First, there is the problem within the nomenclature itself, problematized by both the terms 'adult' and 'education' that constitute it. Secondly, there is the problem of dissociating the term from within a matrix of related, but at more fundamental level, different terms like 'continuous education' and 'andragogy'. What really adds to our problem in this respect is the fact that we have to approach this problem at a time when an unprecedented complexity within the social formation itself has rendered educational institutes and education, both in definition and practice, complex. Therefore, we have to take into account both the objective semantics of the term as well as try and locate it within a specific twentieth century educational context.The term 'adult education' is a comparatively new one, coined much after it was actually in practice. It is a result of many years of evolutions, and its meaning, even now is far from simple and monolithic. Even as early as in 1927, Hall-Quest conceded the difficulties in defining the term. One of the biggest problems related to the definition of 'adult education' is, whether it refers to a set of methodologies by which 'adults' can be taught, or is it a holistic term that includes the general endeavor of educating adults in a specific way as well as a detailed study of government adaptation and subsequent implementation of policies that target the adults specifically as the subject of educational instruction. Theorists like Alan Rogers have defined adult education as a process 'whereby anyone over 16 (or whatever) are treated as adults - capable, experienced, responsible and balanced people'. Such a definition has two major problems; first 'adult education' becomes synonymous with 'andragogy' thus affecting the semantic rigor of the term. Secondly, values like capability, experience and responsibility are more often than not terms defined by culture and there is no platform or parameter that is universally agreed upon, which makes the term can lacking in ethnographic rigor.
It is therefore, important that we first clear the ethnographic tangle and then go on to arrive at a working definition of the term. Who is an 'adult' It is probably the first major question we have to answer before we get into any further exposition of the term. An adult can be defined in respect to age: affixing a cut-off age as in legal and administrative procedures. However, in all streams of study and human discipline this parameter is the least applied. There are various methods of measuring adulthood, which are not concrete and yet central to an understanding of the phenomena, across the world which can often differ, and at times even oppose one another. Adulthood, in the West, is often associated with the ideas of independence, to have one's own principles and perceptions on life and the ability to live up to it. It is integrally connected to question of self-sufficiency and living on one's own term - which by corollary, means an ability to satisfy one's own desires. In a number of Oriental cultures, Japan for example, this itself can be a mark of juvenile world-view and immaturity, because in that culture it is the ability to submerge one's own desires and to sacrifice them is what is counted as a true adult behavior. These dichotomies immediately place any ethnographic approach towards defining the term on slippery and problematic ground. Similarly there is little agreement