Table of Contents

Adult Learning in Modern Societies

Adult Learning in Modern Societies

An International Comparison from a Life-course Perspective

eduLIFE Lifelong Learning series

Edited by Hans-Peter Blossfeld, Elina Kilpi-Jakonen, Daniela Vono de Vilhena and Sandra Buchholz

As industrial societies increasingly evolve into knowledge-based economies, the importance of education as a lifelong process is greater than ever. This comprehensive book provides a state-of-the-art analysis of adult learning across the world and within varying institutional contexts. The expert contributors examine the structures of formal and non-formal adult learning in different countries, and investigate the levels of success those countries have experienced in encouraging participation and skill formation.

Chapter 8: Cumulative Inequality Effects of Adult Learning in Estonia

Ellu Saar, Marge Unt and Eve-Liis Roosmaa

Subjects: education, education policy, politics and public policy, education policy, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, education policy, sociology and sociological theory


Fragoulis, Masson and Klenha (2004) indicate that educational reform initiatives in the 1990s and 2000s were mainly limited to the initial formal educational system in most transition countries in Europe. While this system of initial education seems to operate quite efficiently (at least in quantitative terms) and reveals superior performance (compared with the EU-15), there is a lack of educational and training provisions for adults in Estonia. All in all, one of the key problems in Estonia (just as in other transition economies) is not the low educational level of the population; rather, it is the orientation toward preparing the workforce, which often specializes in a narrow technical field and is employed in the contracting sectors and professions (Eamets 2008). An OECD report (2012) also indicates that 32 per cent of the Estonian workforce has no professional (vocational or tertiary) education and that the share of under-skilled and under-qualified persons is one of the highest among OECD countries. The availability of further education is thereby of great importance. Developments in adult learning tend to be path dependent and shaped by history. In the Estonian context (as with many other post-socialist countries), this means that there has been a need to reconcile the Soviet past with the requirements of the new regime. Due to the lack of perceived legitimacy of the old regime and scarce resources, the previously well-established institutional systems of adult learning have been discontinued.

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