Adult and Non-formal Education as the Gate Way to Nigeria Socioeconomic Development in Nigeria

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Adult and Non-formal Education as the Gate Way to Nigeria Socioeconomic Development in Nigeria


The Adult education programme was first launched in 1978. It now covers 94,000 centres with the involvement of the Centre, the State, Universities, Nehru Yuvak Kendra etc. About 300 Adult education centres under the rural functional literacy scheme with an enrollment of 30 adults in each were constituted in one district in every state during 1979-83 now; it is about 600 adults.

This means that in each state only 2 lacs adults have been educated over a period of 25 years. Even as a demonstration effort, this is far too insignificant. There are too many people who are still illiterate in this country. The success of this programmes depends upon the implementation of the results of a systematic research done in the field of non-formal education.

Education is generally viewed as the most important instrument for change, progress and development by all societies the world over. Throughout human history, education remains the most important agent of social conservation and transformation, and indeed the most significant means by which the experiences and the overall cultural disposition of all human communities are transmitted across generations revealed that. Equally important to note is the fact that the educational system of society evolves from within the values, need an aspirations of such society.

Adult education simply means the type of education which specially designs for people who were chanced to go to an earlier stage and those that want to improve their education while working. It is a form of educational programme design to equip the adult members of the society with literacy and numeracy skills required for their day to day activities in the society. There are several problems of adult education in educational system these include, people who are more attracted to success than failure.

Also people tend to perceive according to experience. The association of school failure experience in childhood can scare an adult off any anticipated educational programme. Prospect is the important part of the programme which benefits could be derived from it, that is to help in promoting literacy and understanding for adult and become self-employed in order to improve the nation. Therefore, this paper addresses the following objectives, offering basic education and literacy programme to undeserved and hard-to-serve populations, providing an alternative avenue to formal schooling wherever official mechanisms for crossover and equivalent are provided.

Adult education is one of the fields of academic endevour that is saddled with the responsibility of solving socio-economic, cultural, political and environmental problems. There is positive association between adult education programmes and increased levels of self-esteem and high levels of knowledge and skills which thereby encourage positive and active engagement of people in their own development (Umar, Eshak, Bichi, & Aujara, 2010). Adult education is narrowly interpreted as literacy only.

From 1960-1980 movements and campaigns on adult education were largely confined to literacy the results were very discouraging because the programmes were too prescriptive in their content, structure and duration and insufficient resources and efforts were put into their design and implementation. Hence with some exceptions, large proportion of those who participated in the literacy campaigns dropped out and up to half of the participants who passed the test relapsed into illiteracy (Aderinoye, 2004)

The concept of adult education is difficult to define because people define it from different perspectives. However, scholars agreed that it is an education that has adults as its clientele. This also brings us to another concept of who is an adult? Different parameters are used in defining an adulthood amongst which are Biological, Chronological, historical, psychological, economical, political and social amongst others. Nzeneri (2002) defines an adult as one who is physically and psychologically matured and is socially, economically and politically responsible.

According to Adesanya (2005) the term adult is difficult to define because it varies from one society to another and has changed over time. The boundaries that determine who is considered an adult can depend on actions (i.e. legal age to fight war, drive a car and vote amongst others), activities (i.e., age that one can begin to work) and /or responsibilities (i.e., marriage age, age to begin supporting family). UNESCO (1976) gives a recommendation of who an adult is: it is a person regarded by the as such by the society to which he /she belongs.

Adult education deals with adult human materials and it gives joy, fascination and enthusiasm. However, working with adults establishes confidence and impressions which allows the learners to realize their dreams. The fact that formal schooling is an unquestionable priority in the education sector does not justify adult education being left out. To make children compete with their parents in the education process is dangerous as it make create a break between two entities that are mutually dependent.

