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Adult’ Learning as Prerequisites for Civic Society in the Context of Multiculturalism

Vaiva Zuzevičiūtė ,Assoc. prof. dr. (HP) Department of Education, Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania

Margarita Teresevičienė Professor, Department of Education, Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania


It seems that contemporary world is characterized with both changes, and reflection about these changes, moreover, as Giddens (Giddens, 1992) noticed, reflexivity is being institutionalized at the moment. Therefore, conscious and responsible discussions of the processes that we witness are one of the main qualities that any adult, and especially adult educators should be involved into. Moreover, discussions and critical reflection upon diverse reality is as the feature of critical thinker, as it is a feature of the person, who constructs one’s identity consciously (Brookfield, 1995). As a new member of the European Union, both Lithuanian (Population: 3,7 million inhabitants; area: 65 thousand sq. km.) state, and its citizens are challenged by a number of new responsibilities and the ability to exercise these responsibilities is to be acquired. One of these new responsibilities is to exercise national and global citizenship adequately, and to initiate reflection on these issues in the process of educating future adult educators.

Aim of this paper is to identify the interface between learning and citizenship and to present results of extensive empiric research that aimed at identifying whether adults in Lithuania attribute to ‘learning’ function of ‘becoming and acting as citizen’, and what suggestions for improving adults’ orientation to active citizenship in the context of multiculturalism do future adult educators have.

Methods of literature, documents, and two-stage empirical research (questionnaire and focus group) were employed in the process.

Citizenship and Learning: Interfaces and Controversies

Firstly, for further analysis, at least two contexts are discerned here: international and national (Fig. 1).

Fig 1. Citizenship and Adult Education as Prerequisite for Civic Society

International context acts as a significant catalyst of change as it preconditions global integration and integration into the EU. At the national level interrelated process of iterative relationship between development of adult education and social initiatives is identified. Secondly, certain aspects of education of future adult educators are discussed.

Analysis of the influence of adult education towards the development of civic society is based upon the investigation of a number of processes that take place in Lithuanian and global societies. For cultural purposes it may be reasonable to present a short glimpse of ideas on citizenship at its dawn and compare it with contemporary contemplations on the theme.

The birth of the concept and the very phenomenon of citizenship in the West, it is generally agreed, come from the Classical Greece. Greeks were profoundly concerned with establishment of order against chaos, as they were at frontier of establishing civilised: regulated and managed by reason world, as opposed to the world, which was regulated by unknown forces. This concern is reflected in their philosophy, literature and understanding of what social cohabitation is. As a social dimension, order for Greeks seems to be intimately related to citizenship. The most widely spread and acknowledged model of ‘citizenship’ seems to include the following factors:

  • Common law should be established to protect [the citizen] against internal and external threats;

  • Appropriate and negotiated systems of governance are the best way to ensure the common law is administered properly;

  • Norms and values of the community should serve as benchmarks of citizens’ behaviour.

(Castles, Davidson, 2000)

As Pericles noted in the 5th century BC: “Our order is called democracy, because it defends the rights of a majority, rather than of a minority.. Our laws are equal concerning the interest of all our citizens. Political superiority is given to a person due to his personal advantages, rather than because he belongs to a certain group”. (Arskis 1989, 118).

Law, securing of its functioning, and norms/values are at focus in this model; therefore, those are several themes at least, which might be pursued in our paper in order to disclose the phenomenon of being a citizen and of acting as one. Legislation concerning equal rights and duties, as well as systems and prevailing norms seems to be an integral part of the concept of citizenship.

However, contemporary discussions on citizenship seem to be focused on the context of citizenship. If for an ancient Greek ‘citizenship’ meant order, security and relative freedom in a very specific, geographically, socially, and politically defined area, it is not the case today, or at least it is debatable.

One of the main challenges that face contemporary European society is multiculturalism. On the one hand, European society has never been otherwise, as Durkheim noted (Durkheim, 1977), certain location in Europe in 13th century were examples of extreme multiculturalism. Paris university, established in 13th AD is one of such examples, since among students we could have found people from all over Europe and beyond. Another example of the same is universities in Krakow or Torun, which played a major role in introducing cultural heritage to the whole region, and in fostering new, and sometimes revolutionary scientific ideas (e.g., contribution of Nicolous Copernicus to understanding of the structure of solar system cannot be underestimated).

