Brendan Marcus

What is meant in the country when you talk about Adult Education?

Adult education refers to learning out of the initial learning program a person has followed. In France, a majority of the population between 18-24 years-old attend schooling, whether general or vocational; at that stage, 11, 6% leave without any diploma (1).

Every other aspect of learning is considered as adult education.

Training is provided either through organisms such as the GRETA, AFPA and CNAM to quote the best known, but also by publicly financed non-profit private associations.

France has a also history of Folk education, l’Education populaire, which is stands by non-formal learning.

Senior education hasn’t an official denomination. It’s diffused through conferences which are left to the initiative of different public bodies:  public libraries, Collège de France (for Paris), l’Université de tous les savoirs (a 2000 initiative for vulgarizing science which has been renewed every year since).

The role of the university in adult training is growing.


What is typical for Adult Education in the country?

The population encounters adult training firstly through their employment. Indeed, 7 times out of 10, it’s the employer who encourages a new training. Every enterprise must contribute to a fund (a small proportion of the worker’s wage is dedicated to lifelong learning – at least 1,6%) for training which the workers can use when needed. The DIF (2) (Droit Individuel de Formation) are training hours the employee must take on his free time. The CIF (3) (Congé Individuel de Formation) allows a leave of absence to follow a training. This system benefits largely employees of large companies.

Training can also be suggested and supported by the job employment services during a period of unemployment.

The training is provided public bodies, private companies and private non-profit enterprises which operate on public resources. The main reason given by attendants for following courses is to improve one’s job (4). Furthermore, training includes the “validation of competences via the experience” system (validation des acquis de l´expérience – VAE) (5) which allows people the possibility to certify their non-formal learning.

Of 56 668  organisations, private for-profit enterprises represent 54% of the sector, private non-profit 20%, individual trainers 20%.

The GRETA is the public branch of the Ministry for Education dedicated to adult training. One can follow courses in most employment fields. A nationwide network, there are 210 GRETAs and at least one in every “department” (subdivision of a region).

L’AFPA (National Association for the training of Adults) is the first provider of training for adults. Working closely with the job centres (Pôle-Emploi), it offers a wide range of courses in many fields, is open to every audience and produces certifications for the new kind of jobs.

For the Paris region an alternative is the CNAM (National Conservatory of Arts and Trades) which offers also adults to means to receive a training or a diploma.

As for distance learning, the CNED (National Centre for Distance Learning) is also a popular manner to pursue adult education.

The role of universities is still timid. They offer training to obtain the university equivalent of the baccalaureate in order to follow studies in a university. They offer also “validation of experience” in some fields.

Legal basis (6)

The formulation of on-going education has instilled in the texts since 1792 by the marquis de Condorcet.

1939: Decree of 6 May 1939 , which is the administrative and financial framework training until 1946.
1946: the right to vocational training appears in the preamble of the Constitution of the Fourth Republic
1949: creation of the AFPA ( Association for Adult Vocational Training )
1963 : creation of the FNE (National Employment Fund )
1966 : Act of 30 December organizes vocational training in France  as a public service.
1968: Grenelle agreements providing for negotiation on vocational training .
1970: ANI July 9: first agreement between the social partners on vocational training
1971: Act of July 16. principle of private financing of training
1984: implementation of the CIF (Individual Leave for Training)
1989: establishment of training credit.
2000: Aubry II Act of 19 January 2000 which establishes the legal principle of the obligation for employers to help employees adapt to their changing jobs.
2003 September 20: National Interprofessional Agreement signed by all partners on Life-long learning
2009: national agreement on the development of lifelong learning throughout the working life, professional and securing career professionals.

Responsible public bodies / ministriesMinistry of National Education (Ministère de l’Éducation Nationale)
Ministry of Labour, Work, Vocational Training and Social Dialogue
Regions have the power to promote policies concerning adult education, according to local priorities. After the process of decentralisation Regions have a general competence in vocational training of young and adult people and they  enact the “regional plan for the development of vocational training” (plan régional de développement des formations professionnelles) (source: EAEA country report – 7).
For university: Ministry of Superior Education and Research
Relevant umbrella associations and national (service) organisations

Ca. 58 668 organisations offer adult and vocational training (8)

GRETA, part of the Ministry of Education
Association des Universités Populaires de France (AUPF) umbrella association which coordinates the French Folk Universities
AFPA, Association for adult training
CNAM, Conservatory of arts and trade
ANLCI An important role is also played by the National Agency against Illiteracy
SyNOFDES:  Union of Training centres

Providers of Adult EducationGRETA, branch of the Ministry of Education, 210 centres nationwide.
AFPA, Association for Adult Education, 216 centres nationwide
CNAM, 2340 trainings in evening classes or on the Saturday
University : UPEC (Créteil), Bordeaux,
Non-formal learning: folk universities Association des Universités Populaires de France (AUPF)
Finances Adult Education is financed in France by :
– the funds redistributed by the collectors (OPCA such as Actalians ; OPCA-transports ; Uniformation….) – 17% ;
– by enterprises directly – 39% ;
– by the regions through procurement contracts or directly – 26% ;
– directly by the learner -7%.
In 2011, the turnover of the sector was of 13.1 billion euros. 1% of the sector makes 44% of the turnover training 31% of the learners.Participation rateCa. 23.8 million learners were trained. The average length of training was of 48 hours.
As most training is financed by enterprises their workers are those benefit most from training, 2/3 of learners in training organizations are employees. The unemployed workers represent 12% of all learners. Individual learners represent 5 %.TopicsServices: 65% of learners
Personal development: 14% – mostly trainings to improve work
Specialties of production: 9%Staff

No specific legal conditions are imposed to perform an activity in continuing vocational training.

Various paths through various bodies and organizations are opened to those willing the validated as Adult Trainers. The most regular path is that through the AFPA and follows the previous section. Other itineraries include validation of experience largely provide by the GRETAs and also the AFPA, university (one example here, the DUFA), the CNAM which is also a public body dedicated to craftsmanship and the the Cegos, a private institution.

Trainers can obtain validation in their field through university programs or Adult Trainer Certification through the AFPA or university (DUFA).

Quality system / insuranceNo specific legal conditions are imposed to perform an activity in continuing vocational training. Since 2009, any training activity must be declared and supported by financial and pedagogical reports.Latest developments / upcoming topicsIndividual training accounts (Compte personnel de formation), Senior education Government link, Quality assurance, Youth unemployment, disability
Relevant links
INSEE (National Institute for Staistics)EAEA Country presentation: FranceEUROPEDIA: European Encyclopedia on National Education Systems – FranceGeneral country information: Wikipedia: France