Lifelong learning is the lifelong, voluntary and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for personal or professional reasons. The overall aim of learning is to improve knowledge, skills and competences. The intention to learn distinguishes learning activities from non-learning activities such as cultural activities or sports activities.
Within the domain of lifelong learning statistics, formal education covers education and training in the regular system of schools, universities and colleges. Non-formal education and training includes all taught learning activities which are not part of a formal education programme. The information collected relates to all education or training regardless of whether it is relevant to the respondent’s current or possible future job. Lifelong learning statistics collected by Eurostat do not cover informal learning.
The target population of Eurostat's lifelong learning statistics is all members of private households aged between 25 and 64. Data are collected through the EU Labour force survey (LFS). Lifelong learning indicators refer to persons aged 25 to 64 participating in the LFS who report that they received education or training in the four weeks preceding the survey (from 2004, this variable is derived from two other variables: ‘participation in regular education’ and ‘participation in other taught activities’; self-learning activities are no longer covered). This figure is divided by the total population of the same age group from the LFS, excluding those who did not respond to questions on ‘participation in education and training’.
In contrast to lifelong learning as a concept, lifelong learning statistics do not cover informal learning, which corresponds to self-learning (through the use of printed material, computer-based learning/training, online Internet-based web education, visiting libraries, etc).
- Commission Decision 1720/2006 of 15 November 2006 establishing an action programme in the field of lifelong learning (legal text)