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EU Action Plan on Adult Learning - FAQ

27 September 2007
by eub2 -- last modified 25 November 2010

The European Commission adopted on 27 September 2007 a Communication calling on the EU Member States to work together and support the EU Action Plan on Adult Learning. The Action Plan aims to help remove the barriers that prevent adults from engaging in learning activities, and to improve the quality and efficiency of the adult learning sector. It complements this with a call to ensure adequate levels of investment in, and better monitoring of, the adult learning sector.


Q1. Why is an Action Plan on Adult learning needed?

The pressures of demographic change, globalisation and the emergence of newly industrialised and highly competitive countries have highlighted the need for a coordinated policy response on adult learning in the EU. For this reason, the European Commission launched the first Communication on adult learning, entitled It is never too late to learn, in 2006.

The Commission has since then developed the Action Plan on Adult Learning: It is always a good time to learn, which is based on the five key messages of the 2006 Communication. These are:

  • remove barriers to participation;
  • increase the quality and efficiency of the adult education sector;
  • speed up the process of validation and recognition of adult learning outcomes;
  • ensure sufficient investment in adult learning; and
  • monitor the sector.

The Action Plan aims to help strengthen the adult learning sector so that it can exploit its full potential. The challenges are many: this is a complex sector, with a wide variety of providers, reaching all kinds of target groups.

Q2. The Commission is proposing a solution to develop an efficient and systematic plan based on an integrated approach. Why?

The consultation process, and evidence from research, showed that a set of key elements have to be tightly interconnected to establish a strong and efficient adult learning sector.

The elements are:

  • the policies
  • the structures for good governance
  • the delivery systems.

At all levels, from European to the local level, cooperation between stakeholders is required, and the adult learners' voice must also be heard.

Q3. Which are the target groups of this Action Plan?

The target group of the Action Plan is all adults, but there is a special focus on those who are disadvantaged because of their low literacy levels, inadequate work skills and/or insufficient skills for successful integration into society. Depending on the Member State, these could include migrants, older people, women or persons with a disability.

The target groups have been identified in the light of the challenges that Europe has to face in the coming years, such as a need to reduce labour shortages by upgrading low-skilled workers (80 million); to address the persistent problem of early school leavers (nearly 7 million); to increase the integration of migrants; to increase the participation of adults in lifelong learning, in particular participation of the older workers and to tackle the problem of poverty and social exclusion.

Q4. What are the main actions in this Plan and at what time can the first results be expected?

The proposed actions are going to take place in following areas:

  • analysis of the effects of reforms in education and training on adult learning;
  • improving the quality of provision in the adult learning sector;
  • increasing the possibilities for adults to go "one step up"- to achieve at least a qualification one level higher than before;
  • speeding up the process of assessment of skills and competences and have them recognised and validated in terms of learning outcomes;
  • improve the monitoring of the sector, based on the use of agreed definitions.

These actions will also include studies and research, such as on the adult learning professions in Europe, analysis of the reforms in education and training in Member States, and identification of good practice in relation to the target groups.

The most important activities of implementation will be peer learning activities and cross border exchange of staff.

Q5. What has been the process behind this Action Plan, in what way were Member States involved?

The Action plan is the result of a wide-ranging consultation process. It involved the Member States through four trans-national consultation meetings attended by representatives from the adult learning sector. It also involved informal consultation with Member States via the so-called "national sounding boards" (with participation of policy-makers, social partners and NGOs). The Commission's work was also supported by a group of experts from international organisations (OECD, UNESCO), NGOs, social partners, research institutes and other stakeholders.

Q6. Is it not the responsibility of the EU Member States to increase participation in adult learning and improve the quality of the adult learning sector?

While education is of course a Member State competence, the Member States and the European Commission have been working together very closely in the area to work towards commonly identified policy goals, in accordance with the provisions of Article 149 and 150 of the Treaty. In particular, the Member States adopted the Education and Training 2010 Work Programme, which is the overall framework for policy coordination by the Member States and the European Commission in education and training for the present decade. One of the five main benchmarks chosen to chart progress under this Work Programme is the objective to increase participation in lifelong learning.

There is a growing need for more of this policy cooperation. Unfortunately, the latest results show that participation in lifelong learning has ceased to grow, and in 2006 it has even slightly decreased to 9.6% of the adult population. This percentage is far below the benchmark, which is 12.5% by 2010.

Q7. How will this plan be funded?

The actions identified in the Action Plan will be supported through the use of the Lifelong Learning Programme and the European Social Fund. Member States will also contribute through various national channels.

Source: European Commission
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