Chapter 1. Improving the governance of adult learning in Slovenia: Assessment and recommendations

This chapter outlines the importance of effective co-operation between central government, municipalities and stakeholders for adult learning in Slovenia. It highlights the growing importance of adults’ skills to economic prosperity and social cohesion, and summarises the recent data on participation in adult learning. The chapter gives an overview of how the OECD engaged with ministries and stakeholders during the project, and summarises the three overarching themes that emerged: embracing lifelong learning as a national priority, developing a culture of co-operation, and keeping the end user at the centre of policy and programme design. It then presents a summary of eight recommended actions for Slovenia to strengthen: 1) the overall conditions for co-operation in adult learning; 2) co-operation between specific actors; and 3) co-operation to address specific challenges in adult learning.

    

Effective governance is essential for Slovenia to realise its goals for adult learning

Slovenia has developed an ambitious vision of learning for and throughout life. Lifelong learning is central to Slovenia’s Development Strategy 2030 (Strategija razvoja Slovenije 2030) (SRS 2030) (Šooš et al., 2017[1]). The strategy establishes “Knowledge and skills for quality of life and work” as one of its 12 goals, and notes the importance of lifelong learning opportunities for the “largest portion of the population as possible, whereby quality and accessibility are crucial, with particular attention paid to disadvantaged groups” (Šooš et al., 2017, p. 26[1]). The strategy adopts a target of increasing participation in adult learning from 11.6% in 2016 to 19% by 2030.1

Individuals, employers and society benefit from adults having higher levels of skills. Skills matter for adults’ employment outcomes and active citizenship. In Slovenia, the number of years of education adults have has a greater effect on their employment and earnings than in almost every other country taking part in the Survey of Adult Skills (Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies) (PIAAC). Adults’ literacy and numeracy skills also have a larger positive effect on their wages than many other factors, including years of work experience, gender or migration status (OECD, 2016, p. 128[2]). Furthermore, in Slovenia, adults with greater literacy proficiency report higher levels of trust than adults with low levels of literacy proficiency. Across the OECD, higher levels of skills are also associated with better health and greater participation in volunteering, and with a greater likelihood of adults perceiving themselves as actors in, rather than objects of political processes (OECD, 2016[2]).

Slovenia has sizeable potential to improve adults’ skills, employability and active citizenship. Adults’ literacy scores have improved substantially over the past two decades, and educational attainment continues to grow. However, 31% of 16-65 year-olds in Slovenia – almost 400 000 adults – still have low levels of literacy and/or numeracy (OECD, 2016[2]). Older adults in general are much more likely to be low-skilled than younger adults, yet 20% of 25-34 year-olds are also low-skilled, posing an ongoing challenge for Slovenia’s future economic prosperity and social cohesion (Figure 1.1).

Figure 1.1. Low-skilled adults in Slovenia, by age group (2015)
Share of adults who score at or below Level 1 in literacy and/or numeracy in PIAAC
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Source: OECD calculations based on OECD (2017[3]) OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) database (2012, 2015), www.oecd.org/skills/piaac/ (accessed March 2017).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933858430

Adults with low education levels (below upper secondary) and skill levels (literacy score at or below Level 1) in Slovenia have lower employment rates than their counterparts in almost all other OECD countries (OECD, 2018[4]). In terms of active citizenship, a relatively high share of adults in Slovenia engage in volunteering activities. Yet Slovenian adults exhibit the lowest levels of confidence in their national government of all OECD countries, report relatively low levels of trust in others, and are relatively less likely to vote at elections (OECD, 2016[5]). This highlights the importance of not only seeking to increase levels of trust and active citizenship through adult learning, but of restoring trust in government through better governance.

The importance of raising adults’ levels of skills is growing. Emerging economic, social and environmental challenges magnify the importance of skills. Slovenia’s population is ageing more rapidly than most other OECD countries, meaning that there are fewer workers to meet skills needs and fewer wage earners to support public spending (OECD, 2017[6]). Recent OECD work suggests that about 26% of workers in Slovenia face a high risk of seeing their jobs automated, compared to 14% across PIAAC countries on average (Nedelkoska and Quintini, 2018[7]). Demand for skills is likely to evolve rapidly, centring more around the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as well as soft skills, and less on non-transferable skills. Changes within and mobility between jobs is expected to increase and workers will retire later, making transferable skills increasingly valuable for adults (OECD, 2018[8]).

Learning is essential for improving adults’ skills, employability and social outcomes. Adult learning can generate personal, economic and social benefits. It can improve individuals’ probability of employment, earnings and productivity (OECD, 2005[9]; What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth, 2016[10]; Card, Kluve and Weber, 2015[11]; McCall, Smith and Wunsch, 2016[12]). In Slovenia, training programmes for the unemployed have increased adults’ probability of employment in the short and longer term, as well as their wages and employment quality (Burger et al., 2017[13]). Adult learning is also positively associated with health and propensity to volunteer (European Commission, 2015[14]; Vera-Toscano, Rodrigues and Costa, 2017[15]). For countries, participation and investment in adult learning is associated with faster growth in gross domestic product (GDP), higher employment rates and literacy proficiency, reduced inequality in incomes and skills, and higher rates of innovation (FiBS and DIE, 2013[16]; Desjardins, 2017[17]).

However, Slovenia’s performance in raising adult-learning participation is mixed. According to the Adult Education Survey (AES) (2016) (Eurostat, 2018[18]), participation in adult learning in Slovenia is higher than a decade ago, and slightly above the European Union (EU) average. In Slovenia in 2016, 46.1% of 25-64 year-olds reported that they had participated in non-formal or formal education or training in the last 12 months, up from 40.6% in 2007. And the intensity (hours) of this education and training is higher than in any other EU country. Furthermore, a relatively high and growing share of Slovenian enterprises provides continuous vocational training to employees (Eurostat, 2018[19]) (see Annex B for more details).

