Posted by on March 19, 2018

Thomas Kuan comments on the article “Building the capacity of adult educators to create inclusive classrooms”

Founder, U 3rd Age (Singapore), President, East Asia Federation for Adult Education (EAFAE), Treasurer, PIMA (Friends of PASCAL)

Shermaine Barrett had rightly mentioned that adult educators need to enhance their capabilities to teach inclusive learners. Adult educators can understand themselves through the reflexive process to engage learners professionally.

She quoted western’s ‘Four Layers of Diversity’ model (by Gardenswartz and Rowe), that  knowing one’s teaching characteristic would enhance teaching diverse classrooms. Reflexivity thinking process will minimize bias and prejudices in facilitating learning. As a work-study practitioner (in the 1980s), I found it difficult to remove bias and prejudices in interactions with diverse work-teams. The same obstacle applies in learning environments. Perhaps, the western approach can be complemented by an eastern approach to tap on the inborn talents of adult educators for holistic teaching.

In one eastern (Chinese) thought, adult educators can be categorized into five roles; namely: Thinkers, Supporters, Creators, Connectors, and Managers (Joey Yap’s BaZi Career Options) based on individual’s inborn behavioral and characteristic traits. Briefly, the roles are:

  • Thinkers – they have good understanding in solving complicated matters, which involves data, numbers, mathematics or science problems, or information analysis;
  • Supporters – they like to work with tools or machinery and generally avoid social activities such as teaching or counselling. They have good skills in dealing with computers, mechanical items or machinery;
  • Creators – good at arts, drama, dance, music, creative writing, or designs. They are more towards the non-structured, not repetitive environment. They have more expressive and creative ability;
  • Connectors – are connecting with people. They prefer tasks that involves teaching, counselling, team building or providing information. Generally, they prefer helping people to solve problems; and
  • Managers – like to be in control at all times. They are more likely to have entrepreneur instincts and like to make decisions. They do not like working in systematic environments or involves analysis.

Adult educators who know their dominant roles can be motivated and be effective in inclusive teaching.

Shermaine’s mentioned of knowing ‘…their students’ cultures…’ bring to my mind that many developed nations have well-crafted national policies on adult education, but has policy problems because rural suspicious and non-transparent cultural-political agenda. As population ages in developed nations, senior citizens become part of inclusive group. Their later life learning can contributed to social and cultural developments. But, in an analysis of Third Global Report on Adult Learning and Education – National Reports (GRALE III), only 13 nations (out of 195 UNESCO Members) select ‘senior citizens/retired people (third-age education)’ as one of their five target groups for adult learning and education; see table below:

COUNTRIES (that gives priority to third age / later life learning in national policies

China, Cuba,

Lebanon, Lithuania,

Malaysia, Morocco,



Russian Federation,

Sri Lanka,



TOTAL – 13 Countries




BaZi – a Chinese technique for matching-making and career profiling. Joey Yap’s ‘BaZi Career Options’ Module 6 course notes.

GRALE – See GRALE III monitoring survey data from:


These are the links to the AED 84/2017 publication in three languages:

Estos son los links para acceder a la publicación en tres idiomas:

Voici les liens vers la publication en trois langues:

Follow the ICAE Virtual Seminar also here.

Veuillez utiliser google translator pour traduire les articles qui ne sont pas en français

Para español favor usar google translator en los casos en que el artículo no está traducido al español


  1. Julio César Tovar Gálvez
    March 20, 2018

    Leave a Reply

    When I read this, I did it with adult student eyes. It means that the roles (or intelligences, or learning styles, or cognitive styles, or believes, or epistemologies, or previous experience, or customs, etc) are an important students’ feature that teachers should take in account at the teaching moment. I am studying abroad and for me it would be interesting my Professor recognizes my culture, my way to communicate, my way to learn, my language difference, etc, to teach me. It means too that teachers not only should reflex about their own believes and roles, but should reflex about the students, about how to teach them, how they learn.

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