Increasing Adult Learning Participation

Learning from Successful Reforms

image of Increasing Adult Learning Participation

Countries need to urgently scale-up and upgrade their adult learning systems to help people adapt to the future world of work. Today, only two in five adults across the EU and OECD participate in education and training in any given year, according to the OECD Survey of Adults Skills. Participation is even lower among disadvantaged adults, such as those with low skill levels or in jobs at high risk of automation. For adult learning systems to be future-ready, governments must increase their efforts to engage more adults in continuous learning throughout their lives.

While much has been written about the need for progress, it is less clear how adult learning participation can be increased in practice. Many good ideas struggle to translate into real change on the ground, as they get stuck in the reality of policy implementation. This report aims to understand the factors that make adult learning reforms succeed. It identifies lessons from six countries that have significantly increased participation over the past decades: Austria, Estonia, Italy, Hungary, the Netherlands and Singapore. To shed light on how these countries achieved this objective, this study looks at the details of reform design, implementation and evaluation.


Beyond increasing participation

High participation in adult learning is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for a well-functioning and future-ready adult learning system. While this study has primarily focused on an increase in participation in adult learning, this is simply not enough. To enable more adults to reskill and upskill, policy-makers must also focus their attention to issues of quality and labour market impact of their reform efforts on the intended targets. This chapter reviews indicators of success of adult learning reforms beyond overall participation, including increases in training quality, labour market outcomes, alignment with individual and labour market needs, as well as increased inclusiveness.


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