Adult education and training in Europe: Widening access to learning opportunities


The European Commission and EURYDICE have published their review on adult education and training in Europe this week as a response to the presentation of the first results of the OECD survey on adult skills in 2013 (Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies PIAAC). The report 'Adult Education and Training in Europe: Widening Access to Learning Opportunities', reminds that "around 25 % of adults (25-64) in the EU – that is around 70 million people – have not completed any formal education beyond the level of lower secondary education.

Out of these, around 20 million adults (6.5 % of adults in the EU) left the education system with no more than primary education".


The report shows that low-skilled adults in Germany, Estonia, the Netherlands and Norway cannot afford further education and training. At the same time, higher skilled adults in Malta, Portugal, Denmark, Poland and Belgium reported that they are unable to afford further learning, while the lower skilled in the same countries did not feel this way.

Teachers in Adult learning

The report does not deal with the role of adult teachers /educators as regards adults' skills improvement in Europe. It underlines that it is important to provide ICT-based flexible learning to adult learners, but it requires the presence of the teacher and additional physical meetings between students and teachers. The report re-assures that the role of the teachers is essential in the learning process: "while distance learning is one of the possible methods by which adult learners may re-engage in education and training, its success will always depend on a specific evaluation of each learner's needs and abilities the lack of face-to-face contact with the teacher and peer learners, and the autonomy required, will be de-motivating."

Trade unions' involvement

The report shows several good examples where governments and trade unions cooperate to upskill adults. For example, in Norway, the programme 'basic competence in working life' was developed in the educational sector, but it targets employees in cooperation with a programme provider and possibly also with a trade union organisation. Here the employer initiates the provision of training and applies for public funding.