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Family Life Education - Challenges In Family Life Education

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Qualified educators are central to the success of family life education, as it is these individuals who bear major responsibility for shaping the educational experience and interacting with participants. Despite their importance, however, few guidelines are available to help prepare family educators. In 1985, the National Council on Family Relations established a certificate program to help improve the training and qualifications of family life educators (Davidson 1989; National Council on Family Relations 1984). Through this program, recognition is given to individuals who hold a baccalaureate or advanced degree in specified fields of study, have a minimum level of postsecondary education in the content areas of the Framework for Family Life Education, and have completed a specified level of related work experience. The Certificate in Family Life Education (CFLE) is a voluntary credential, and has been granted to individuals in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, and Singapore. An important outcome of the CFLE program has been its influence on the content of the college/university programs that prepare family life educators.

The Internet and the World Wide Web present new challenges for family life education. Information technologies make it possible to provide family-related information twenty-four hours a day, every day, and may help facilitate the preparation of professionals through online courses and chatrooms (Hughes, Ehata, and Dollahite 1999). Although it is likely that these technologies will enhance rather than replace more traditional family life education approaches, important issues that will require attention include the reliability and validity of the information available and the effectiveness of this form of family education. As well, the emergence of such things as computermediated relationships (cyber-relationships) and sexualized Internet use requires rethinking the content and strategies of family life education (Merkle and Richardson 2000; Sanders, Deal, and Myers-Bowman 2000).

Family life education is an important means to help ameliorate family issues and problems, but in many situations these programs by themselves may not be sufficient unless their development and implementation are supported by social and educational policies and political decisions. School boards and community interest groups may place restrictions on the content taught in schools, thereby failing to meet some important needs of this age group. Inadequate financial support often means that programs are available primarily to those who can afford to pay registration fees, not necessarily to those who may want or need the programs the most. And, as seen at the beginning of the twenty-first century, resolving the AIDS (Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) crisis in Africa and elsewhere will not only require adequate family education and governmental support to make this education widely available but also political decisions that will ensure that medications are available to those who need it at a reasonable cost.

Underlying the practice of family life education is a basic belief in the importance of family living and a basic respect for persons that recognizes their ability to take charge of their own lives in satisfying ways. Through educational programs, family life education makes an important contribution toward strengthening families to fulfill their significant role as the basic unit of society.


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Other Resources

Parentlink. (2002). Available from http://outreach.missouri.edu/parentlink/.

Smart Marriages. (2002). Available from http://www.smartmarriages.com.


MARGARET EDWARDS ARCUS
(WITH ASSISTANCE FROM D. CASSIDY [UNITED STATES], M.J. CZAPLEWSKI [UNITED STATES], K. MAKINO [JAPAN], A. UENO [JAPAN], AND R. WHITFIELD [UNITED KINGDOM])

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