Lifelong Learning Among Canadians Aged 18 to 64 Years: First Results from the 2008 Access and Support to Education and Training Survey

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Culture, Tourism and the Centre for Education Statistics : Research Papers Logo by Tamara Knighton, Filsan Hujaleh, Joe Iacampo and Gugsa Werkneh


Lifelong learning is increasingly recognized as an important element in today's knowledge-based economy defined by rapid advancements in technology and constantly changing skill needs. Lifelong learning acknowledges that learning is not confined to childhood or the classroom, but takes place throughout life and in a range of situations. It also recognizes that formal learning, typically concentrated in the earlier stages of life, does not necessarily sustain individuals throughout their lives any longer.

Lifelong learning is not only vital to the productivity, competitiveness and prosperity of Canada but also essential to the well-being of individual Canadians. Higher education and training result in a more educated population, which is strongly linked to safer communities, a healthy citizenry, a sustainable environment, higher levels of volunteerism and charitable giving, a greater appreciation of diversity and stronger social cohesion.

Lifelong learning is supported by education and training. Education consists of formal modes of learning and is defined as structured learning activities that lead to a credential, specifically programs that combine multiple courses toward the completion of a diploma, degree, certificate or license. Training consists of non-formal modes of learning and is defined as structured learning that does not lead to a formal credential and includes courses that are not part of a program, workshops and seminars.

Education and training are complementary. While initial education plays a key role in strengthening Canada's human capital and developing people's potential, however, it is also necessary for individuals to continually develop new skills and competencies and upgrade existing ones. Thus, it is important for Canadians not only to acquire higher education but also to participate in learning throughout life in order to manage external pressures and changes in the workforce and society at large.

In recognition of a lifelong approach to learning, the Access and Support to Education and Training Survey (ASETS) was conducted between June and October of 2008. The ASETS brings together three previous surveys that were undertaken separately to collect information about learning activities among specific population groups and for the first time provides an opportunity to examine a variety of learning experiences in a household (see text box "Access and Support to Education and Training Survey (ASETS) – Overview").

This report presents an overview of the first findings from the ASETS and consists of four sections. Section 1 explores participation in education and training among Canadians aged 18 to 64. Section 2 explores the proportion of Canadians aged 18 to 64 who had unmet training needs and the reasons why Canadians did not pursue further education or training. Section 3 explores the costs associated with education and training and the sources of funding used to finance education programs. Section 4 shifts to the next generation of learners (0 to 17 years) and examines the proportion of children whose parents save and plan for their future postsecondary studies.

Access and Support to Education and Training Survey (ASETS) – Overview

This report is based on the Access and Support to Education and Training Survey (ASETS), which was undertaken by Statistics Canada in partnership with Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC).The ASETS brings together three previous education surveys that covered specific population groups: 1) the Survey of Approaches to Educational Planning (SAEP), which focused on 0 to 18 year olds; 2) the Post-Secondary Education Participation Survey (PEPS), which focused on 18 to 24 year olds; and 3) the Adult Education and Training Survey (AETS), which focused on 25 years of age and older. While these three surveys examined specific facets of Canadian's educational experience, their integration in the ASETS allows for a more holistic approach to collecting information on participation in and financing of education and training in Canada. While the ASETS can be used to undertake the same research as the PEPS, AETS and SAEP, it can also be used to address additional research not previously possible.

The ASETS results presented in this report refer to activities undertaken between July 2007 and June 2008 reference period. Throughout this report, for ease of reading, the year 2008 is used throughout this report.

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