Adult Education Survey (trng_aes)

Reference Metadata in Euro SDMX Metadata Structure (ESMS)

Compiling agency: Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union

Eurostat metadata
Reference metadata
1. Contact
2. Metadata update
3. Statistical presentation
4.Unit of measure
5. Reference Period
6. Institutional Mandate
7. Confidentiality
8. Release policy
9. Frequency of dissemination
10. Dissemination format
11. Accessibility of documentation
12. Quality management
13. Relevance
14. Accuracy
15. Timeliness and punctuality
16. Comparability
17. Coherence
18. Cost and Burden
19. Data revision
20. Statistical processing
21. Comment
Related Metadata
Annexes (including footnotes)

For any question on data and metadata, please contact: EUROPEAN STATISTICAL DATA SUPPORT


1. Contact Top
1.1. Contact organisation

Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union

1.2. Contact organisation unit

F5: Education, health and social protection

1.5. Contact mail address

2920 Luxembourg LUXEMBOURG

2. Metadata update Top
2.1. Metadata last certified 17/09/2014
2.2. Metadata last posted 17/09/2013
2.3. Metadata last update 17/09/2014

3. Statistical presentation Top
3.1. Data description

The Adult Education Survey (AES) covers adults’ participation in education and training (formal, non-formal and informal learning) and is one of the main data sources for EU lifelong learning statistics. The AES focuses on people aged 25-64 living in private households. The reference period for the participation in education and training is the twelve months prior to the interview.

The following information is available from the AES:

  • Participation in formal education, non-formal education and training and informal learning (respectively labelled FED, NFE and INF)
  • Volume of instruction hours
  • Characteristics of the learning activities
  • Reasons for participating
  • Obstacles to participation
  • Access to information on learning possibilities
  • Employer financing and costs of learning
  • Self-reported language skills

Two waves of the survey have been implemented so far (2007 AES and 2011 AES). The first AES – referred to as 2007 AES – was a pilot exercise and carried out on a voluntary basis in 29 countries in the EU, EFTA (European Free Trade Association) and candidate countries between 2005 and 2008. The 2011 AES was underpinned by a European legal act and thus carried out in all Member States on a mandatory basis. The next AES is due in 2016.

Statistics based on the AES are available as follows:

-          The domain “Adult Education Survey (trng_aes)” presents comparable data from 2007 and 2011 AES on participation and non-participation in education and training.

-          The domain “Language skills (edat_aes_l)” provides data on self-reported knowledge of foreign languages.

The domain “Past series on lifelong learning - reference year 2007 (trng_aes_007h)” presents 2007 AES data on participation and non-participation in education and training which are not comparable with 2011 AES due to methodological changes.

3.2. Classification system

- Classification of Learning Activities (CLA);

- International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED): ISCED 1997 for 2007 AES and ISCED 2011 for 2011 AES;

- Classifications of Occupations (ISCO): ISCO-COM 88 for 2007 AES and ISCO 08 for 2011 AES;

- Classification of economic activities (NACE): NACE Rev. 1.1 for 2007 AES and NACE Rev. 2 for 2011 AES.

3.3. Coverage - sector

AES covers all economic sectors.

3.4. Statistical concepts and definitions


 Lifelong learning: all learning activities undertaken throughout life (after the end of initial education) with the aim of improving knowledge, skills and competences, within personal, civic, social, and employment-related perspectives.

 Learning activities: any activities of an individual organised with the intention to improve his/her knowledge, skills, and competences. Intentional learning (as opposed to random learning) is defined as a deliberate search for knowledge, skills or competences. Organised learning is defined as learning planned in a pattern or sequence with explicit or implicit aims. Types of learning activities are defined within a classification of learning activities (CLA) as follows:

  • Formal education and training is defined as education provided by the system of schools, colleges, universities and other formal educational institutions that normally constitutes a continuous "ladder" of full-time education for children and young people, generally beginning at the age of 5 to 7 and continuing to up to 20 or 25 years old. Formal education leads to a learning achievement (qualification or award) that can be positioned within the National Framework of Qualification (NFQ).
  • Non-formal education and training is defined as any organised and sustained learning activities that do not correspond exactly to the above definition of formal education. Non-formal education may therefore take place both within and outside educational institutions and cater to people of all ages. Depending on national contexts, it may cover educational programmes to impart adult literacy, life-skills, work-skills, and general culture. Four types of non-formal learning activities can be singled out (those categories are not detailed in the online tables):
    • Courses
    • Workshops or seminars
    • Guided-on-the-job training (planned periods of education, instruction or training directly at the workplace, organised by the employer with the aid of an instructor)
    • Lessons
  • Informal learning (only displayed with 2007 data in the domain trng_aes_007h) is defined as intentional learning which is less organised and less structured than the previous types. It may include for example learning events (activities) that occur in the family, in the work place, and in the daily life of every person, on a self-directed, family-directed or socially-directed basis.

