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).

Bibliography: 

  1. N. Aspin et al., International Handbook of Lifelong Learning (Kluwer, 2001);
  2. European Commission, Implementing Lifelong Learning Strategies in Europe (2003);
  3. International Labor  Organization,  The New  ILO Recommendation   195  (2006);
  4. Jarvis  The  Theory and Practice of Learning,  2nd  ed.  (Routledge,  2003);
  5. “More Improvements to Continuing Education Allowance,” Lamp (v.64/11, 2008);
  6. J. Phillips, Return on Investment in Training and Performance Improvement Programs, 2nd ed. (Butterworth-Heinemann, 2003).