23 SES 06 B, Life Long Learning
For a long time scholarship has neglected the interconnectedness of education with other parts of the welfare state on the grounds that “education is special” (Wilensky 1975). However, there is much empirical evidence in recent years underlining the key role of education in the distribution of opportunities for participation in society and labour market. Low education is the strongest determinant of low skills, which in turn is closely associated with higher unemployment, lower earnings, risk of poverty, social exclusion and ill health – phenomena that require the intervention of the welfare state to mitigate inequalities. In light of this evidence, recent research addresses education within the broader context of the welfare state (Allmendinger/Leibfried 2003).
Especially since the emergence of lifelong learning as a global educational norm, the institutional linkages between education, the labour market and the welfare state have become more apparent. EU plays an important role in the dissemination of lifelong learning policies and considers lifelong learning as a multifunctional instrument for acquiring knowledge and skills throughout life, for guaranteeing employability, fostering economic growth and maintaining social integration.
However, according to the results from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies of the OECD, a significant proportion of adults, even in developed economies, exhibit poor basic skills. In the European Union alone 70 million Europeans demonstrate poor literacy skills; even more have deficits in numeracy and in digital literacy (European Commission 2016). This group appears to be at increased risk of social exclusion and poverty due to their lack of basic skills needed for successful labour market integration and civic participation.
Drawing on empirical findings from two completed research projects, the paper aims at exploring the links between lifelong learning policies and other policy fields, particularly labour market and welfare state, in six countries, representing different parts of Europe and different welfare regimes.
The first project deals with the adoption of lifelong learning policies at national level. Lifelong learning has emerged as an international popular formula in the last twenty years and became part of the educational policy discourse at national level in all European countries. The political rhetoric on lifelong learning is almost identical; though, the policies related to it are quite different across countries. The paper focuses on the following question: How has lifelong learning been adapted in national education policy in Germany, Finland and Greece, countries representing different parts of Europe and different governance and skill production regimes?
The second project investigates the links between adult basic education policies (as part of lifelong learning strategies) and welfare state in three European countries representing Esping-Andersen’s (1998) ideal typical welfare state regimes: Austria, England (UK) and Denmark. The analysis focuses on the role of adult basic education across regime types, and on the extent of de-commodification of basic education among countries and welfare regimes. Following questions have been addressed: Are there different notions of basic education (as a social right resp. as human capital) observable among the selected country cases representing the three welfare state types? What kind of links do they exist to other policy fields?
The findings reveal close links of lifelong learning and adult basic education policies with labour market and social policies, depending on country-specific cultural traditions and institutional arrangements.
The studies apply the theoretical approaches of educational governance, path dependency, actor-centered institutionalism and welfare state typology. Methodologically, the studies draw on qualitative research (expert interviews, document analysis) in nine countries as well as on secondary analysis of the evidence.
Methodology includes an analysis of qualitative data from expert interviews and policy documents as well as secondary analysis of the evidence. The selection of the countries was based on structural features, notably the type of governance in education resp. welfare state regime, as well as on the ground of quantitative indicators (including participation in adult education according to AES or level of literacy skills according to PIAAC). Following Meuser and Nagel (2009) and their arguments on the socio-cultural conditions of the production of expert knowledge, experts are defined as having a special knowledge in a certain area of interest acquired through their activity or specific function and not necessarily through their training or profession. Eighteen experts from three countries including EU and OECD representatives have been interviewed in individual semi-structured interviews for the project regarding the adoption of lifelong learning as a policy concept at national level. Overall 31 non-standardized and semi-structured interviews in order to ensure cross-national comparability have been conducted in six countries for the project on adult basic education policies. All interviews were recorded, transcribed and analysed with the software programme MAXQDA (Kuckartz, 2007) according to a systematic, rule guided qualitative content analysis after Mayring (2015). The data were structured mainly along deductive categories derived from theory which were supplemented by inductive categories deviated from the data themselves. Complementary, in terms of contextualization and validation of the experts’ views, education policy documents such as programmatic texts, memoranda, guidelines, communications, recommendations, reports and legal acts were analyzed in order to manifest the political discourse, to reveal culture-specific semantic traditions and to identify path-dependent development patterns.
The findings of the first project point out that the concept of lifelong learning has become part of the educational narrative in all three countries. However, the adaption in Germany, Greece and Finland is significantly path-dependent and the priorities given in policies appear to be different according to national traditions and specific trajectories of institutional development. The findings of the second project show some differences in the understanding of adult basic education between regime types, varying between basic education as human capital in liberal England to basic education as a public good in Austria and Denmark (conservative and social-democratic regimes). Differences appear also in the extent of de-commodification of basic education among countries according to the welfare state regime. However, the results indicate also that there are rather gradual and not principal differences between the welfare state regimes: components of the welfare state are included in all three types of welfare states. The project findings reviewed for the paper confirm recent literature depicting strong evidence on the interconnection of education and social policy. Lifelong learning policies demonstrate close links with labour market and social policies, depending on country-specific cultural traditions and institutional arrangements. For these reasons, research on lifelong learning policies is crucial to be extended to • other policy fields, • to other policy actors and actor constellations, • to other units of analysis beyond the national level, • last but not least, to other disciplines.
Allmendinger, J. and Leibfried, S. (2003) Education and the welfare state: the four worlds of competence production. Journal of European Social Policy 13 (1), 63-81. Busemeyer, M. R. and Trampusch, C. (eds.) (2012) The Political Economy of Collective Skill Formation. Oxford University Press. Esping-Andersen, G. (1998) The three worlds of welfare capitalism. Princeton: Princeton University Press. European Commission (2016). Ten actions to help equip people in Europe with better skills. http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-16-2039_de.htm (27.10.2016) Green, A. (2006). Models of Lifelong Learning and the ‘knowledge society’. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 36, 307–325. doi:10.1080/03057920600872449 Ioannidou, A. (2014). The Adoption of an International Education Policy Agenda at National Level: Conceptual and Governance Issues. In G. Zarifis & M. Gravani (Eds.), Challenging the ‘European Area of Lifelong Learning’: a Critical Response (pp. 203–215). Dordrecht: Springer. Knauber, C. (2017). Basic Education of Adults as a Responsibility of the Welfare State: A Comparison of Policies in Austria, Denmark and England. In Schemmann, M. (Ed.), Internationales Jahrbuch der Erwachsenenbildung, 40, 93–111. Mayring, P. (2015). Qualitative Inhaltsanalyse. Grundlagen und Techniken. Weinheim: Belz. Meuser, M., & Nagel, U. (2009). The Expert Interview and Changes in Knowledge Production. In A. Bogner, B. Littig, & W. Menz (Eds.), Interviewing Experts (pp. 17–42). London: Palgrave Macmillan. doi:10.1057/9780230244276_2 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). (2013b). Skilled for Life? Key Findings from the Survey of Adult Skills. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/skills/piaac/SkillsOutlook_2013_ebook.pdf. Scharpf, F. W. (1997). Games real actors play: Actor-centered institutionalism in policy research. New York, NY: Westview. Wilensky, H. (1975). The welfare state and equality. Structural and ideological roots of public expenditures. London: SAGE.
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