Adult education is designed to provide study opportunities for adults. It encompasses
self-motivated education, staff training and labour market training. The Ministry of Education and
Culture is responsible for self-motivated education, the Ministry of Employment and the Economy for
labour market training and employers for staff training.
Some 800 educational institutions provide further and continuing education of varying duration, non-degree studies, as well as education leading to a qualification. Learning mostly takes place in working life and through informal studies using networks, libraries and other learning environments.
More than 1.7 million citizens participate in different types of adult education each year. More than half of this number is made up of the working age population, and this figure is high also in international terms. The aim is for the annual share of the working age population participating in education to reach 60 per cent by 2012. To achieve this figure, the participation base needs to be expanded and the study opportunities of the population groups who participate the least must be improved. The goal is to increase the study opportunities of people with no vocational education and training or whose education is outdated, entrepreneurs, the staff of small and medium-sized enterprises, immigrants and people aged over 55.
An average of 12 per cent of the Ministry of Education and Culture’s main title of expenditure
is allocated to adult education. Of this total, about 40 per cent is allocated to vocational adult
education and training and apprenticeship training, one fourth goes to adult education provided by
higher education institutions, a fifth to liberal adult education, and about 5 per cent to
developing adult education and continuing education for teaching staff.
The tasks and key reforms of adult education policy
The tasks of adult education policy are to ensure the availability and competence of the labour
force, provide educational opportunities for the entire adult population, and strengthen social
cohesion and equality. Adult education policy supports efforts to extend working life, raise the
employment rate, improve productivity, enhance multiculturalism and implement the conditions for
lifelong learning. In addition, adult education alleviates the effects of the recession.
The reform of adult education encompasses vocational adult education and training, apprenticeship training, adult education provided by higher education institutions, labour market training for adults, and staff training. A steering group was appointed for the preparatory work and it includes representatives from the ministries responsible for the reforms (the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Ministry of Employment and the Economy) as well as from national labour market organisations. The main proposals were completed in the summer of 2009 (Ministry of Education 2009:11), and their implementation has begun. Some of the key issues include strengthening learning in working life, recognising skills that have been acquired in different ways, facilitating opportunities to combine studies in a flexible way, enhancing adult education offered by higher education institutions, making information, guidance and counselling services more effective in order to improve the relevance of adult education, increasing study opportunities for the population groups that are least represented in adult education, clarifying the benefit systems available for adult education, and expanding the funding base. The implementation of the reforms to adult education requires extensive cooperation between the different ministries, labour market organisations as well as educational institutions and universities.
Liberal adult education has the task of responding to changing educational needs and, through its activities, of strengthening social cohesion, active citizenship and the conditions for lifelong learning. The development programme for liberal adult education is scheduled for 2009-2012. The proposals of the preparatory committee (Ministry of Education 2009:12) are serving as the basis for amending the legislation, funding system and the maintaining organisation and institutional structure of liberal adult education. Responding to the educational needs of immigrants, those who need educational rehabilitation, the unemployed and senior citizens, as well as ensuring the regional availability of education are emphasised.
Apprenticeship training constitutes the main form of learning in working life. An increasing share of vocational upper secondary education and training and vocational further education and training is arranged through apprenticeships. Apprenticeship training will be developed and expanded in accordance with the proposals of the rapporteur (Ministry of Education 2009:1) and the policies connected to the reforms to adult education. In 2009, apprenticeship-type training was integrated into continuing education for people with higher education degrees. In addition, labour market training is provided in the form of apprenticeship training.
The opportunities of teaching staff to constantly develop their professional competence will be improved by the launch of the Osaava programme and the recommendations of the working group (Ministry of Education 2009:16). Continuing education for teaching staff with an immigrant background will be a priority over the next few years.
The study opportunities of immigrants will be enhanced at all educational levels. The focus areas with respect to the adult population will be to improve language teaching and enhance study opportunities that support employment and integration.
Adult education and the Ministry of Education and Culture
At the Ministry of Education and Culture, adult education comes under the Division for Adult Education and Training Policy of the Department for Higher Education and Science Policy. The Division handles issues relating to adult education, liberal adult education and the promotion of educational policy based on the principle of lifelong learning. The following issues come under the scope of the Division for Adult Education and Training Policy:
• Developing the conditions for national adult education policy and lifelong learning
• Vocational adult education and training, apprenticeship training and competence-based qualifications
• Adult education offered by higher education institutions and open learning
• General adult education and national certificates of language proficiency
• Liberal adult education and educational and guidance organisations
• Guidance on adult education, counselling and the recognition of competence acquired in different ways
• Assessing the need for and provision of adult education as well as guidance (permission to provide education and performance steering)
• Coordinating training for teaching staff and immigrants
• Legislation, funding and economic planning for the sector
• The quality of the activities, evaluations and international cooperation
The Council for Lifelong Learning is an expert body within the Ministry of Education and Culture, which considers issues relating to cooperation between education and working life as well as the conditions for lifelong learning and developing adult education.