Lifelong Learning in Europe
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Lifelong Learning in Europe

National Patterns and Challenges

Edited by Ellu Saar, Odd Bjørn Ure and John Holford

Combining qualitative and quantitative methods in a wide-ranging international comparative study, the book explores how far the EUs lifelong learning agenda has been successful and what factors have limited its ability to reshape national adult and lifelong learning systems. The chapters also look at adults’ participation in formal education, what they see as the obstacles to taking part, and the nature of their demand for learning opportunities.
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Chapter 9: Nobody’s darling: dynamics and inertia of formal adult education in Austria

Jörg Markowitsch, Günter Hefler, Stephanie Rammel and Paul Ringler


Adult education (Erwachsenenbildung) in Austria is generally perceived as the opposite of formal education. Rooted in the history of liberal adult education, with its early and strong movements of Volkshochschulen (folk high schools), the core notion of adult education does not include training or adult learning in schools and higher education institutions. Thus, ‘formal adult education’ – although increasingly gaining ground – was and still is an exotic and foreign matter in adult education. Only very recently, the concept of adult education has broadened and is increasingly used synonymously with Weiterbildung (continuing education and training) (for example, Gruber 2011; Lenz 2005, p. 21; Schlögl and Schneeberger 2003, p. 7). Formal adult education was historically treated as ‘second-chance education’ to prepare for access to university studies. It was rarely conceived as part of adult education, but instead as a marginal element of the public education system. More recent national policy initiatives have focused on widening access routes to higher education and improving qualifications for school drop-outs. While continuing higher education also attracts some attention, Austria’s lifelong learning policy overlooks almost all other fields of formal adult education. There is neither a comprehensive view of formal adult education in Austria, nor a perceived need for systematic analysis beyond statistical compilations such as mapping Austria’s education provisions for global education databases.

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