Skip to main content
European Commission logo
EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Lifelong learning strategy


2.Organisation and governance

2.2Lifelong learning strategy

Last update: 17 June 2022

The lifelong education and training policy (EFTLV) is one of the guiding principles of French policy since the European Council of Lisbon in March 2000 where it was stated that Europe should "become the most competitive and most dynamic knowledge economy of the world". This principle was officially recognised by the law of May 2004 on lifelong vocational training.

The current EFTLV policy is a part of the "validation of acquired experience in 2002; the creation of the personal right to training (DIF) for private-sector employees, in 2004, and of the public sector, in 2007.

The State, regions and social partners contribute to the elaboration of the lifelong education and training policy. A National council for lifelong vocational training (Conseil national de la formation professionnelle tout au long de la vie) was created in 2004 to favour cooperation between these different players.
The law no. 2009-1437 of 24 November 2009 relating to guidance and lifelong vocational training, marks a new stage in the reform of the French continuing vocational training system. It boosts the DIF by allowing its portability (infra), and develops new tools such as the “professional development assessment" (bilan d'étape professionnel), the “mid-career interview” (entretien en milieu de carrière) or the “guidance and training passport” (passeport orientation et formation). It satisfies the need to secure careers by creating a joint fund dedicated to training for job-seekers and the most under-qualified employees.

Definition of the concept

Lifelong education and learning is defined in France as a "continuum between initial, general or vocational training, and all situations where skills are acquired" (Department for national Education, Higher Education and Research). It covers all learning activity undertaken by an individual to develop his or her citizenship, personal and social fulfilment, vocational integration capacity or an ability to stay in employment. These activities can also take place within formal education and training systems (initial training and continuing training) and outside them, in professional, associative or cultural activities; they cover the whole lifespan, from pre-school age to retirement.


The major objectives of the lifelong training policy are:

  • ensuring and developing access for all citizens to education and training throughout their lives, in order to enrich their individual paths (personal and professional);
  • giving the possibility of acquiring or upgrading basic skills in order to satisfy changes in the employment market's requirements;
  • reducing social inequalities by giving everyone the right to validate learning acquired in an informal context, e.g. professional experience;
  • allowing people to stay in employment;
  • contributing to the country's economic and cultural development and social promotion.


The main legislative references that define French lifelong education and training policy are:

Provisions of the EFTLV policy

The main provisions of the French EFTLV policy were set up as from the 1980s, firstly in the private sector then in the public sector.

Congé individuel de formation (CIF - personal training leave)

Le congé individuel de formation (CIF- personal training leave), created by law no. 84-130 of 24 February 1984 allows all private-sector employees, throughout their professional lives, on their initiative, and individually, to be trained independently from courses set out in the company training programme. It may be used to access a higher level of qualification, change activity or sector (mobility or reconversion), open up more broadly to culture, social life or volunteer action in an association. The CIF is scheduled to last a maximum one-year period for full-time training or 1,200 hours for part-time training. It is necessary to prove length of service - two years' salaried activity, including one year in the current company. Leave of absence given by the employer does not automatically incur a maintained level of remuneration or payment of related training costs. The maintained level of remuneration is only acquired by the employee when he or she has received approval from the "joint body" (institution composed of an equal number of employers' and employees' representatives) to which the employer belongs.

Congé de formation professionnelle (CPF - vocational training leave)

Le congé de formation professionnelle (CFP - vocational training leave), established after law no 86-33 of 9 January 1986 is aimed at civil servants who have completed at least three years' service in the civil service. Its aim is to allow civil servants to complete personal training through vocational or personal training courses not proposed to them by the civil service or for actions organised or approved by the civil service with a view to preparing for civil service exams. The training period cannot exceed three years for the whole career and the civil servant is paid 85% of his or her gross salary.

Validation des acquis de l'expérience (VAE - validation of acquired experience)

The validation des acquis de l'expérience (VAE - validation of acquired experience) created by social modernisation law no. 2002-73 of 17 January 2002 is a measure that allows anyone, regardless of their age, level of qualification or status, to validate acquired experience to obtain a professional certificate. Three years' experience related to the content of the targeted certification is required. The VAE is a means of obtaining, totally or partially, a diploma, title or vocational qualification certificate listed on the Répertoire national des certifications professionnelles (social modernisation law no. 2002-73 of 17 January 2002 aims to provide individuals and companies with constantly updated information on professional diplomas and titles.

