Title: Adult Education and the Law: A Collection
and Examination of Legislation as it Bears on the practice of Adult
Education in Canada. International Journal of University Adult
Education, vol. 23, no. 1-3
The recent publication of Adult education in Continental Europe: An Annotated Bibliography of English Language Materials, 1980-1982, by Jindra Julich (Monographs on Comparative Studies in Adult Education, Centre for Continuing Education, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada) indicates that there is a growing interest in the legal foundations for adult/continuing education throughout Europe. No doubt approaches are different, but some possibility of comparative analyses exists.
The term adult/continuing education is used because the term adult education alone does not seem appropriate either to reflect important areas of growth or to cope with some peculiarities of legal evolution. To use continuing education alone, while preferable from our point of view (see/below) would also only confuse as long as the relative anarchy in the usage of terms continues to exist. To be clear, what we are primarily interested in is the legal evolution bearing on the adult sector of systems of continuing education--as we have defined the term. The latter sentence serves also to describe what is actually happening at least in our society, which is that law created originally to take care of the conventional groups of children and youth, for educational purposes, is evolving in its application to other bodies of students and learners. The principal engine of this evolution in 'common law' societies is that of jurisdictional decision, or case law. In other types of legal systems, presumably the means of evolution is quite different, and therein perhaps lies the first area for comparative study. In a federal system such as Canada, with thirteen separate jurisdictions, the basis for comparative work is built in. Anyone interested in this area has, at least on the surface, quite enough 'home-made' comparative work for a lifetime of research and reflection. However, it is quite certain that despite the differences between provisions in these various jurisdictions, a fact that is likely to be the case in other federal systems, there are also prevailing biases that mean that the similarities, taken at a certain level of abstraction, are greater than the differences. For this reason, we welcome the indications of increased attention in the European and other countries, and will begin to look for areas of comparison. In the long run, what is of the greatest interest is whether there are universal factors that affect the relationship of learning, rather than education, and the law.
We shall begin to collect the materials cited in the Kulich publication. We would also be interested in entering into exchanges and sharing interest and materials with the authors of those works, looking forward perhaps to something of a network of individuals who share this interest in each of the countries represented.
The education of adults in Canada, as in any other industrial-technical society, includes a multitude of intentional programs and achievements, ranging from simple provisions for part- time students by School Boards in every province to the provision of educational opportunities for inmates of federal and provincial penitentiaries.
One would not expect, or wish, that the legislative basis for such an enormous range of activities would be simple to display, describe or understand. Nevertheless, it is our view that it is of increasing significance to describe and understand that basis as thoroughly as possible.
Until recently, few adult educators in Canada or elsewhere have needed to be familiar with the legislative underpinnings of their activities. So long as no one was legally prevented from encouraging and/or providing adult education, the perceived marginality of the mission discouraged much curiosity about the legal foundations. However, that time has passed. Legislation affecting adult 'learning' and adult 'education' is emerging from the world's legislatures in increasing volume. If we are to play our role as competent professionals, we need to know what the legislation is, at least in our own jurisdictions. We need to understand how to use the appropriate legislation. In addition, we should be able to assist in the development of legislation, that is, be able to translate the necessities of successful adult learning into the unfamiliar language of the statutes. In the long run, that also means that we should try to understand the difference between good and bad, successful and unsuccessful, legislation devoted to the support or direction of adult learning and adult education. In this study, all levels of government are involved, though the primary attention will be devoted to provincial and federal levels, in that order.
What we propose is to move, at least initially, in a kind of widening series of circles. We will start with the most visible 'educational' legislation, the various Education or School Acts of the provinces, and move to the less obvious statutes, including those that can be said to be in support of learning, as distinct from education. While in fact, in some provinces, the School Acts may appear to have less significance for the education of adults than other pieces of legislation, it seems sensible to begin with them. Indeed, as the school boards move increasingly towards the acceptance of responsibility of the basis education of everyone in their communities, regardless of age, we are likely to find more and more attention in the various Education or School Acts devoted directly or indirectly to the education of adults. We must also expect that the century of experience with these central instruments of 'educational' legislation will have enormous influence on the development of future legislation devoted to the education of adults.