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EPALE - Piattaforma elettronica per l'apprendimento degli adulti in Europa


Can Adult Education be a means for promoting 'Happiness' through quality learning?

di Mahira Spiteri


Can Adult Education be a means for promoting 'Happiness' through quality learning?

Sustainable happiness is happiness that contributes to individual,

community and/or global well-being without exploiting other people, the

environment or future generations. (O’Brien, 2005)




Adult learning is often portrayed as being essential in order to keep up with changes at the workplace. Such changes create the context for the provision of flexible pathways to skills acquisition and personalized career pathing. Adult learning is here valued for its ability to address challenges facing the workforce, such as skills gaps, employee diversity and talent retention, and is considered a must to succeed in a constantly changing world of work. Yet this creates a very skewed perception of the potential of adult learning, in that it portrays it as being instrumental to work demands, rather than the actual fulfilment of learners. What about the potential of adult learning in engaging people in tasks that provide them with fulfilment, energy, happiness and what Csikszentmihalyi termed as “flow”?


Details of the online discussion: 11 July 2018 | 10:00 CET | Dr Vincent Caruana


This online discussion will consider three questions (1.5 hours per question):

Question 1: From your experience what is the link between adult learning and wellbeing and happiness? How is lifelong learning connected with the pursuit of happiness?

Question 2:As lifelong learning is increasingly commodified in the global marketplace, learning has become more of an individual goal and responsibility”. (Gouthro, 2006). To what extent does the emphasis of linking educational initiatives with potential financial gain impact on the pursuit of happiness? Negatively? Positively? Otherwise? Does this create a skew towards individual success as opposed to developing community-based learning initiatives?

Question 3: What is the role of adult educators in thinking through and taking up with our learners complex issues connected with the pursuit of happiness? How can one affirm the role of adult education as linked to the good life within communities and broader social goals in face of the increasing influence of the marketplace?


Dr Vincent Caruana has for the past 30 years been very active in the Social and Development NGO scene, both locally and at a European level, having co-founded Malta’s first Fair Trade Organisation and Malta’s Network of Development Organisations.  He is an established mentor and trainer of various Civil Society Organisations, and is also experienced in project management and monitoring and evaluation. He is also a member of the President’s Foundation for the Well-Being of Society.

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Commenti 11 - 20 di 61
Ritratto di Brigita Kruder

Learning  is always a hard job, process that take time and effort. Happiness in more side effect than an outcome of a process but in a country like Slovenia  which is among 10 world countries if we  consider suicides, happiness should be consider very seriously. Actually there is a document Vison of Slovenia in 2050  and one of the premises is: “In 2050, Slovenians are a happy people.!«

More on:

Least but not last I would like to thank you   initiated such an interesting theme for discussion. I do often, while motivating potential participants to join adult education use that fact that participating in lifelong learning ensure longer, healthier and better life. I strongly belive in   our centre's statement “Knowledge improves life!”

Brigita Kruder, EPALE ambassador 

Ritratto di Laura Iveta Strode
AL activities bring people together and give new opportunities, challanges, perspectives for learners. AL make life brighter, meaningful and colourful.
The role of adult educators is very important and complex: being a teacher, facilitator, promoter to bring learners' experience into AL process, advisor, supporter, mate, personality etc. We are happy to have such professionals in Latvia. But adult educators need to receive more support in their professional development.
Ritratto di Christine Bertram
Absolutely, Laura Iveta.

I think that's one of the core issues that the support that adult educators receive (if any) is sometimes not focused on the rather diverse roles they need to perform. There is support for curriculum development and delivery, but not much otherwise.
Ritratto di Christine Bertram
I think it's extremely important as educators, not to impose a view of happiness. We need to be reflective of the fact that 'happiness' means very different things to different people.
It's important to faciliate that engagement and discussion at community level, but to predefine an Outcome would be, in my view, even dangerous. As educators we should faciliate the exploration and engagement with a thought process around this. And once the (personal) outcomes are defined, support a goal setting process to work towards this state and ist achievement.

