Research Paper 70: Models of Lifelong Learning and Their Outcomes. How Distinctive is the ‘Nordic Model’ Now?

The ‘Nordic Model of Lifelong Learning’ – which gained international recognition towards the end of the last Millennium – had three main distinguishing characteristics: universalistic provision of pre-school education; a comprehensive and relatively egalitarian secondary school system; and high levels of participation in adult learning. With strong provision for each stage of the life course, Nordic countries came to be regarded as leading exponents of lifelong learning when this concept was gaining international traction. However, during the last two decades, much has changed with the rise of the ‘neo-liberal’ paradigm in international education policy, and Nordic countries have responded in different ways to the new demands placed on education. This paper uses the latest international data on skills and education system characteristics to assess how the lifelong learning systems of Nordic countries perform today and how distinctive they remain relative to the systems in other regions and country groups.