Executive Summary

A well-co-ordinated adult learning system will be essential if Slovenia is to meet its long-term development goals. Globalisation, technological progress and demographic change will all have transformational effects on life at work and beyond, amplifying the importance of getting adults’ skills right.

A wealth of OECD research shows that individuals, employers and society all benefit from adults having higher levels of skills. Slovenia has achieved significant improvements in student outcomes and tertiary attainment in recent decades. Yet many adults have only low levels of literacy and numeracy. Participation in adult learning remains below Slovenia’s targets, and is particularly low for low-skilled, unemployed and older adults, especially in small enterprises and certain sectors.

The hard work of economic recovery is now behind Slovenia, and awareness of the importance of adult skills and learning is growing. Slovenia’s leaders have a unique opportunity to strengthen co-operation on adult learning between central government, municipalities, social partners and other stakeholders, to contribute to a higher quality of work and life in Slovenia.

OECD-Slovenia collaboration on a National Skills Strategy Action Phase

The government of Slovenia and a wide range of stakeholders embarked on a long-term strategic skills project with the OECD spanning from 2015 to 2018.

The Slovenian government initiated a National Skills Strategy (NSS) diagnostic phase with the OECD in 2015, which concluded in 2017. This identified nine skills challenges for Slovenia, ranging from improving the skills of low-skilled adults to inclusive and effective governance of the skills system.

In 2017, the government and the OECD initiated work on the Action Phase of the NSS to identify concrete actions to strengthen co-operation in adult learning. This phase has involved collaborative work with an inter-ministerial government team, extensive engagement with agencies, institutes, businesses, education and training providers, employers’ associations, trade unions, academics, and civil society organisations, as well as comparative analysis to identify relevant good practices across the OECD.

Co-operation is essential to raise knowledge and skills for quality of life and work

Slovenia has a dispersed legislative framework for adult learning, with different acts allocating varying responsibilities to 10 ministries and all 212 municipalities. Dozens of collective agreements establish varying measures to support education and training for workers in different sectors. Alongside the central government and municipalities, social partners, education and guidance providers, institutes and researchers, civil society organisations, and regional development agencies have important roles in adult learning. Effective co-operation between these actors will be essential for improving participation, outcomes and cost-effectiveness in adult learning.

Strengthening the overall conditions for co-operation in adult learning

By improving strategic planning, cross-sectoral oversight and information on adult skills and learning, Slovenia could strengthen the overall conditions for effective co-operation. Slovenia’s Adult Education Master Plan 2013-2020 sets priorities and targets for much of the adult learning system. But it does not cover all forms of learning, clearly establish responsibilities and accountability, or have enough involvement from all relevant stakeholders. Existing co-ordination and expert bodies facilitate information sharing, but are not driving policy coherence or partnerships in adult learning. This is primarily because they have no decision-making or spending capacity. The existing bodies also exclude some ministries, local actors and representatives of target groups of adult learners. Government and stakeholders require better, more integrated information – on adult learning activity and expenditure, the outcomes achieved by different programmes and providers, the learning opportunities available, and emerging skills needs – to reach a shared understanding of the priorities and opportunities for adult learning.

Strengthening co-operation between specific actors for adult learning

Having strengthened the enabling conditions for co-operation, Slovenia can target the improvement of inter-ministerial co-ordination, co-operation with and between local-level actors, and engagement with stakeholders for adult learning.

Various rules and processes are in place to facilitate inter-ministerial co-ordination, yet the ministry representatives participating in this project cited the need, above all, to develop a culture of co-operation in Slovenia’s public administration. Civil servants reported that they sometimes lack the time, information, skills and resources to effectively co-operate with others, and receive limited recognition for doing so. Municipalities are not well represented on central decision-making bodies and have not taken advantage of their ability to form regional partnerships. Central government does not reward partnerships or regional co-operation in tenders, and good practices at the local level are not widely disseminated.

Despite its importance to Slovenia’s policy goals, adult learning policy is rarely discussed by Slovenia’s foremost tripartite body, the Economic and Social Council. Government and service providers could do better at asking the end users – adult learners and employers – what they need. There is no established model for involving target groups in the design of adult learning services, and limited resources to support a user-centred approach to programme design. Implementing a user-centred approach in adult learning requires specific skills for civil servants and providers, and better monitoring of whether institutions are adjusting their programmes and validating prior learning to meet the needs of individuals and employers.

Strengthening co-operation to address specific challenges in adult learning

Building on the previous actions, Slovenia should take a co-ordinated approach to motivating more adults and businesses to participate in learning, and to fund adult learning more effectively and efficiently.

In the last decade, the share of adults who are neither participating nor wanting to participate in education and training has remained at around 47% in Slovenia. Public institutes and agencies largely drive awareness-raising efforts, and they lack widespread cross-sectoral support. The government, local agencies and providers, social partners and businesses could better share responsibility for promoting and raising awareness of adult learning, and do more to co-ordinate their efforts. There is a particular need to raise awareness of the benefits of learning among unemployed and inactive adults in Slovenia, as well as low-skilled workers and micro and small enterprises.

Government, employers and individuals could share responsibility for funding adult learning more effectively and efficiently. Several project participants questioned whether overall public and private funding for adult learning in Slovenia is sufficient. The instability of public funding for adult learning over the last decade has threatened the sector’s ability to achieve national goals for adult learning. Slovenia’s adult learning system is highly reliant on the European Social Fund, which comes with its own risks. Social dialogue and collective agreements have not ensured employers of different sectors and sizes are effectively investing in the skills of working adults. Overall, Slovenia lacks a systematic approach for government, employers and individuals to appropriately share the costs of skills development, and target funding to where it will have the greatest impact.

Recommended actions to strengthen co-operation for adult learning

The central government, municipalities, social partners and other stakeholders should take the following actions to strengthen co-operation, in order to improve participation, outcomes and cost-effectiveness in adult learning in Slovenia. The effectiveness of these new arrangements should be monitored and further improved over time.

Strengthening the overall conditions for co-operation in adult learning

  1. 1. Develop a comprehensive adult learning master plan to include all forms and levels of adult education and training, and clarify the roles of all sectors involved.

  2. 2. Strengthen cross-sectoral oversight and accountability in adult learning to drive policy coherence and partnerships between ministries and stakeholders.

  3. 3. Enrich decision making and co-ordination with high-quality information on adult learning activities and expenditure, learning opportunities, and skills needs.

Strengthening co-operation between specific actors for adult learning

  1. 4. Strengthen inter-ministerial co-ordination of adult learning policy, by improving civil servants’ awareness, skills, recognition and resourcing for co-ordination.

  2. 5. Strengthen co-operation between the central government and municipalities to align national and local efforts, and between local actors to make better use of the resources, knowledge and capacity within each region.

  3. 6. Strengthen government engagement with stakeholders in adult learning policy making and programme design, in order to better meet the needs of adult learners and employers.

Strengthening co-operation to address specific challenges in adult learning

  1. 7. Improve co-operation on raising awareness about adult learning, with each sector taking responsibility for the groups of adults and businesses to which they are closest.

  2. 8. Improve co-operation on funding adult learning effectively and efficiently by developing a high-level cross-sectoral funding agreement, and better targeting the funding of each sector.

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