According to the European Union Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS) measure, however, adult-learning participation in Slovenia is near its historical low point (Eurostat, 2018[20]).2 On average in 2017, 12% of 25-64 year-olds in Slovenia reported that they had participated in formal and non-formal education and training in the four weeks prior to the survey. This was one of the lowest levels since 2002 (Figure 1.2). In order to reach its 2030 target for adult learning of 19%, Slovenia will need to raise participation by 7 percentage points – an achievable increase, but one that only four EU member states (Estonia, France, Luxembourg and Sweden) have managed in the 12 years to 2017.

Figure 1.2. Historical participation in adult learning and the 2030 target (2002-30)
Historical data for the European Union and Slovenia until 2017, and projected data for Slovenia from 2018 to 2030
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Source: Based on Eurostat (2018[20]), Adult Learning: Participation Rate in Education and Training (Last 4 Weeks), EU Labour Force Survey, https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/data/database (accessed on 16 October 2018).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933858449

Furthermore, Slovenia has large and persistent participation gaps in adult learning, whereby those most in need of adult learning are the least likely to learn (Figure 1.3). While participation in adult learning among employed adults increased in Slovenia from 2007 to 2016, participation among unemployed and inactive adults actually decreased. Slovenia also has one of the largest participation gaps between low- and highly educated adults in the EU (14% versus 71%) (Eurostat, 2018[18]). Unlike many EU countries, Slovenia has not managed to reduce this gap over the last decade. Finally, the level, intensity and relevance of continuous vocational training is relatively low in certain economic sectors and smaller enterprises (Eurostat, 2018[19]) (see Annex B for more details).

Figure 1.3. Participation gaps in adult learning in Slovenia (2007 and 2016)
Percentage of adults participating in formal and/or non-formal education or training in the last 12 months
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Source: Eurostat (2018[18]), Participation Rate in Education and Training, Adult Education Survey 2016, https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/data/database (accessed on 16 October 2018).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933858468

Co-operation between government and stakeholders will be essential for achieving Slovenia’s aspirations for adult learning. The Council of the European Union’s Resolution on a Renewed European Agenda for Adult Learning (2011[21]) recognised that much more remains to be done across the EU in relation to co-operation with employers, social partners and civil society. It invited member states to ensure effective liaison with the relevant ministries and stakeholders, social partners, businesses, and relevant non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society organisations, with a view to improving the coherence between policies on adult learning and broader socio-economic policies. For the period 2015-20, the first of four priorities under the EU adult-learning agenda are governance related: ensuring the coherence of adult learning with other policy areas; improving its co-ordination, effectiveness and relevance to the needs of society, the economy and the environment; and increasing, where appropriate, both private and public investment (European Commission, 2018[22]).

A wide range of actors have important roles in Slovenia’s adult-learning system, including:

  • Ministries: 10 ministries in Slovenia currently have legislative responsibility for some aspect of adult learning (see Table 2.4 in Chapter 2).

  • Municipalities: Slovenia’s 212 municipalities own the premises of the country’s 34 Adult Education Centres (Ljudske univerze) (LUs), may fund adult-learning related services, and are now required by law to develop annual plans for adult learning.

  • Regional bodies: while there is no regional government in Slovenia, each of Slovenia’s 12 Regional Development Agencies (Regionalne razvojne agencije) (RRAs) has a committee for human resources, and most include adult-learning related goals in their Regional Development Plan (Regionalni razvojni program) (RRP).

  • Providers: 47 public secondary schools, 66 higher vocational colleges and 107 tertiary education institutions provide formal education to adult learners in Slovenia. There are also over 500 providers of non-formal adult education and training, including LUs, specialised adult education institutions, school-based units, company-based units, educational centres at business chambers and NGOs (see Annex A for more details on providers).

  • Employers: Slovenia’s 196 000 enterprises, 186 000 of which are micro-sized (0-9 employees), may provide education and training, study leave or informal learning experiences for their employees, as required by collective agreements or according to business needs (SURS, 2018[23]). One-third of adults in Slovenia participate in job-related non-formal education and training that is sponsored by their employer (Eurostat, 2018[18]).

  • Social partners: Slovenia’s 49 trade unions (including associations and confederations) and 5 major inter-sectoral employers’ associations (and smaller associations) negotiate adult learning provisions in collective agreements. About 65% of employees are covered by collective agreements in Slovenia, and many employers financially support education and training for employees.

  • National institutes, centres and researchers: the Slovenian Institute for Adult Education (Andragoški center Republike Slovenije) (ACS) and the Institute of the Republic of Slovenia for Vocational Education and Training (Centra Republike Slovenije za poklicno izobraževanje) (CPI) are responsible for research and development, quality, guidance and validation, and promotional and informative activities in adult and vocational education respectively. Other institutes, centres and universities also have important roles in research (including on PIAAC data), programme development, teaching pedagogy/andragogy and recognition of prior learning.

Effective co-ordination and co-operation between the diverse actors involved in Slovenia’s adult-learning system will be essential for achieving the SRS 2030 goals for “Knowledge and skills for quality of life and work” and “Effective governance and high-quality public service” (Šooš et al., 2017[1]). Such co-ordination and co-operation can have many benefits, such as ensuring policy coherence between ministries and levels of government, minimising overlaps and gaps in adult-learning services, and effectively sharing responsibilities for promoting and funding adult-learning. It will require enabling conditions to be in place, such as shared strategic goals, effective oversight and a high-quality information base, as well as strong co-operation at all levels: between ministries, levels of government, government and stakeholders and local and regional actors.

