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Chapter 1 on Policy Framework

1.1 The Upskilling Pathways recommendation

The recommendation on Upskilling Pathways: New Opportunities for Adults was adopted in December 2016 by the Council of the European Union. It is one of the main legislative proposals of the New Skills Agenda for Europe.

The aim of Upskilling Pathways is to help adults acquire a minimum level of basic skills (mainly literacy, numeracy and digital skills) and empower them to acquire a broader set of skills by progressing towards an upper secondary qualification or equivalent. The Upskilling Pathways give access to three steps for each individual: skills assessment, training provision, and validation and guidance.

To get a good overview of the Upskilling Pathways recommendation, please access the following documents, created by the European Commission:




Source from: European Commission's official site for Upskilling Pathways 


  • Leaflet on Upskilling Pathways by the European CommissionClick on the link to download a visual and textual introduction to the recommendation and ways to join to its implementation. 
  • Note on key ideas by the European Commission by the European CommissionThis note provides a short overview on the three-step approach of the recommendation (i.e. skills assessment, flexible learning offer, and validation and recognition) and it also provides further implications to policy cooperation and partnerships, guidance and support measures, and follow-up evaluation of the recommendation. Click on the link for further information. 
  • Presentation on Upskilling PathwaysThis presentation was made by Martina Ní’Cheallaigh, Head of Unit in charge of VET, Apprenticeships and Adult Learning at the Commission’s DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. Click on the link to access her presentation on target group details, commonly shared challenges and a list of enabling conditions that can aid the implementation of the recommendation.


1.2 Country-specific policy background

Many EU Member States have adhered to the Upskilling Pathways recommendation and are working to create or update their policy frameworks to ensure that the objectives of the recommendation are met. The situation in the different countries, however, vary greatly. Besides political commitment of the Member States’ governments, the success of a national process towards integrated policies in the field of basic skills for adults will to a great extent depend on having access to research results and reliable evidence about the situation in the given country. The Policy Analysis Tool developed by the European Commission may help users in this process. Check the information about Member States presented in the Country Profiles.

It may also be useful to check the report “Adult Education and Training in Europe: Widening Access to Learning Opportunities”, published by the Eurydice Network in 2015.

Countries that have participated in the PIAAC survey can use those results as part of the evidence on the need for policy development. Some countries have participated or are planning to participate in the OECD’s Skills Strategy. The Skills Strategy scheme studies current skills policies in each of the countries involved, focusing on strengths and challenges. A Diagnostic Report is presented as a first product of the process, which takes place in cooperation with all relevant stakeholders. In the second and final stage of each project, the stakeholders group cooperates with the OECD to present an Action Plan.  As an example, see Norway’s Diagnostic Report and Action Report by following the links.


For further reading we recommend users to check the results of the work done within the European Commission's Education and Training 2020 Working Group for Adult Learning in the period 2014-2015.

Although some of the information may have become a bit outdated, they are a source of useful knowledge for the preparation and implementation of policy for basic skills for adults in countries that chose to implement the Upskilling Pathways recommendation.


Questions for reflection

  • What do you know about research-based evidence about your country’s situation in regards to basic skills?
  • What do you know about your country’s work to follow up the Upskilling Pathways recommendation?
  • Do you know who to contact to get more information? (You may want to consult the list of National Coordinators for Adult Learning on EPALE)
1.3 Case study on the Portugese context
As you will have seen while following the links to OECD’s work presented in chapter 1.2., Portugal is one of the countries participating in the OECD’s Skills Strategy. The Action Plan report prepared for this country was entitled “Strengthening the Adult Education System”.  We recommend that you read the Executive Summary of this report, with particular attention to chapters 4 to 6 (pages 22 to 25).

Following this report and in the context of the Upskilling Pathways Recommendation, the Portuguese government has initiated the task of elaborating a new National Plan for Adult Literacy. (Presentation available currently only in Portuguese).

The EBSN has interviewed Gonçalo Xufre Silva, former Director of Portugal's National Agency for Qualification and VET (ANQEP) from October 2011 to September 2018,  and is currently working as advisory and policy analyst in the OECD’s Education and Skills Directorate. The interview shows clearly that the Portuguese approach follows the Upskilling Pathways recommendation in that it links the provision of basic skills to nation-wide systems for recognition and validation of prior learning, and to lifelong career guidance.


Questions for reflection after reading about the Portugese approach

  • Do you see in your own country the trends presented in the interview with Gonçalo Xufre Silva i.e. efficient intersectoral cooperation, policy focus on competences for work and life, validation of prior learning?
  • How does the situation in your country compare to the traits presented in the OECD’s Diagnostic Report on Portugal? Is there a national skills strategy being developed or in place? Are there any measures in the national adult skills policy aimed at improving growth and well-being? Do you think any of the recommendations for Portugal could be relevant in your country?


1.4 Case study on Serbian context

The European Training Foundation ETF, published in 2011 a report on “Basic Life and Work Skills Development for Adults in Serbia”. This interesting report presents a good overview of the Serbian national situation in 2011 regarding basic skills. For the purpose of this CBS Unit the EBSN asked a Serbian organisation called Adult Education Society (AES) to answer some questions related to Serbian policy development in this field in the seven years that have passed since the report was published. Please, read the results of the interview by following the link.


Questions for reflection after reading the ETF report and the interview with the Serbian team:

  • What achievements can be reported in Serbia in this field since the ETF report was published?
  • What have been the main challenges for the implementation of the original plans?
  • How does the situation in your country compare to the challenges currently present in Serbia?
Recommendations for further relevant resources are welcome in the comment section below!
The Capacity Building Series of EBSN provides free open educational resources (OERs) and massive online courses (MOOCs) through EPALE, to help the implementation of the European Commission recommendations on Upskilling pathways in EU Member States. EPALE is funded by the Erasmus+ programme, as part the European Commission’s ongoing commitment to improving the quality of adult learning provision in Europe. The project is implemented with the support of the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA).
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