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Adult learning

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Adult learning

These conclusions set out specific measures for Member States to implement with the support of the Commission during the period of 2008-10, in order to further develop and improve adult learning.


Council conclusions of 22 May 2008 on adult learning [Official Journal C 140 of 6.6.2008].


Adult learning is considered to play an important role in attaining the Lisbon objectives. It not only provides citizens with new skills and competences, but also helps to achieve social cohesion and to respond to the challenges that globalisation brings. Consequently, it is essential that:

  • the skills levels of low-skilled workers are improved;
  • adults without qualifications are given the opportunity to pursue training;
  • social exclusion resulting from the lack of education, unemployment or other disadvantage is tackled;
  • lifelong learning of older workers and migrants is given additional consideration;
  • adult learning is efficient, effective and of high quality.

These objectives may be addressed with adult learning, as it provides economic, social as well as individual advantages. Therefore, more emphasis and support should be given to adult learning at the national level. In this context, Member States are encouraged to implement the following measures to continue developing adult learning during the period of 2008-10:

  • promote exchanges of good practice, mutual learning and joint projects between relevant stakeholders;
  • cooperate to eliminate any barriers to adult learning and to set up services, such as e-Learning and distance learning facilities;
  • encourage higher and vocational education institutions to target adult learners and to collaborate with businesses to promote learning at the workplace;
  • provide easier access to adult learning and increase the number of participants therein;
  • ensure that the use of funding sources, such as of the lifelong learning programme and the European Structural Funds, is effective;
  • promote lifelong guidance systems;
  • review the role of adult learning within the social and economic contexts;
  • elaborate mechanisms for assessing skills and competencies, and strengthen the validation and recognition procedures;
  • provide adequate funding for adult learning from the financial resources for education;
  • involve the relevant stakeholders in the development of quality learning provisions that take into account the needs of different categories of learners and focus in particular on ICT skills;
  • strengthen collaboration with Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training), the Unesco Institute for Lifelong Learning and other relevant international institutions;
  • follow up these measures by proposing actions after 2010.

Due to its cross-sectoral characteristic, an integrated approach should be taken to adult learning, in collaboration with all relevant stakeholders, social partners and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Developments in the field, as well as monitoring thereof, should be in line with the coherent framework of indicators and benchmarks for monitoring the Lisbon objectives.

The Commission should provide support to Member States with the following measures:

  • evaluate national reforms of education and training, as well as their impact on the allocation of funding to the different age groups;
  • promote career development of those working in the field of adult learning and develop quality criteria for the assessment of providers;
  • assemble best practices for reaching disadvantaged persons and for assessing their learning outcomes, in particular those obtained through non-formal learning;
  • establish a glossary of definitions concerning adult learning and a common set of comparable core data for monitoring;
  • promote the role of adult learning in national lifelong learning strategies;
  • support awareness-raising activities directed at potential learners.

The Commission should ascertain that the Member State measures complement and correspond to the Bologna and Copenhagen processes. It should also use and improve the current research mechanisms on adult learning. In addition, the Commission should strengthen cooperation with the relevant international organisations and NGOs, and initiate links with appropriate regional initiatives.

See also

  • The “Adult Learning” website of the European Commission Directorate-General for Education and Culture

Last updated: 26.06.2009