A wide range of actors in Slovenia contributed to the Skills Strategy project

The importance of improving adults’ skills and effectively governing skills policy was demonstrated by the results of the first phase of the OECD-Slovenia National Skills Strategy (NSS) project. The OECD Skills Strategy Diagnostic Report: Slovenia (2017[6]) was the result of a collaborative effort by nine ministries and offices, public agencies and institutes, education and training providers, employer associations, trade unions, non-government organisations, students and others in the first phase of the project. The report identified nine skills challenges in four areas: developing, activating and using skills, and strengthening the skills system (Figure 1.4).

Figure 1.4. OECD Skills Strategy Diagnostic Report: Slovenia 2017
Nine skills challenges for Slovenia
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Source: OECD (2017[6]), OECD Skills Strategy Diagnostic Report: Slovenia 2017, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264287709-en.

Following the OECD’s diagnostic report, Slovenia’s national project team engaged the OECD to undertake a subsequent Action Phase on the governance of adult learning: strengthening inter-ministerial, municipal and stakeholder co-operation to boost adults’ skills for work and life via adult learning, as an essential part of lifelong learning. The aim of the Action Phase is to identify concrete actions Slovenia can take in this area.

This focus combines two of the significant skills challenges identified in the diagnostic report: ensuring effective and inclusive governance of skills, and boosting the skills of adults. For the purposes of this report, the following definitions are used (see Annex C for more details).

Governance refers to the delineation of responsibilities and mechanisms for co-operation between ministries, municipalities and stakeholders. Effective governance is underpinned by clear and shared objectives, appropriate incentives and accountability, the capacity and skills for co-operation, information sharing, and shared funding. The diagnostic report found that the effectiveness of Slovenia’s inter-ministerial and municipal co-ordination and stakeholder engagement should be strengthened to improve skills policy (including adult learning).

Adult learning refers to any formal or non-formal education and training, or informal learning undertaken by adults who have previously finished “first chance” formal education. This may take place in the workplace, in training or education centres, online or in other contexts. The diagnostic report found that many adults in Slovenia have low levels of basic skills, and adult participation in lifelong learning is relatively low and may not meet labour market needs.

Slovenia’s inter-ministerial national project team and a wide range of stakeholders have helped develop the actions in this report. The OECD team worked closely with the Slovenian national project team, which included representatives of ten ministries and offices: the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport (Ministrstvo za izobraževanje, znanost in šport) (MIZŠ); Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities (Ministrstvo za delo, družino, socialne zadeve in enake možnosti) (MDDSZ); Ministry of Economic Development and Technology (Ministrstvo za gospodarski razvoj in tehnologijo) (MGRT); Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning (Ministrstvo za okolje in prostor) (MOP); Ministry of Health (Ministrstvo za zdravje) (MZ); Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food (Ministrstvo za kmetijstvo, gozdarstvo in prehrano) (MKGP); the Minister of the Ministry of Finance (Ministrstvo za finance) (MF); Ministry of Public Administration (Ministrstvo za javno upravo) (MJU); Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ministrstvo za zunanje zadeve) (MZZ); and the Government Office for Development and European Cohesion Policy (Služba Vlade Republike Slovenije za razvoj in evropsko kohezijsko politiko) (SVRK).

The OECD engaged with the project team and a broad range of stakeholders through four country visits between December 2017 and July 2018 (Table 1.1). Two interactive workshops and 15 in-depth thematic discussions brought together participants from government agencies involved in adult learning, institutes, education and training providers, employer representatives, trade unions and municipalities and users of the adult-learning system (see Annex E for more details).

Table 1.1. Action Phase: Engagement of Slovenian stakeholders

Event

Objectives

Participants

Inception meeting with senior officials – Ljubljana, 13-14 December 2017.

Obtain feedback on the proposed Action Phase.

Ministers and state secretaries, government offices, research institutes, academics, social partners, and other stakeholders.

Mapping issues – Lukovica and Ljubljana

26-29 March 2018.

Understand current arrangements between ministries, municipalities and stakeholders on the co-ordination and co-operation on adult learning in Slovenia, and key challenges and opportunities for strengthening their co-operation.

Ministries, government agencies, research institutes, academics, social partners, and education providers.

Testing findings – Ljubljana 14-18 May 2018.

Obtain feedback on potential areas of action for strengthening co-operation in adult learning in Slovenia.

Ministers, government agencies and institutes, municipalities and regional development agencies, employers, adult education providers, and local-level stakeholders.

Testing actions – Ljubljana 2-5 July 2018.

Obtain feedback on the detailed set of 15 draft recommended actions.

Ministers, agencies and institutes, adult learners, adult education providers, and business chambers.

Themes emerging from the stakeholder engagement

Three high-level themes emerged from the widespread engagement outlined above. These are the importance of:

  • Embracing lifelong learning as a national priority. Slovenia is seeking to transform citizens’ attitudes towards learning, from a focus on getting an education at school to a lifelong commitment to developing skills. A culture of lifelong learning must pervade families, communities, workplaces and education institutions at all levels. This will require all sections of society to be convinced of, and have access to the benefits of adult learning. It starts with Slovenia’s parliament, government and social partners embracing and operationalising lifelong learning as a national priority. Government, social partners and adult-learning providers will need to take a co-ordinated approach to raising awareness of the potential personal, social and economic benefits of adult learning, for individuals, employers and society (Action 7). They must also co-ordinate their efforts to reduce the cost- and time-related barriers to under-represented groups – low-skilled, older and inactive adults, and those working in small enterprises – participating in adult learning (Actions 6 and 8).