A child’s schooling performance is largely determined by the level of education of his or her parents. Therefore trying to achieve primary education at the expense of adult education defeats it own purpose. As long as poverty remains a distinctive feature in Nigeria, adult education will impose itself as an unavoidable ingredient of development process (Seya, 2005)

Meaning of Adult Education: Adult Education according to, Okedara (1996) viewed, Adult education as educational programme designed for the adult without any legal compulsion. The point in this definition is that adult education is meant for the adult and participation is essentially out of the free will of the adult. UNESCO (1994) also viewed Adult education as covering all organized educational activities provided for people who are not in regular school and university system and are generally fifteen and older.

Adult education is systematic engagement into the learning experience in adulthood. The main idea of these learning activities is to gain knowledge. Generally speaking, it can mean any course or type of knowledge that can be sufficient for lifelong learners. In some cases, adult education can reflect a specific philosophy of education. In this philosophy, there is an assumption that life is a constant learning experience.

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Therefore, there is always an ability and responsibility for adults to continue to learn! Adult education can change the psychological state of mind of adults! Therefore, it can release their potential and give them the ability to adapt to the constant changes of the world! Adult education can seriously affect the political, social and cultural awareness of a person.

The main aim and importance of adult education are to level the playing field for certain adults in the professional world. So with access to education, they have a second chance at a better career or an advancement in their current career. They can even develop new skills that will help them with their professional lives. While expanding their knowledge and skillset, they can also expand their career prospects. And such adult education also teaches the students how to put their skills and knowledge into practical use.

Another advantage of adult education is that it improves the literacy rates of the society and the country as a whole. Improving their basic literacy will allow adults to reach their full potential in their personal lives as well. So they will gain more confidence to step out of their comfort zones and explore more of the world. 

Objectives of Adult Education

The national policy on education (2004) 4 the edition, mentioned the following objectives such include;

  • To provide functional literacy education for adult who have never had the opportunity of any adult formal education.
  • To provide functional and remedial education for those young people who primitively drop of formal school system.
  • To provide further education for different categories of completers of the formal educational system in order to improve their basic knowledge and skill.
  • To provide in service and on the job vocational and professional training for different categories of workers and professional in order to improve their skills.
  • To give the adult citizens of the country aesthetic, cultural and civic education for enlightenment.
  • Provide education for different categories of completers of formal school system in order to improve their basic knowledge and skills on income generation activities like carpentry, tailoring, knitting, pomade and soap making and local craft.


Adult and non formal Education plays an important role in development. Out-of-school programmes, in particular, are central to providing adaptable learning opportunities, and new skills and knowledge to, a large percentage of people outside the reach of formal education (Vermaak, 1985). Non-formal education (as one type of out-of-school programme) began to appear in international discourse on education in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In this context it referred to any organised educational activity outside the formal system, whether operating independently or as a feature of some broader activity intended to serve identifiable learning clienteles and learning objectives. Non-formal education today should be seen as related to the concepts of recurrent and lifelong learning.

Education is the central process of social change and development of any country. It empowers people with skills, expertise and giving them an access to employment in future. It also opens many opportunities which leads to empowerment of the most vulnerable sections of society i.e. women and lower caste people. Women constitute almost half of the human population and hence, without educating women it is not possible to achieve equitable development. Moreover, it is also said that to educate a woman is to educate the whole family. Therefore, the emphasis with women education should be to equip her with necessary skills and knowledge which can lead to access to economic and employment opportunities in future.

The social, economic as well as the cultural prosperity of a nation depends on the status and education of women. In modern world, the role of the women goes much beyond the name and the bringing up of children. She is now sharing equality with man the responsibility for development of society in all its aspects. Kothari commission (1964-66) has rightly pointed out that the significance of girls cannot be ever emphasized. For full development of our human recourses the improvement of human beings and for molding the character of children during the most impressionable years of infancy, the education of women is of greater importance than that of men.

