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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Lifelong learning strategy


2.Organisation and governance

2.2Lifelong learning strategy

Last update: 14 December 2023


Lifelong Learning


National policy

Lifelong learning encompasses various learning activities: informal learning (learning by doing), non-formal learning (courses, trainings) and formal learning (education)

Lifelong learning is often defined as ‘post-initial education’. One of the reasons is that it is easier to measure training course attendance than the amount an individual has learned by accomplishing tasks at work or outside working hours. Lifelong Learning gives the opportunity to participate in learning in every stage of life.

The EU Lifelong Learning (LLP) encourages European cooperation, exchange, continuing education and subsidized work placements. The EU’s Lifelong Learning education programme ran from 2007 to 2013. In 2014 this programme is converted to Erasmus+.


Lifelong learning and prior learning assessment and recognition

A national, regional and sectoral infrastructure for learning and working has been set up with the aid of central government funding.  Educational institutions, the government and the business community work together to achieve lifelong learning goals, while the government creates the enabling conditions. The aim of lifelong learning policy is to enable people to develop their potential and to respond flexibly to changes in society and the world of work. The government provides tax incentives to make lifelong learning more attractive, doing so on the basis of specific targets for the number of programmes combining work and study.

The government has made grants available for the assessment and recognition of prior learning and has set up training and employment helpdesks. This is a system for validating formal, non-formal and informal learning. A certificate can be obtained by setting down experiences. This certificate states a person’s competences based on experiences and knowledge.

A new agreement between the Labour Foundation and the government (i.e. the Ministries of Education, Culture and Science, of Social Affairs and Employment and of Economic Affairs) was signed in June 2012. The goal of this agreement is to encourage the use of Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) as a tool for employment by government, management and trade unions and to guarantee the quality of APL. The agreement will take care of this quality assurance. Article 7.16 of the Law on Higher and Scientific Education stipulates the recognition of APL. The board of an institution can set down procedures and criteria for APL for those who are not registered.

Erasmus+ (European Lifelong Learning)

Two National Agencies implement Erasmus+ collectively. The Netherlands Youth Institute ( is the National Agency for Erasmus+ The National Agency for the educational part of Erasmus+ is formed by three organisations: NUFFIC, CINOP and Europees Platform.

The Lifelong Learning Programme merged into Erasmus+, the EU Programme for Education, Training, Youth and Sport. This programme is in force from 2014 up till and including 2020.

Erasmus+ is the new European programme for grants for education, youth and sport. It is based on the presumption that investing in education, training and non-formal forms of education are of vital importance to enable people – irrespective of their age or background – to develop or in other words: to learn during a whole life. The educational profit, consisting of knowledge and skills, will reinforce the European economy. Europe will have to be ‘smarter’ to be and to remain an attractive knowledge economy and to be able to compete with other knowledge regions, wherever in the world. Erasmus+ is a means to achieve this.

Erasmus+ advances the European dimension in education, sport and extramural education and gives qualitative and innovative perspectives for all young persons, professionals and volunteers in education and youth welfare.

Erasmus+ is subdivided in three actions and 11 subactions. Well-known structures and names from the ongoing Lifelong Learning Programme – such as the transversal actions and the sectoral programs – will end to simplify the Commission’s programs.

Simplified structure
Erasmus+ aims at ‘learning mobility’, ‘cooperation for innovation’ and ‘support for policy reform’.

The three actions for Erasmus+

  Key action Object
1. Learning mobility of individuals Staff and student mobility for Higher Education, Vocational Education, Primary and Secondary Education
2. Cooperation for innovation and good practices Knowledge Alliances for HE and Sector Skills Alliances for vocational education
3. Support for policy reform Open Method of Coordination (OMC); implementation of EU instruments, e.g. EQF

Target groups for Erasmus+
Educational institutions, companies, knowledge centres for vocational education, government, other organisations directed at vocational education and sectoral organisations can apply for a grant in the Erasmus+ programme. Erasmus+ is not intended for private applicants.



The Lifelong Learning programme shares objectives in Dutch policy, e.g. policy targeted at reducing early school leaving.

School dropout is registered at 39 regional registration and coordination centres (RMC) set up by central government. RMCs also help early school leavers to find suitable training courses or placements combining work and study.

The measures currently in place in the Netherlands to reduce school dropout rates focus primarily on prevention: making sure that young people do not leave school without a basic qualification. The key measures are:

  • An experimental VMBO-MBO 2 (VM2) continuous learning pathway. This experiment aims to makes it easier for VMBO students to transfer to MBO.
  • More effective cooperation between secondary schools and institutions providing adult and vocational education (BVE). Students can obtain an adult education certificate while still registered at their own school.
  • Potential dropouts receive better guidance and help in choosing a suitable course of study or training.
  • Professional help at school for young people who need it.
  • School leavers aged 18 to 23 can obtain a certificate of competence (EVC), which indicates the knowledge, skills and work experience they already have.

In addition Dutch policy is aimed at increasing the number of highly educated persons. Institutions for higher education received funds for improving success in study and for discussions of study choice.

In order to achieve the strategic agenda’s aims, the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science concluded individual performance agreements with all higher professional education (HBO) institutions and universities at the end of September 2012. Each institution indicates how it intends to improve its own completion rates and quality of teaching. HBO institutions and universities should market themselves with a profile that reflects their strengths. One HBO institution may focus on associate degrees, for instance, while another may aim to make its courses more appealing to VWO pupils. In order to become world leaders in their fields, universities must make choices about the type of research they conduct. Research should also respond more effectively to the needs of the business community and to major societal challenges such as security and demographic ageing.

More information is available in chapter 14.1 Education in the Europe 2020 strategy.