What is it?

Adult learning is a vital component of the European Commission's lifelong learning policy.

It is essential for employability and competitiveness, social inclusion, active citizenship and personal development. The challenge is to provide learning opportunities for all adults, throughout their whole life, especially disadvantaged groups who need them most.

Adult learning comprises formal, non-formal, and informal learning; it can be for employing basics, for obtaining new qualifications, for up-skilling or re-skilling for employment, for personal growth, or just for pleasure.

The demand for adult learning is increasing and the Commission is committed to helping all EU countries create adult learning systems characterised by flexibility, high quality, excellent teaching, and the full involvement of local authorities, employers, social partners, civil society, and cultural organisations.

Priority Areas

The Renewed European Agenda for adult learning (2011) outlined a vision of how adult learning should develop in Europe by 2020. Specific priorities for the period 2015 - 2020 are:

  • Governance: ensuring the coherence of adult learning with other policy areas, improving coordination, effectiveness and relevance to the needs of society, the economy and the environment; increasing, where appropriate, both private and public investment.
  • Supply and take up: significantly increasing the supply of high-quality adult learning provision, especially in literacy, numeracy and digital skills, and increasing take-up through effective outreach, guidance and motivation strategies which target the groups most in need.
  • Flexibility and access: swidening access by increasing the availability of workplace-based learning and making effective use of ICT; putting in place procedures to identify and assess the skills of low qualified adults, and providing sufficient second-chance opportunities leading to a recognised EQF qualification for those without EQF level 4 qualifications.
  • Quality: improving quality assurance, including monitoring and impact assessment, improving initial and continuing education of adult educators, and collecting the necessary data on needs to effectively target and design provision.

An ET 2020 Working Group on Adult Learning worked from 2014 to 2015 and produced policy guidance, based upon best practice around Europe, on these topics:

The Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe (EPALE) is a multilingual online space to exchange, showcase, and promote methods of good practice in adult education. Individuals involved in organising and delivering adult education can access an online adult learning platform to share the latest developments and learn from each other.

EPALE also includes a library of resources, a calendar of courses and events of interest for adult education professionals, as well as a partner-search tool, which will soon be completed by collaborative groups.

What are the next steps?

An ET 2020 Working Group on Adult Learning will produce policy guidance on adult learning in the workplace from 2016 to 2018.