Professionalizing adult educators


Professionalizing adult educators – threat or possibility for adult education

It is very important to professionalize the adult educator. We have to do something, but we are confronted with a lot of challenges.

Key note speaker professor Katrin Hjort from the University of Southern Denmark talked about the threat and possibilities in professionalization of the adult educator. “We cannot avoid professionalization. Competence development and lifelong learning is seen as a competitive factor. It is the tool, that can secure the wealth and economic growth of the nation,” she said, “but what is our purpose?” Adult educators come from everywhere. They have their own experiences and own history as a precondition for their professional work.  A professional that is able to be successful as a profession, is one who is able to conquer the best clients. How do we handle this competition?

Professor Katrin Hjort defines adult education to day as “Second Change” – Basic Education, Upper Secondary School, Diploma/Master/ph.d. in Welfare Professions and competence development at working places.

The possibilities in professionalization

Let us take a look at the possibilities for adult education in professionalizing the adult educator. The way I see it, professionalizing the adult educator gives us more status, higher salary and more jobs. It also provides a more focused education. At the same time it provides the possibility for creating a more systematically transparent and flexible adult education system. In the long run it means standardization at a local, at a national level, at a Nordic and international level. Adult education becomes social legitimized.

The threats in professionalization

There are of course also threats for adult education in professionalization of the adult educator. We can risk a loss of a variety of different kinds of knowledge and experiences, and then we may lose our professional autonomy. We can lose our personal engagement (I have been there myself!) as a matter of fact it become just a job. It is just a commodity we are handling – just a standard service and just another business, where we are searching for clients.  Maybe we will lose of the possibility to organize adult education according to the needs of the local participants and the relevant social movements.

Challenges to Nordic Adult Education and Nordic Adult Educators

We have to do something! And we are confronted with a lot of challenges. We need to develop and legitimate different kinds of scientific and experience based knowledge on adult education in different local, national, Nordic and trans-national contexts. 

We also need to preserve and develop adult education as a differentiated practice developed in cooperation with participants and relevant social actors.

Finally we need to preserve and develop the adult education focus on the universalistic ethos: enlightment, deliberation, participation, democracy – and (global) citizenship.

Katrin Hjort

is a professor of Educational Studies at University of Southern Denmark. Her dominant research area the last ten years has been the transformation processes of the welfare organization in the Nordic Countries and the new demands to the professionals working with education, health and social service.