Finland experienced radical social changes in the second half of the 20th
century. For the purposes of this study, two transformations stand out. First,
there was a rapid rise in the educational level of the population that took place
alongside Finland’s shift from a rural agricultural society to an urban service
society. Second, there was a deep recession in the first half of the 1990s that
led to increasing social inequality, particularly between the employed and
the non-employed. Both of these large-scale societal changes led to specific
population sub-groups being left behind either educationally or in the labor
market. Our interest lies in whether these groups can catch up by attending
formal adult education.
Our particular focus is on adults gaining a new qualification, be it an
educational upgrade or a qualification in a new field. We examine what leads
adults to embark upon such a course of study and how their labor market
chances evolve before and after graduation. We also show how these chances
evolve for young graduates. Our analysis focuses on formal adult education
due to its possible role in reducing social inequalities; non-formal learning, on
the other hand, tends to increase existing educational inequalities.
We begin by describing the Finnish context in more detail, including both
the historical changes relevant to our study as well as the current institutional
context. We then lay out the main aims of our study in more detail, followed
by a description of the data and methods used and then our results. We end
with a discussion of the results with reference to both the expectations that we
laid out as well as those of this volume as a whole (see Chapter 1), focusing in
particular on the implications of adult education for social inequality.
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