Barriers to Participation in Adult Education
Adult education has been defined as one of the key components in raising the competitiveness of the economic environment of the European Union at the general and national level.
At the same time, the Estonian adult education participation indicators still remain well below some of the best performing European countries as well as the target of 12.5% set for 2010. The article concentrates on analyzing the types of barriers to adult education in Estonia, defining the groups most affected by these barriers and analyzing the current Estonian lifelong learning strategy in light of the barriers existing in Estonian adult education system. The analysis proceeds from the previous theoretical work of K. Patricia Cross. Based on Adult Education Survey 2007, using factor analysis, four barriers can be defined: institutional, dispositional, situational and perceived unnecessity of further education. Analysis of these barriers indicated that different groups experience very different barriers.
Analyzing the Estonian adult education strategy in light of the research results, it is concluded that with the new strategy introduced in 2009, a shift has been taken from a system centred approach to greater inclusion of adults in training and improving the quality of learning. An indication of this is that focus has turned from institutional barriers to overcoming dispositional barriers. This is an important qualitative move as dispositional barriers have turned out to be an important obstacle to participation for many groups (including men, older persons, persons with low educational level or on blue-collar jobs). Still, it is important to note that while research indicated that several groups are affected by a large variety of barriers, attention to the potentially different needs of different risk groups is to a large extent neglected in the national strategy underlining activities for the next four years.