The Renewed European Agenda for Adult Learning (2011) defines the focus for European cooperation in adult education policies.
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.
Strategic framework – Education & Training 2020 (ET2020)
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:
- Financing adult learning;
- Higher education: access to adults;
- Monitoring the adult learning sector;
- 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. According to the last survey in 2016, the average participation was 10.8% and only 7 EU countries had reached the target rate. This constituted a slight increase in comparison to the previous survey in 2011.
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.