Adult education caters to people aged 18 and over who have difficulty with Dutch literacy, numeracy or basic digital skills, or who wish to obtain a qualification. In certain cases 16 and 17-year-olds may also be eligible.
Adult education focuses on courses in Dutch, arithmetic and digital skills for adults who do not have a legal obligation to take the civic integration examination. As far as possible, the base level of the courses equates to the starting level for vocational education. By funding basic skills classes, the government intends to tackle functional illiteracy and foster a society in which everyone can participate independently, both online and offline. Adult education also provides learning activities at primary and secondary education level. The aim of courses in adult general secondary education is to prepare participants to obtain a secondary education qualification.
The Adult and Vocational Education Act (WEB) introduced on 1 January 1996 regulates upper secondary vocational education (MBO) and adult education.
Aside from VET and higher education, adult education covers a variety of courses and training programmes in the following subjects:
- Adult general secondary education (VAVO);
- Dutch language and arithmetic, aimed at basic literacy and the starting level for vocational education;
- Digital skills, aimed at basic digital skills;
- Dutch as a second language (Nt2) I and II, leading to the qualification in Dutch as a second language, as referred to in the Decree on State Examinations in Dutch as a Second Language;
- Dutch as a second language, aimed at basic proficiency in the Dutch language;
- Dutch as a second language, aimed at basic literacy.
Adult education gives people aged 18 and over a second chance to get a qualification or improve their reading and writing skills. Responsibility for providing adult education rests primarily with municipalities. It is their task to determine the target group for each course or training programme. The target groups tend to be:
- Dutch people who have difficulty with reading, writing and basic digital skills;
- immigrants with language problems;
- the elderly;
- the long-term unemployed.