Eurostat’s findings on adult truancy disputed
Hungary has placed 25th in the EU-27 for adult education with only 2.7% of 25- to 64-year-olds participating in education and training schemes in 2009. The EU average was 9.3% with lifelong learning highest among Nordic member states Denmark, Sweden and Finland, and the United Kingdom. Only Bulgaria and Romania ranked lower than Hungary.
The figures are in the EU statistical office report Europe in figures – Eurostat yearbook 2010 published this month. They show that the situation has worsened in Hungary since 2003 when 4.5% of adults took part in some kind of formal or informal education scheme. The decrease comes despite the government’s lifelong-learning strategy introduced in 2005 with the aim of increasing involvement in adult education to 8% by 2013.
Seeing it differently
Dr László Zachár, deputy general director of the National Institute of Vocational and Adult Education (NIVE), questioned the reliability of the Eurostat results, telling The Budapest Times that “the Eurostat data are based on a survey among the participants of a representative sample panel of 64,000 people… Our national statistical data collecting system (OSAP) shows increasing participation rates over the past years and approximately 7-10% of adults engaged in formal learning based on data collected from training providers,” Zachár asserted.
President of the Association for Development of Adult Education Sarolta Pordány expressed similar doubt about the soundness of the Eurostat figures. “I believe that the reality in Hungary is very different from the statistical data,” Pordány said. “The data only reflects formal learning, while many Hungarians participate in flexible learning schemes through the internet, community centres, church groups and distance learning that are not recorded by NIVE.”
In a statement to this newspaper, the Ministry of Education cited profitability considerations, inflexibility of the training system and services including long duration of training programmes, and high workload of employees as barriers to adult training. This mirrors Eurostat findings in which Hungarians listed conflict with work schedule, high costs and lack of employer support as key factors preventing them from undertaking adult education courses.
In addition, according to the Ministry of Education statement “participation in adult training correlates strongly with educational attainment and age, and in Hungary adult training activity is concentrated in the more educated and younger population. Employed and unemployed people also participate in significantly greater proportions than the economically inactive.”
Difficulty reaching those in need
Pordány said that so far education schemes targeting disadvantaged groups have been most unsuccessful. “Devising effective adult education programmes targeting Roma, under-educated individuals and older people is the main challenge the government has to face in order to significantly improve lifelong learning in Hungary,” Pordány said.
An adult student takes English lessons.
Percentage of the population aged 25 to 64 participating in education and training:
1. Denmark 31.6 24.2
2. Sweden 22.2 17.5
3. Finland 22.1 22.4
4. UK 20.1 27.2
5. Netherlands 17.0 16.4
6. Slovenia 14.6 13.3
7. Austria 13.8 8.6
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25 Hungary 2.7 4.5
26. Romania 1.5 1.1
27. Bulgaria 1.4 1.3
EU average 9.3 8.5