Norway’s education system attaches great importance to providing people with the opportunity to acquire new knowledge and skills throughout life, so that they are able to function well in society and keep up with the constantly changing demands of working life. The term “lifelong learning” involves a cradle-to-grave perspective, which recognises that learning occurs at all stages of life, in different forms and in a variety of arenas.
In 1976, Norway became the first country in the world to adopt legislation on adult education. Adult education programmes are offered within the formal education system, as well as by a number of voluntary organisations. Courses are offered in a wide variety of areas, ranging from recreational activities to university and university college-level education.
Adult education associations
There are currently 19 officially approved adult education associations in Norway, with more than 400 member organisations, including the political parties, employee organisations and various religious/humanist organisations and interest groups. In 2004, there were 633 000 participants in courses organised by adult education associations. The offered courses encompass a broad range of subjects, at all educational levels: approximately 309 000 participants took courses at upper secondary level, while approximately 38 000 attended university and university college-level courses.
Distance learning is widely used in Norway. Each year, between 20 000 and 30 000 students complete courses offered by 13 authorised, independent distance learning institutions. The extensive use of ICT in teaching and flexible e-learning programmes make distance learning an important tool for meeting Norway’s future demand at all levels of continuing and further education.