European Agenda for Adult Learning

Picture: European Union 2014, source: EP

The Renewed European Agenda for Adult Learning (2011) defines the focus for European cooperation in adult education policies. EAEA participates in the European policy making by publishing reports and statements, participating ET2020 working groups and being involved in several EU projects.

The Agenda highlights the need to increase participation in adult learning of all kinds (formal, non-formal and informal learning) whether to acquire new work skills, for active citizenship, or for personal development and fulfilment.

Adult learning is key for personal development, active citizenship and social inclusion. Adult learning is also needed to meet the need for new skills and answer the needs of the labour market but also of life in society and as an individual.

Participation of adults in learning varies greatly between European countries: overall, the numbers are stagnating and go from 1.4% to 31.6% (2012 figures). Participation rates are especially disappointing for low-skilled and older adults. Urgent action is needed at European level to increase knowledge about successful policies, provide support, and enable a better exchange of experiences between countries.

The Renewed Agenda for Adult Learning builds on the Communication on Adult Learning (2006), and the subsequent Action Plan on Adult Learning 2008–2010. It builds on EU's strategic framework for education and training (ET2020) from an adult learning perspective. The Agenda should be seen in the context of the Europe 2020 strategy.

Photo: European Union, 2016 / Source: EC - Audiovisual Service / Lieven Creemers

Strategic framework – Education & Training 2020

The strategic framework for education and training defines four common objectives to address these challenges by 2020:

  • Making lifelong learning and mobility a reality;
  • Improving the quality and efficiency of education and training;
  • Promoting equity, social cohesion, and active citizenship;
  • Enhancing creativity and innovation, including entrepreneurship, at all levels of education and training.

These priorities are addressed by the European Commission, by European member States, by other countries participating in the Erasmus+ programme, by education institutions, education stakeholders, networks, associations by working on the following topics:

  • Awareness-raising;
  • Financing adult learning;
  • Higher education: access to adults;
  • Monitoring the adult learning sector;
  • Quality;
  • Reaching out to specific target groups;
  • Validation of non-formal and informal learning.

In the field of adult education, the target set is as follows: by 2020, 15% of adults aged 25–64 should be taking part in adult education.
In 2012, average participation was 9% and only 5 EU countries had reached the target rate.

A network of national coordinators, coordinated by the European Commission, has the task to promote adult learning in their respective countries, provide policy advice and support, and gather and disseminate best practices.

EAEA and a range of European associations, networks, and labour organisations also work on the promotion of adult learning. EAEA is a member in ET2020 working groups on adult learning and on citizenship education. Either EAEA President or Secretary-General participate in the meetings to raise EAEA's voice and contribute to shaping European policies on adult learning. EAEA also promotes the funding opportunities offered in the framework of the Erasmus+ programme, which priorities are usually aligned with the ET2020 objectives.


EAEA statements & publications

Official documents

Further reading

EAEA projects related to the European Agenda on Adult Learning

The European Adult Education (Young) Professionals Learning Platform (AE-PRO)

AE-PRO project will realise a growing need across Europe for adult education staff to learn more about European developments and adult education in other countries. The outcomes of this three-year-long project include the 'Adult Education Mobility Charter', a Europe-wide learning platform and capacity-building e-trainings for European adult education staff.

Action plan for validation and non-formal adult education (AVA)

By analysing tools and methodologies in different European countries and proposing solutions from the civil society perspective, this project will contribute to reducing the fragmentation of validation systems on different levels, namely policy and practice.

Widening Roma women's access to non-formal and informal learning validation systems (ROM-ACT)

The aim of ROM-ACT is to widen recognition of the skills and competences that the Roma community has acquired in formal and non-formal activities and to encourage centres for adult education and civil society organizations to support non-academic Roma women in their process of informal and non-formal learning validation.