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This study reveals that undereducated adults--including both former and potential adult education clients--frequently hold oversimplified assumptions about adult education programs.  These assumptions often prevent them from entering adult education programs and at other times cause clients to leave programs before reaching their goals.  The following assumptions about adult education programs were among those held by respondents:

"Adult education classes will be like earlier school experiences"

"If you did poorly in school, you will do poorly in adult education classes"

"The GED exam is easy (or hard), but without a sense of what it entails"

"The GED is the ultimate goal of adult education classes"

While we found that our respondents often held oversimplified assumptions about adult education programs, we also discovered that many community leaders, social service practitioners and, unfortunately, adult education providers also hold stereotypical assumptions about undereducated adults. The following statements are examples of what we heard in the research sites with regard to under-educated adults:

"They do not value education"

"They do not recognize that 'education pays' in important ways"

"They do not recognize the need for educational credentials"

"They do not participate in adult education programs because of shame or fear"

"They do not participate in programs because of time constraints, transportation, and/or childcare"

"The GED is the most appropriate goal for all undereducated adults"

Because a number of study respondents had formerly attended adult education classes, they provided extensive comments about these experiences and their interpretations of them. Other respondents had no experience with adult education but held strong opinions about what it might be like. The purpose of including these comments and interpretations is to demonstrate that current students and students who have left programs contribute to what is known about adult education and that their assumptions about what adult education programs entail can become the common knowledge that influences potential students' educational decision-making.

I didn't "fit" in/I won't "fit" in

There are too many people/I'd need to work one-on-one     

It was boring/It wouldn't be interesting to me

Location & Schedule

Program Overlap

Social Service Programs

Other Education Programs

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Last modified: April 16, 2000