The extent to which the skills to facilitate this process are present and can/ should be demanded from educators is a different question.
Ritratto di Vincent CARUANA
I fully agree that happiness and well being are not to be defined from the outside but rather to facilitate that engagement and discussion at community level. I remember that when Local Agenda 21 was in fashion so many different communities defined their well-being in so many different ways. Here context is paramount. 
Yet your last remark on "The extent to which the skills to facilitate this process are present and can/ should be demanded from educators is a different question" is worth exploring in itself. 
Once you are pointing out "dangers" I would like to pose another one. In the interview "What's wrong with rights" (, Radha D’Souza has this to say:  
"Now, following on from that, we need to ask, if the Millennium Development Goals were not achieved, why do we need Sustainable Development Goals? And why do Sustainable Development Goals 2030 include the right to happiness? Right, and then you can see a whole lot of big players, for example, the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation, the Clinton Foundation and so on taking up many of these development projects. And how do they plan to deliver on it? They deliver on — now because poverty has not been eradicated women are not equal. There’s no universal primary education yet. So instead of addressing those, now we have a new goal: let’s try to make people happy. Because people can obviously be happy even without anything, right? Because even slum children now are very happy when they kick footballs on streets, for example. There is momentary happiness, and it takes attention away from the fact that even if slum kids are happy, playing football on the streets — probably with a torn ball — and still feel happy, maybe questions of education, housing, health, you know, don’t really need to take center stage, or we don’t need to give it as much importance as we’ve been doing so far. So it kind of deflects attention from all of those things. And I think that is really one of the problems."
I only quoted a part. Have a look at the link for more detail.

Ritratto di Christine Bertram
Hi Vincent,

Thank you so much for your comment and the link to Radha D'Souza's thoughts. It is exactly that. It all hinges on a concise definition of happiness. Personally, I prefer contentment (not that that can be grasped any better in measureable terms). But I think in many Western cultures people have lost sight of community, togetherness, and the inherent care and support - and therefore, happiness is defined by material possessions or the achievement of challenges/ goals. Or the sight of smiling children in the slums. Contentment is very different from that in my view. Happiness has become something of which you can "have more", rather than a state of being (hence why I prefer contentment). Contentment does not ask for "having more". Getting quite philosophical here.

So yes, why is this focus on something so intangible as happiness when there are much more tangible and ultimately more "life saving" issues to address? Personally, I think it is because the policy fields (such as education and health) are occupied and require systemic changes, which take years to implement and even longer to show effects. Focussing on something like happiness is easier to find a niche. And frankly it's easier to sell and more pleasing on the eye. It requires much less of a long-term focus. I am not belittling their efforts. It's important that this kind of engagement happens. It's just that I would question longterm effects and their sustainability.

I think someone else in the discussion said that educators are wearing so many hats, but that Support of educators is lacking. That's where my comments where aimed at. The role of a teacher differs very much from the role of a coach and yet they are both educators and provide guidance. Their skills set differ as much as their approach to working with the individual does. Can it be expected that an educator has this complete skills set from one end of the spectrum to the other? Or will this be to the detriment of being excellent in what they do?

It's just more and more questions. :-)

Best regards,
Ritratto di Maria Idźkowska
Dear Participants of this second part of discussion
I think, in the context of my employment in OHP - Voluntary Labor Corps - - that many of young adults in Poland are looking for educational initiatives, that will make possible for them to acquire professional skills that will open for them new opportunities for interesting job and better earnings, and thus is a real sense of fulfillment and happiness. Such initiative is a project concerning vanishing professions. Vanishing professions are among others like f.e. roofing, carpentry, pottery, tailoring or weaving. Each of this professions is needed, especially since nowdays  - it is returning to the tradiction of rural life as a tourist asset. Agrotourism in Poland plays an increasingly important role. It creates many opportunities for      development and jobs for young adult people (18-25). Voluntary Labor Corps wishing to take advantage of this positive process on local labor markets decided to create the "Overwhelming professions idea for the future" project. The project was aimed directly to the people aged 18-25. In framework a lot of people gained professional qualifications thanks to practical vocational training, which ended with a specialized exam.  I send also f. e. a link, if You wish to see an example of it. Many greetings Maria Idxkowska, OHP, Poland

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Ritratto di Vincent CARUANA
Thanks Maria for sharing this. I am very interested on a personal level on initiatives aiming at regenerating lost or vanishing professions and in particular i like how you are linking this with agrotourism. 
Ritratto di Brigita Kruder

Adult educators are crucial in process of informing, counselling  and providing learning activities. Their personal perception of adult learning, affirmation for learning in general and life experiences have huge (but sometimes hidden) impact on their work. Adult educator in usually a person who has  some social science professional expertise, and not necessary strong conviction and  practical knowledge in  lifelong learning  competences.   Social goals, national priorities, free classes or courses are kind of signpost of marketplace and global, social/national goals.  Any participation in adult education, no matter what and where, as long as quality in assured is better than none. 

Ritratto di Vincent CARUANA
We can now move on to question 3: "What is the role of adult educators in thinking through and taking up with our learners complex issues connected with the pursuit of happiness? How can one affirm the role of adult education as linked to the good life within communities and broader social goals in face of the increasing influence of the marketplace?".
This is about us. It seems from the replies to question 1 that we all acknowledge our role as adult educators in promoting 'Happiness' through quality learning.
Here is our opportunity to say how we can affirm this role and make such a discourse more mainstream. What are we doing well and what can we do better viz-a-viz the goal of linking lifelong learning with the pursuit of happiness and community wellbeing.