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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Developments and current policy priorities


8. Adult education and training

8.2Developments and current policy priorities

Last update: 27 March 2023

The original objective of learning for learning's sake increasingly gave way to the task of responding to the educational needs arising from the demands of the state, society and industry. Since 1970, a more vocational slant, an emphasis on formal qualifications, systematisation and a new understanding of continuing education have been gaining importance.

With regard to the further development of the sector of continuing education within the scope of life-accompanying learning, the aim is to provide a foundation for the individual to

  • develop the willingness for life-accompanying learning
  • acquire the competences necessary for lifelong learning
  • use institutionalised as well as new possibilities for learning in his or her life and work

Guiding ideas are

  • reinforcement of self-responsibility and self-guidance
  • redress of unequal opportunities
  • cooperation between providers of education and users
  • reinforcement of the relations between all sectors of education

The use of the potential of digitalisation is also becoming increasingly important in continuing education. In December 2017, a chapter on continuing education was added to the Standing Conference’s strategy Education in the Digital World in order to emphasise the role of continuing education institutions as an integral part of lifelong learning. Against this background, digitally supported learning should enable location-independent, time-flexible offers that have a high degree of individualisation.

In September 2021, the Standing Conference adopted a “Position Paper on the Digital Continuing Education Initiative” (‘Positionspapier zur Initiative Digitale Weiterbildung‘). The Digital Continuing Education Initiative focuses on the Adult Education Centres (Volkshochschulen) and other non-profit institutions and providers that are recognised or funded under the adult and continuing education laws of the Länder and are active in general adult education. The initiative thus covers an area that is still poorly represented in previous nationwide digitisation programmes. The position paper formulates four relevant fields of action for the further digitisation of general continuing education:

  • Digital infrastructure and equipment
  • Education for digital competence development
  • Further education and qualification
  • Exchange and networking

In June 2019, the Federal Government, the Länder, the social partners and the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit - BA) adopted a National Continuing Education Strategy (Nationale Weiterbildungsstrategie). The strategy, which focuses on continuing vocational training, is intended to make a significant contribution to enabling both individuals and society to successfully cope with structural change and new challenges (e.g. automation, digitisation). The aim is to make further training courses and funding opportunities more transparent and more easily accessible for all in order to provide targeted support for groups of people with previously below-average participation in further training or for small and medium-sized enterprises without large personnel departments. A first report on the results was published in June 2021.

In September 2022, the partners of the National Continuing Education Strategy decided to continue and further develop the strategy. Tried and tested instruments and concepts are to be put into broad application and new ideas discussed with practitioners and academics. Labour market and education policy instruments will be more closely interlinked, and general continuing education will be integrated, particularly with a view to future competences.

Within the framework of the EU 2030 Strategy, Germany has set itself the goal of increasing participation in continuing education to 60 percent. The partners of the National Continuing Education Strategy support this goal. Common goals are, for example, the more targeted or addressee-appropriate support of heterogeneous target groups and the development of digital competences.

To implement these goals, the partners want to:

  • Facilitate access to counselling, promotion and further training offers, taking into ac-count the financial and temporal framework conditions;
  • Intensify cooperation in regions and sectors;
  • Further develop concepts for competences of the future, qualification planning in the company as well as company and collective agreement approaches to strengthen continuing education;
  • Strengthen digital CET with more transparency and innovative learning offers.