  • Developing a culture of co-operation in the adult-learning system. Adult-learning systems are inherently complex and cross-sectoral, yet of increasing importance to countries’ development goals. Effective co-operation is essential within and between ministries (Action 4), between central and municipal governments and between local and regional actors (Action 5), and between government and stakeholders (Action 6). Political leaders can set the example of inter-ministerial co-operation for the public administration. Governments and stakeholders will need to agree on the priorities, goals, and roles and responsibilities for Slovenia’s adult-learning system. This agreement can be expressed and supported by a comprehensive and long-term master plan for adult learning, created in partnership by government and stakeholders (Action 1). Fundamentally, co-operation requires trust within and between the sectors involved in adult learning. Trust takes time to build, but can be built as each sector embraces, is held accountable for, and successfully fulfils its roles and responsibilities in the system.

  • Keeping the end user at the centre of policy and programme design. Government and providers must stay focused on end users – adult learners and employers – when designing adult-learning policy and programmes. Adults and enterprises exhibit a diverse range of motivations for and barriers to participating in learning. Adult learners typically require different knowledge, learning contexts and instruction methods to younger students in “first chance” education. Maintaining a user-, learner- and adult-centred approach in policy making and the design of adult-learning programmes (Action 6) is essential for ensuring services best meet users’ needs. Focusing on the end user can also help diverse sectors reach agreement on priorities for adult learning.

In addition to these high-level themes, the engagement and analysis undertaken during this project has resulted in the OECD recommending eight actions Slovenia should take to strengthen co-operation for adult learning. These recommended actions are summarised below, and spelled out in detail in the subsequent chapters.

Strengthening the overall conditions for co-operation in adult learning

Slovenia should take the following actions to help create the overall conditions for co-operation between ministries, municipalities and stakeholders alike.

Action 1: Develop a comprehensive adult-learning master plan

The strategic framework for adult learning in Slovenia is quite comprehensive, and provides a reasonable basis for effective co-operation between ministries, municipalities and stakeholders. The SRS 2030 includes goals for participation in adult learning, and the 2018 Adult Education Act (Zakon o izobraževanju odraslih) (ZIO-1 Act) establishes a national long-term plan for directing public funding in adult education, the Adult Education Master Plan 2013-2020 (Resolucija o nacionalnem programu izobraževanja odraslih v Republiki Sloveniji za obdobje 2013-2020) (ReNPIO). This is further supported by regular planning and reporting to government and parliament through annual plans and other measures. Several sectoral strategies make reference to the importance of adults’ skills, education and training.

However, Slovenia lacks a comprehensive strategy that covers all forms and providers of adult learning, clarifies each sector’s responsibilities and helps keep them accountable. The ReNPIO excludes adult education and training that is entirely privately funded, established under sectoral legislation (e.g. agriculture, public health or public administration) or at the higher education level. It also has limited jurisdiction over and impact on “second-chance” upper secondary school, short-cycle higher vocational studies and training for the registered unemployed, as these fall outside the scope of the ZIO-1 Act. According to representatives of several ministries and institutes who participated in this project, the ReNPIO and annual reports have not clarified responsibilities or established accountability for ministries, agencies, municipalities, social partners and other stakeholders in adult learning to co-operate effectively or achieve Slovenia’s goals for adult learning.

The ZIO-1 Act and the new ReNPIO (2021 onwards) represent an opportunity for Slovenia to develop a truly comprehensive master plan for adult learning.

Box 1.1. Recommended Action 1: Develop a comprehensive adult-learning master plan

The government and adult-learning stakeholders should develop a comprehensive adult-learning master plan for 2021 onwards. The master plan should set priorities and targets for all forms and levels of adult education and training (publicly and privately funded); clarify the main roles and responsibilities of each sector in adult learning (and the role of partnerships between them); establish performance indicators and, where public funding is involved, accountability for implementation; complement other major sectoral strategies; and contribute to the achievement of the SRS 2030 goals for adult learning.

The master plan should be supported by an effective oversight body for adult-learning policy making (Action 2), high-quality information (Action 3), capacity building in the public administration (Action 4), the efforts of local and regional actors (Action 5), effective stakeholder engagement (Action 6), more effective awareness raising (Action 7), and improved funding arrangements (Action 8).

Action 2: Strengthen cross-sectoral oversight and accountability in adult learning

Slovenia has a number of bodies and councils whose roles cover adult skills and learning to varying degrees. The Adult Education Co-ordination Body (Koordinacija izobraževanja odraslih) (AE Body), Council of Experts of the Republic of Slovenia for Adult Education (Strokovni svet Republike Slovenije za izobraževanje odraslih) (SSIO), Council of Experts for Vocational Education and Training (Strokovni svet za poklicno in strokovno izobraževanje) (SSPSI), Council of Experts for General Education (Strokovni svet za splošno izobraževanje) (SSSI) and Economic and Social Council (Ekonomsko-socialni svet) (ESS) all play a role in facilitating co-ordination and co-operation between ministries, municipalities and stakeholders in adult-learning policy making. These bodies are formally established either by legislation or ministerial decrees, and typically have a broad membership from different ministries and stakeholders.

However, representatives of the ministries and stakeholders involved in this project agreed that the existing bodies only facilitate discussion and information sharing. They are not driving policy coherence or inter-ministerial or cross-sectoral partnerships in adult learning. This is primarily because the existing bodies have no decision-making or spending capacity. Furthermore, representatives of municipalities, regional bodies and adult learners, as well as some of ministries involved in adult learning, are not members of the existing bodies. The participants in this projected called not for more bureaucracy, but more effective bureaucracy.

Box 1.2. Recommended Action 2: Strengthen cross-sectoral oversight and accountability in adult learning

The government should strengthen the capacity and accountability of existing oversight bodies for adult learning to facilitate coherence and partnerships between ministries, municipalities and stakeholders.

To improve inter-ministerial and cross-sectoral co-ordination and partnerships in adult learning, the government should formally establish and expand the remit and membership of the AE Body, and give it some decision-making capacity over adult-learning policy and expenditure. To improve expert advice for adult learning, the government should expand the remit of the SSIO to advise the AE Body and all ministries involved in adult learning at key stages of policy making (design, implementation and evaluation). It should also increase the number of andragogic experts in the SSIO.

The government should clearly establish in legislation each body’s objectives and role, relationship to other bodies, and accountability, as well as its decision-making and spending capacity. The government should monitor the effectiveness of the renewed AE Body and SSIO over time, and make further improvements as required.

Action 3: Enrich decision making and co-ordination with high-quality information

Various ministries and agencies are involved in collecting and analysing data on adult learning and generating information on skills needs. A wide range of adult-learning providers and employers contribute data and information to these datasets, voluntarily or by obligation. However, Slovenia lacks comprehensive and integrated information on adult learning and skills needs. Several representatives of the ministries and stakeholders participating in this project reported that this makes it harder for different ministries and stakeholders to reach a shared understanding of the challenges, opportunities and priorities for adult-learning policy and funding.

The government does not collect administrative data for some forms of adult education and training, such as short-cycle higher vocational training and non-formal education (non-publicly recognised). The participation data held by the MIZŠ, MDDSZ and other agencies are not well connected. Decision makers do not know how many adults are completing or transitioning between different forms of learning. There are also gaps in the government’s current data collections on adult-learning expenditure – especially for businesses and individuals.

Information about the personal, employment and social outcomes being achieved by different adult-learning providers and programmes is almost non-existent in Slovenia. Currently, evaluation methods focus on providers’ inputs and processes at the point of accreditation, rather than on outcomes. In non-formal education and training, voluntary self-evaluation is the dominant method.

Slovenia has several online portals with information on education and training opportunities for adults. However, many providers do not advertise on these portals, and there are gaps and overlaps in the information provided. Overall, the portals could be better linked, including to information on skills needs in the economy.

Finally, Slovenia still lacks a comprehensive skills assessment and anticipation (SAA) approach, and widely accepted information on short- and long-term skills needs. There is a lack of clarity about responsibilities. The Employment Service of Slovenia (Zavod Republike Slovenije za zaposlovanje) (ZRSZ); the MDDSZ; the Public Scholarship Development, Disability and Maintenance Fund of the Republic of Slovenia (Javni štipendijski, razvojni, invalidski in preživninski sklad Republike Slovenije) (JŠRIP); the MGRT; the Institute of Macroeconomic Analysis and Development (Urad za makroekonomske analize in razvoj) (UMAR) and some municipalities each undertake activities related to SAA, but have not collaborated to design a comprehensive solution.

Better and more integrated information could help facilitate effective negotiations, co-ordination and partnerships between the ministries and sectors involved in adult learning.

Box 1.3. Recommended Action 3: Enrich decision making and co-ordination with high-quality information

Ministries, municipalities, social partners and other stakeholders should improve, integrate and better use information to enrich decision making and co-ordination in adult learning.

This should include improved information on: skills needs and mismatches (appropriately disaggregated to meet users’ needs), adult education and training activities and opportunities (including all formal and non-formal adult education and training), and the outcomes achieved by adult-learning programmes and providers (underpinned by the introduction of outcome-based evaluation of all publicly funded and verified adult education and training in Slovenia).

The strengthened AE Body (Action 2) should oversee the improvement of adult-learning and skills information, ensuring this information supports the achievement of the adult-learning master plan (Action 1), the oversight body’s activities (Action 2), inter-ministerial co-ordination (Action 4); the decision making of local and regional actors (Action 5), adult-learning services more tailored to learners’ needs (Action 6), efforts to promote the benefits of adult learning (Action 7), decisions about allocating funding (Action 8), and the adult-learning investments of individuals and firms.

Strengthening co-operation between specific actors for adult learning

In addition to strengthening the overall conditions for co-operation in adult learning, Slovenia should take the following actions to strengthen co-ordination and co-operation between ministries, with municipalities and between local actors, and between government (including public providers) and stakeholders.

Action 4: Strengthen inter-ministerial co-ordination for adult learning

The civil servants involved in adult-learning policy in Slovenia co-ordinate with each other through various formal and informal mechanisms. Several strategies, rules and human resource management practices in the public administration seek to facilitate effective inter-ministerial co-ordination. The Public Administration Development Strategy 2015-2020 (Strategija razvoja javne uprave 2015-2020) (SJU 2020) and the SRS 2030 have identified effective public governance and inter-ministerial co-ordination as priorities for the public administration.

Inter-ministerial co-ordination for adult learning could be strengthened by improving civil servants’ awareness, skills, recognition and resourcing for co-ordination. Although Slovenia has a range of rules and processes in place to facilitate inter-ministerial co-ordination, representatives of the ministries participating in this project argued that rules are not enough. They stated that opportunities to develop skills for effective co-ordination are limited, and co-ordination efforts are not sufficiently recognised. Ministry representatives also raised concerns about the levels and variability of resources allocated to inter-ministerial co-ordination. Above all, ministry representatives cited the need to develop a culture of co-operation in Slovenia’s public administration, particularly for improved adult-learning policy.

Box 1.4. Recommended Action 4: Strengthening inter-ministerial co-ordination for adult learning

The government should improve awareness, skills, recognition and resourcing for co-ordination in the public administration, to strengthen co-ordination within, between and by ministries.

The government should survey the individuals working on adult learning within ministries, agencies and existing cross-sectoral bodies, in order to assess and address gaps in skills, recognition and resourcing for co-operation. In light of the survey results, the government should: raise awareness about the importance of co-operation in adult learning, improve opportunities for developing skills for co-operation in the public administration, strengthen requirements for and recognition of effective co-operation, and resource co-operation efforts effectively. While focused on adult learning, this action should contribute to the achievement of the SRS 2030 goals for “effective governance and high-quality public service”.

This action should build civil servants’ capacity for: strategic governance (Actions 1 and 2), integrating diverse information into decision making (Action 3) and adopting a user-centred approach in adult learning (Action 6). The government should also consider extending learning opportunities to municipalities and public providers to support their role in adult learning (Action 5).

Action 5: Strengthen co-operation with municipalities and between local actors

Despite the important and growing role of municipalities in adult learning, there is limited co-ordination between ministries and the municipalities for developing and implementing adult learning policy. Representatives of the ministries participating in this project cited no direct lines of communication with municipalities. Only one existing body for adult learning (the AE Body) has a member representing municipalities (a municipal association). The ReNPIO and the municipalities’ Annual Plans for Adult Education (AL Plans) could be more closely linked. Effective co-operation between ministries and representatives of municipalities will be essential if Slovenia is to effectively tailor its national policies to local/regional needs, and if municipalities are to help realise national goals for adult learning

Several stakeholders participating in this project stated that co-operation between actors at the local level is a strong point of Slovenia’s adult-learning system. Regional adult-learning related centres such as LUs, Inter-Company Training Centres (Medpodjetniški izobraževalni centri) (MICs) and Competence Centres for Human Resources Development (Kompetenčni centri za razvoj kadrov) (KOCs) do act as hubs for co-operation between providers, municipalities, local employers, social partners and others. However, municipalities often lack a culture of co-operation and of joint service provision. No municipalities have yet developed joint AL Plans with other municipalities as permitted by the ZIO-1 Act. Regional bodies do not appear to be facilitating partnerships for adult learning. The stakeholders participating in this project considered that local and regional co-operation in adult learning could be made more systematic, in order to harness the resources, knowledge and capacity of multiple municipalities and stakeholders. The central government could also do more to support co-operation at the local level.

Box 1.5. Recommended Action 5: Strengthen co-operation with municipalities and between local actors

The central government and municipalities should co-ordinate more effectively to ensure coherence between national and local adult-learning policies and programmes. Municipalities and other local actors should strengthen their co-operation to improve the relevance, impact and cost effectiveness of adult-learning services.

Municipalities and regional development agencies should actively contribute to Actions 1, 2, 3, 6, 7 and 8, and ensure that their plans and activities are aligned with the national master plan (Action 1). Furthermore, municipalities, regional development agencies and service providers should use regional bodies (such as Regional Councils of Mayors and RRAs) to identify and realise opportunities for partnerships in adult learning.

In addition to including local and regional stakeholders in Actions 1, 2, 3, 7 and 8, ministries should use public tenders to reward local and regional partnerships, and the ACS should recognise and widely publicise successful examples of such partnerships.

Action 6: Strengthen government engagement with stakeholders for adult learning

Slovenia has a range of mechanisms facilitating government engagement with stakeholders in adult-learning policy making. These mechanisms work well overall, with some opportunities for improvement. The SSIO and the AE Body do not include all key groups of stakeholders, and give them little influence over policy. The ESS, Slovenia’s foremost tripartite body for policy dialogue, rarely discusses adult-learning policy.

In programme design, there are some promising examples in Slovenia of public agencies and providers involving end users in the design of adult-learning services. However, the mechanisms and practices for engaging stakeholders in programme design and delivery are limited and largely ad hoc.

Several participants in this project asked “who is asking the adult learners what they want?” Despite the goals of SRS 2030 and SJU 2020, government and public providers are not systematically putting the end user – adult learners and employers – at the centre of adult-learning policy making and programme design. Slovenia has no single framework or institution for validating adults’ non-formal and informal learning. Monitoring of the supply and uptake of flexible education and training opportunities and validation of prior learning for adults is needed, particularly in formal education. Improved training could help civil servants and staff of public providers better engage with stakeholders and service users.

Box 1.6. Recommended Action 6: Strengthen government engagement with stakeholders for adult learning

In policy making, the ministries, employers’ associations and trade unions represented on the ESS should more frequently discuss policies related to adult skills and lifelong learning, and provide opinions to the government.

In programme design, ministries, agencies, publicly funded providers, adult learners and employers should work together more effectively to design adult-learning services that meet users’ needs. The government should collect better data on, monitor and ensure the sufficient supply of flexible education and training programmes and validation of prior learning for adults. In particular, these efforts should focus on the formal education system – schools, vocational colleges and higher education institutions. Ministries, agencies and publicly funded providers should more systematically implement a user-centred approach by involving target groups of adults and employers in the design of adult-learning services.

The new outcomes evaluation model for adult learning (Action 3) should seek to measure users’ satisfaction with the design and flexibility of adult learning programmes. The government should offer civil servants and staff of public adult-learning providers targeted training in user-centred design approaches (Action 4).

Strengthening co-operation to address specific challenges in adult learning

Like many OECD countries, Slovenia faces two highly complex challenges for adult learning: motivating more adults to learn and appropriately funding adult learning. Having strengthened the “enabling conditions” for co-operation, and co-operation between specific actors, Slovenia should take a more co-ordinated approach to addressing these two challenges.

Action 7: Improve co-operation on raising awareness about adult learning

Slovenia has a relatively well-developed system for raising awareness about lifelong learning opportunities and benefits. Its Lifelong Learning Week and Learning Parades have been internationally recognised as good practices, and the ZIO-1 Act expanded publicly funded guidance and counselling services for potential adult learners.

Despite considerable effort, however, the share of adults neither participating nor wanting to participate in education and training (approximately 47%) has not fallen in the last 10 years. Several participants in this project stated that awareness-raising efforts for adult learning currently lack widespread cross-sectoral support. The ACS, and MIZŠ and MDDSZ services (guidance counsellors, LUs and ZRSZ offices) largely drive these efforts. Participants agreed government, local agencies and providers, social partners and businesses should 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.

Box 1.7. Recommended Action 7: Improve co-operation on raising awareness about adult learning

Employers and their associations, trade unions, ministries, LUs, MICs, Centres for Social Work (Centri za socialno delo) (CSDs), ZRSZ offices, municipalities, schools, public media outlets and others should better share responsibility for raising awareness of the benefits of and opportunities for adult learning.

These actors should co-operate to design, fund and implement an action plan for promoting adult learning in Slovenia. The action plan should motivate more adults to participate in and employers to sponsor education and training, contributing to a culture of lifelong learning in Slovenia. The action plan should involve a national multimedia campaign to raise general awareness, building on the success of Lifelong Learning Week. It should also detail appropriate awareness-raising, guidance and outreach initiatives at the regional and local level. The action plan should allocate responsibility to individual sectors and/or agencies for reaching out to specific target groups of adults closest to them: employers’ associations for smaller enterprises; trade unions for low-skilled workers; the ZRSZ for the registered unemployed; CSDs for inactive adults; municipalities, LUs and Guidance Centres for other local disadvantaged groups; and primary and secondary schools to reach parents with low levels of skills.

This action plan should support the achievement of Slovenia’s goals for adult learning (Action 1) and be overseen by the improved AE Body (Action 2). It should be supported by improved information on learning opportunities and outcomes (Action 3), local and regional stakeholders (Action 5) and cross-sectoral funding (Action 8).

Action 8: Improve co-operation to fund adult learning effectively and efficiently

There are some strengths to the way adult learning is funded in Slovenia. Ten ministries fund adult-learning related programmes, each in the sectors of their expertise. Second-chance basic education (ISCED 1-2), various basic skills programmes and guidance services are established as public services and fully publicly funded. In 2018, public expenditure on adult learning will reach its highest level since at least 2005. Many municipalities are also funding adult-learning services. Overall, Slovenian employers spend considerably more on continuing vocational training than those across the EU on average. There are also examples of co-funding between government and employers on certain adult-learning related programmes.

However, the representatives of ministries and stakeholders participating in this project agreed that government, employers and individuals need to fund adult learning more effectively and efficiently. Several participants questioned whether the total amount of 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. Ultimately, Slovenia lacks a systematic approach for government, employers and individuals to appropriately share the costs of skills development. Slovenia has an opportunity to improve how it shares the costs of learning, ensure funding is sustainable, and target funding to where it will have the greatest impact.

Box 1.8. Recommended Action 8: Improve co-operation to fund adult learning effectively and efficiently

The government, employers and their associations, trade unions and adult learners should more systematically share, target and streamline the funding of adult learning.

The ESS, with support from the expanded AE Body (Action 2), should develop a high-level “funding agreement” outlining how government, employers and individuals should share the costs of investing in different types of adult learning and skills.

The government should provide full, upfront financial support to low-skilled adults to attend second-chance and basic skills programmes. Social partners should strengthen provisions for education and training in lagging collective agreements, and the government should monitor their implementation. In sectors with relatively low expenditure on or participation in adult education and training, social partners should pilot sectoral training funds, which the government should partially co-finance. In particular, these funds should support low-skilled workers, those not covered by collective agreements or in non-standard work, as well as micro and small enterprises. Finally, the ministries involved in adult learning and the SVRK should jointly review, streamline and improve national processes for accessing and allocating EU funds, as part of broader streamlining efforts.

Slovenia’s shared funding arrangements for adult learning should ultimately support the achievement of its goals for adult learning (Action 1). The expanded funding priorities should be discussed by the expanded AE Body (Action 2) and increasingly based on improved information on learning activity and outcomes, and skills needs and mismatches (Action 3).

The basis for an action plan

The representatives of ministries, municipalities and stakeholders who participated in this project expressed the need to improve governance and co-operation in order to improve participation, outcomes and cost effectiveness in adult learning. The findings and recommendations in this report can be used as the basis for an action plan to this end.

To inform the next steps, the OECD conducted a survey of adult-learning stakeholders about considerations for implementing the actions (Table 1.2). Of those who responded, the vast majority considered that all of the eight recommended actions are highly important for Slovenia. Respondents had differing views about the funding and time required to implement the actions. In general, they considered that the actions would not require much new funding, but would require some time to implement fully. A staged approach to implementation may help Slovenia to start to realise the benefits of the actions earlier. Respondents consistently named accountability, high-level political support and a shared understanding of the rationale for the action as the most important conditions for successfully implementing the actions (see Annex D for more details).

