Norway’s educational policy attaches great importance to lifelong learning and educational opportunities for adults. It is a priority objective for individuals to be able to acquire new knowledge and expertise to enable them to function satisfactorily in society and adapt to the rapidly changing demands of working life. Learning is understood to be something that takes place in all stages of life, in many different forms and in a wide variety of arenas.
In 1976, Norway became the first country in the world to adopt specific legislation establishing the rights of all adults to education. Adult education programmes are offered within the formal educational system as well as by a number of voluntary organizations. Courses are offered in a wide variety of areas, ranging from recreational activities to higher education exams.
Adult education associations
There are currently 22 adult education associations consisting of more than 400 member organizations representing political partisan circles, the workforce and various religious denominations. In 2003, somewhat over 735,000 adults participated in courses under the auspices of the adult education associations. The courses offered encompassed a broad range of different subjects at all educational levels. Approximately 360,000 participants took courses at the upper secondary level, while 47,000 attended university and college-level courses.
Distance education is widely utilized in Norway. Each year, some 20,000 students complete courses offered by 12 authorized, independent distance education institutions. The enhanced use of ICT in education and the flexibility inherent in e-learning initiatives make distance education an important tool for meeting the future demand for continuing and further education at all levels.