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EPALE - Pjattaforma Elettronika għat-Tagħlim għall-Adulti fl-Ewropa


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

minn 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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Qed jintwerew 21 - 30 minn 61
Maria Idźkowska's picture
Here again me - Maria Idźkowska
In the context of the problem - formulated in question 3 -the way to confirm the role of adult education as related to good life in communities will be possible by gaining the confidence of the training participants, being a reliable person for them, acting for their well-being and own developement.
Best wishes. m

Ramon Mangion's picture

This is not that simple. As adult educators we face numerous challenges. At the end of the day we are also part of this 'marketplace'.  Our role should be to enforce the benefits of adult learning and if need be provide appropriate guidance. I find that in various adult education settings, guidance services are limited. Adults also require a certain degree of support in order to get their mindset on track to pursue further studies ,appreciate the benefits and reflect on their learning experience (particularly in terms of purpose). 

Christine Bertram's picture
Hi Ramon,

I completely agree. Providing this guidance and the techniques it requires are probably different to that of the "traditional" adult educator. The support to engage in that shift of mindset is crucial and once this has been achieved, individuals are possibly better placed to tackle larger obstacles.
The "pursuit of happiness" requires an intense self-reflection process. Learning and educators can certainly facilitate this, but it requires a lot of support.
Silvija Karklina's picture
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's picture
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
Vincent CARUANA's picture
Yes here Silvija you bring up the point that the methodologies we use have an impact on the final outcome of the "pleasure in learning".   
Silvija Karklina's picture
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's picture

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's picture
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's picture
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.