On the other hand, however, as Fields (Fields, 2002) notes, we can identify a major, in-depth difference between situations prior to modernity, and in 21st century. Earlier, locations where many cultures met, and interacted (most often – with extreme success) were even if numerous, than surely limited to certain places (for example, universities, courts of monarchs, monasteries). Today, however, the same applies to almost all clusters of society, geography of multicultural situation is universal, as is the level of impact to individual’s, groups’, and social institutions’ (for example – system of education) lives.

Multicultural change is the change that needs an additional and sensitive attention, as it in its very essence involves the deepest structures of personality. Therefore any culture should start and promote discussions in the field.

Though citizenship, as Field (2002) notes, is a complex idea, which has its roots in antiquity, it acquired its contemporary significance during the 18-century revolutions and the Enlightenment movement. The development of the idea of citizenship as related to rights of an individual was especially prompted by British experience “even if at that time the terms ‘citizen’ and ‘citizenship’ were not much in use<…>still the writings of John Locke, and independence of American colonies were vital to their evolution of the liberal mode of citizenship and citizen’s rights” (Heater, 1999; 5).

The idea of “citizenship” also refers to conditions under which people participate in the wider community, this tradition is sometimes called the republican one, and stems its origins from Plato writings, where functions within the state were clearly allocated and everyone was expected to follow the course of certain actions. Usually, and historically, the wider community is related to the entity - nation state. This relation was reflected and even emphasised during the processes of development of nation states in 19 century. In a number of instances relating an individual to one’s political/economic/social context by means of identification as a ‘citizen’ of a certain entity, proved to be a powerful means of building those political/economic/social entities (Giddens, 1993). On the other hand, the means of relating through “citizenship’, was also corrupted in many instances (Brookfield, 1995). It seems, citizenship has lost its intrinsic, un-reflected relatedness to values. Though historically ‘citizenship’ was equated to loyalty and responsibility, the equation sometimes lacked equilibrium. Duties and rights should be equally represented in the equation. If duties are overemphasised, individuals lose the ability to voice their authentic needs (Brookfield, 1995). Even if historical importance of citizenship in the formation of national states cannot be overestimated, recent tendencies, referred to as postmodernism or late modernity, sometimes question the importance of national state for citizenship. It is widely argued that citizenship is being transformed, and possibly has lost its original meaning, under the impact of globalising trends. Proponents of the idea note a shift of economic power particularly (Hargreaves, 1999). Increasingly, decisions are taken at the level of trans-national corporations; these decisions affect across national boundaries, and quite often decisions are unaffected by nation states. However, Field notes the controversy of these arguments. Even if there are clear signs that globalising tendencies are weakening some roles of the nation state, there are also signs that nation states can regain their roles. One of the examples is formation of trans-national coalitions such as the EU. The coalition, sometimes referred to as supra-nation, assists in retaining and even strengthening capacities of national states. Field points out that these tendencies exemplify the strengthening of national states, rather than their weakening. Thus the claim that the strength of globalising tendencies has changed the terms of engagement, and that nation states are therefore in an extremely unstable and uncertain situation can be viewed with some reservation.

In this context, the situation of the Lithuanian state exemplifies the issues revealed by the analysis. According to Article 17 of the Treaty establishing the European Community: “Citizenship of the Union is hereby established. Every person holding the nationality of a Member State shall be a citizen of the Union. Citizenship of the Union shall complement and not replace national citizenship”. Therefore, Lithuanian society faces multiple challenges, one of these being to balance nationally and internationally valid initiatives.

Summing up, we can conclude that post modernist pluralisation (Field, 2002) of political life seems to be developing, and this seem to be the most articulated characteristics of a contemporary civic society. Contemporary citizenship seems to be related to individual rights more than it has ever been before. More often the process of pluralisation is accompanied by the withdrawal of individuals from the exercise of traditional activities and by the engagement in new forms of activities, which also entails the design and administration of these new activities. It seems that in a contemporary society a balance between individualism and social integration should be sought. Retaining the personally meaningful and socially operative equilibrium of civil rights and duties (responsibility), considering wider contexts (international, historical) seems to be a possible starting working definition for citizenship, especially, in the context of multiculturalism.

