Adult education is continually evolving as numerous methods and incentives are established to try and make education easy later in life, and this is being stimulated today with the increased accessibility through distance learning and e-Learning.
Typical adult education centres offer the opportunity for students who have not completed their schooling to continue and aim for an equivalent achievement (such as a GED in the US), or they may well be adjoined to a university or college with the offer of Foundation courses, A-Levels, or Degrees in the UK.
However, liberal adult education is different again and takes its influence from teaching methods that originated in Scandinavia. The folkbildning approach, as well as the folk high schools established in Norway, Sweden, and Germany vary amongst themselves, but are all similar in that students aren’t graded nor do they have any exams. Instead, the focus of each institution is to allow each individual to self-develop naturally.
Many folkbildning lessons will feature a more democratic group discussion as opposed to a lecture from a specialist or teacher. However, this is not to say a teacher is absent, but more in place to organise and moderate the informal nature of the lessons.
Teachers had a similar role in folk high schools that were established in the 19th Century. These institutions also offered a wide and varied range of subjects, with a focus on religion and politics (particularly in Denmark) in order to stimulate patriotic and religious interests, but alongside the other important lessons such as agriculture. By the end of the 19th Century there were folk high schools across Scandinavia and as far south as France, and into the 20th Century folk high schools also became established in the USA.
In recent years, folk high school and liberal education methods have been seen to be adopted by traditional learning institutions, such as the recent importance of peer and self assessment that young and old students are expected to undertake. Similarly, the rise in e-Learning and home study courses can also be seen to adopt folk school methods – especially when the relaxed nature of asynchronous learning is considered, as well as the changing role of the lecturer or teacher in this environment.