Adult education in Canada enjoyed a major growth spurt between 1960 and the early 1990s. In a period of about 20 years, the number of adults enrolled in continuing education in Canada increased from approximately 4% in 1960 to 35% in the early 1990s. In a report published by the Minister of Industry in 2001, the results of the 1998 Adult Education and Training Survey showed that 28% of Canadians were enrolled in adult education courses, showing the first decline in adults enrolled in continuing education in over 30 years. A large majority of these adults were taking job-related training and courses, with 29% of the employed population enrolled compared to 20% of the unemployed population. Since 1997, studies show that the percentage of the population enrolled in adult education in Canada has remained fairly stable.
The government of Canada has a long history of supporting adult education. Associations such as The Canadian Association for Adult Education, The Movement for Canadian Literacy and the Canadian Council of Learning have promoted and encouraged the growth of adult education in Canada.
Assistance in gaining degrees is offered to adults in Canada through the Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) program, offered by most accredited colleges and universities, which gives adults credit for learning they have acquired outside of the formal classroom. PLAR helps educators place students at the appropriate study levels, eliminates the need for students to study subjects they already know and, as studies has shown, increases the student’s self confidence and motivation.
Canada has some unique and valuable approaches to adult education. One example is co-operative education where the student gains experience and education in a combination of paid workplace experience and classroom study. Co-op courses are offered in high schools, colleges, universities and private career colleges.
As in the U.S., there are a variety of institutions offering adult education in Canada. Basic adult education and adult literacy programs are offered at community colleges, online programs and some YM/YWCAs. Basic adult education in Canada is often free and classes are offered in a variety of day and evening schedules. The adult wishing to earn college credits or a degree can also find a variety of online and traditional universities and colleges.
Student loans for adult education in Canada are available through the Canada Student Loans Programs. This program offers access to higher education to Canadians who otherwise could not afford to attend college. Created in 1964, this program is an element of Canada’s Human Capital Agenda, the purpose of which is to make sure that Canadians have the education and skills necessary to compete in the marketplace of the 21st Century.