An education allowance is broadly understood as a stipend or other payment made by public funds or from an employer to an employee undergoing training for a certain period, usually outside the normal place of work. More narrowly understood and as used here, it is a stipend or other payment program where the target employees are mid-career or late career, and the practice thus not part of initial education and training.
In general, an education or training allowance (EA and TA, respectively) may be regarded as attempting the implementation of knowledge society–oriented policies at corporate, national, and international levels. This means that the extent and contents of the practice, including terminology, varies greatly. Overall the practice tends to follow the philosophy inherent in the conventional International Labor Organization (ILO) definitions of lifelong learning used as encompassing all learning activities undertaken throughout life for the development of competencies and qualifications, and by the European Commission (EC) as encompassing all purposeful learning activity, whether formal or informal, undertaken on an ongoing basis with the aim of improving knowledge, skills, and competence.
Prominent examples of public EA and TA implementation include Denmark’s financial support systems within the Adult Education Reform Act of 2001 and Sweden’s new adult education recruitment grant scheme introduced in 2003. The latter is aimed at people aged 25–50 with relatively little initial education. In Finland an adult education subsidy is available to employees and self-employed persons who have a work history of at least 10 years and wish to go on a study leave. Ireland’s expenditures for adult literacy programs increased approximately nineteen fold during 1998–2003.
In theory EA may benefit both employers and employees by securing continuous learning for the individual employees and the corporation. From the perspective of the employers, there is a certain risk that employees receiving continued education might leave the corporation in spite of or because of newly attained education levels. It is, in addition, a challenge to determine what kinds of education and training should be deemed as relevant and eligible. A narrow and focused approach could be perceived by employees as too instrumental and hence lack the motivating factor, whereas too-broad approaches may lead to distractions from the necessities of operations. For managers operating in multiple countries an additional challenge is to familiarize oneself with the legal requirements and possibilities regarding the practice. For employees the benefits of continued education may on the one hand be self-evident, whereas the implementation may be seen as coming at the expense of executing day-to-day responsibilities.
One should be aware of the lack of consensus regarding vocabulary within this field. Some countries (e.g., Australia, Finland, Norway, and Sweden) usually refer to EA or TA broadly, much in accordance with the definition and examples rendered here, whereas other countries may use the EA and TA concepts mostly for specific situations or target groups, such as the U.S. public programs targeted specifically at military veterans, United Kingdom programs for young persons, Irish programs for disabled persons, and several countries using the concept with reference to continued education programs for unemployed persons. Individual sectors sometimes operate with specific concepts, e.g., the health sector and its concept of postgraduate EA (PGEA).
- N. Aspin et al., International Handbook of Lifelong Learning (Kluwer, 2001);
- European Commission, Implementing Lifelong Learning Strategies in Europe (2003);
- International Labor Organization, The New ILO Recommendation 195 (2006);
- Jarvis The Theory and Practice of Learning, 2nd ed. (Routledge, 2003);
- “More Improvements to Continuing Education Allowance,” Lamp (v.64/11, 2008);
- J. Phillips, Return on Investment in Training and Performance Improvement Programs, 2nd ed. (Butterworth-Heinemann, 2003).