In Italy, there are two systems that provide adult education. The first falls under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education. The second, which provides continuing vocational training (Formazione Professionale Continua) for adult workers, is organised by the regional authorities.
The general system of Adult Education is financially supported on the base of resources allocated by the State, the Regions, and the local authorities; other funding can be provided by a number of public and private agencies, as well as by EU resources. Continuing training activities in Italy are implemented by a variety of agencies and institutions.
Lifelong learning in Italy is thus "disseminated" through the education, training and labour systems, and therefore the institutional jurisdiction in the programming, management and evaluation of the actions regarding lifelong learning is highly specialised. The reference context of lifelong learning (systems of education, training and labour) has been recently affected by wide-ranging reform processes.
Order No. 22 dated 6 February 2001 of the Ministry of Education "Sull'educazione degli adulti", states that the educational system must act according to procedures agreed with the vocational training and informal-education system, in order to "accompany the development of the individual, thus guaranteeing lifelong learning" in the full exercise of the right of citizenship. The right to lifelong learning, as a right of citizenship, is understood as an instrument of targeted action on social exclusion.
The growth of the Adult Education Centres has been considerable, rising from 25 in the first year of their foundation (1997) to 540 in 2003-2004.
The Adult Education Centres are located throughout Italy with an average of five centres per Province (the highest concentration is observed in Lombardy, Sicily and Campania).
The reforms introduced in Italy in recent years for the labour market, the social security and the VET system involve an overall system oriented towards “Welfare to Work”. One of the main objectives of this system is to foster the integration (or reintegration) in the labour market for the unemployed, the weaker categories or those at risk of exclusion.
According to the most recent Excelsior survey carried out by Unioncamere, Italian enterprises have nowadays more awareness of their fundamental role in training their employees, especially in the starting phase of their job. This fact confirms an existing gap between formal/school training and real vocational needs expressed by the productive system.
The activities of the Adult Education Centres are aimed not only at courses for the attainment of educational qualifications, but also for the reception, listening and guidance, as well as the primary, functional and adult literacy, the learning of language skills, the development and consolidation of basic skills and know-how, the recovery and development of cultural and relational skills both suited to the activity of participation in social life, and to the return to training of persons in marginal conditions.

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