April 2018

Why invest in adult education?

An investment in adult learning is an investment in people. Several quantitative and qualitative studies have shown wider benefits of adult learning for both the learners as individuals as well as for the economy and for society as a whole.

In the context of demographic change and increasingly complex needs of society, adult education is a crucial instrument for promoting social cohesion. However, adult learning is often underfunded, compared to other sectors of the education system. 

An investment in adult learning is an investment in people. Several quantitative and qualitative studies have shown wider benefits of adult learning for both the learners as individuals as well as for the economy and for society as a whole.

Adult education benefits individuals by

• Increasing their employability, thereby leading to monetary effects;

• Increasing their well-being in terms of better mental and physical health;

• Increasing their self-confidence;

• Providing social benefits such as an increased social circle and civic commitment;

• Improving personal and interpersonal capabilities, such as self-esteem and

empathy.

Adult education benefits the economy by

• Increasing innovative capacity;

• Improving competitiveness through increased productivity and innovation;

• Encouraging growth due to increased employment and innovative capabilities;

• Allowing an increase in tax payments.

Adult education benefits society by

• Improving health of the population;

• Reducing criminal activity;

• Increasing sustainability and preservation of environment;

• Promoting social cohesion and respect;

• Reinforcing social/political outlook, thus development of democracy;

• Increasing active citizenship;

• Increasing cultural integration.

 

All of these effects can be measured using indicators such as reduced health costs, reduced crime rates etc. However, this is an indirect way of measuring and also costly as it requires a very large set of indicators. A more direct way of measuring on a micro level is using individual questionnaires and interviews as was done in the BeLL project. The benefits of adult learning seems to exceed the effects of initial education. The transfer of learning outcomes obtained from adult learning is more direct and also quicker than in initial education and training. Non-formal adult learning in particular can react (adapt) very quickly to new requirements.

Learn more about investing in adult education in FinALE project executive summary

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