Adult education is concerned not with preparing people for life, but rather with helping people to live more successfully. Thus if there is to be an overarching function of the adult education enterprise, it is to assist adults to increase competence, or negotiate transitions, in their social roles (worker, parent, retiree etc.), to help them gain greater fulfillment in their personal lives, and to assist them in solving personal and community problems.
What we know as adult education has been shaped by the activities of key organizations. Adult education is, thus, simply what certain organizations such as the Workers Education Association or the YMCA do. One way to approach this is to contrast adult education with the sort of learning that we engage in as part of everyday living. Adult education could be then seen as the process of managing the external conditions that facilitate the internal change in adults called learning. Adult education can finally be approached as a quality emerging through the developing activities of unionism, political parties and social movements such as the women’s movement and anti-colonial movements.