Employer-sponsored learning activities: all activities paid at least partially by the employer and/or done during paid working hours. This comprises formal education and all categories of non-formal education and training (private lessons, seminars, courses and guided-on-the-job training).

Educational attainment (highest level of education successfully completed) of an individual is the highest ISCED (International Standard Classification of Education) level successfully completed, the successful completion of an education programme being validated by a recognised qualification (or credential), i.e. a qualification officially recognised by the relevant national education authorities. In cases where there is no certification, successful completion must be associated with full attendance. When determining the highest level, both general and vocational education should be taken into consideration.

Three levels of education are distinguished in the tables:

-          Pre-primary, primary and lower secondary education (levels 0 to 2);

-          Upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education (levels 3 and 4);

-          First and second stage of tertiary education (levels 5 and 6).

Degree of urbanisation (only displayed with 2007 data in the domain trng_aes_007h):

Three types of areas are defined based on population density:

-          densely-populated (urban) with more than 500 habitants per square kilometre;

-          semi-urban with between 100 and 500 habitants per square kilometre;

-          rural with less than 100 habitants per square kilometre.


Type of occupationis defined according to the ISCO. Four categories of employees are distinguished in the tables:

-          Managers, professionals, technicians and associate professionals;

-          Clerical support workers, service and sales workers;

-          Skilled manual workers;

-          Elementary occupations.

Level of knowledge of a foreign language:

Three levels where proposed in the 2011 AES questionnaire. The labels displayed in the tables of domain edat_aes_l correspond to the following knowledge:

-          Fair: I can understand and use the most common everyday expressions. I use the language in relation to familiar things and situations;

-          Good: I can understand the essential of clear language and produce simple text. I can describe experiences and events and communicate fairly fluently;

-          Proficient: I can understand a wide range of demanding texts and use the language flexibly. I master the language almost completely.

In the 2007 AES, a fourth 'basic' level was included in the questionnaire: 'I only understand and can use a few words'. In the online tables that fourth category is included in the category 'fair'.

3.5. Statistical unit

Individuals living in private households.

3.6. Statistical population

The AES covers the population aged 25 to 64 living in private households.

3.7. Reference area

2007 AES: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom as well as Norway, Switzerland and Turkey.

2011 AES: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom as well as Norway, Switzerland and Serbia.

3.8. Coverage - Time

Depending on the country, the 2007 AES was carried out between 2005 and 2008.

The 2011 AES was carried out between July 2011 and June 2012 (in Finland until December 2012).

For details on the national data collection periods see the Annexes.

3.9. Base period

Not applicable.

4. Unit of measure Top

Total number, rates, EUR.

5. Reference Period Top

The reference period is the 12 months prior to the interview.

6. Institutional Mandate Top
6.1. Institutional Mandate - legal acts and other agreements

2007 AES: gentlemen’s agreement.

2011 AES: Regulation (EC) No 452/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2008 concerning the production and development of statistics on education and lifelong learning (, implemented by Commission Regulation (EU) No 823/2010 of 17 September 2010 implementing Regulation (EC) No 452/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the production and development of statistics on education and lifelong learning, as regards statistics on the participation of adults in lifelong learning (

For further information see CIRCABC.

6.2. Institutional Mandate - data sharing

Not applicable.

7. Confidentiality Top
7.1. Confidentiality - policy

Regulation (EC) No 223/2009 on European statistics (recital 24 and Article 20(4)) of 11 March 2009 (OJ L 87, p. 164), stipulates the need to establish common principles and guidelines ensuring the confidentiality of data used for the production of European statistics and the access to those confidential data with due account for technical developments and the requirements of users in a democratic society.

