Andragogy: How Adult Learning Differs Across Cultures

In western ideologies, learning is viewed as a way to develop the individual. Non-westerners, however, seem to view learning as communal; a way to benefit the society rather than the individual. In her essay, “Adult learning across cultures,” Ariane Tulloch addresses how these differences influence adult learning in non-western societies. She makes the point that the way adults must be taught neurologically and the cultural necessities of their society would make formal adult learning significantly more successful.

Neurologically, adults must learn differently than children. Because their brains are more developed, adults are more self-sufficient and have more life experience than children, and must be able to collaborate with their teachers to be able to learn successfully. Non-western adults are also more willing to learn if what they are learning is relevant to an issue they or people they know are experiencing. Tulloch uses HIV/AIDS and sexual education as examples in Africa, and nutrition and child rearing as examples in Latin America. In both of these cases, the teachings would be applicable to the lives of the people being taught.

This is an interesting perspective into an issue that many people don’t consider from this point of view. In western cultures, we view education as a stepping-stone of life, as a gateway to future opportunity. For people from cultures that are primarily work-oriented or poverty-stricken, the learning process must possess a different form of applicability than what we consider necessary in western cultures. In educational efforts from western educators, they should keep this correlation in mind to engage their adult students on a deeper level.