The education of women is also important from the point of view of social justice and democratic values which demand that women should have equal opportunities in the field of education. Education is considered as on agent of social and economic development of the country. In this age of correlation between education and manpower development, the education of women is all the more important in order to increase the human capital and productivity.

Adult education is on the rise in the entire world. With professionalism taking over almost all of the workplaces, it isn’t easy to find a job these days without some education. Adult education is the best solution to people who did not get an opportunity to have a proper education when they were young. This includes not just general education that is restricted to secondary and higher secondary level knowledge but also knowledge in specialized subjects and professional courses.

Adult literacy increases women’s participation in both private and public activities, i.e. in house hold decision-making and as active citizens in community affairs and national development. Adult literacy programmes have a dramatic impact on women’s self-esteem because they unleash their potential in economic, social, cultural and political spheres. According to the UNESCO (2010), non-formal education in particular helps to: ensure equal access to education, eradicate illiteracy among women, and improve women’s access to vocational training, science, technology, and continuing education.

It also encourages the development of non-discriminatory education and training, allocates sufficient resources for and monitors the implementation of educational reforms, and promotes women’s and girl’s life-long education and training. There are a number of other impacts and facets of literacy and education, especially as they pertain to women and girls that are worth consideration: Healthy development: Adult literacy and the education of young women are critical for healthy physical and intellectual development. The effectiveness of such literacy and non-formal education programmes are bolstered by family, community and parental involvement (Russell, 2001).


Education of parents: The education of parents, particularly mothers, is associated with significant reductions in infant mortality and improved child health care. In addition, the better educated parents are, the more likely it is that they will raise literate children. Children whose parents can read and write tend to stay in school longer and achieve more than children of illiterate parents. Likewise, the foremost reason for low school enrolment in pastoral communities is parental fear that education will lead children away from their traditional way of life. Non-formal and distance education for parents can help to reduce these fears (Carr-Hill & Peart, 2006).

Human and economic development: Improved literacy levels deliver economic benefits to individuals, communities and the nation. Studies, in fact, show that there is a connection between literacy levels and per capita

economic growth and hence the reduction of poverty. Bangladesh, one of the E-9 countries, is home to the most recent non-formal education initiative, the post-literacy and continuing education for human development project, which focuses on skills training and income generation for poverty alleviation. There all sectors concerned with human development and economic growth have been encouraged to recognize the importance of and need to support non-formal education in the national interest (Islam & Mia, 2007).

Nigeria can emulate this by urging key stakeholders to buy into the non-formal education agenda so as to enhance economic development – the mass education of people undoubtedly stands to bring about a significant and positive change in individual and community quality of life and in the pace of national development.

Preventing HIV/AIDS: Adult literacy progammes can play a central role in reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS. According to Bakilana et al. (2005), adult literacy is essential for communicating many of the key HIV/AIDS prevention messages. Bakilana and her colleagues found that Uganda has reduced the prevalence of HIV/AIDS from 14% in the early 1990s to about 4.1% in 2003; the only country in Africa to achieve such a drastic reduction.

An important part of this success was the use of information campaigns to educate Ugandans about the existence of HIV/AIDS and means of self-protection (p. 4). Many African communities require some kind of formal and/or non-formal education and training to be able to benefit from basic health care, including sexual and reproductive health services and the development of new medicines, and thus free themselves from the diseases that devastate the poor (Seya, 2005). Interestingly, adult education programmes tend to build on the expressed needs of clients and thus can link adult literacy content with HIV/AIDS awareness. In this context, according to Schenker (2006), adult literacy programmes:

  • Create an understanding of STDs and HIV/AIDS and their methods of transmission;
  • Provide women with information on how to protect themselves, their partners and their children;
  • Empower women and enable them to discuss issues surrounding HIV/AIDS despite the associated stigma;
  • Empower women to negotiate safe sex with their husbands despite traditional gender-related constraints;
  • Encourage women to demonstrate leadership through community responses to HIV/AIDS; and
  • Expand the use of Appreciative Planning and Action (APA), an adaptation of Appreciative Inquiry (p. 48).

