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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Lifelong learning strategy


2.Organisation and governance

2.2Lifelong learning strategy

Last update: 27 November 2023

The implementation of EU lifelong learning strategies, which have the person in his/her learning activity as a reference, is transversal to the sectors of education, of labour and of continuing professional development. National policies developed in the last two decades in education are part of the wider frame of lifelong learning.

Law no. 53/2003 and subsequent implementing decrees, reformed the whole education system, introducing several changes that can be considered as general lifelong learning strategies. For example, the D.Lgs 59/2004, established the right/duty (diritto/dovere) of all to education and training. It means that all have the right/duty to study for 12 years or at least up to the acquisition of a three-year vocational qualification within 18 years of age, either in the State or in the regional education and training systems.

In 2007, the length of compulsory education was extended to 10 years, to include the first two years of the upper secondary level. Dispositions on compulsory education also established both key competences of citizenship, in analogy with the EU key competences, and competences and skills that students must have acquired at the end of compulsory education.

Moreover, starting from school year 2010/2011, all types of upper secondary school, both general and technical/vocational last 5 years and can lead directly to tertiary education.

Law no. 92/2012, formally established that 'lifelong learning encompasses learning activity, whether formal, non-formal or informal, undertaken throughout life with the aim of improving knowledge, skills and competence within a personal, civic, social and/or employment related perspective'. In addition, law 92 provided the definitions for formal, non-formal and informal learning and, together with the Decree 13/2013, laid down the general dispositions on the national system of certification of competences. The aim of these dispositions is to make arise and develop professional competences non-formally and informally acquired, and to promote professional and geographical mobility, to facilitate the contact between labour supply and demand, to increase the transparency of learning and the recognition of certifications at national and European level.

At regional level, the vocational education and training system (Sistema di istruzione e formazione professionale – IeFP) leads to qualifications and competences that are spendable in the labour market. In this view, they can be considered, as the other education and training pathways available in the Italian education system, as means to realize the lifelong learning strategies. Moreover, the recognition, in 2007, of regional IeFP courses as means to fulfil compulsory education goes in the same direction.

At tertiary level, measures have been taken to encourage the participation of non-representative groups of students and for the recognition of prior learning. First of all, the possibility to apply for part-time courses has been introduced; it implies a reduction in the annual study load – equal to 60 university credits – and an extension of the duration of the course of study. Moreover, the accreditation of online universities facilitates the access to university studies for disadvantaged groups of students, such as working students, students with disabilities, adults, etc. In the same way, traditional universities can offer online programmes of study. Adults aged more than 25 years, willing to attend tertiary education but lacking an upper secondary education certification, are admitted to the upper secondary education final exam without attending school courses.

Finally, universities organise continuing professional development courses usually lasting a few months (corresponding to less than 60 credits). At the end of courses, universities issue attendance certificates or other types of certifications. Universities establish their own criteria for the recognition of prior learning.

As for the adult education sector, the Presidential Decree no. 263/2012 replaced the former Permanent territorial centres and ‘evening courses’ with the new Provincial centres for adult education (Centri provinciali per l’istruzione degli adulti – CPIA). The Centres provide an educative offer organised in levels of learning aimed at the obtainment of the qualifications released within the mainstream education system, as well as at the acquisition of basic competences for foreigners. CPIAs operate nationwide.

Contents revised: May 2023