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Brussels, 27 September 2007

Make it easier for adults to learn! The Commission calls on Member States to implement the Action Plan on Adult Learning

The European Commission has adopted today a Communication calling on the Member States to work together and support the EU's 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.

European Commissioner for Education, Training, Youth and Culture, Ján Figel', explained the initiative: "We live in an increasingly knowledge-based society with an aging population and a more intensely competitive global economy. It is therefore vitally important that adults continue to learn, to keep up and to adapt to change. Whether adults find themselves needing to up-skill or re-skill, the Member States must work to make adult learning as easy and accessible as possible. This is precisely what the Commission's Action Plan on Adult Learning aims to do, and today we are calling on Member States to redouble their efforts to implement the Action Plan."

The Action Plan is the follow-up of the Commission's earlier Communication on the same subject, in October 2006: It is never too late to learn. The main thrust is to help build an efficient adult learning system throughout Europe. This involves improving the adult learning sector's governance structure, and the quality, efficiency and accountability of its systems of delivery for learning activities, learning support and the recognition of learning outcomes.

In the present Communication, the Commission is inviting Member States to increase their involvement in the Action Plan through the following actions:

  1. Analyse effects of reforms in other educational sectors on adult learning. Most Member States are developing a National Qualification Framework that is linked to the forthcoming European Qualifications Framework. The process includes discussions on credit transfer. Since these developments are focussed on how to facilitate access to, progress in, and transfer between learning activities, they are potentially important for opening up qualification systems to adults.
  2. Improve the quality of provision. Quality assurance forms an important part of the reforms in education and training. The quality of provision is affected by policy, resources, infrastructure and a host of other factors, but the key factor is the quality of the staff involved in delivering learning activities. So far, in many Member States little attention has been paid to the training (initial and continuing), status and payment of teaching staff in the adult learning sector.
  3. Increase the possibilities to achieve at least one higher-level qualification. Demographic projections for Europe emphasise the importance of investing in the human and social capital of adult learners, since the working population is continually aging. However, it is not enough to simply attract people into adult education and training. The opportunity for them to progress and to raise their qualification levels must be real and must allow them to better integrate in all spheres of life.
  4. Speed up the process of assessing and recognizing non-formal and informal learning for disadvantaged groups. The assessment and recognition of skills and social competences, regardless of where and how they are gained, are especially important for the disadvantaged, who do not have basic qualifications, in order to facilitate their integration in society. It is important for all stakeholders (employers, governments, individuals etc.) that this is done, because there is evidence that recognizing skills acquired non-formally and informally could lead to important savings in time and money.
  5. Improve the monitoring of the adult learning sector. There is an urgent need for a common language to overcome the misunderstandings and the lack of comparable data in the sector. For a regular update (on a two-yearly basis) of the developments in the sector, a minimum set of core data is required.

More information:

See also MEMO/07/385

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