Two out of five adults would have liked to study more last year

Posted on 14 June 2023, 8:00

According to Statistics Estonia, an estimated 80% of the population aged 20–64 participated in adult education in the previous year*. Participation in adult education is higher among women, younger age groups, people with higher educational attainment, and native speakers of Estonian. Self-development has become considerably more popular among 50–64-year-olds. At the same time, the results indicate that two out of five adults would have liked to study more.

The Adult Education Survey shows that participation in different forms of study – formal education, training, and self-study – has become much more common among adults in recent years. In 2007, the share of adults participating in education was 63.6%, whereas in 2016 this share was 85.4%. Compared with the previous survey in 2016, the rate of participation in adult education has decreased a little but was still 80.3% in 2022.

“Compared with the time 15 years ago, the biggest rise has occurred in the share of adults participating in self-study. Participation in training 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 compared with 2007,” noted Käthrin Randoja, leading analyst at Statistics Estonia.

Participation in adult education among 20–64-year-olds


Participation in adult education has increased in all age groups but most notably among 50–64-year-olds

The share of participants in adult education was higher among women – 83.0%, compared to 77.7% among men. Women were more active participants across all age groups.

Also, studying is more common among young people – 88.9% of 20–29-year-olds and 82% of 30–39-year-olds learned something new in 2022. The rate of participation in adult education was 81.4% among 40–49-year-olds and 74.2% in the age group 50–64. “It should be noted that 50–64-year-olds is the age group where the number of those studying has increased the most over the last 15 years, by 23.9 percentage points,” added Randoja.

People with higher educational attainment are more likely to undertake self-development

According to the survey, self-development correlates strongly with the highest completed level of education. The data show that the rate of participation in adult education was 65.0% among the population with below upper secondary education, 77,1% among the population with upper secondary education, and 89.7% among the population with higher education.  

If we look at participation based on the person’s mother tongue, the data show that the share of those studying is higher than average among native speakers of Estonian – 82.9%.

Training is usually paid for by the employer

Among the working population aged 20–64, participation in adult education was the highest in the service sector (86.6%). The share of employees engaged in studying was 77.6% in the agricultural sector and 74.8% in the industrial sector.

About a half (49.6%) 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%). 45.0% of unemployed persons and 23.8% of homemakers (incl. persons on parental leave) had participated in training. On average, 2.7 trainings are attended per year.

The survey revealed that people participate in training mostly for work-related reasons, and the training costs were fully paid by the employer in the case of 56.1% of the respondents. 15.6% of people had attended training that they paid for themselves. The remaining training courses were either free for the participant, paid for by a third party (e.g. family member or friend), or paid for by the employee and employer together.

Almost 20% of adults had not undertaken any self-development within the past year

The share of persons who claim that they have not intentionally learned anything new within the last year has fallen significantly in the last 15 years – from 36.4% to 19.7%. “The groups more likely not to participate in lifelong learning are 50–64-year-olds, men, persons with below upper secondary education, persons whose mother tongue is Russian, and persons working in the agricultural or the industrial sector,” added Randoja.

Lack of a suitable time is the biggest obstacle to participation in training

39.2% of the survey respondents would have liked to study more – by attending school or training. This share was 34.4% among men and 44.2% among women. 15% of the people who would not have wanted to participate more in formal education or training did, however, say that they would have needed this. “This points to an interesting gap between people’s awareness and 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 participation is that the time of the training activities does not fit the person’s schedule – this was cited as an obstacle by 25% of respondents who would have wanted or needed to study more. Other obstacles to participation were lack of suitable training courses (14%), the high cost of training (13%), and family-related reasons (11%).

The Adult Education Survey is a social survey conducted across Europe in order to understand the types of study used by people and the factors supporting or preventing participation in adult education. The 2022 survey included 6,800 randomly selected permanent residents of Estonia aged 18–69. This was the first survey covering this age range. Previous surveys targeted the population aged 20–64, which is why the analysis also uses the latter age range to ensure comparability. The next Adult Education Survey will be conducted by Statistics Estonia in 2028.

* The survey was carried out in the second half of 2022 and the sampled individuals were asked to reflect on their studies in the previous 12 months.

More detailed data have been published in the statistical database.

For further information:

Helen Maria Raadik
Media Relations Manager

Marketing and Dissemination Department
Statistics Estonia
Tel +372 625 9181

press [at] (press[at]stat[dot]ee)

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