Posted by on February 28, 2019

Carolyn Johnstone comment on the article “How adult education can save your life”

Before moving to Australia to teach at Federation University, Carolyn Johnstone was an officer in the British Army. Carolyn is interested in how international organisations, governments and NGOs work in partnership, using adult education as a policy lever to address global challenges including conflict, sustainable development and human security.

In his article, How adult education can save your life, Henrique Lopes promotes preventive healthcare education for adults. He argues that teaching specifically about unhealthy lifestyles and risky behaviours can convince people to lead healthier lives. In a ‘just-enough-just-in-time’ model, the type of health education that should be delivered changes according to the individual’s age and stage of life, so this becomes a theme for lifelong learning.      

Henrique also notes that education is an essential component in achieving SDG3 Good Health and Wellbeing, for example by adopting fewer risky behaviours that would lead to less substance abuse and dangerous driving, targets 3.5 and 3.6 respectively. Indeed, adult education may promote mental wellbeing, directly supporting target 3.4. I would argue, however, that the connections between the SDGs are complex and SDG4 Quality Educationis in many ways an enabler for all the others. The UN states, “Obtaining a quality education is the foundation to creating sustainable development. In addition to improving quality of life, access to inclusive education can help equip locals with the tools required to develop innovative solutions to the world’s greatest problems.” (  One of these great problems is public health and achieving SDG3 Good Health and Wellbeingcertainly requires innovative approaches. 

There is evidence that educating women and girls improves health outcomes – but the education need not be narrowly cast as teaching specifically health messages. When women and girls are educated, for example through vocational training, the beneficial outcomes might include increased agency, better finances and raised aspirations for work and careers. This leads – in turn – to delays in starting a family, which consequently support achieving SDG3.  I agree that adult education can save your life. However, this is not necessarily in the direct manner which Henrique describes. If adults are engaged in lifelong learning, they will grow in many ways. They may increase their economic, social and cultural capital and all of these increase the chances of a longer life. The focus on literacies is a good first step for adult learning as it opens up access to a world of knowledge (not controlled or mediated by other people). The autonomous adult learner should be free to pursue whatever learning they feel is of interest and importance. This may be the preventive healthcare education promoted by Henrique. But it might equally be a course in media studies, learning a language, or even a life drawing class. 

Links to the AED 85/2018 publication in three languages: EnglishFrenchSpanish
Estos son los links para acceder a la publicación en tres idiomas: InglésFrancésEspañol
Voici les liens vers la publication en trois langues: Anglais FrançaisEspagnol

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

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


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