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Press Release
November 11, 1998



For immediate release November 11, 1998


Canadians are spending an average of 15 hours a week in informal learning--five times the amount of time they spend in organized education courses, say researchers at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT).

David Livingstone, director of OISE/UT's National Research Network on New Approaches to Lifelong Learning (NALL), says educators need to acknowledge the amount of informal learning most people achieve on their own and address it through more responsive programs:

"If the big education and training ships don't increasingly look out for the massive icebergs of informal learning, many of these programs may sink into Titanic irrelevancy."

One way educational institutions might respond is to take peoples' prior learning experience into more account in program admissions. Over 60 percent of Canadians say they would be more likely to enrol if they got credit for prior informal learning.

Livingstone and colleagues from institutions across the country analyzed data from a random phone survey of 1,500 Canadian adults conducted by the Institute for Social Research at York University between August and October, 1998. This first Canadian survey of informal learning examined the extent of adult learning, the existence of social barriers to education courses, and more effective means of linking informal learning with organized education and work.

Livingstone and his team found that over 95 percent of people were involved in some significant form of informal learning activities in the past year. This includes, for example, learning computer skills related to employment, communications skills through community volunteer work, home renovations and cooking skills in household work, and general interest learning about health issues.

In addition, they found that nearly half of all adults have taken a course, workshop or training session in the past year, and more than half are planning to do so. But, in spite of increasing participation in courses, most workers say their most important job-related knowledge comes from informal learning on their own.

Workers are five times as likely to say they are overqualified for their jobs as underqualified. The "knowledge society" has arrived in terms of extensive adult learning, but many people have relevant knowledge and skills that they have not been encouraged to apply in their jobs.

NALL is funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada and located in the Department of Sociology and Equity Studies at OISE/UT.


For further information about this national survey and the many related case studies,
contact project staff at 416 923-6641:
(David Livingstone ext. 2703 or Reuben Roth ext. 2392);
OR Jane Stirling, UT Public Affairs at 978-2105


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The Research Network on New Approaches to Lifelong Learning
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)
252 Bloor Street W, #12-246, Toronto, ON, M5S 1V6, Canada
Tel (416) 923-6641 ext./poste 2392, Fax (416) 926-4751

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