Navigation area

adults in a classroom

Lifelong Learning

The saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks no longer applies in this day and age. Learning no longer stops when people finish school, training or university. Learning is an essential tool for acquiring education and thus for shaping one’s individual opportunities, both in life and at work. The Federal Government adopted the Concept for Lifelong Learning on 23 April 2008 in order to improve the situation in this area. The concept links up with measures which have been implemented under the Federal Government’s Qualification Initiative.

Lifelong learning is one of the biggest political and societal challenges facing Germany. The realization of lifelong learning is decisive for the prospects of the individual, the success of industry and the future of society. Meeting this challenge is one of the priority tasks of education policy. The Concept for Lifelong Learning is therefore committed to the goal of making increased use of Germany’s most important resource — education — in order to promote economic dynamism and personal career opportunities.

Globalization and the knowledge society are confronting people with great challenges which are made even more demanding as a result of demographic change. Lifelong learning must serve to continuously adapt and expand knowledge and the ability to apply the knowledge acquired. Only thus can individuals maintain and enhance their personal situation, their societal participation and their employability. The “value of learning” must therefore be enhanced, irrespective of whether a person’s motives for learning are primarily to develop their employability, to exercise civic engagement, or of a purely personal nature. Particular account must be taken of Germany’s position as a country of integration. If integration is to succeed, all those responsible for lifelong learning must help to enable everyone to develop their full potential. Learning German is an essential precondition for successful integration.

Life and work in the knowledge society and the special importance of developing human resources have already helped to enhance the reputation of lifelong learning. If we are to increase participation in continuing education, we must improve the opportunities for learning throughout a person’s life and make these opportunities more attractive by creating new incentives and removing existing obstacles.

  • Everyone must be encouraged to regard learning as a permanent challenge and as an opportunity for shaping their own life.
  • Every qualification must offer the opportunity for follow-up qualifications.
  • Companies and public authorities must base their human resources development measures on lifelong learning much more than in the past, in other words on needs-oriented, continuous skill-building during a person’s entire working life.
  • This calls for an increasingly demand-driven approach in addition to a supply-driven approach.
  • Affordable and target group-specific schemes must therefore be devised to offer educationally deprived sections of the population easy access to continuing education -particularly within the framework of continuing education provided by the public sector.
  • Special importance must be given to providing educational guidance and appropriate learning schemes based on the individual’s learning situation and vocational and work-related biography. This includes the consistent involvement of the many different informal learning processes outside educational institutions. Working processes must be made more learning-intensive in order to make better use of opportunities for learning at the workplace.
  • We want to expand lifelong learning as a whole, both on behalf of and in cooperation with companies, and to link continuing education more closely with the High-Tech Strategy. To do this we must devote particular attention to small and medium-sized enterprises.
  • These objectives call for a considerable effort on the part of all those involved in financing continuing education.

In other words, the realization of lifelong learning affects all fields of education. The factors which determine a person’s willingness to undergo continuing education are essentially established by his or her motivation and ability to learn independently. This begins with early childhood education and continues with education and training at schools, during vocational training and at institutions of higher education. School-leaving qualifications form the basis for every educational biography. Everyone must therefore be enabled to achieve such qualifications. School education and sound initial training provide the best basis for further learning. Initial training followed by high-quality continuing training can provide an equal alternative to Abitur and a degree. At the same time, learning must remain attractive for people in their final phase of working life and for people who have already retired. On the one hand, this helps them to retain their knowledge and competencies and, on the other hand, it enables them to participate in society and gain recognition for their experience.

Concept for Lifelong Learning

The Federal Government approved the Concept for Lifelong Learning on 23 April 2008. The concept links up with the measures which have been introduced under the Federal Government’s Qualification Initiative. These include:

  • Measures to improve educational opportunities for children under six years of age,
  • An extensive raft of measures to improve the training situation,
  • Facilitating the transition from school to higher education,
  • Creating more than 90,000 additional places for first-year students by 2010 under the pact for higher education,
  • Drawing more attention to technology and the natural sciences, and
  • Improving opportunities for women.

The concept for continuing education focuses on the following fields: The initiatives are based on the empirical finding that participation in continuing education in Germany is low by international comparison. In particular, people with low qualifications are underrepresented in continuing education. The Federal Government is therefore largely following the recommendations of the Committee on Innovation in Continuing Training. The BMBF intends to achieve the following targets by 2015 (figures apply to 25-64 year-olds following completion of initial training):

  • Participation in formal continuing education (courses and seminars) is to rise from the current level of 43% to 50%.
  • At least 40% of people with low skills should be active in the field of continuing education (currently 28%).
  • Participation in all forms of learning, including so-called informal learning, should rise from 72% to 80%.

Here it is important to:

  1. Strengthen motivation to take part in educational activities,
  2. Facilitate access to continuing education,
  3. Improve the range of continuing education schemes,
  4. Increase flexibility and integration between individual educational sectors,
  5. Improve social integration through education and the promotion of learning in civil society, and
  6. Intensify knowledge and insights into the processes and effects of lifelong learning.

