4160.0 - Measuring Wellbeing: Frameworks for Australian Social Statistics, 2001  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/10/2001   
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Contents >> Chapter 5: Education and Training >> Defining education and training

Defining education and training

People need to learn as they grow and encounter different life situations, and in order to gain and maintain employment and provide for themselves and their family. Beyond these basic needs, people also aspire to learn about aspects of life that interest them, and so they can contribute to society and the stock of human knowledge and understanding. This lifetime process of obtaining knowledge, attitudes, skills, and socially valued qualities of character and behaviour is facilitated and supported by education and training. Thus education and training are activities designed to meet the inherent and ongoing learning needs of the population. Most education and training involves communication, or a transfer of information (e.g. messages, ideas, knowledge, strategies, etc.) from one person to another. This communication can involve a wide variety of channels and media. It may be verbal or written. It may be delivered face-to-face or by other means (e.g. Internet, radio).


Traditionally the terms 'education' and 'training' have each had a specific focus. Education has been associated with gaining knowledge for broad vocational, cultural and civic ends (e.g. understanding the world and civilising society). It has typically taken place in the early stages of the life cycle in formal institutions such as schools and universities. Training has more often taken place in institutions oriented toward specific vocations, or in the work environment, and been focused on developing or enhancing skills used in the learner's work. However, in recent times the distinction between education and training has diminished. Education is now seen as extending beyond the formal institutions, and as continuing throughout adult life. It has become increasingly focused on economic and vocational outcomes, (e.g. on producing marketable skills). Similarly, training now extends beyond vocational institutions and the workplace, and is available in schools, with students able to study for vocational certificates as part of their school work. Ultimately, education and training are both vital supports to the lifelong learning process. They both equally enable individuals to take their place in a skilled and changing labour force, to lead fulfilling lives, and to become active members of the community.


Education and training can occur within a variety of environments, some more formal than others. Education and training provided by schools, universities and other educational institutions is the most formal type of education and training. However, formal education and training can take place outside institutions and can continue after a person has completed schooling or gained trade or higher qualifications. Formal education activities have some common characteristics. They are planned and organised ahead of time, and the delivery of information is ordered and systematic. There is usually some evaluation or assessment of how well specific competencies or skills have been acquired by each individual participating. Formal education and training involves a direct student teacher relationship. Thus formal education and training can take place in the workplace, or in association with work, when people attend courses, seminars or workshops in order to acquire, develop or upgrade work related skills. People may also receive formal training when they learn to drive or qualify to serve in voluntary organisations.


Non-formal learning occurs in situations where education or training is deliberate but may be unplanned, unstructured and/or unassessed. On-the-job workplace training is a good example of training that is intentional but delivered in an informal and unstructured way, and on an ad hoc basis. Hobby courses are usually non-formal education and training situations (for example, the training involved is deliberate, and may be structured, but is usually unassessed). Other non-formal education and training occurs in the home, when parents instruct children on commonly held social values or teach them living skills. Non-formal education and training does not always involve a direct student teacher relationship. For example, non-formal learning occurs when people teach themselves skills through reading, listening to tapes, or following self-guided tutorials on computers. When people search websites or visit libraries to gain information about a topic of interest to them, they are educating themselves informally without a teacher or trainer.


The deliberate formal and non-formal education and training we receive is only one aspect of our wider learning experience. In other words, most people experience some level of incidental learning on a daily basis in the process of living (e.g. in getting from one place to another, people learn which routes are the most direct). People absorb behavioural rules and norms through their life experiences. Children, in particular, constantly absorb incidental information. And people pick up knowledge about the world while relaxing, conversing with friends, watching television, or listening to the radio. However, such forms of incidental learning are generally outside the scope of the ABS system of social statistics, which focuses mainly on learning that is intentional, and thus involves some form of education and training. Formal education and training, in particular, is amenable to statistical measurement and classification, and is often the focus of social issues, policy and planning in the area of education and training. However, there is increasing social and policy interest in non-formal education and training, such as that taking place in the workplace or community, and these are also a focus for measurement.


There has been considerable change in the area of formal education and training over the last century, particularly in the last few decades. These changes are in response to shifts in economic policy or advancements in technology, and illustrate the dynamic relationship between education and the changing social, economic, and cultural landscape of Australia. These changes have affected the way in which some core educational concepts and institutions can be defined.

Pathways to and from education - Pathways from school into the labour force or tertiary education are changing. In the past, people tended to move from school into full-time work or tertiary education and training. From tertiary education and training they moved into full-time work. However, rapid economic and technological change has led to a continuous need for re-skilling in many parts of the workforce. Economic growth now depends more heavily on the ability of the workforce to constantly both improve its skills and retrain in new skills. As a consequence, people now increasingly move backward and forward between different forms of education and training (e.g. secondary, tertiary, vocational), and different forms of work (e.g. part-time work, full-time work). It is also more common for people to undertake education and work simultaneously.

Timing of education and training - Changes in educational pathways have occurred in parallel with a shift in the period in which the majority of formal education and training occurs in the life cycle, and education and training statistics now need to take into account a broader age range. Formal education is no longer just for the young but can be a life-long process.

Sectoral boundaries - All the above shifts have been associated with changes in how governments provide vocational education and training (VET) and higher education, and an increase in private provision of education at all levels. There has been a breakdown in the distinction between the three major education sectors: schools, VET, and higher education. It is now increasingly possible to transfer studies between these sectors in order to complete a qualification. In some instances, universities and colleges of technical and further education (TAFEs) have combined, while in others, universities offer courses previously only available from TAFEs and vice versa. VET is now a significant and growing element of the curricula in schools, which means students can obtain a vocational certificate at the same time as they complete their schooling.

In the past, the type or level of education undertaken by someone could be safely defined based on the institution they attended, but this is no longer the case. Measurement of, say, secondary education now needs to take into account education that takes place within technical colleges as well as that which takes place within secondary schools. Focus is now more on the level of skill achieved, or on the type of learning undertaken, than on the type of institution attended.

Expanding areas of education and training - Some areas of education and training have expanded in response to broad social changes, such as the increased participation of women in the workforce, the ageing of the population, and growth in service industries. There has been a growth in early childhood education facilities and in adult education courses, and more sporting, recreational and cultural educational courses have become available. Technological change has also been a factor in stimulating growth across many education and training areas.

Delivery of education and training - Further complicating the measurement of education and training are changes to the way in which education and training are delivered. Face-to-face delivery is now only one of a number of more flexible education delivery methods used including audio, video or on-line delivery. The delivery of education now frequently extends beyond the physical confines of formal institutions. Similarly, training can now often be undertaken outside the workplace and may be conducted by public institutions or commercial providers.

While social statistics need to be responsive to these kinds of changes, statistical frameworks and collections also need to maintain their integrity over time, to ensure that the usefulness of time series data and the compatibility of existing collections is not diminished by modifications to methods. This chapter therefore discusses both existing education and training measures, as well as some developing statistical frameworks.

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