7.2. Confidentiality - data treatment

AES microdata as received by Eurostat from the national statistical institutes do not contain any administrative information such as names or addresses that would allow direct identification. Access to this microdata is nevertheless strictly controlled and limited to specified Eurostat staff.

For data published in the online database, confidentiality/reliability thresholds are applied. These thresholds determine the size of the sample used for computing results below which data shall either not be published, or be published with a flag. Data are either blanked or flagged if they are below the limits.

The rules are as follows:

  • An estimate should not be published if it is based on less than 20 sample observations or if the non-response for the item concerned exceeds 50%.
  • An estimate should be published with a flag (‘u’ for low reliability) if it is based on 20 to 49 sample observations or if non-response for the item concerned exceeds 20% and is lower or equal to 50%.
  • An estimate shall be published normally when based on 50 or more sample observations and the item's non-response does not exceed 20%.

Under specific conditions, researcher may have access to anonymised microdata. For further information see access to microdata.

8. Release policy Top
8.1. Release calendar

There is no specific release calendar. Results are published approximately 9-12 months after the end of the data collection period.

8.2. Release calendar access

Not applicable.

8.3. Release policy - user access

In line with the Community legal framework and the European Statistics Code of Practice Eurostat disseminates European statistics on Eurostat's website (see item 10 - Dissemination format) respecting professional independence and in an objective, professional and transparent manner in which all users are treated equitably. The detailed arrangements are governed by the Eurostat protocol on impartial access to Eurostat data for users.

9. Frequency of dissemination Top

The Adult Education Survey is carried out every five years, therefore new results are made available every five years.

10. Dissemination format Top
10.1. Dissemination format - News release

Ad-hoc news releases when required.

10.2. Dissemination format - Publications

See the list of publications related to AES on CIRCABC.

10.3. Dissemination format - online database

Statistics based on AES can be found in the domains “Adult Education Survey (trng_aes)”, “Language skills (edat_aes_l)” and “Past series on lifelong learning - reference year 2007 (trng_aes_007h)” (see also 3.1 above).

Please consult

10.4. Dissemination format - microdata access

2007 and 2011 AES anonymised microdata are accessible for researchers; see access to microdata for further details.

10.5. Dissemination format - other


11. Accessibility of documentation Top
11.1. Documentation on methodology

For a detailed description of methods and concepts used, as well as for other documents related to the AES, please consult the reference documents related to 2007 AES and 2011 AES on CIRCABC.

11.2. Quality management - documentation

See item 11.1 above.

12. Quality management Top
12.1. Quality assurance

The quality of the AES is ensured through specific requirements set in Regulations for the 2011 AES wave and is also reflected through the use of harmonised definitions and concepts. Specific recommendations to help countries properly collecting the expected data are also available through a set of methodological documents and guidelines (see item 11.1. Documentation on methodology). The quality is discussed in working groups (such as the Education and Training Statistics Working Group), workshops and seminars within the European Statistical System (ESS).

2007 AES: while based on a gentlemen’s agreement a common EU framework including a standard questionnaire, tools and quality reporting was agreed for 2007 AES and was largely followed by the participating countries.

2011 AES: the content of the survey, i.e. the variables to be delivered to Eurostat, is precisely determined in the Commission Regulation No 823/2010. Sampling and precision requirements have been set up within this Regulation. Detailed guidelines were agreed in the 2011 AES manual.

For further information please refer to the annexes of the Commission Regulation (see CIRCABC).

12.2. Quality management - assessment

AES statistics are considered to be of good quality thanks to a harmonised production process (as described in item 12.1. above). However, like any other survey, it is based on a sample of the population meaning that results are subject to the usual statistical errors of measurement.

National quality reports provide users with basic information on quality at national level and give further explanations about the possible weaknesses of the sampling methods used at national level and of the final national effective sample of the survey.
See the reference documents related to 2007 AES and 2011 AES on CIRCABC.

13. Relevance Top
13.1. Relevance - User Needs

Statistics based on AES support monitoring the participation in lifelong learning at EU level by providing detailed results on the participation (participation rates, reasons for participating, characteristics of the learning activities, outcomes, etc.) and the non-participation (obstacles to participation).
The participation of adults in lifelong learning holds a high profile both on the European policy agenda – particularly with a view to the Europe 2020 strategy as well as to the strategic framework for education and training (ET 2020) – and at national level where many countries put in place specific frameworks for enhancing the skills of the adult population in order to increase their employability.

