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 12: Reinforcing Social Inequalities? Adult Learning and Returns to Adult Learning in Germany

Sandra Buchholz, Vibeke Myrup Jensen and Julia Unfried


Attention toward education has strongly increased in Germany, especially since the disappointing results of PISA 2000. As a consequence, public investments in education have grown over the past years. However, it must be mentioned that up to now, reforms and debates have mainly addressed early childhood education, schooling, and tertiary education (Deiss 2011). So far, little attention has been paid toward improving adult learning and educational opportunities for persons who have already entered the labor market – surprisingly enough, though, such efforts would target the largest part of the population. From an economic point of view, neglecting education for adults is not very forward-looking for modern societies since it has become more and more important for countries to keep the qualifications of the workforce up to date over its whole life course. Ongoing accelerated economic change and tertiarization under globalization have increased the economic need for adult and lifelong learning (Buchholz, Hofäcker and Blossfeld 2006). Additionally, demographic aging structurally enforces the necessity for continued training due to the fact that labor markets will face significant labor shortages in coming years (Buchholz 2008; Blossfeld, Buchholz and Kurz 2011). Furthermore, the latest pension reforms, which expect older persons in Germany to prolong their working life, demand growing investments in the constant (re)training of adults in order to secure their employability (Buchholz 2008; Buchholz et al. 2011).

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