Beyond Rhetoric

Adult Learning Policies and Practices

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This publication aims to identify what works in the policy and practice of adult learning, drawing on the experience of nine OECD countries: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom (England). It defines the features of a desirable system of adult learning, including ways to motivate adults to learn and methods to deliver appropriate services. This book will be indispensable to policy makers and those involved in the practice of adult learning.

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Strengthening the Incentives and Motivation for Adults to Learn

There is evidence that lack of motivation on the part of the individuals is one of the main reasons why participation is low. Clearly, sustainable incentive mechanisms have to be found if the situation is to improve. Findings suggest that adults who need to learn are often not aware of it or would deny it – even when it comes to basic literacy skills. Surveys also show that the most active learners are already highly qualified. In short, learners are in most cases already convinced of the value of learning.

This chapter describes some of the barriers to work on removing and the incentives to be put in place to improve participation. The latter range from advertising the overall value of learning beyond the workplace (social value, citizenship, etc.) to making obvious the economic benefits of learning (increased productivity for the company and better employability of the worker). A range of good practices are described throughout the chapter; the most relevant of these concern the right to study leave, the scheduling of the learning activities, and financing schemes such as individual learning accounts. Special emphasis is also placed on groups at risk; those with obsolete qualifications or low educational attainment; workers in SMEs; and older workers or the unemployed. Professional promotion or immediate reward is not always the answer to improving incentives to learn. Better communication should be established around the value and the joy of learning, and greater attention paid to making individuals freer to resume learning....

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