The promotion of democracy: A well-managed adult literacy education programme can increase the drive for the development of democracy. Indeed, adult education is indeed one of the basic building blocks of the development of democracy and democratic institutions (Seya, 2005).

Adult education sustains development, which in turn fosters hope and participation in democracy, justice and active citizenship. Likewise, democracy and active citizenship require new skills and competencies along with the capacities for institution-building. Participatory education programmes empowering rural communities have been invaluable in cementing human rights, raising gender awareness and enhancing the income-generating skills needed to fight poverty (Synthesis Report, 2004).

Knowledge and skills: Adult literacy programmes have created opportunities for adult learners to acquire and apply the knowledge and skills needed to propel economic development. The role of adult education in economic development is apparent in its contribution to human capital formation. It is now well established that, alongside health care, sanitation, and nutrition, which improve standards of living and productivity by reducing sickness and mortality rates, basic adult education equips recipients with essential literacy and numeracy skills that yield high rates on investment through enhanced labour productivity (Seya, 2005).

Adult education programmes must aim at strengthening individuals to face challenges within and outside their community (Stavenhagen, 1998). The notions of educating, enabling and empowering are at the core of community development.

Community development seeks to empower individuals and groups of people by providing these groups with the skills they need to effect changes in their own communities. These skills are often concentrated around building political power through the formation of large social groups working for a common agenda. It is the consensus in the literature that community developers must understand both how to work with individuals and how to affect communities’ positions within the context of larger social institutions (Cowan, 2003).

By enhancing the knowledge of the adult, it is believed, education that is offered to the people at the community level can become more economically sound through the efforts of the people themselves. This is because a community knows and understands what its people need to make life better and more effective for the development of their area. In this way adult education, as a social activity, takes place within specific social, political and economic relations, and links with community development questions, both domestically and internationally (Spencer, 2006).

In this regard, the aim of conducting adult education and community development initiatives is the same: to prepare individuals formally and informally for their different roles in their technological society. Both aim at influencing, informing, educating and training the adults. This means, essentially, then, that AE is about making learning as a lifelong process. By educating the adults in a community it aims at preparing them for community relevance and work, social networks and organising within local communities. In this way, community re-generation and community development are given strong emphasis.

While community participation is a requirement for effective community development, there are few specific methodologies to help community organizers facilitate such participation. Adult education and community development share a number of parallel objectives: enhancing self-direction, self-reliance, and sustainable learning and development. While adult education is more advanced methodologically, the application of adult education principles to community development is only possible under certain Conditions. These conditions relate to power relationships, institutional structures, community dynamics , and the role of the community organizer . Once these conditions are recognized, adult education principles may be applied to community development programmes in order to facilitate the community’s involvement in its own needs assessment, project design, implementation, and evaluation.

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To meet the challenges presented by the above dimensions in adult education in the country, innovative programmes have been put in place such as:

  1. BASIC LITERACY PROGRAMME: This is a one-month programme organized and financed by some Local Government Councils in some states of the Federation. It is held under the co-ordination and supervision of the States´ Ministries of Education.
  2. POST LITERACY PROGRAMME: This is organized by the Ministry of Education in some States of the Federation for completers of Basic Literacy Programmes and drop outs from formal primary schools to upgrade their knowledge to the level of first school leaving certificates.
  3. WOMEN ADULT EDUCATION PROGRAMME: This programme is organised by Christian Missionaries and Local Government Councils. The Ministry of Education grants aid to the voluntary organizations to reduce costs. The course is solely designed to improve the services of literate and illiterate women in the society.
  4. DISTANCE EDUCATION PROGRAMME: This program-me is organised by the States´ Ministries of Education and some institution of higher education in the country. It is designed for all those who because of the nature of their age are unable to enroll in the regular or formal educational system. The medium of instruction is by correspondence, radio or television.
  5. SANDWICH PROGRAMME: This is organised by various institutions of higher education in the country for adults who stay in other commitments for most of the year and come into residence in their various schools when they can afford it.
  6. NOMADIC EDUCATION PROGRAMME: Nigerian nomads are mostly cattle rearers who do not settle in a place because they have to follow their herds of cattle around in search of grazable pasture. They do not receive formal education. Mobile Education Programme has been established to take care of this unfortunate situation. 