As multicultural change is the change that needs an additional and sensitive attention, especially from the perspective of adult educator, an impact study was completed in Lithuania to identify dominating perspectives of future adult educators in the sphere.


An empirical research was completed in two stages. During the fist, quantitative stage, adults have been asked to fill in a questionnaire, and the survey was focused to issues what are objective (supply), and subjective (motivation) factors for adults to participate in adult education. 2200 questionnaire were distributed, returned – 1631, percentage of returned questionnaires comprises 74%. Study was carried out in 2006, data was processed by application of SPSS (Statistical Package for Social Sciences) 12.01 version. Descriptive statistics, correlations, dispersion and non-parametric criterions were applied.

During the second stage method of focus group was applied. Discussions enabled identify what ideas do future adult educators (undergraduate study program Adult education) have on possibilities to change adults’ orientations to active citizenship in the context of multiculturalism.


During the first stage 1631 adults from all counties (10) of Lithuania participated in a study. Though an equal number of questionnaires were distributed in counties, people were more active in some counties than in other, and therefore from some counties (Vilnius, Siauliai) more data is available.

The majority of respondents are urban residents (more than 84%), others live either in rural places, or did not provide data.

It seems that young people (25-34 years old) constitute a large part of the sample (more than one third), the least people fall into the age group older than 55 (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2. Distribution of respondents according to age

Almost 60% of respondents have spouses, others live alone, or are widows or widowers. 22 % of respondents – men, and 78 % - women. Almost a half of respondents have a work experience of more than 10 years; 5 – 10 years experience have 17%, and also within a sample there were people with no experience or a short experience (up to 5 years) – these two groups make up to almost 10 %. One third of respondents have higher education (university), 24 % have hight education, and 16 % graduated from college; 18 % graduated basic school. Distribution within a sample adheres to average situation in Lithuania according to national statistical data. According to 16 March 2006 information provided by BNS agency, level of unemployment in Lithuania was 4,0 %. Within the sample of this study, 64 % indicated they were employed (36 % indicated they were not employed). There are many reasons why people are not active in economy at the moment: 32 % of (of those who are not employed) respondents indicated they had small children; 15 % are retired. Therefore we can conclude that situation within the sample is not dramatically different from official situation, as both retired people and fathers and mothers who raise small children are not considered unemployed, they just are not employed. Only 19 % of those not employed informed they could not find job, and that adheres to 4.7 % of all respondents within the sample. That means, a sample provides a fairly accurate picture of the general situation (both from an of aspect education, and unemployment), and therefore other results can be considered fairly relevant.

During the second stage 135 ((25 – 36 years old) in extra-mural studies) students (future adult educators) were asked to share their opinions; in categorizing their distribution 100 percent is considered to be the number of respondents who shared ideas concerning the specific question in the discussion, not the total number of participants.

Adults‘ approach to learning (with a focus on one of its functions – Development of Civic Society)

As it was mentioned, 36 % of respondents indicated they were not employed, but only 19 % of them indicated they could find job (4.7 %) within the sample, therefore some results were processed separately for those employed, and those not.

Analysis of approaches that employed and people not employed have, some differences were discerned. It was noted that learning for a majority of respondents is more an instrument for successful social and economical integration, rather that a way to self development and growth.

To a question, what contents do respondents attribute to the concept of learning (people could choose more than one option of answer), it became clear that for most of respondents it is acquisition of profession, than comes personal growth, then – professional development. A small percentage think learning is a way to spend leisure time or a way to seek personal interests, or being involved in community‘s life. These findings add to the idea that learning of adults is inseparable/integral part of labour marker (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3 Contents attributed to the concept of learning

The older respondents are the more often they attribute learning as the way to seem their personal interests, or being interested in social life. Calculation of χ2 criterion supports the idea that age is a factor for changes in the approach to contents of the concept of learning (p=0,000, Fig. 4).

When the relation between work experience and the concept is analyzed a clear tendency is traced that those, who do not have any experience, or have a minimal experience, tend to consider learning to be acquisition of profession, or professional development. Calculation of χ2 criterion supports the idea that work experience is a factor for changes in the approach to contents of the concept of learning (p=0,000, Fig. 4).

Fig. 4. Contents attributed to the concept of learning – distribution according to age.

