Lifelong learning


Lifelong learning is, for the EU, "the guiding principle for the development of education and training policy". While promoting social inclusion and personal fulfilment, lifelong learning develops people's employability and adaptability, and is therefore a core element of the Jobs and Growth strategy.

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Lifelong learning includes learning for personal, civic and social as well as for employment-related purposes. It takes place in and outside the formal education and training systems. Lifelong learning implies raising investment in people and knowledge; promoting the acquisition of basic skills, including digital literacy; and broadening opportunities for innovative, more flexible forms of learning. Reaching the Lisbon benchmarks in the field of education would imply that in 2010 4 million more adults would participate in lifelong learning.


Percentage of population aged 25-64 participating in education and training during the four weeks prior to the survey  (Figures: Eurostat Labour Force Survey, Graph: Commission)

European adult learning participation rates are lower than those of its major global competitors, whether in higher education, adult education or continuing vocational training, and participation in life-long learning activities varies considerably from one country to another. The measure generally applied is the percentage of working-age adults having participated in any kind of training measures within the last four weeks. According to the latest Commission figures, Sweden with more than a third of adults having done so, takes the EU lead, closely followed by the other Nordic countries and the UK. Most new member states, with the exception of Slovenia and Estonia, are doing poorly, and so are the Mediterranean countries. 

The establishment of a European area of lifelong learning will not imply a new process, nor will it involve the harmonisation of laws and regulations because this competence remains in the hands of the member states. It will be based on important elements of existing European level processes, strategies and plans concerned with youth, employment, social inclusion, and research policy.