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 9: Adult Learning, Labor Market Outcomes, and Inequality: The Case of Sweden

Elina Kilpi-Jakonen and Anders Stenberg

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


In this chapter, we examine formal adult education in Sweden, i.e., adult reenrollment in secondary and tertiary education. We focus on formal adult education because this type of adult learning is relatively common in Sweden and benefits from strong institutional support. As a result, adult reentry into schools is not associated with stigmatizing effects. It should be noted that what we consider to be adult education in this chapter is narrower than international definitions of adult education and learning, which include on-the-job training among other things. The distinction is important to make since re-enrollment in schools often involves a substantial time investment (one year or more), whereas on-the-job-training typically requires modest time investments of around one week. However, we later provide some descriptive analyses using a broader definition of adult learning. In terms of the institutional setup of formal adult education in Sweden, municipalities are legally obligated to provide adult education at the basic (compulsory) and upper secondary levels. Komvux is the institute that provides this service. Tertiary-level institutions are also primarily public and financed to a large extent on the basis of the number of students registered, which also enables older students to attend. To stimulate the demand for education, students at all levels are eligible for study allowances of about €1 000 per month (2010 value and of which about two-thirds is a loan) to cover modest living expenses. Importantly, employees also have a legal right to be on study leave and be reinstated with similar conditions after the completion of their studies.

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