The measures which have been introduced to achieve these aims include inter alia:

Introduction of a “continuing education grant”

The Federal Government is introducing a “continuing education grant” to support the willingness of each and every individual to make their own provision for a successful vocational biography by investing their own financial resources in personal, general and vocational further education and training. Financial incentives will be provided to motivate and enable more people to invest in further education. Expenditure on education must be regarded as an investment — also by people who have not invested in their own further education in the past.

Improving educational counselling

People can only make informed and responsible decisions if they have an overview of the educational opportunities available. However, many people consider the current situation to be unclear due to the wide range of education schemes offered. Educational counselling is a key element for successful lifelong learning. It is therefore essential to expand and develop educational counselling, to make the range of schemes more transparent and increase the professionalism of staff employed in this field.

Stiftung Warentest’s continuing education tests

Transparency and information regarding quality are an important part of quality assurance against a competitive background. The Stiftung Warentest’s continuing education tests help to make quality assurance in continuing education particularly transparent for consumers. The Stiftung Warentest’s tests will be continued following a successful trial phase.

Improving the range of local schemes

Many decisions in education are taken at regional level where a large number of different agencies are responsible for individual areas — ranging from youth welfare departments to school providers and continuing education institutions. We intend to strengthen educational cooperation in the regions through the “Local Learning” initiative and the introduction of regional educational monitoring. The BMBF will work closely with German foundations to achieve this goal.

Schemes for target groups with particular potential

If we are to meet the demand for skilled staff effectively and to make use of all educational resources, we need schemes which keep an eye both on the qualifications required and on the specific situation of the people concerned. It may be that groups of people who are often regarded as "problematical" -for example unemployed engineers or students who have dropped out of university without a degree -do in fact have valuable skills if they are approached in the right way.

  • Technology placements
    The Federal Government intends to encourage interest in technical and scientific courses of study, provide information, strengthen motivation and, in the medium term, reduce the university drop-out rate by introducing placements in the field of technology.
  • Expansion of the AQUA Programme
    The great success of the AQUA programme (Academics gain qualifications for the labour market), which helps immigrant and German academics to (re-)enter the labour market, is also to be tested with regard to unemployed engineers and women returning to work. Particular support will be given to specialized and non-specialized qualifications in the context of company placements lasting several months.
  • New educational and employment opportunities for university drop-outs
    Measures are to be taken to improve opportunities for university drop-outs (currently 25%) to enter employment, taking into account the skills which they have already gained in the course of their studies. A scheme is to be developed and implemented in cooperation with the Länder, the institutions of higher education and individual university departments as well as with companies and chambers to facilitate entry into working life or dual training. The programme is initially to be developed and implemented in selected branches of industry in five locations in coordination with employers and trade unions.

Enabling flexibility and integration between different fields of education

Improving flexibility and integration between different fields of education is a decisive precondition for providing everyone with the opportunity to unfold and develop their individual talents. The efficient organization of lifelong learning demands improved links between places of learning and the optimization of the various educational pathways.

Furthermore, the Federal Government and the Länder are currently drafting measures to improve transfer opportunities as a key element of the Qualification Initiative. These measures will be presented in the Autumn. The aim is to make it easier for and encourage people with vocational qualifications to enter university, for example through specific cross-Länder agreements. There are also plans for a Federal Government-Länder initiative to expand the range of higher education courses that can be taken during employment, including for example a specific continuing education initiative for unemployed engineers.

Improving integration through education and the promotion of learning in civil society

The education system must provide better opportunities for making use of the potential of immigrants to contribute to their own individual development as well as to overall societal development. Corresponding measures (e.g. job-related language training) should be introduced to support the integration of migrants in the community and to encourage learning in civil society.

Intensifying knowledge about lifelong learning

In order to effectively shape these and future measures to promote lifelong learning, we must intensify and continually update our knowledge on the processes and effects of lifelong learning. A research and development programme on lifelong learning is to be launched for this purpose. Its results will help to provide the basis for devising and implementing innovative ideas in those areas where measures cannot currently be implemented due to gaps in research knowledge. Basic research in the field of lifelong learning will also be expanded.

Additional information

Deutsche Version dieser Seite

Contact Persons

  • Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. (DLR)

    • - PT Bildungsforschung -
    • Koblenzer Straße 112
    • 53177 Bonn
    • Telefonnummer: 0228 3821-0
    • Faxnummer: 0228 3821-323
    • E-Mail-Adresse:
    • Homepage:
    • Funded projects:$v_foekat_webliste.actionquery?P_APC_LFDVOR=J&P_APC_RESSORT=BMBF&P_APC_PT=PT-DLR&P_APC_REF=322&Z_CHK=0

© 09/02/2015 00:03 Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung