Published on 2012/05/18

MAY PANEL | Continuous Adult Education Contributes To A Strong And Skilled Workforce

—Co-written with Despoina Goutou | MSc student in International Management, Exeter University and Assistant Researcher, e-DEKA Educational Organization—

Adults between 25 and 54 are typically in need of re-training and skill-upgrading, while 55-64 year olds need additional learning to understand new developments and innovations. Photo by Wiennat Mongkulmann.

It is accepted that three issues have been the dominating concern over the last decades: globalization, technological development and communicative approaches.

Their impact on our everyday lives has been decisive. The emerging demands have necessitated the re-training of workforce to keep in pace with these developments. The inevitable conclusion is that the traditional education/training principles should shift to after-school-learning programs of lifelong learning (LLL) which will cover the whole range of learning needs by redefining its objectives to cope with the continual process of technologies.

The historian Arnold Toynbee (1968) wrote: “What we know compared with what there is to be known is infinitesimal”. Even after 44 years this notion is still valid. For decades, educational planners and policy makers have been in the process of reforming educational systems, attempting to equip the workforce globally with the necessary knowledge and skills. Yet, the anticipated goals have not been attained for various reasons.

Though the expenses for education, at all levels, are considered the most effective investment, policy makers and economists do not realize the need for support of this sector contribution to the economic development. It is true that global spending on education amounts to approximately 5% of the world Gross Domestic Product—which creates serious problems to most developing countries (but, also, some developed)—though 20% of this amount is covered by private sectors. For OECD member-countries the average expenditure per student on education is $9.86; analyzed to $7.065 (primary education), $8.852 (secondary education) and $13.663 (tertiary education).

An important factor influencing the overall development of countries is the dramatic increase of drop-outs in all three educational levels, but mainly in upper-secondary. According to OECD for learners aged 20-24 year olds the drop-out rates range from 5% in Norway to 50% in Portugal against 8.5% in UK, 12% in USA, 15% in Germany and 19% in Greece.

For pragmatic reasons workforce is classified in four age groups, 15-24, 25-54, 55-64 and 65+. In the age group 25-54 the attrition rates are as high as 60-70%. It should be clarified that at the age groups 15-24, learners leave school classes of general and/or vocational or technical education whereas the persons of the age group 25-54 mainly attend on-the-job training courses.

The reasons that lead young learners to drop out can be attributed to:

  • Lack of interest.
  • Too many days missed and inability to catch up.
  • Failure in the exams.
  • Family reasons.
  • Early joining of parent activities.

On the other hand, causes which make adult learners to discontinue training courses attendance include:

  • Family problems.
  • Lack of child care.
  • Job demands.
  • Feeling that their goals have been met.
  • Feeling that the program will not satisfy their objectives.

In view of the importance of the contribution of highly educated persons to the development of countries, the European Commission of Education and Training has integrated all its training programs under the Framework of Lifelong Training with a budget of nearly €7 billion from 2007 to 2013:

  1. Comenius: It develops knowledge and skills among young people and educators of the diversity of European cultures and values.
  2. Erasmus: It places great importance on mobility and furthering career prospects through learning.
  3. Leonardo da Vinci: It funds a wide range of actions, mobility initiatives, co-operation in projects to develop innovation.
  4. Grundtvig: It aims to provide adults with ways to improve their knowledge and skills.

As explained so far, it is not a waste of money and resources in general to devote funds and efforts in adult student retention. In the age group of 15-24 programs aim at bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and practice experience.

The age group 25-54 needs a sort of re-training and refreshing of their knowledge and skills to adapt to the demands of technological development and, finally, the age group of 55-64 needs an awareness of developments and innovations which have occurred during their life span.

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