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The role and training of professional and volunteer adult educators in Czechoslovakia Kulich, Jindra Milos

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine the available material on the organization and management of the standard system of training of adult educators in Czechoslovakia and to report on the form and content of this system. Czechoslovakia has a rich heritage in adult education which dates back into the nineteenth century. At the beginning of the study this historical development since the middle of the nineteenth century and up to the Second World War is sketched as a background while developments since 1945 are treated in greater details. Throughout the historical development of adult education in Czechoslovakia the role of the adult educator has changed with the changing political system. Undoubtedly the most striking change in role vas brought about by the Communist take-over in 1948. The role of the adult educator in a communist state, the expectation of the Communist Party, of the society at large and his self-image are examined as a background to the training required as a preparation for this role. Czechoslovakia is unique in that since 1962 it has a national standard system of training of full-time and volunteer adult educators. The full-time adult educators, who in Czechoslovakia are thought of as professionals, are trained both at the university and at the secondary technical level. Three universities have full departments of adult education while the three secondary librarianship schools also have such departments. Full-time as well as extramural programs are offered by these institutions. The program of studies includes both general education and specialized courses in adult education and related fields. Qualifications for full-time adult education positions are prescribed by the central planning authorities, but several surveys have shown that the actual qualifications of the adult educators employed in the field are well below the required standard and very few adult educators who are underqualified are studying to complete their qualifications. A general evaluation of the training of full-time adult educators under the Standard System seems to indicate that the university programs are well established, and functioning according to plan. The programs in secondary librarianship schools, on the other hand, were found wanting. Volunteers are trained under the Standard System in the Basic Adult Education Course which has been established in all districts by 1964. The Course is designed to equip the volunteers with a basic minimum of political as well as specialized knowledge and skills. Advanced courses for volunteers were established on an experimental basis. The preparation of young intellectuals to serve as volunteers also vas emphasized by the Standard System. Unlike the professional training, the training of volunteers has not yet developed in depth and will require further development and evaluation to fulfill its task. Research and theory are necessary foundation of proper training. The development of research in and theory of adult education in Czechoslovakia suffered a serious setback during the period 1950-1956 when research, and especially sociology, were regarded as dangerous. Since approximately 1958 interest in theory returned to the field and in the early 1960's sociological and psychological research were rehabilitated. Recent developments indicate increasing professionalization of the field. Czechoslovakia is unique in that it has the first national standard system of training of adult educators. It is also unique in that it has long-range planning at all levels for the staffing and the training facilities required to prepare sufficient numbers of adult educators to fill the need. The rigidity of the system and of the plans is the main drawback. Western adult educators should study carefully the Czechoslovak experience to consider these aspects which might be applicable. Their colleagues In Czechoslovakia, on the other hand, would do veil to draw on the extensive experience and skill of American adult educators in social research. On the whole, adult educators in all countries should be aware of the work of their colleagues elsewhere and thereby advance adult education on a world-wide scale.

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