It is worth noting that adults rarely relate learning to active participation in community life, and rarely participate in community life (Fig. 5). Significant difference between men’s and women’s approaches was not observed (ANOVA test from p=0,127 to p=0,914), However, women use library more often and participate in educational activities in community (respectively p=0,017 and p=0,018). The main difference to the concept of learning is related to different age and different work experience of the respondents. The respondents older than 55 tend to emphasize personal interests, participation in community’s life, personal growth more often than younger respondents. Relatively low level of involvement into community life, different initiatives, participation in joint decision narrows the horizon of learning of adults.

Fig. 5 Participation in Community life

Participation if various activities: defending of common interests, organizing cultural events, or deciding whether a petrol station should be build in the vicinity provide adults with a number of learning opportunities.

However, relative passiveness results in adults’ not knowing the legal situation in the country as well as they could know it, also, participation in various activities in community life enables to develop general competences: planning, organizing, evaluation, fund raising, etc.

During the second stage students (future adult educators) were asked to share their ideas “Why is intercultural education important, and what is the role of learning”?

Answers have been categorized, results are provided in Table 1.

Future Adult educators on why intercultural education is important

Results show that future adult educators are aware of the importance of informing both about the importance of mobility activities, and personal readiness (learning languages). It seems that students give priority to activities of co-operation, individual readiness (which is consistent with their opinions in a previous item, concerning “why” active citizenship education in the context of multiculturism is important). Also, need to institutionalize this field, and start organizing it professionally is mentioned often. Also, future adult educators, contributed the idea that growth of competence depends on the starting level of participants. Their contributions were grouped into certain groups. Students noted that those, whose competence is high at the initial stage (in our case – native inhabitants of the country, who, at least, would know the language of the state), automatically have higher opportunities to develop further (participate in continuing education, in-service training courses, or choose to join formal education), than those, whose competence is lower (for example, emigrants would not know language in many cases).

Students noted that other activities, like provision with technologies (both learning, and for work) is important, also, provision with learning materials is essential, Fig. 6.

Fig. 6. Categories of contributions: why learning is not the only way towards being an active citizen (in-percent)

It seems that sharing experiences at the individual level, learning from each other is of utmost importance for future adult educators, if active citizenship education is considered.


  1. The analysis is built upon the assumption that adult education, as a prerequisite for civic society, should be viewed in the context of contemporary post modernist trends, namely: pluralisation and segmentation. Lithuania, an Eastern European country of long history of democracy and a turbulent non-democratic recent past, is presented as a case study of social initiatives related to learning and education. The authors assume that Lithuanian society is a typical case of a society in rapid change, a change from a closed to pluralistic, civil society. The role of education in such a society deserves closer attention, as it may reveal tendencies typical of all societies in change, retaining, at the same time, deep-rooted national values and priorities.

  2. It is important to emphasize the following issues that the study revealed. Quantitative study revealed that adults have quite diverse concept of ‘learning’. However, being an active member of community life (where an adult may have a direct impact on decisions) does not seem an established practice of everyday life.In improving orientations towards active citizenship, students/future adult educators note the importance of international co-operation, variety of measures promoting co-operation, however, here they also note the importance of activities in many levels: from individual to political, and the role of media.

  3. While concluding the paper, it is important to note, that future adult educators note the importance both to discuss these issues, and to start preparation for the situation, because learning in a variety of contexts does provide adults with opportunities to develop competences to act confidently as citizens, however, not all adults use the opportunity.


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  2. Durkheim, E. (1977). The Evolution of Educational Thought. Routledge&Kogan Paul. London, Henley and Boston.

  3. Economic And Social Development In Lithuania. (2003)

  4. Field, J. (2002) Citizenship, European Enlargement and Higher Education. Presentation at the seminar: Higher Education and Citizenship, Leiden, 12 – 14 September, 2002.

  5. Giddens, A. (1992) Modernity and Self-Identity. Cambridge, Stanford University Press.

  6. Pundziee, A. (2002). Modeling psychological factors of change in organization. Doctoral dissertation [Manuscript]. Kaunas, VDU

  7. Reviews of National Policies for Education. Lithuania. Education and Skills (2002), OECD

  8. Robbins, S. (1997). Essentials of Organizational Behavior. N.J. Prentice Hall.

  9. The Handbook of Strategy and Management (2002). Pettigrew, A.M., Thomas H., Whittington R. (eds). London, Sage.

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