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

by 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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Rodoma 21 - 30 iš 58
Silvija Karklina portretas
Pursuit of happiness through adult education is a very challenging question where the role of an adult educator cannot be denied but also cannot and shouldn't be overestimated. Adult teachers are supporters of adults in achieving their goals, whether for work or for leisure adult learning does bring happiness, if internal wishes and goals are implemented. And if the teacher organises learning in a creative way, every moment of learning and achievement brings pleasure. Silvija

Maria Idźkowska portretas
I agree with your opinion. I also think that educators should not only encourage adult students to be active, but also shows those who have a need to learn, that they create something valuable, which also enrich our reality. Values serve to stimulate oneself in a creative man activeness on the field of building ownself and the world around us.
All the best Maria Idźkowska
Silvija Karklina portretas
Right, and what is interesting that with children we (teachers) can create the atmosphere of joy, but when with adults - we can only pursue their goals, their inner wishes and that can create the pleasure that comes from adults themselves, isn't it so? Silvija
Cristina PEREIRA portretas

Nowadays is impossible to ignore how skills development is important to get and maintain employability.

Education and training must therefore prepare people to be more competitive and to be ready to the labor market changes.

But education and training providers must not forget that if it is necessary for people to be more competitive and have distinctive competences it is also necessary that they be able to work as a team, to collaborate for a common purpose and to share objectives and a shared vision by a community.

In the scope of a new industrial era (Industry 4.0) these social and soft skills are considered crucial and sometimes even more relevant than hard skills, especially to maintain people in jobs that change too rapidly.

So, we believe lifelong learning strategies are successful if they can achieve equilibrium between the competences that promote personal success and those that allow a community to progress as a whole.

In Portugal, in the adult education and training courses, the reconciliation of these two dimensions is worked through a transversal activity to the curriculum called "themes of life". The theme worked out is often chosen by the class and should have an impact and relevance to the community life. This theme allows class to develop skills related to the working group and to promote the commitment of all with the accomplishment of something that could benefit the community.

Vincent CARUANA portretas
Thanks Cristina for sharing this. I find the  transversal activity "themes of life" chosen by the class as an example of good practice. CONFINTEA V had concluded that: "Linking environmental and social issues and locating environmental problems within the context of our daily lives and action are important challenges for adult environmental education.”  
Ramon Mangion portretas
This is an interesting question which may require an examination from 'both sides of the coin'. As we know there are two sources of motivation. The intrinsic one whereby the adult learner would follow an educational initiative for self fulfilment and the extrinsic one which is linked to financial gain or any form of potential reward. At the end, whilst financial gain is not in itself equal to happiness, it can be one of the sources. One would need to see the context of that particular adult learner. One can follow a learning programme for its inherent knowledge and skills, but at the same time also considering the financial aspect.

I would like to consider myself this time as an example. I did a Masters in Adult Education because  I had a deep interest in adult education, training and development. However at the same time I knew that this was required if I had to move forward in my career. I can say that it was a case of individual success , but I also participated in community based learning initiatives, even on a voluntary basis.
In conclusion I believe that self fulfilment is in itself a form of happiness, even if this also results in financial gain.
Vincent CARUANA portretas
Thanks for all those who participated in question 1. Between 11.30 a.m. and 1.00 p.m. we will be focusing on 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?". Here we are invited to go beyond our experiences and analyse the impact of the commodification of lifelong learning  on the pursuit of happiness and well-being. This question invites us also to structure our thoughts through referring not only to individual success and empowerment but also community based learning initiatives and well-being.  (In the meantime the thread of Question 1 will still be open).
Cristina PEREIRA portretas

Dear all,

As a representative of the portuguese NSS but also as an institution that works directly with VET at the policy level, this is ANQEP's perspective on the subject.

According the report “How’s Life in 2017?” from OECD, there is a connection between well-being and happiness and education. Education is a tool to achieve a better position in well-being index. That’s why education is one of the aspects considered in this report.

The 2017 edition shows how inequalities harm well-being perception.  In 2017, in all OECD countries, in general, inequalities have many faces and they interact creating disadvantages. One of those faces is related to school attendance. People with lower qualifications are less likely to have access to life opportunities and skills that enable them to be healthier, to obtain better jobs, to provide better living conditions for their children and even to rely on public institutions. Inequalities are bigger for migrants not only in schooling attendance but also in conditions to use theirs skills. This reports advance that “in several cases, migrants are also unable to make the most of the skills that they bring with them: almost 30% of migrants with a tertiary degree are overqualified for their jobs, compared to 20% of the native-born. In addition to poorer working conditions migrants also face poorer living conditions: 1 in 4 migrants report being exposed to air and noise pollution in the area where they live, compared to 1 in 5 of their native-born peers; and 41% of migrants live in sub-standard or overcrowded housing, compared to 27% of the native-born. Migrants also report worse health, lower social support, and lower subjective well-being than the native-born in most OECD countries assessed.

Specifically considering the situation in Portugal and the educational features, this report says that the country’s performance is mixed: “while only 47% of working-age adults have attained at least an upper secondary education, among the lowest in the OECD, students’ cognitive skills at age 15 are above the OECD average level”. So, Portugal still needs to improve conditions to promote adult education, so people can get a better well-being perception.

Indeed, the same conclusion was described by other recent study from OECD, untitled “Skills strategy implementation: Guidance for Portugal”. This study shows that raising skills is critical to Portugal’s economic success and social well-being.

The study “Word happiness report 2018” also highlights the need for Portugal to improve with regard to the perception of well-being. Worldwide, Portugal is ranked 77th out of 156 countries, despite having risen 12 places compared to 2016. In terms of Europe, Portugal appears to be the fourth least happy country.

Therefore, the investment Portugal needs to do in adult education is big and justifies the importance of a new Governmental Program - Qualifica Program – target to adults without upper secondary education. This program combines training with process to recognition, validate and certificate prior learning.