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Quality education and training for all

Adult learning initiatives

Adult learning refers to a range of formal and informal learning activities, both general and vocational, undertaken by adults after leaving initial education and training.

Why is adult learning important?

Individuals pursue adult learning for a variety of reasons, to

  • enhance their employment prospects
  • develop personally or professionally
  • obtain transferrable skills, such as critical thinking

Adult learning also contributes to improving social cohesion and promotes active citizenship. It also enhances the competitiveness of businesses and European economies.

The recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the digital and green transitions have accelerated changes in how we live, learn and work. People need to update their knowledge, skills and competences to fill the gap between their education and training and the demands of a rapidly changing labour market.

Adult learning has been identified as a focus topic of the European Education Area for the period 2021-2030.

Find out more in the Council Resolution on a strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training.

What is the EU doing to support adult learning?

European Pillar of Social Rights

The right to education, training and lifelong learning is enshrined in the European Pillar of Social Rights (principle 1).

In line with the headline target of the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan, 60% of all adults should be participating in training every year by 2030. Too few people participate in regular learning after initial education across Europe.

Actions and initiatives at the European level provide support to national institutions and individuals to increase the participation of adults in learning and training activities. They enhance our understanding of how to respond to challenges in the field of adult learning and enable a better exchange of knowledge and experiences between countries.

Learn more about the European Pillar of Social Rights

The European Skills Agenda

The European Skills Agenda for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilience includes ambitious actions to help people to develop their skills throughout life.

The proposals for a Council Recommendation on individual learning accounts and for a Council Recommendation on micro-credentials for lifelong learning and employability are two of the twelve flagship actions of the European Skills Agenda.

Together the proposals aim to support a culture of lifelong learning and to make learning more accessible and valued.

Learn more about the European Skills Agenda

Council Resolution on a new European Agenda for Adult Learning

A Resolution adopted by the Council of the European Union (EU) on 29 November 2021 on a new European Agenda for Adult Learning highlights the need to significantly increase adult participation in formal, non-formal and informal learning.

The new European Agenda for Adult learning outlines a vision of how adult learning should develop in Europe by 2030 in the following five priority areas

  • governance of adult learning – with a strong focus on whole-of-government national strategies and stakeholder partnerships
  • supply and take-up of lifelong learning opportunities with sustainable funding
  • accessibility and flexibility – to adapt to the needs of adult
  • quality, equity, inclusion and success in adult learning – emphasising the professional development of adult learning staff, the mobility of both learners and staff, quality assurance and active support to disadvantaged groups
  • the green and digital transitions and related skill needs

Find out more about the Council Resolution on a renewed European Agenda for Adult Learning

Career guidance

Career guidance describes the services which help people of any age to manage their careers and to make educational, training and occupational choices that are meaningful for them.

It helps people to reflect on their ambitions, interests, qualifications, skills and talents and to relate this knowledge about who they are to who they might become in life and work.

The European Commission works together with the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training’s (CEDEFOP) CareersNet to support career guidance in Member States.

A Commission study ‘Lifelong guidance policy and practice in the EU: trends, challenges and opportunities’ (2020) aims to provide career development support for individuals of all ages, at all career stages. Its recommendations have become particularly timely given the pandemic, with rising unemployment levels and the need to be innovative to remain employable.

Working Group on adult learning

Under the European Education Area strategic framework, a new working group of Member State experts on adult learning has been established for the period 2021-2025.

The working group will support Member States in implementing the EU’s vision for a European Education Area and the objectives, priorities and principles included in

  • the European Skills Agenda
  • the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan
  • the Council Recommendation on Vocational Education and Training
  • the Council Recommendation on Upskilling Pathways: New Opportunities for Adults and the Council Resolution adult learning

Find out more about the Working Group on adult learning

Network of National Coordinators for adult learning

The Network of National Coordinators promote adult learning in their respective EU country, provide policy advice and support and gather and disseminate best practices to national authorities.

Discover the Network of National Coordinators


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