According to data provided by Statistics Estonia, an estimated 80 percent of the Estonian population aged 20–64 participated in adult education in 2022. Participation in adult education was higher among women, younger age groups, people with higher educational qualifications and native speakers of Estonian. Self-development has become considerably more popular among 50–64-year-olds. The results also showed, that two out of five adults would have liked to study more.
The latest Estonian Adult Education Survey reveals, that participating in different forms of study programs including formal education, training, and self-study, has become much more common among adults in Estonia in recent years.
In 2007, the share of adults, who participated in educational programs was 63.6 percent. In 2016, this had increased to 85.4 percent. While this was down slightly in the 2022 survey, it was still 80.3 percent.
"When we compare it with 15 years ago, the biggest rise has occurred in the proportion of adults participating in self-study programs . Participation in training courses has also increased, but the share of adults participating in formal education – that is, attending a school of general, vocational or higher education – has remained at a similar level to what it was in 2007," said Käthrin Randoja, leading analyst at Statistics Estonia.
Participation in adult education has increased in all age groups but most notably among 50–64-year-olds
A higher proportion of women (83.0 percent) participated in educational programs than men (77.7 percent) across all age groups surveyed.
Studying was also more common among younger people, with 88.9 percent of 20–29-year-old and 82 percent of 30–39-year-old respondents participating in educational or training programs in 2022.
The rate of participation in adult education was 81.4 percent among 40–49-year-olds and 74.2 percent in the 50–64 age group. "It should be noted that the 50–64 is the age group, where the number of people studying has increased the most over the last 15 years - by 23.9 percentage points," added Randoja.
People with higher levels of prior educational more likely to take self-development courses
The survey results showed a strong correlation between respondents' prior educational levels and the likelihood of them having participated in self-development courses in 2022.
65.0 percent of the population, who had not previously completed upper secondary level education, participated in adult education programs in 2022 in Estonia.
The figure was 77.1 percent for those who have completed upper secondary education, and 89.7 percent among those in the population with prior higher educational qualifications.
According to the data, the share of those participating in educational programs was higher than average among native speakers of Estonian (82.9 percent).
Training usually paid for by employers
Among Estonia's working population (those aged 20–64), participation in adult education was the highest for service sector workers (86.6 percent). 77.6 percent of those working in the agricultural sector and 74.8 percent of industrial sector employees also participated in adult education courses in the twelve months prior to taking the survey.
Around half (49.6 percent) of the working population had participated in at least one training in the previous 12 months, with managers and professionals being the most active occupational group (participation rate 63.8 percent). 45.0 percent of unemployed persons and 23.8 percent of homemakers (including people on parental leave) had participated in training programs in the previous year.
The survey showed that the main reasons people participate in training programs are work-related reasons. For a major chunk of respondents (56.1 percent), training costs were covered by their employers. A further 15.6 percent said they had attended training, which they paid for using their own funds.
The remaining training courses taken were either free of charge for participants, paid for by a third party (usually a family member or friend), or costs were shared between the employee and their employer.
Almost 20 percent of adults had not undertaken any self-development in previous year
The share of respondents, who said they had intentionally not participated in any formal educational programs within the previous twelve months has fallen significantly in the last 15 years – from 36.4 percent to 19.7 percent.
"The groups that are more likely to not participate in lifelong learning programs are 50–64-year-olds, men, people with a prior level of education below upper secondary school, people whose first language is Russian, and people working in the agricultural or the industrial sectors," added Randoja.
Lack of suitable times biggest obstacle to participation in training
39.2 percent of survey respondents (34.percent of men and 44.2 percent of women) said that they would have liked to study more over the previous 12 months.
15 percent of those who answered, that they did not want to take any formal education or training courses, said they needed to do so.
"This points to an interesting gap between people's awareness and their motivation. While people understand the value of learning, they do not always have the motivation or means to pursue it, for various reasons," said Randoja.
The main obstacle preventing people from participating in training activities was that the timing of sessions did not fit with the rest of their schedules. 25 percent of respondents, who said they would have liked or even needed to study more gave this as the reason for not doing so.
Other obstacles to participation were lack of suitable training courses (14 percent), high training costs (13 percent), and family-related reasons (11 percent).
Editor: Michael Cole