or pursue a completely new subject.

Many top-notch universities have dedicated halls of residences and colleges for mature students, and even assist with childcare facilities. Many of us were heartily encouraged by our parents and circumstance to study a particular subject and become a stereotypical white-collar worker with a good pension. Never mind that deep down inside we wanted to become professional beach volleyball players / silversmiths / any frivolous occupation which had to be whispered about at family gatherings!

Times have changed and it is absolutely fine to say you are no longer practising law at that prestigious firm, and have in fact enrolled to study Chinese medicine and glass bead design with the hope of somehow combining the two as your new career! Learning new tricks may be harder as an adult but personal and professional experience more than makes up for it.

Good, brainy fun!
As much as people try to delude themselves into thinking that an old dog cannot be taught new tricks, education quite literally has no expiry date and the mind is an ever-absorbing sponge. Many like to say that learning is a lifelong process while others yet openly admit that no one should die stupid. Add that to the ‘age is just a number’ and ‘studying is for everyone’ equation and you’ve just discovered four absolutely valid reasons to get your head back in the books.

Everyday people often cringe at the mention of going back to school, cramming for an exam or even getting lost in a good book or if not, a science journal.

Truth be told, seeking an education, even if as an adult, can be quite a thrilling chase, be it a night class session, study group, an online correspondence segment or simply an hour or two of self-study. You not only discover new things but also have fun acquiring fresh ideas and forming out-of-the-box opinions based on the lesson. Indeed, a marvellous way to engage your creative process!

So pucker up if this is you, for a genuinely invigorating adventure awaits your partaking! If help is needed to jump start your engine and kick-start your momentum, go over in your head or on paper the purpose of your educational venture and remind yourself of the underlying goals you wish to achieve as a learner. Brace yourself for the challenges ahead and don’t forget the advantages you will reap as a result of your hard work.

At all times, it is crucial that you stay mindful of your desired destination and from time to time, insert intervals in between sessions to catch a breather before carrying on. The aim should be quality, rather than quantity and finally, don’t forget to have fun while basking in the endless joys of a great education. Bonne chance and happy learning!

Useful contacts:

Alliance Francaise
French language courses, cultural activities, resource centre
Tel: 03-2694 7880

British Council
English courses, holiday programs, teaching courses, corporate training, information on studying in the UK
Tel: 03-2723 7900

Goethe Institut
German language courses, information on studying in Germany
Tel: 03-2164 2011

Instituto Cervantes
Spanish language courses, resource centre for all things Spanish
Tel: 03-2788 2000

Le Cordon Bleu – Institute of Culinary Arts
Courses in classical French cuisine for foodies and serious chef contenders
Tel: 03-5632 1188

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