What happened to adults in learning during the pandemic? IBE has the answer.

During the coronavirus pandemic, education moved onto a virtual platform. The remote teaching of children and youth became a dominant topic in the public discourse. But what happened to the adults who were participating in various types of educational activities? The Educational Research Institute tried to find out.

Wanting to take a closer look at adult education in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Educational Research Institute conducted a survey [1].

Only selected forms of adult learning were included in the study: non-formal education (courses, training, and private lessons) and informal learning (self-study from online and printed materials). For a current picture of the situation, the study adopted a non-standard time horizon. Respondents were asked about their experiences from March 15 to the end of May, when the most stringent restrictions were in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, as well as during the 12 months before the restrictions were introduced, which was used as a reference.

Adult education in Poland during the pandemic

Before the pandemic, 12% of respondents had participated in at least one of the educational activities listed in the survey, while during the period from mid-March to the end of May - every tenth respondent. The differences in the participation level of individual educational activities during and before the pandemic are practically imperceptible.

It is worth noting that the persons who had been actively involved in an educational activity when the restrictions were in force also declared that they were engaged in adult learning in the pre-pandemic period. No evidence was found that the pandemic restrictions prompted people to start a learning activity, but an equally small percentage of respondents (3%) stated that they had discontinued a learning activity during this time.

The differences among respondents depending on their socio-demographic characteristics did not change. Persons with a higher education were more active in education (before the pandemic - 28%; during the restrictions - 25%). Those with a primary education were five times less active in the area of learning (5% - regardless of the period). In terms of age, the youngest surveyed persons were most active (25-34 years), with one in five taking part in any of the analysed activities before the pandemic, and 16% in the period from March 15 to the end of May. The percentage of participation decreased in subsequent age brackets, dropping to 7% for 55-64 year old respondents. No correlation was observed between gender or income (individual and household) and participation in educational activities either before or after the coronavirus pandemic restrictions were put in place.

Education and professional situation

Adult learning is linked to a person’s occupational situation, and the effects of the pandemic were observed to have had a significant impact in this area, which is clearly visible in the study: 25% of the respondents experienced a reduction in wages; 9% stopped working due to the restrictions, but have not formally lost their jobs; 8% were dismissed. In turn, 13% of respondents worked remotely or part-time. This form of working was available mainly to people with a higher education (70% of those who changed their form of working). As many as 38% of the respondents were afraid that they would lose their jobs in the nearest future.

What next?

The data is on the short period of the most stringent restrictions, allowing us to look at selected “hot” aspects. The results of the study “The Learning of Adult Poles”, whose fieldwork is just beginning at the Educational Research Institute, will provide in-depth knowledge on the educational activities of adult Poles and their opinions on learning in adulthood.

[1] Study on a representative sample of adult Poles (aged 15+, n=1012); „Omnibus” type of survey using the CAPI method, conducted by KANTAR Polska S.A. on June 5-10, 2020; the analysis concerns persons 25–64 years of age (n=707).