SUMMARY OF FINDINGS
This publication presents data on aspects of adult learning. There is continuing interest in the concept of lifelong learning and the importance of 'continuing education and training' as a measure of human capital. The concept for adult learning is taken from an international survey which focusses on measuring three categories of learning: formal learning, non-formal learning and informal learning.
Formal learning is structured, taught learning in institutions and organisations, which leads to a recognised qualification. A learning activity is formal if it leads to a learning achievement that is possible to position within the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) and includes workplace training if such training results in a qualification.
Non-formal learning also refers to structured, taught learning, but differs from formal learning in that it does not lead to a qualification within the AQF.
Informal learning refers to unstructured, non-institutionalised learning activities that are related to work, family, community or leisure. Activities may occur on a self-directed basis, but are excluded from scope if there is no specific intention to learn.
One in eight (12% or 1.3 million) Australians aged 25 to 64 years participated in some form of formal learning in the 12 months prior to interview in 2006-07. Almost one-third (30% or 3.3 million persons) participated in non-formal learning and approximately three-quarters (74% or 8.1 million persons) participated in some form of informal learning. (Table 1)
AGE AND SEX
Younger people were more likely to participate in formal learning than older people, with those aged 25-29 years reporting the highest formal learning participation rate (25%) and those aged 60-64 years the lowest (3%). There was little variation across age groups in participation in non-formal and informal learning, except for those aged 60-64 years who had slightly lower participation rates for all forms of learning. (Table 1)
PARTICIPATION IN LEARNING,
By age groups (years)
While a slightly higher proportion of females than males participated in formal learning (13% compared to 11%), a higher proportion of males than females participated in non-formal learning (32% compared to 29%) and informal learning (76% compared to 73%). (Table 1)
COUNTRY OF BIRTH
Equal proportions of persons born in Australia and overseas participated in formal learning (12%), however persons born in Australia had a somewhat higher participation rate in non-formal learning (32% for Australian born and 27% for overseas born) and in informal learning (75% for Australian born and 72% for overseas born). (Table 1)
Persons with a higher educational qualification had higher participation rates in formal or non-formal learning. Of those whose highest qualification was a Bachelor degree or higher, 55% had participated in formal or non-formal learning compared to those who had an Advanced diploma or below at 42%. Of those who did not hold a non-school qualification, 24% participated in formal or non-formal learning. (Table 1)
Of those whose highest qualification was a Bachelor degree or higher, 89% had participated in informal learning compared to 79% of those who had an Advanced diploma or below. Of those who did not hold a non-school qualification, 62% participated in informal learning. (Table 1)
Those employed full-time were more likely to have participated in some form of learning than persons not in the labour force (84% compared to 62%). Unemployed persons had lower participation in non-formal (25% compared to 38%) and informal learning compared to persons employed full-time (71% compared to 79%). (Table 1)
Of the 3.6 million employed persons who participated in formal or non-formal learning, 29% were professionals, 15% were clerical and administrative workers and 14% were managers. Of the employed persons who participated in formal or non-formal learning 15% were employed in the health care and social assistance industry, 11% in education and training and 9 % in public administration and safety. (Table 6)
Persons in the highest equivalised weekly household income quintile were more likely to participate in all forms of learning than persons in the lowest quintile. This difference was greatest for persons participating in non-formal and informal learning with almost half (46%) of the persons in the highest quintile participating in non-formal learning and 84% participating in informal learning, compared to 15% who participated in non-formal learning and 60% who participated in informal learning in the lowest quintile. This result may be influenced by the number of full-time students who are involved in formal learning. (Table 1)
PARTICIPATION IN FORMAL LEARNING
Of those who participated in formal learning, over one-quarter (26%) undertook a Certificate lll or IV. This was followed by Bachelor degree (18%) and Postgraduate degree, Graduate diploma or Graduate certificate (17%). (Table 7)
Management and commerce was the most popular field of education with 28% of persons who participated in formal learning in the previous 12 months participating in this field. This was followed by Society and culture (21%) and Health (12%). (Table 7)
PARTICIPATION IN NON-FORMAL LEARNING
Of the 3.3 million persons who participated in non-formal learning in the previous 12 months, the most common type of most recent non-formal learning was a work-related course (78% or 2.6 million) followed by Arts, crafts or recreational learning (12%). (Table 8)
The main fields of the most recent non-formal learning were Management and commerce (25%) and Health (22%). (Table 8)
MAIN REASONS FOR PARTICIPATION
The main reasons for participating in the most recent formal learning were 'to get a better job or promotion' (28%), 'wanted extra skills for job' (21%), and 'was a requirement of job' (14%). (Table 7)
The main reasons for participating in the most recent non-formal learning were because 'it was a requirement of job' (36%), 'wanted extra skills for job' (25%) and for 'personal interest' (16%). (Table 8)
PARTICIPATION IN INFORMAL LEARNING
Informal learning was participated in by 8.1 million Australians, with 76% of males and 73% of females participating in the previous 12 months. (Table 1)
The most common type of informal learning was reading manuals, reference books, journals or other written materials (75%), this was followed by using computers or the Internet (71%). (Table 10)
PERSONS WHO DID NOT PARTICIPATE IN LEARNING
More than one-fifth of Australians did not participate in any form of learning (21%). Non-participation occurred at higher rates in older age groups with 34% of those aged 60-64 years not participating in learning, compared to 16% of those aged 25-29 years. (Table 1)
Non-participants were more likely to not be in the labour force than those employed full-time or unemployed (38% compared to 16% and 24%). (Table 1)
Of persons who did not participate in any learning in the last 12 months, labourer was the most common occupation (18%). The most common industry for those who did not participate in any learning was the manufacturing industry (14%) followed by persons employed in the retail trade industry (11%). (Table 6)
Those with lower educational attainment were more likely to have not participated in any learning. About one in seven (15%) persons who held an Advanced Diploma or below did not participate in learning in the last 12 months compared to 7% of those who held a Bachelor degree or higher. Of those who did not hold a non-school qualification, 34% did not participate in learning in the previous 12 months. (Table 1)
Non-participation was more likely for persons in lower equivalised weekly income quintiles. Of persons who did not participate in learning a higher proportion were in the lowest equivalised weekly household income quintile (16%) than in the highest quintile (10%). (Table 1)
Of those who did not participate in formal or non-formal learning but wanted to participate, the main reasons for not participating were 'too busy at home, work or with leisure activities' (44%) and 'training too expensive/could not afford it' (18%). (Table 15)
A similar survey on life long learning was conducted in a number of European countries in 2003. The highest reported participation rate from the survey for formal learning was for Sweden at 13%. The highest reported participation rates in non-formal learning were for Sweden at 48% and the United Kingdom at 35%. (Table 4)
International comparisons are affected by different response rates in the respective participating countries and for this reason such comparisons should be treated with caution (see Explanatory Notes, paragraph 54).
PARTICIPATION IN FORMAL OR NON-FORMAL LEARNING,
Selected European countries and Australia