Crisis has negative impact on adult learning rates

The results of Bulgaria’s 2011 Adult Education Survey reveal steady improvement in the educational attainment of the Bulgarian population. However, the results also show that the crisis has had a detrimental effect on participation rates in various forms of adult education and training, and they have decreased from 36.4% in 2007 to 26.0% in 2011. The survey also reveals significant differences in participation rates by age, level of education and labour status.

About the survey

In September 2012, Bularia’s National Statistical Institute published its report, Participation of the population aged 25–64 in lifelong learning (Analysis of the main results of the adult education survey 2011), conducted in December 2011 using the Eurostat methodology common to all EU Member States. This was the second survey of its kind in Bulgaria, following a 2007 pilot survey. The representative sample used in 2011 covered 3,600 households. Face-to-face interviews were held with all household members aged between 25 and 64 at the time of observation.

The results were analysed in accordance with Eurostat definitions. Eurostat defines formal and non-formal education in the following way.

Formal education is provided in the system of schools, colleges, universities and other formal educational institutions that normally constitute a continuous ‘ladder’ of full-time education for children and young people, generally beginning at the ages of between five and seven and continuing to up to the ages of between 20 and 25.

Non-formal education is defined as any organised and sustained educational activity that does not correspond exactly to the definition of formal education. Non-formal education may therefore take place both within and outside educational institutions, and cater for people of all ages. Depending on country contexts, non-formal education may cover adult literacy programmes, basic education for out-of-school children, life skills, work skills, and general cultural programmes.

Eurostat also distinguishes between intentional and organised learning. Learning activities are defined as any organised activity designed to improve the knowledge, competences and/or skills of individuals. Intentional learning is defined as a deliberate search for knowledge, skills, competences, or attitudes of lasting value. Organised learning is defined as learning planned in a pattern or sequence with the explicit or implicit aims.

Key findings

Improved educational attainment

There is a trend towards improvement in the educational attainment of the population aged between 25 and 64, revealed in an increase in the proportion of people who have secondary and tertiary education, and a decrease in the proportion who have progressed no higher than basic primary and lower education. The share of women with tertiary education (29.8%) is significantly higher than that of men (19.5%).

Table 1: Educational attainment, whole population aged 25–64 (%)
Level of education

2007

2011

Primary and lower

24.2

20.4

Secondary

53.2

55.0

Tertiary

22.6

24.6

Source: NSI, Adult education survey, 2007, 2011

Educational attainment influences employment status. The likelihood of becoming unemployed is markedly less for highly educated people. Among the employed, just 10.9% progressed no further than primary and lower education, while only 10.3% of the unemployed have tertiary education.

Table 2: Population aged 25–64 by educational attainment and by employment status

 

Primary and lower education Secondary education Tertiary education

2007

2011

2007

2011

2007

2011

Employed

14.6

10.9

56.2

57.0

28.1

32.1

Unemployed

54.6

41.2

35.7

48.6

7.9

10.3

Inactive

37.0

31.5

48.3

57.5

13.3

14.0

Source: NSI, Adult education survey, 2007, 2011

Participation rates down

The survey results show that the participation of those aged 25–64 in formal or non-formal education and training has decreased considerably from 36.4% in 2007 to 26.0% in 2011. There are many possible causes, but the most important factors are the effects of the economic crisis and rising unemployment among those most likely to be participants in lifelong education and learning. The survey showed that more than one-third of the employed (37.3%) had participated in at least one type of non-formal education, while the participation rates were extremely low for unemployed people (3.8%) and the economically inactive (1.6%).

Figure 1: Participation in formal or non-formal education and training, ages 25–64 (%)

Figure 1: Participation in formal or non-formal education and training, ages 25–64 (%)

Source: NSI, Adult education survey, 2007 & 2011

Educational attainment and non-formal training

Educational attainment influences the rate of further participation in education and training in adulthood (Figure 2). People with a high level of education have relatively high rates of lifelong learning participation (40%). People with lower level of education tend to have lower participation rates; 24.8% for those with secondary education and 11.9% for those with only primary and lower education.

Figure 2: Participation by education in formal or non-formal education and training and in informal learning, ages 25–64, 2011 (%)

Figure 2: Participation by education in formal or non-formal education and training and in informal learning, ages 25–64, 2011 (%)

Source: NSI, Adult education survey, 2007, 2011

Differences between age groups

There are considerable differences between age groups, with participation rates ranging from 29.1% for the 35–54 year age group to 15.1% for those aged 55–64. Low levels of participation among the youngest age group (25–43 years) at just 3% are a further cause for concern.

Figure 3: Participation by age in formal or non-formal education and training and in informal learning, age 25-64, 2011 (%)

Figure 3: Participation by age in formal or non-formal education and training and in informal learning, age 25-64, 2011 (%)

Source: NSI, Adult education survey, 2007, 2011

Low informal learning participation rates

Survey results show that just 12.0% of those aged between 25 and 64 had participated in informal education. Women are more active in this area than men – 12.2% and 11.9% respectively.

A breakdown by educational attainment shows that 24.7% of respondents with tertiary education have participated in informal learning activities; of those with upper secondary education, 9.3% have had some experience of informal learning; and among people with primary and lower education, just 4.0%. (Figure 2).

The results also show that:

  • Employment status effects participation rates;
  • Participation in informal learning is very low – 13% for the age groups 25–34 and 35–54 and, at 8%, very low in the oldest group;
  • Urban residents participate in informal education more often, 13.4% compared to 7.9% of rural residents.

Commentary

Bulgaria’s social partners are concerned about low levels of participation in lifelong learning (LLL). They see the acquisition, updating and development of relevant knowledge, skills and competences throughout a working life is key for an individual’s ability to find and remain in employment. They consider that participation in adult education and training is a shared commitment and responsibility.

The survey results show the need to support and encourage participation by poorly-qualified and unemployed people in adult learning.

It is expected interest in LLL will be stimulated throughout the population by the forthcoming introduction of the informal and non-formal learning outcomes validation system that has been developed in a joint project between the Ministry of Education and Science and a number of social partner organisations.

Reference

NSI (2012), Participation of the population aged 25–64 in lifelong learning (Analysis of the main results of the adult education survey 2011), September 2012.

Nadezhda Daskalova, ISTUR

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