Promoting Adult Learning

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This publication provides policy guidance in an area that has been given little policy priority until recent years. It brings together key lessons from 17 OECD countries, providing evidence on the strategies in place to improve adults’ participation in learning. It addresses potential barriers to learning as well as the policies to remedy them. Among these are policies for increasing and promoting the benefits of adult learning to make them transparent and easily recognised. Other policy levers include economic incentives and co-financing mechanisms that can raise the efficiency of adult learning provision, while delivering quality learning that is adapted to adults’ needs. Finally, policy making can be improved via co-ordination and coherence in a field that is characterised by a wide variety of stakeholders, including ministries of education and ministries of labour.

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This comparative report of the second round of the OECD’s thematic review on adult learning comes at a time when there is increasing recognition of the importance to invest in adult learning, in the interests of both economic efficiency and equity. Recent research has shown that the macroeconomic returns to investment in human capital can be considerable: a 10% increase in the stock of human capital, as measured by an increase in years of schooling, can increase per capita GDP by between 4% and 7% in the long run (OECD, 2000a; OECD, 2003b). Adult learning is an important additional input into the development of human capital, with a strong positive impact on productivity, innovation and employment chances of individuals (OECD, 2001a; OECD, 2004a; Ok and Tergeist, 2003). Furthermore, recent analysis has shown considerable returns to the working-age adult who resumes formal education to obtain upper secondary or tertiary-level degrees (Blöndal et al., 2002; OECD, 2004b).


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