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Exploring the icebergs of adult learning: findings of the first Canadian survey of informal learning practices

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Abstract

This paper provides empirical estimates of the extent and distribution of self-reported learning activities in the current Canadian adult population, based on a recent country-wide survey, and briefly addresses some implications of these adult learning patterns. The basic finding from the survey is that most Canadian adults are spending a great deal and increasing amount of time in learning activities, most of this in informal learning on their own. The major implications are that Canada is an increasingly knowledge-based society in any reasonable sense of the term and that Canadian adults' informal learning practices should more explicitly be taken into account in shaping educational, economic, and other social policies. As well, adult educators should take this detectable informal learning into greater account to develop more responsive further education opportunities.

Resume

Ce texte propose une estimation empirique de l'importance et de la distribution des activites d'apprentissage auto-rapportees, selon une enquete pan canadienne recente. On a trouve que la majorite des adultes canadiens consacrent de plus en plus de temps a leurs activites d'auto-apprentissage, dont la majeure partie demeure informelle. Le Canada apparait ainsi comme une societe fondee sur le savoir. Or, Ies pratiques d'apprentissage informel des adultes canadiens doivent etre davantage liees a l'elaboration de politiques educatives, economiques et sociales. Les educateurs d'adultes eux-memes doivent tenir compte du phenomene de l'autoformation dans l'elaboration de leurs programmes et activites d'apprentissage.

There is a great deal of talk these days about living in the "information age," the "knowledge society," or the "learning society." The study described in this article indicates that adults in Canada now spend an average of 15 hours per week on informal learning. In light of this finding, if the crews of our big education and training ships do not increasingly look out for the massive, detectable icebergs of...