Droit au bilan de compétences - Right to skills assessment

The droit au bilan de compétences - right to skills assessment, established after the law of May 2004 on lifelong vocational training allows employees to take stock of their skills, aptitudes and motivations and define a professional or training plan. Conducted by an outside intervener, according to very precise stages, the skills assessment may be decided by the employer or implemented on the initiative of the employee, within the framework of specific leave. The employee, justifying at least five months of salaried work, including 12 months in the current company, may apply for leave of absence for a maximum of 24 hours from his/her employer to conduct skills assessment.

Droit individuel à la formation (DIF - Personal right to training)

The droit individuel à la formation (DIF - Personal right to training), created by the law of May 2004 on lifelong vocational training aims to allow all employees with at least one year's length of service in the company to benefit from 20 hours of personal training per year, which may be added up over six years within the limit of 120 hours. The initiative to use the DIF lies with the employee but its implementation requires the employer's authorisation on the choice of training action. Training takes place outside work times unless contrary arrangements are made; it is paid for by the employer according to specific conditions. Resulting from the law no. 2009-1437 of 24 November 2009 relating to guidance and lifelong vocational training, the portability of the Droit Individuel à la Formation (DIF - Personal right to training) aims to allow employees to use their training entitlements after having left the company. Should the work contract be terminated, the employee can use the sums corresponding to his or her balance of DIF hours acquired in the previous company for training actions.

The DIF system has been opened to civil servants - for internal promotions as well as civil service exams - following laws no. 2007-148 of 2 February 2007 bearing on modernisation of the civil service, and no. 2007-209 of 19 February 2007 bearing on local civil service.

EFTLV players

The State, regions and social partners contribute to the elaboration of the lifelong education and training policy.

The State

The State has competences that are staked out by law. Two departments are particularly involved in continuing vocational training: the Department of Labour, Employment and Social Dialogue, and the Department for National Education, Higher Education and Research. They steer through the continuing vocational training policy with the aim of securing professional paths and access to employment; they propose legislative changes, encourage consultation between social partners, intervene rarely in funding adult training organisations but participate in funding training of a few target groups (young persons in initial vocational training, disabled persons, prisoners, etc.) The Department for national Education, Higher Education and Research also has an operational adult continuing training mission, assigned to the Greta.

The Region

Regions have a general competence in apprenticeship and professional training of young people and adults. Regional Councils, in regional territories, decide on training policies according to local social and economic priorities. Since law no. 2009-1437 of 24 November 2009 relating to guidance and lifelong vocational training, regions have been given the responsibility of setting up a contractual regional plan for development of vocational training (CPRDF – Contrat de plan régional de développement des formations professionnelles) based on deliberations by the committee for regional coordination of employment and professional training (CCREFP – Comité de coordination régional de l’emploi et de la formation professionnelle), which brings together regional authorities, the region’s State representative and the academic authorities, along with representatives of employers’ and employees’ organisations.

Professional and union organisations

Professional and union organisations are involved in drafting provisions bearing on continuing vocational training, contribute to their implementation and management of contributions from companies, collected by joint bodies created by them.


Apart from being the places in which training is largely carried out, companies, along with the regions and the State, are the main funders of continuing vocational training. They actually have a legal obligation in terms of funding continuing training. This legal obligation is 1.6% of the payroll but many companies consider continuing training as an investment and dedicate a much larger share to it.

Le Conseil national de la formation professionnelle tout au long de la vie (National Council for lifelong vocational training)

In order to promote consultation between the different EFTLV players (State, regions, social partners, companies, etc.), their representatives meet nationally at the Conseil national de la formation professionnelle tout au long de la vie (National Council for lifelong vocational training), founded in 2004. The missions of this body were recently extended by the law no. 2009-1437 of 24 November 2009 relating to guidance and lifelong vocational training. The Council is namely in charge of:

  1. Promoting, on the national level, consultation between the State, regions, social partners and other players for the definition of multi-annual orientations and annual priorities of initial and continuing vocational training policies as well as designing and monitoring their implementation:
  2. Evaluating initial and continuing vocational training policies on the national, regional, sectorial and inter-professional level;
  3. Giving an opinion on draft bills, orders and regulations concerning initial and continuing professional training;
  4. Contributing the coordinating the public debate on the organisation of the vocational training system and its evolutions.


Training actions can be set up by employers, with the support of their in-house training department or "bought" from various organisations. There are more than 48,000 public or private training organisations in France. Operators are selected by comparing their prices and performance.
Public training organisations

They provide 20% of training activity. The largest are Greta, the National Association for Adult vocational training (AFPA - Association nationale pour la formation professionnelle des adultes), institutions controlled by the Department of Agriculture, university continuing training departments and the CNAM (Conservatoire national des arts et métiers). Associations and para-public bodies such as Chambers of Commerce and Guilds also play an important role.
Private organisations

There are many in France, as any natural or artificial person may offer continuing training. They provide 80 % of training activity.