Moreover, at the European level, the 'Agenda for new skills and jobs' flagship initiative aims to provide people with the right skills for employment throughout their working lives.

Therefore, high quality data on participation in formal and non-formal education and training are crucial to better underpin the actions taken under the various initiatives targeting lifelong learning.

13.2. Relevance - User Satisfaction

There is no satisfaction survey targeted at lifelong learning statistics users. Whenever it comes to defining the content of the Adult Education Survey and the type of results that are disseminated by Eurostat on its website, Eurostat consults stakeholders as much as possible to get their opinion and to satisfy their needs in terms of data availability.

13.3. Completeness

The data sent by participating countries to Eurostat are overall complete and match the requirements set out in the Commission Regulation (AES 2011) or gentlemen’s agreement (AES 2007) respectively.

Nevertheless, some national datasets are not always fully matching the expected format because some content is missing. In those cases the data disseminated are displayed as ‘not available’ (‘:’). This can be explained either because the country could not implement the variable for some reason or because the variable once collected was of very poor quality due to various factors (too high non-response rate or errors in the production process for instance).

14. Accuracy Top
14.1. Accuracy - overall

The overall accuracy of the AES is considered as high. The AES covers persons living in private households to ensure a comparable coverage for all countries. The sampling designs are chosen by countries according to EU recommendations. While designing their sample, countries must make sure that the provision of data will comply with the precision requirements set out in the Regulation (AES 2011).

Most of the National Statistical Authorities use multi-staged stratified random sample design, especially those that do not have central population registers available.

Regardless of the sampling method or which age groups are interviewed, the datasets sent to Eurostat by countries are representative for the population aged 25-64.

As the results are based on a sample of population they are subject to the usual types of errors associated with sampling techniques and interviews. Sampling errors, non-sampling errors, measurement errors, processing errors and non-response are calculated for each country and documented in national quality reports.

For further information, see the national quality reports related to 2007 AES and 2011 AES on CIRCABC.

14.2. Sampling error

The participating countries provide Eurostat with an estimate of the relative standard error of the key indicator on participation of adults in formal and non-formal education and training. The relative standard error can also be expressed as a confidence interval, i.e. the range of values that in 95% of the cases would capture the true value in the population.

The estimates and confidence limits are calculated for each country and documented in the national quality reports.

See the national quality reports related to 2007 AES and 2011 AES on CIRCABC.

14.3. Non-sampling error

There are four types of commonly reported non-sampling errors. The four types described below are mentioned in the national quality reports.

a) Coverage errors:

Non-existent and inhabited dwellings or population no longer living in the country are the main causes of over-coverage, especially for countries using previous censuses as sampling frames.

Under-coverage problems are caused by the time-lag in registering new residents or newly constructed dwellings.

b) Measurement errors:

Measurement errors cannot be estimated as such as they rather concern a potential bias due to the subjective approach of questions and/or the use of proxies to answer the questionnaire.

Number of proxy interviews and existence of pilot testing of the questionnaire (which enables to avoid a too large subjective interpretation of the questions) are given in the national quality reports.

c) Processing errors:

Between the data collection and the beginning of statistical analysis for the production of statistics, data must undergo a certain processing: coding, data entry, data editing, imputation, etc.

The corresponding techniques used at national level are mentioned in the national quality reports.

d) Non-response errors:

Non-response can be due to a failure in contacting the individual, a refusal or another reason (rejected interviews, inability to respond, etc.).

The detailed non-response rates, broken-down by type of non-response, are given in the national quality reports.

See the national quality reports related to 2007 AES and 2011 AES on CIRCABC.

15. Timeliness and punctuality Top
15.1. Timeliness

AES data are released approximately within 9-12 months following the end of the data collection.

15.2. Punctuality

The Regulation imposes that the data are sent to Eurostat within 6 months after the end of the national data collection period. For AES 2011 this delay was met by the majority of countries.

