Adult Learning in Modern Societies
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Adult Learning in Modern Societies

An International Comparison from a Life-course Perspective

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.
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Chapter 11: Adult Learning in Denmark: Patterns of Participation in Adult Learning and Its Impact on Individuals’ Labor Market Outcomes

Susanne Wahler, Sandra Buchoholz, Vibeke Myrup Jensen and Julia Unfried


Education has become a major topic of public and scientific discourse in modern societies since the first PISA evaluation in 2000. Though there has been a long-standing interest in the education of children and youths in Denmark, awareness of educational opportunities later in life has increased, especially in the more recent past (Sprogoe 2003). This increasing interest in adult learning is linked with accelerated structural and technological changes in the labor market of globalized societies. For the workforce, the need for adult learning creates two new main challenges. First, as the demand for new skills arises, workers need to manage these skills after having left the educational system. Second, the labor market requires a high level of adaptability to these new skills in order for a worker to maintain employment (Jørgensen 2007; Georgiadis and Zisimos 2010). Moreover, the increased focus on adult learning brings along other important aspects for society since it is considered an essential instrument for enhancing socioeconomic equality within the European Union (Dieckhoff 2007). Adult learning has hence become a prominent issue in policies on education, economy, and welfare at both the national and international level and is therefore also being firmly embedded into the European agenda (Georgiadis and Zisimos 2010). For example, one of the five EU-benchmarks for 2020 defined in the “New strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training” (known as ET 2020) has as its goal that 15 per cent of all adults aged 25– 64 participate in adult learning by 2020 (measured by the European Labour Force Survey). In 2009, adult participation in lifelong learning remained at 9.3 per cent, exhibiting large variation among the member states (Commission of the European Communities 2011). Denmark has one of the highest levels of participation in adult learning within the European Union, reflecting a framework of activation and reemployment measures as well as the socialdemocratic ideology that everyone should engage in lifelong learning (Cort 2002; Grunow and Leth-Sørensen 2004; Jørgensen 2007; UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning 2009).

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