Between 1979 and 2007, the Reporting System on Continuing Education (Berichtssystem Weiterbildung – BSW) was the most significant national representative survey, which was conducted every third year. It has now been replaced by the European Adult Education Survey (AES), which was conducted as a pilot study in Germany and other European countries in 2007. As of 2012, the AES will be obligatorily conducted every five years as part of the EU Statistics on Lifelong Learning (Regulation (EC) No. 452/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of April 23, 2008 concerning the production and development of statistics on education and lifelong learning, section 2). In the Germany, the AES 2010 provides a voluntary intermediate result. Both, the Reporting System on Continuing Education and the AES are surveys concerning one topic only: adult learning. The surveys collect information on participation in organized forms of learning as well as informal learning activities (e.g. attendance of conferences, reading of specialized magazines).
Since BSW and AES define forms of learning differently, the participation rate measured with these concepts has limited comparable value. The AES is based on the international “Classification of Learning Activities“ by the European Commission and divides learning activities into formal learning (regular courses of education), non-formal learning (organized continuing education) and informal learning; vocational and non-vocational continuing education is measured on the participants‘ motivation for learning: private or vocational. The BSW differentiates between general and vocational continuing education from the outset based on defined learning situations.
In addition to these surveys, other regularly conducted representative surveys, such as the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) and the Microcensus, contain issues of participation in continuing education, which are less precise and include specific definitions of learning. These rates are not directly comparable to those collected in surveys which cover one topic only. Company surveys, such as the European Continuing Vocational Training Survey (CVTS) or the German IAB Company Panel, provide data on continuing education and training in the operational context.