Lifelong learning

We examined the concept of lifelong learning amongst Cohort 1 participants of Life Patterns who were recruited in 1991. Lifelong learning is typically divided into formal and informal learning. Informal learning occurs within the workplace, and sometimes, but not always, generates skills that are transferable. In this study, we focus on lifelong learners who gain new formal educational qualifications classified under the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQFC 2013) after spending a period of time in the labour force. These qualifications range from Vocational Education and Training (VET) Certificate I to post-graduate university degrees.

How much more learning are people doing after formal schooling?

In 2017, our participants were asked when they completed their last educational qualification. The chart in Figure 3 shows that by age 24, 39% had completed their last qualification; between the age of 25 and 34, 31% had completed their last qualification; and 30% completed their last qualification between 35 and 44 years. In other words, the majority of our participants gained a new qualification as adult learners.

Age when completed last educational qualification (Cohort 1, 2017)

Graph - Age when completed last educational qualification

Characteristics of life learning

Men and women who were single in 2002 were more likely than their peers who were married or in a de facto relationship to complete a new qualification. We also found that level of education was also associated with returning to study: 96% of men and 74% of women with no post-school qualification in 2002, completed a post-school qualification between 2002 and 2017. Of those with a bachelor degree in 2002, 50% of men and women gained a new qualification. Of those who were not employed in 2002, 75% of men and 50% of women returned to study. Men and women who reported that their job in 2002 was directly related to their educational qualification were more likely to return to study than their peers who reported that their job was not related to their qualification

You can read more lifelong learning in our report ‘Learning across the life course’ by Jenny Chesters, Eric Fu, HernĂ¡n Cuervo and Johanna Wyn which can be accessed here.