How Much Lifelong Learning is There - an international comparison?

Good Old ‘Lifelong Learning’ - where have you been?

When was the last time you heard people talked about lifelong learning policy? In fact, the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning has a long list of countries that have lifelong learning policies. We just do not hear much about them these days. It is even more difficult to compare lifelong learning across countries because comparable data are very hard to obtain.

However, while working recently on the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) data from the OECD, we (with my colleague Simon Freebody) spotted the opportunity to do a simple exercise, and to see what might come up. Here are our results:

The Ranking

The ranking is derived from the use of the Delors ‘four-pillar’ framework (please see below). Unfortunately it is not easy to explain what is behind the ranking because we do not know what are driving the various measurements in those diverse countries. Indeed, the Delors framework as well as the measures available in the PIAAC data may give advantages to some countries in the ranking and doing the opposite to others.

Anything Interesting?

The lifelong learning scores have ‘0’ as the sample average. The following focuses on the ‘above sample average’ countries (i.e. Spain and above).

  • Slovenia, Singapore and Israel are the only countries that have ‘learning to know’ (mostly academic) higher than all the other three pillars within the country.

  • ‘Learning to live together’ is not generally a ‘top pillar’ except in Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands.

  • ‘Learning to do’ (mostly for vocational purposes) is the ‘top pillar’ for New Zealand, the USA, Australia and the UK.

  • ‘Learning to be’ is the ‘top pillar’ in Finland, Sweden, Canada, Estonia and the Rep. of Ireland. Notice Norway has it at the bottom.

I have not made any specific inferences from the patterns above. It would be most interesting to hear the reaction from the readers and what further enquires they may do. Indeed, there are lots of questions: for example, why is ‘learning to do’ more prevalent in the New Zealand, the USA, Australia and the UK? Why is France (randomly picked) having such a low score in terms of those measures under the four pillars? Why is Finland so strong in all the scores? What do you think?

Four Pillars.png

The Delors Four Pillars of Lifelong Learning

See Delors, J. et al. (1996). Learning: the treasure within. Report to UNESCO of the international commission on education for the twenty-first century, Paris: UNESCO.


Measuring the four pillars

These are the variables that we could find in the PIAAC data which may form proxies to the four-pillar measures.