Contemporary approaches to adult education are dominated by the role that lifelong learning plays in human capital formation, especially in the context of theories of the knowledge-based economy (KBE). These argue that a shift to high-skills production provides the most effective pathway for the more developed economies to sustain economic growth in globalized markets. In reality, however, these approaches may not provide the most effective analysis of participation in adult learning; or of the relationship between the demand for and the supply of skills. Although important national differences persist, governmental responses to the KBE have been powerfully influenced by a neoliberal consensus on lifelong learning. However, governments may be well advised to consider the contribution of adult education in terms of its total public value.
Chapter in International Encyclopedia of Education 3rd Edition