"No nation can leave its security only to the police and the army, to a large extent national security depends upon the education of citizens, their knowledge of affairs, their character and sense of discipline and their ability to participate effectively in security measure.'' —Kothari Commission.
Democracy without education is meaningless. It is education and enlightenment that lifts a nation to the heights of progress and greatness. Unfortunately, the situation as it obtains in India in respect of education is not only distressing but disgraceful and deplorable. At present about 60% of the people in India are illiterate; they cannot differentiate a buffalo from a black mole.
The problem in India is that we have adopted democracy without preparing the ground for it by educating population. But even now it is not too late if the programme of mass Adult education, or Social education is undertaken in right earnest as a mass movement. No doubt the provision of universal, compulsory and free primary education is the only solution to the problem of illiteracy. But the country cannot afford to leave out a whole mass of adults and grown-ups of our society from the benefits of the literacy-drive. Apart from the political justification to the problem, Adult education is needed because it is a powerful auxiliary and an essential incentive to primary education. No programme of compulsory universal education can bear fruit without the active support and co-operation of adults. It is, therefore, imperative that educational facilities should be provided to adults.
Adult education, as the term signifies, is the education of grown-up men and women who are above eighteen years. Bryson says, "Adult education includes all activities with an educational purpose, carried on by people, in the ordinary business of life who use only part of their energy to acquire intellectual equipment." Ernst Baker says, "Adult education is given on a part-time basis and, therefore, given concurrently with work and the earning of a living." Maulana Azad re-oriented the concept of Adult education for preparing every citizen to play his part effectively in a democratic social order. So he renamed Adult education as 'Social Education'. In our country, adult education is imparted tinder two aspects: (1) Adult Literacy i.e. education for those adults who never had schooling before; and, (2) Continuation education i.e. education for those adults who had some schooling before.
Agencies of Social (Adult) education include all the bodies, organizations or institutions which 'deliver the goods' which contact the 'consumers' of social education and satisfy their needs. They may be categorized as under:
(a) Teachers, Government servants, NSS and other volunteers, social education workers etc.
(b) Regular educational institutions like schools, colleges, rural colleges, community centres, agriculture extension groups, worker's educational associations and voluntary organizations.
(c) Informal educational devices like forums, study circles, group discussions, listening groups, camps.
(d) Recreational, educational bodies like theatres, cinemas, clubs, societies, fairs, melas, nautanki etc.
(e) Institutions whose primary aim is not education, such as religious bodies, the Army, Parents Associations, Co-operative Societies and other Government Departments.
The scope of Adult education is very comprehensive. Social education covers all those topics that are not touched by education in general at school. Topics like religion, politics and family planning can now be discussed with adults who have a mature understanding. Moreover, it aims at giving a new orientation to the outlook of adults to suit the dynamic world. Then, the growth grooves of each individual are different from those of others. Social education harmonizes differences in growth and it also provides an opportunity for growth to those who have not been able to grow properly or completely earlier.
About the need and importance of Social (Adult) education Swami Vivekananda remarked : "So long as the millions live in hunger and ignorance, I hold every man a traitor, who having been educated at their expense, pays not the heed to them. Our great natural sin is the neglect of the masses and that is the cause of our downfall. No amount of politics would be of any avail until the masses are well educated, well fed and well cared for." National development and reconstruction is closely allied to Adult Education. If democracy is to survive, we must educate the masses for social education is the new hope for illiterate masses. Social education is heeded to widen the intellectual and political horizon of the illiterate adults. It is also needed to sharpen the aesthetic sensibility of the adults and to set the cultural tone of the community. Moreover, social education is needed in order to guide in spending their leisure in healthful recreations and useful activities. Lastly, illiteracy and ignorance is a sin; an illiterate adult is a burden on society. Adult education emancipates people from the tyranny of illiteracy.
The objects, or purposes, or functions of social education may be stated generally or pragmatically. The philosophically oriented functions of Adult education are clearing concepts of reality of universe and life, reconciling the old and the new approaches to life, balance and independent judgment, self-realisation, human relationship and citizenship training and economic efficiency. According to the second approach which is more pragmatic and practical education has to perform two-fold purposes—to the individual and to the society. From the individual's point of view social education fulfils various purposes— remedial, vocational, health, recreational, self-development and social skills. From the social and national point of view the purposes of social education are social cohesion, national efficiency and development of national resources.
On the practical plane, however, there are some difficulties that confront a Social education planner or worker. Some of the main difficulties and problems are : isolation of adult education in education, accommodating difficulties, age structure of the adults, the family circumstances and background of learners, occupational grouping, cultural background, socio-economic background, geographical location of the social education centre, level of the social education worker teacher, lack of proper knowledge of adult psychology, paucity of leisure lack of equipment, lack of motivation, fatigue of adults and their constitutional and temperamental lethargy, lack of proper publicity, hostility from certain vested interests, poor supervision of centres and half-hearted implementation.
The difficulties have to be overcome either by cleverness, or by fact or by compromise, or may be, by intentional avoidance. Only then we can hope to spread Adult Education. The purpose of all good teaching is to produce changes in human behavior. All adult education teacher must adopt a positive approach; he should help the adults learn quickly and effectively and willing by using any of the three prevalent methods - the Teacher Dominated methods, the Learner Dominated Method or the Co-operative Method. He may make use of any or all the seven types of aids given in the Government of India Handbook on Social Education viz, Spoken words, spoken words reproduced through radio or recording, written words, chart, graphs and maps, objects produced or reproduced as models, demonstrations, pageants, dramas, television and other objects represented as pictures, pictures reproduced by episcopate-slides etc., actual objects, field trips and specially arranged exhibitions, museums or films shows.
Gandhiji's idea of social service for college students during the vacation and, later on full time basis will prove invaluable in this regard. Young men and women taking up Adult education as a drive should be fired with a missionary zeal to eradicate illiteracy and ignorance from our country. The slogan should be "Each one, teach one."
Happily, greater emphasis has been laid on Adult Education in the Seventh Five-Year Plan. The tenth point in Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's 20-point Programme-'Expansion of Education'-also makes special mention of stimulating Adult literacy. Sizeable funds have been allocated and separate staff, including the block and Aanganwari people has been deployed to foster Adult education. Adult education officers have been appointed in each college and they supervise the running of adult schools by student volunteers. The programme of Adult education has to be undertaken on war-footing.