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 15: Developing human capital in post-socialist capitalism: Estonian experience

Ellu Saar, Triin Roosalu, Eve-Liis Roosmaa, Auni Tamm and Rein Vöörmann


This chapter introduces the developments in adult education in Estonia, one of the post-socialist European Union (EU) member states, during the post-socialist period. We suggest that Estonia’s post-colonial setting (Bunce 1999, 2003) has contributed to the extent to which the advancements in the sphere of education and lifelong learning (LLL) during the socialist project have been partly reversed since the beginning of the social transformation. Our analysis also contributes to the formulation of substantive conclusions regarding the conditions and results in the (de-) development (Meurs and Ranasinghe 2003) of human capital in post-socialist society. Fragoulis et al. (2004) indicate that in most transition countries in Europe reform initiatives in the 1990s and in the 2000s were mainly limited to the initial formal education system. While the system of initial education seems to operate quite efficiently (at least in quantitative terms) and reveal superior (to EU-15) performance, there is a lack of education and training provisions for adults in Estonia. All in all, in Estonia, just as in other transition economies, the low educational level of the population was not the problem. Rather, it is the orientation towards preparing the workforce which often specialized in a narrow technical field and was employed in contracting sectors and professions (Eamets 2008) that makes the availability of further education of great importance. We argue that these developments have historical roots due to path-dependent development. However, in addition to path-dependence the specific character of transformation in transition countries is also important.

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