Centre for Research in Distance and Online Learning, Lagos, Nigeria.
Annette Sprung has drawn attention to the importance of diversity of the teaching force as a corollary to access, retention and successful outcomes by immigrant participants in adult education programmes. Her article underscores how the notions of power and difference shapes the provision of adult education, especially in relation to new immigrant professionals. She asserts that the lack of social and cultural capital on the part of new immigrants and even some second-generation immigrants make it challenging for them to navigate the professional roles that they may otherwise be suitable for. Consequently, they rely on former tutors to help them negotiate the social space and mediate the perceived and evident absence of social and cultural capital. One important insight that this paper provides is that when adult education professional have a shared migration experience with their adult education learners, the connection is more spontaneous and the learners connect faster and engage better with the instructional content and process. This insight is not limited to adult education, indeed it is applicable to many programmes which offer ‘international education’ experience. It is not enough that student population be richly diverse in origin, experience and skills; it is also crucial that professional adult education staff also have evident diversity in orientation, experience and competencies that migrants can easily latch unto and in the process secure their confidence. This might be a great way to ameliorate the feelings of distrust and discomfort that Sprung alluded to when discussing the effects of racism and language on the migrant adult population. Similarly, Sprung’s recommendation that the migration biography be used to profile potential participants is certainly useful to further integrate the new immigrants into the social system and work life. Although this paper makes specific recommendations about the Austrian System, I believe it has significant implications for other developed western societies, such as the United Kingdom, where migrants experience similar challenges identified by Annette Sprung. In the United Kingdom, despite the fact that most immigrants speaking English, at different levels of ability, there is a significant ‘othering’, ‘differentness’, and subtle ‘discrimination’ on the basis of name, accent and ethnicity, as Sprung had observed in her study of the Austrian society. It is heartening to finally read a professional paper dedicating attention to the challenges faced by migrant adult educators and lifelong education providers. Policy makers and analysts are invited to take this paper seriously, especially, Sprung’s comments about the potential gains of recruiting migrant adult education professionals to work alongside locally trained professional to ensure that new adult learning participants would find connections with instructors that look and talk like them and/or perhaps instructors who have had similar migration experiences like they have had. This can make the difference between programme completion and drop-out syndrome. Or the difference between frustration and elation, on the part of completers.