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Abstracts 2012

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Crafting opportunity structures – Comparing the institutionalisation of formal adult education between societies

Hefler, Günter; 3s research laboratory, Österreich

Session: 1
Zeit: Donnerstag, 05.07.2012, 14:00 - 16:00
Ort: FH Saal C
Typ: Paper
Downloads: Präsentation als PDF

Why do participation rates in formal adult education – leading to a recognised qualification within a country's hierarchy of educational attainment – differ widely between industrialised societies?
The contribution reviews conceptions of skill formation systems for explaining differences in societal opportunity structures for formal adult education and provides a framework for explaining cross-country differences in participation rates, contributing to both the understanding of adults’ participation in formal education and the institutional effects of skill formation systems.
The framework is applied for explaining the high participation rates in formal adult education in contemporary (approx. 2003-2007) United States and Great Britain, the moderate participation rates in Germany and Austria and low participation rates in France and Japan. The Austrian case is used for demonstrating the framework ‘s capacity for studying changes over time (approx. 1980-2010). The contribution is based on organisational institutionalism (Greenwood et al., 2008), yet, aims at cross-fertilising it with current lines of research in historical and rational-choice institutionalism.
The contribution continues research on the fundamentals of formal adult education as a particularly institutionalised type of continuing education, granting adult participants’ eligibility for further steps on educational and occupational career ladders (Hefler forthcoming). The concept of skill formation system has been more frequently used in research on the link between education and employment systems (Mayer and Solga 2008, Busemeyer and Trampusch 2012), however, the broadness of scope achieved by pre-runners and early contributions (Maurice et al. 1986, Koike and Inoki 1990, Ashton and Green 1996), is partly at risk when the concept is applied for VET system comparison. So far, the impact of different skill formation systems has not been explored for explaining differences in participation rates in formal adult education. By studying the example of formal adult education, a better understanding of both, differences in skill formation systems and the social mechanisms implied leading to different institutional conditions for lifelong learning could be achieved.
The contribution is based on extensive literature reviews on comparative analysis of skill formation systems and cross-country comparative research on participation in formal adult education. Moreover, it builds on empirical research done within the 6th European Research Framework Project ‘LLL2010’, in particular on 89 organisational case studies on participation of employees of small and medium enterprises in formal adult education in twelve European countries and the analysis of cross-country comparative micro-data sets on formal adult education (LFS-Ad hoc module 2003, AES 2005-2007).
The institutional interplay is studied, including six levels of analysis (I: availability and accessibility of formal education for adults; II. rigidity and selectivity of formal education; III. public support for participation; IV. flexibility of occupational career trajectories; V. institutionalisation of formal credentials within career patterns and VI. Intergenerational change in educational provision).
It is shown that opportunity structures for formal adult education and its individual and societal outcomes depend on a complex interplay of social institutions, forming packages supportive or restrictive for ‘returning to education’. For being successful, policy intervention has to modify these packages, not single institutional dimensions in isolation.
By discussing recent changes in Austria, conclusions are drawn on the delicate balance between ‘more participation’ in and ‘individual benefits’ of formal adult education. In the outlook, a life course framework is recommended for future cross-country comparative study of opportunity structures for formal adult education.
Ashton, D. N. & Green, F. (1996) Education, training and the global economy, Cheltenham.
Busemeyer, M. R. & Trampusch, Ch. (2012) The Comparative Political Economy of Collective Skill Formation. IN Busemeyer, M. R. & Trampusch, Ch. (Eds.) The Political Economy of Collective Skill Formation. Oxford.
Greenwood, R., Oliver, Ch., Sahlin, K. & Suddaby, R. (Eds.) (2008) The SAGE handbook of organizational institutionalism, Los Angeles.
Hefler, G. (forth.) Taking steps - Formal adult education in private and organisational life: A comparative view, Wien.
Koike, K. & Inoki, T. (Eds.) (1990) Skill formation in Japan and Southeast Asia, Tokyo.
Maurice, M., Sellier, F. & Silvestre, J.-J. (1986) The Social Foundations of Industrial Power - A comparison of France and Germany, Cambridge, Mass.
Mayer, K. U. & Solga, H. (Eds.) (2008) Skill Formation - Interdisciplinary and cross-national perspectives, Cambridge.

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