Learning is funded through federal and provincial governments, as well as through employers and individuals. It is generally administered and planned by men. The problems women face as consumers of adult education stem mainly from faulty or inaccurate assumptions held by the men who develop policies and make decisions. One of the results is systemic discrimination. Men have greater access to tuition money, transportation and child care. Lack them are denied access to the training and education that is available.
New technology has the heaviest impact on women, as women comprise the majority of workers in the clerical field. These jobs are becoming redundant or are being reduced to part-time. As the Secretary of State study One in Every Five shows, the private sector trains many fewer women than men; (inaccurate!)
With the present trend toward the privatization of learning, women must be concerned. The private sector now has more access to public funds through the Canadian Job Strategy without any insistence that women receive training funds in proportion to their participation in the work force. This public money will now allow employers to continue to train men using our tax dollars. Even though the Canadian Job Strategy has been in existence for less than a year, it has already become apparent that women are receiving a very small percentage of the training funds, and that the training they are receiving is larger for low-paying jobs traditionally held by women. Almost all of the training for women is in two of the six programs, one of which requires trainees to be out of the work- force for three years. There is no such stipulation for men in the Canadian Job Strategy!
One assumption made by men is that the dominant culture includes women without naming us. Yet we know that women's history is not represented in the history books and that our language is based on patriarchal values. Adult education programs do not legitimize or validate women's experiences. It is only in women's programs that women's experience is included, but these programs are not in the mainstream of institutions and they are always in danger of losing their funding. They are looked upon by their institutions as being insignificant. If meaningful pressure is being exerted to include women's culture in mainstream adult education programs, it is not apparent to us.
Adult education administrators may argue that many courses for women are included in their offerings on an on-going basis. Unfortunately, these tend to be traditional ones which do not encourage self-empowerment and self-reliance. They are not geared to women's development needs. Rather, they reinforce traditional values of dependence and "doing for others".
The second assumption made by educators is that the learning process is the same for men and women. Although it has been known for some years that men and women do not learn in the same way, little attention is paid in the delivery systems to the difference in learning processes. Many women have difficulty learning math, physical sciences and technical subjects because learning in those fields is usually developed and provided by men and for men. Women who are able to adapt succeed in these subjects, while those who can't may believe that they are deficient. The male learning process is often individualistic and competitive. Sometimes it is downright combative. Evaluation is usually based on a "win lose" dichotomy. Examples seldom reflect women's experience; indeed occasionally they reflect the sexist attitudes of male textbook authors, program developers and/or institutions.
On the other hand, for women the learning process is co-operative and collaborative and decisions are reached mainly through consensus. Learning for women has always been competency based long before this learning came into vogue. For example, many women learn skills through their development within the voluntary sector, which leads some to paid employment. Others move on to administrative positions within the volunteer sector.