16. Comparability Top
16.1. Comparability - geographical

Comparability across countries is considered as high. Comparability across countries is achieved through the Regulation (AES 2011) and the AES manuals ensuring harmonisation of concepts, definitions and methodologies for all EU Member States, EFTA and candidate countries participating in the survey. However, perfect comparability of statistical data across countries is difficult to achieve even for a survey carried out at the same time in all concerned countries and using the same questionnaire and a single method of recording.

Comparability for the statistics on participation in lifelong learning is ensured by:

(a) the recording of the same set of characteristics of learning activities in each country;

(b) a close correspondence between the EU list of questions and the national questionnaires;

(c) the use of the same definitions for all countries;

(d) the use of common classifications (e.g. CLA for the type of learning activities, ISCED for the level of education);

(e) the data being centrally processed by Eurostat.

Each country has the responsibility to ensure that the national survey provides data that are compatible with the EU definitions and of the same quality. However, in spite of the close coordination between the national statistical authorities and Eurostat, there inevitably remain some differences in the survey from country to country.

16.2. Comparability - over time

Not all 2007 AES and 2011 AES results are directly comparable and cannot therefore be used to comment on the evolution of the participation in lifelong learning between 2007 and 2011 due to methodological changes.

For instance the definitions of some variables have changed or, more frequently, the answer categories proposed to the individuals when they are asked a question have been rephrased or improved. On the other hand, new variables have been added from one wave to another, while some others have been dropped.

Reasons for changes were to improve the survey in view of experiences of the previous wave or to meet new user or political requirements.

For further details on the breaks see the quality reports related to 2007 AES and 2011 AES on CIRCABC.

17. Coherence Top
17.1. Coherence - cross domain

Results from the Adult Education Survey are not directly comparable with variables on lifelong learning coming from the EU Labour Force Survey (LFS) (which collects quarterly data on lifelong learning with a reference period of 4 weeks). Main differences are the reference period (12 months in AES, 4 weeks in LFS), the coverage of non-formal education (LFS does not cover guided-on-the-job training) and the overall design of the surveys (especially the fact that proxies are possible when collecting the LFS data while they are not recommended and almost never used in most countries when collecting the AES data).

The EU-LFS ad-hoc module on lifelong learning as carried out in 2003 is not directly comparable with the AES information in terms of survey methodology.

More information is available on CIRCABC.

17.2. Coherence - internal

Results based on AES for a given reference year are based on the same microdata and results are calculated using the same estimation methods, therefore the data are internally coherent.

18. Cost and Burden Top

Not available.

19. Data revision Top
19.1. Data revision - policy

AES data are revised when major errors are identified in the data delivered or in their processing, but there is no specific revision policy (no revision planned ahead).

Eurostat publishes the most up-to-date information available at EU-level based on the most up-to-date national microdata available and recalculates the EU aggregates whenever a national dataset has been changed.

19.2. Data revision - practice

Not available.

20. Statistical processing Top
20.1. Source data

AES 2007 and AES 2011 (see item 3.1).

The AES is a random sample survey of individuals living in private households.

From AES 2011 participation in the survey is compulsory for EU Member States (see item 6.1).

The effective sample sizes range between 2 400 for the smallest sample to 27 000 for the biggest. This is due to both national requirements and a big variance in the number of inhabitants per country.

20.2. Frequency of data collection

Every 5 years.

20.3. Data collection

Data collection methods were designed in collaboration with the participating countries and Eurostat through the work of AES Task Forces and other Working Groups.

20.4. Data validation

Data validation is done by National Statistical Institutes or other statistical authorities that are responsible for the survey.

Eurostat carried out quality checks, mainly on the coherence of the information provided.

The checks had two dimensions:

- a first check was made on the microdata received using a software testing the integrity of the data received, where both the structure and the logic of the data were verified. In case of doubts, a list of possible problems was sent back to countries for a data revision;

- a second check was then made on aggregated data to verify the results of key indicators in order to get feedback from countries to know whether the results computed from the microdata were correct.

20.5. Data compilation

Estimates for EU and euro area aggregates are calculated as the population-weighted arithmetic average of national data. The totals are compiled based on the available countries (i.e. 2007 without Ireland and Luxembourg and 2011 without Croatia).

20.6. Adjustment

No adjustments are made apart from those possibly made by countries prior to sending their data.

21. Comment Top

For further information about the AES please consult the documentation on CIRCABC.

Related metadata Top
trng_esms - Lifelong learning

Annexes Top