Table 1.2. Considerations for implementing the actions
Results of a survey of adult-learning stakeholders in Slovenia, July-September 2018, N=24

Action

Importance

Funding (EUR/ year)

Time

Responsibility

Conditions for successful implementation

Potential legislative changes required

% essential/ very important

Most common answer

Most common answer

Sectors claiming (some) responsibility

1st

2nd

Name of act

1: Master plan

88%

10 000-50 000

1-2 years

Central government, research institute, business/ chamber, and non-profit organisation

The responsible organisations/ sectors are held accountable for implementation

There is high-level political support

Adult Education Act: (Co-ordination of the AE Body appointment, linkage to SRS 2030)

2: Oversight body

79%

50 000-100 000

2-5 years

Central government, research institute, business/ chamber, and non-profit organisation

There is high-level political support

The responsible organisations/ sectors are held accountable for implementation

Organisation and Financing of Education Act: SSIO membership and responsibilities

3: Information

75%

10 000-50 000

1-2 years

Central government, and research institute, business/ chamber

The responsible organisations/ sectors are held accountable for implementation

There is high-level political support

National Statistics Act: Mandatory reporting

4: Inter-ministerial co-ordination

75%

No funding required

2-5 years

Central government, and research institute

There is high-level political support

The responsible organisations/ sectors are held accountable for implementation

None

5: Local/ regional

79%

10 000-50 000

2-5 years

Central government, and research institute, business/ chamber

The rationale and benefits of the action are understood by all sectors

The responsible organisations/sectors are held accountable for implementation

Local Self-Government Act: Representatives to be included in decision-making bodies

6: Stakeholders

88%

50 000-100 000

2-5 years

Central government, research institute, business/ chamber, and non-profit organisation

The rationale and benefits of the action are understood by all sectors

Social partners and stakeholders support the action

None

7: Awareness

79%

10 000-50 000

Less than 1 year

Central government, research institute, business/ chamber

Social partners and stakeholders support the action

The rationale and benefits of the action are understood by all sectors

Media Act;

RTV Slovenia Act:

Enhancing the role of mass-media and formal education

8: Funding

71%

Mixed views

2-5 years

Central government, research institute, business/ chamber

The responsible organisations/ sectors held accountable for implementation

The rationale and benefits of the action are understood by all sectors

Implementation of the Republic of Slovenia’s Budget Act increasing financial sources from the national budget

All sections of society have a role to play in implementing these recommended actions, and improving participation in and the outcomes and cost effectiveness of adult learning in Slovenia. Based on the analysis, discussions and the survey undertaken during this project, Table 1.3 summarises the potential roles of each ministry and sector for implementing the actions. For further detail on potential primary and secondary responsibilities, see Table D.1 in Annex D.

Table 1.3. Potential roles for implementing actions

Primary responsibility for implementation (lead)

MIZŠ

Action 1: Comprehensive adult-learning master plan

Action 2: Improve oversight bodies for adult learning

Action 3 (and Action 6): Expand and integrate data collection on adult-learning activities

MDDSZ

Action 6: Raise the profile of adult learning on the ESS agenda

Action 7: Promote adult learning among the unemployed and inactive

MKGP

Action 1: Link adult-learning master plan to agricultural policy

MGRT

Action 1: Link adult-learning master plan to economic policy

Action 3: Improve information on skills needs and mismatches

Action 5: Strengthen government’s co-operation with municipalities

MZ

Action 1: Link adult-learning master plan to health policy

MK

Action 1: Link adult-learning master plan to cultural policy

MJU

Action 1: Link adult-learning master plan to public administration policy

Action 4: Improve awareness, skills, recognition and resourcing for co-operation in the public administration

Action 6: Training in user-centred policy design approaches

Action 8 (and Action 5 and 6): Training in skills for commissioning and contracting services

MNZ

Action 1: Link adult-learning master plan to interior policy

MP

Action 1: Link adult-learning master plan to justice policy

MOP

Action 1: Link adult-learning master plan to environment policy

MF

Action 8: Expand funding for second-chance upper secondary and basic skills training

SVRK

Action 1: Link adult-learning master plan to development policy

Action 8: Simplify national procedures and guidance for EU funds

ACS

(and CPI where relevant)

Action 3: Develop a method for evaluating the outcomes of adult-learning programmes and providers

Action 6: Develop a user-/learner-/adult-centred approach for designing adult-learning programmes

Action 7: Design an action plan for promoting adult learning in Slovenia

Municipalities & associations

Action 5: Strengthen co-operation on adult learning between municipalities, and with other local actors

Regional bodies

Action 5: Strengthen co-operation on adult learning at the regional level

Social partners (chambers and unions)

Action 8: Create a high-level funding agreement for adult learning in the ESS

Action 8: Strengthen provisions for education and training in lagging collective agreements

Action 8: Pilot sectoral training funds in lagging sectors

Business chambers

Action 7: Promote adult learning among businesses, especially micro and small enterprises

Trade unions

Action 7: Promote adult learning among workers, especially the low-skilled

Businesses

Action 7: Promote adult learning in the workplace

Adult-learning providers (and representatives)

Action 6: Tailor programmes to the needs of adults, including through user-centred programme design approaches and validating prior learning

Action 7: Promote adult learning among local citizens and employers

Representatives of adult learners

Action 7: Promote adult learning among the target groups of adults they represent

Non-government, non-profit organisations

Action 7: Promote adult learning among local citizens

Note: This table lists components of individual recommended actions, rather than the full, overarching action. Therefore, the wording in this table may not match the wording of the full action.

References

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Notes

← 1. According to the European Union Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS), which provides annual averages of quarterly data on adult participation in education and training in the four weeks prior to the survey (Eurostat, 2018[20]).

← 2. The differences between the AES and EU-LFS figures on adults’ participation in formal and non-formal education and training reflect several factors, including the different timeframes (the AES considers the preceding 12 months to the interview, while the Labour Force Survey considers the preceding 4 weeks from the interview) and types of learning covered (unlike the EU-LFS, the AES includes “guided on-the-job training” and does not require a minimum duration for learning activities to be considered) (Eurostat, 2018[25]; Goglio and Meroni, 2014[24]).

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