International Review of Education

, Volume 65, Issue 2, pp 295–317 | Cite as

Assessing the status of lifelong learning: Issues with composite indexes and surveys on participation

  • Kjell RubensonEmail author
Original Paper


A quick review of national policy documents reveals how lifelong learning has evolved as the key principle for a comprehensive education and learning strategy from cradle to grave. This raises major challenges for how to assess and report the state of lifelong learning in UNESCO Member States. It is in this context that this article critically evaluates the efforts to develop a composite index on lifelong learning. In addition, the author reviews the two leading surveys on adult education and learning, the OECD’s Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) and the European Union’s Adult Education Survey (AES). He examines their potential to provide a national picture of the state of lifelong learning, pointing out some fundamental shortcomings in these surveys and in the way their data have been classified. The present approach to data gathering on adult and lifelong learning, with its deep roots in the skills agenda, creates a “reality” of adult learning where the broad humanistic traditions of adult education become invisible. Analyses of the European and Canadian composite indexes of lifelong learning reveal serious problems using this approach. Not only must one question the underlying framework based on Jacques Delors’ four pillars of learning, but also its practical use for directly assessing the impact of the various aspects of lifelong learning and education. A core argument in this article is that there is a need to broaden not only the indicators used to assess the state of lifelong learning, but also the approach to how outcomes are being understood and judged.


Lifelong learning Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) Adult Education Survey (AES) 


Évaluer le statu quo de l’apprentissage tout au long de la vie : problèmes avec les indicateurs composites et les enquêtes sur la participation – Un survol rapide des documents stratégiques nationaux révèle comment l’apprentissage tout au long de la vie est devenu le principe clé d’une stratégie globale d’éducation et d’apprentissage « du berceau au tombeau ». Cette situation soulève d’importants défis quant à la tâche d’évaluer et de documenter le statu quo de l’apprentissage tout au long de la vie dans les États membres de l’UNESCO. Dans ce contexte, l’auteur évalue d’un œil critique les efforts déployés pour élaborer un indicateur composite de l’apprentissage tout au long de la vie. Il passe de plus en revue les deux enquêtes principales sur l’éducation et l’apprentissage des adultes, le Programme pour l’évaluation internationale des compétences des adultes (PEICA) de l’OCDE, et l’Enquête sur l’éducation des adultes (EEA) de l’Union européenne. Il examine le potentiel de ces dernières à fournir un tableau national de la situation de l’apprentissage tout au long de la vie, et signale plusieurs lacunes essentielles dans ces enquêtes et dans le mode de classification des données. L’approche actuelle pour la collecte des données sur l’éducation des adultes et l’apprentissage tout au long de la vie, fortement enracinée dans le programme d’action relatif aux qualifications, crée une « réalité » de l’apprentissage des adultes dans laquelle les vastes traditions humanistes de l’éducation des adultes deviennent invisibles. Les analyses des indicateurs composites européens et canadiens de l’apprentissage tout au long de la vie révèlent de sérieux problèmes dans l’application de cette approche. Il convient de remettre en question non seulement le cadre de base fondé sur les quatre piliers de l’apprentissage de Jacques Delors, mais également son utilisation pratique pour évaluer directement l’impact des divers aspects de l’éducation et de l’apprentissage tout au long de la vie. Un argument central dans cet article réside dans la nécessité d’élargir à la fois les indicateurs utilisés pour évaluer le statu quo de l’apprentissage tout au long de la vie, et l’approche choisie pour interpréter et apprécier les résultats.



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Copyright information

© UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning and Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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