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The need for adult education of married women in the lower socio-economic levels in Vancouver Webster, Daisy

Abstract

In North American urban society, people of lower socio-economic status have a poor record of participation in adult programs. Vancouver, Canada's third largest metropolitan area, was selected for study into the needs for adult education by married women in this sub-culture. An unstructured sample of residents in three widely divergent areas of lower socio-economic index was studied to discover (l) why these women do not participate in adult education, and (2) what their needs in adult education are. An analysis of the data revealed that the majority of the respondents in all three areas were between the ages of 15 and 44, married, and had families of one to four children. While most of the women in the study had gone beyond Grade 8, less than one out of three had completed high school. Most of those who had participated or are presently on continuing education programs are high school graduates. Non-participation in adult education programs by these women of lower socio-economic status was attributed to a variety of interrelated reasons. In order of importance these reasons were: lack of facilities for care of small children; expenses involved in tuition fees, transportation and related costs; and feelings of inadequacy in meeting the standards of course requirements. Some of the women also expressed fear of institutionalized programs. This was mainly among new Canadians of ethnic origin, other than British, who tend to cling to their own language and culture, and were hesitant to leave their immediate neighborhood. A conflict of priorities appeared to exist between the concepts of needs as perceived by resource personnel and those perceived by the respondents. The resource personnel had a more global approach related directly to the objectives of the institutions that provide services within the community. Most of the women placed highest priority on education for future employment. Although the order of priority differed, both groups expressed need for education in the following categories: (1) cultural orientation, (2) family relationships, (3) nutrition and home management, (4) citizenship, and (5) employment. Nevertheless, success of adult education programs is dependent on two conditions: (l) that these married women should share in the planning process, and (2) that the choice of the areas of study should be consistent with the priorities as set by the women. In order to assist married women of this sub-culture, efforts must be made to remove barriers to opportunity imposed by tuition costs and lack of child care services. More attention must be given to counselling, to flexibility of program design and to part-time study.

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