  1. Adequate funding: Since Adult Education is central to the individual’s survival and contribution to the progress of the State and nation; it should be adequately funded by the government. It is worthy of note that the 26% budgetary allocation to education recommended by UNESCO has never been met.
  2. Available and reliable data is needed for proper planning and implementation. Data on the needs of learners, the number of those out of school, the required classrooms and needed instructors.
  3. Change in societal attitude: Society must ascribe value and prestige to this system of learning and appreciate it as needed for lifelong Education.
  4. Counseling Programmes: Just as in the formal system of education, counselors should be posted to the learning centers to assist the learners.
  5. Policy documents like the NPE and Nigerian Constitution should be clear as to what specific roles the different levels of Governments, Federal, State and Local Governments should play in the implementation of specific programmes.
  6. Males should be enlightened more on the importance of these centers in the delivery of lifelong education.
  7. There is need for adequate planning of the adult education programme before embarking on the implementation so that to ensure success Learning programmed for the adults should be organized and satisfy the adult learners desire to participate actively in the instructional process.
  8. There is need for the time scheduled for the classes to be at the learner’s most convenient time so as to enable the adult learner to be very punctual at their learning centers and this will motivate them to put in their best effort in the learning process. 


Nigeria like most developing countries have placed undue emphasis on formal education while apparently neglecting adult and non-formal education. The present economic development in the African Region compares very unfavorably with levels already attained by developed countries as well as by a number of developing countries in other regions. This is because 65% of the African populations are illiterates.

Adult Education, though taken by the Nigerian society to be a low-cost area of educational system, but from the point of view of return on investment, it is the most immediately productive and profitable for the national economy. What seems to be needed more in Nigeria today is a development-oriented non-formal education to ensure the principle of self-reliance both in national and individual terms. Adult literacy although strictly not within the formal system has a great influence on the quantity and quality of education in the formal system.

It should be pursued vigorously. Adult literacy and adult education are necessary to ensure an enlightened government and citizenry, whose insights, activities and decisions are very vital to the cause of education and the achievement of national goals.

Thus change in Adult Education in Nigeria is welcome.  Adult education has covered all original educational activities provided for people who are not in regular school and university system and generally fifteen and older (emphasis added) in other words, an adult is somebody whose age is either fifteen years and above. The point must however, be stressed that each definition of adult vary according nations and in the same cases may varies across cultural within a given nation.


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Umar, F.M., Eshak, A.M., Bichi, A.A., & Aujara, I.W. (2010). Trends in adult and non-formal education in Maiwada, D.A. & Yakasai, M.I. (ed) trends in education research. Zaria. ABU Press

Federal Republic of Nigeria (2004).  National policy on education. Abuja. federal ministry of education  NMEC/UNICEF (2010).

NMEC  Nzeneri, I.S. (2006). The concept and scope of adult and non-formal education in adult and non-formal in Nigeria: emerging issues papers from the NNCAE annual conference 34-43

Nzeneri, I.S. (2002).   Handbook on adult education, principles and practice.  Onitsha Goodway printing press

Onyenemezu, E.C. (2012).   Adult education and the challenges of 21 st  century in  Nigeria. Education and practice (3),1-7.

Pratt, B & Boyden, J (1985). The Field directors handbook: an Oxfam manual for development workers. 4th  Edition Oxford. Oxford University Press.

Mr. Harrison

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