Validation of non-formal learning, by M. La Rovere, K. Sobeková, M. Kontic and G. Kuzniar


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Contribution by EVS WINTER2, in the framework of implementation of "yBBregions" european project, cofinanced by the European Union

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EUROPEAN VOLUNTARY SERVICE - WINTER2 Youth and Brussels Based Regions Validation of non-formal learning Case study: Croatia, Italy, Poland, and Slovakia Grzegorz Kuźniar Klára Sobeková Marina Kontić Mattia la Rovere 0


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INTRODUCTION Europe is, nowadays, facing numerous challenges. The high rate of unemployment among young people in Europe is certainly one of the most crucial issues. In order to tackle and resolve this topic, the European Union is striving to use several instruments. Education is a crucial process for the preparation of the future employability, however, the conventional way in terms of formal education which is structured, organised and awarded by a certificate or a diploma is currently not sufficient. For this purpose, the recognition of non-formal and the informal education are being highlighted as the instruments to resolve the facing challenges and requirements within the fields of employment and labour market. Non-formal education is a process, in which knowledge is provided through planned, systemized activities, with the presence of a learning support, and the activities are focused on the improvement of the working skills. Typical examples of non-formal education are trainings or voluntary services. The informal education, on the other hand, is a process of learning through the daily activities at a workplace, family surroundings, or individual‘s free time. The process is not organised and skills are gained through life and work experiences. The main goal of the EU is to create a mechanism in order to make a validation of the nonformal and informal education possible. The validation, as a process of the confirmation of abilities by an authorised body, contains four stages: identification, documentation, assessment, and certification. This paper is focusing on the state of play of the validation of the non-formal and informal education and it will be divided in two parts. The first part is dealing with the goals and the mechanisms proposed by the institutions of the European Union. The second part presents the case studies on this topic from four European countries: Croatia, Italy, Poland, and Slovakia. 1


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1. PART: THE INSTITUTIONS OF THE EUROPEAN UNION The European Commission The issue of validation of non-formal and informal education, as a part of lifelong learning strategy within the EU, has been a main topic of a several documents issued by the EC. Also the Memorandum on Lifelong Learning from 2000 called for broader definition of lifelong learning, consequently leading to a demand for improvement of the ways, in which the process of learning and the outcomes could be appreciated; particularly in terms of nonformal and informal learning. Promotion of the recognition of non-formal and informal learning was subsequently one of the key imperatives of the Europe 2020 – A European strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth with flagship initiatives such as ''Youth in move'' and ''An Agenda for new skills and jobs'' to ensure coherent policies about the subject of matter on the European level. The online Research by the EC ''European Area of Skills and Qualifications'' showed that the current tools for recognition of qualifications should be simplified and oriented in accordance with requirements of labor market. Numerous initiatives have been introduced by the European Commission, DG Education and Culture in accordance with for e.g. Cedefop, ICF International, and Member States in order to achieve a constructive solution. The European Qualifications Framework helps to gain a transparent insight and comparison of national qualification structures. Europass and Youthpass are systematized tools for presenting gained skills, knowledge, and competences. The ECTS and ECVET are universal credit structures for grading education. The ECTS stands for the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System responsible for grading higher education. The ECVET stands for the European Credit system for Vocational Education and training. Quality insurance arrangements in these areas have also been developed. European inventory on validation of non-formal and informal learning is one of the most important tools to encourage the Member States in observation, development, and implementation of validation on their territory. It provides a perspective on good practices and it is regularly, in conjunction with European Guidelines that classify the main challenges of validation, being reviewed by the Commission in cooperation with the Member States. 2


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The Council of the European Union At the end of 2012 The Council of the European Union officially published the Council Recommendation number 2012/C 398/01 on the validation of non-formal and informal learning. The main proposal of the document is the establishment of an authorized body with the power of confirmation that the individual has acquired learning outcomes. This document sets out specific guidelines, which should be implemented in order to give individuals the opportunity to demonstrate what they learned outside the formal learning system and training, including the mobility experiences, and to use gained knowledge in their future careers and further learning experiences. The documents calls for implementation of guidelines , no later than 2018.The Council also calls for the evaluation and preparation of a report from the European Commission by the end of 2019 about the issued document. The European Parliament The EP stresses the importance of non-formal education in numerous documents which were adopted recently. The following documents are examples of the latest activity in this field: the European Parliament resolution on empowering girls through education in the EU; the European Parliament resolution on promoting youth entrepreneurship through education and training; the European Parliament resolution on follow-up on the implementation of the Bologna Process; and the European Parliament resolution on creating a competitive EU labour market for the 21st century. 1 The non-formal and informal educations are described as significant tools in the fields of education, social inclusion and labour market. 1 European Parliament resolution of 9 September 2015 on empowering girls through education in the EU (2014/2250(INI)) in the Article 44 European Parliament resolution of 8 September 2015 on promoting youth entrepreneurship through education and training (2015/2006(INI)) in the Article 31 European Parliament resolution of 28 April 2015 on follow-up on the implementation of the Bologna Process (2015/2039(INI)) in Article 36 European Parliament resolution of 10 September 2015 on creating a competitive EU labour market for the 21st century: matching skills and qualifications with demand and job opportunities, as a way to recover from the crisis (2014/2235(INI)) 3


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The Committee of the Regions The CoR was also dealing with the topic of validation of the non-formal education, presenting the Opinion on Recognition of skills and competences 2 acquired through nonformal and informal learning in 2014. The CoR considers non-formal education to be a means of integration into society and is calling “for recognition and validation of the competences and qualification s acquired through non-formal education”. The main goals are: to strengthen link between education/ training, mobility, and the labour market; to ensure coherence of tools, policies, and implementation of the learning outcomes approach; to provide clear rules and procedures for the recognition of skills regarding to qualifications: and to maintain appropriate information policy. The European Economic and Social Committee The EESC decided to gather as more information as possible from the civil society in order to elaborate a general opinion about the topic of the validation of non- formal and informal education and how its development should be established. The EESC approved its opinion on its plenary session and underlined few particular aspects. First of all, the employers are looking for few particular soft skills: in particular: communication, organization and planning, decision-making, teamwork, reliability/independence and numeracy. In fact, a study leaded by the University of Bath demonstrated that the vast majority of those soft skills are part of the non-formal education, particularly learned in the youth organizations. Secondly, the Member States should enable every citizen to obtain the validation of non-formal and informal qualifications, with an appropriate legislative frameworks and high quality laws. Thirdly, the validation procedure has to be transparent. There is a need for the tools of comparison as well as a need for putting non-formal and informal education on the same level. Thus, people should know more about the value that employers accredit to skills and competences developed whether non-formally or informally, for e.g. through volunteering, especially for those with a lower level of education; 2 Opinion of the Committee of the Regions — Recognition of skills and competences acquired through nonformal and informal learning(2015/C 019/16) 4


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Furthermore, the European Skills Passport and the Europass Experience were strongly supported by the EESC, but the European Commission suspended the implementation of these initiatives, leaving the EESC in hope of restoration. Moreover, the EESC considers Ireland to be an example for all the Member States. Ireland, within its education strategy for 2030, “supports the civic vocation of higher education’’ and its "engagement with wider society" as one of the "three interconnected core roles of higher education". The engagement is defined as: "engagement with business and industry, with the civic life of the community, with public policy and practice, with artistic, cultural and sporting life and with other educational providers in the community and region, and it includes an increasing emphasis on international engagement”. Malta is also paying attention to this strategy and could be an example of good practices, particularly because within the validation of non-formal and informal learning, Malta is rating not only the universities, but also the secondary schools, respectively. 5


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2. PART: CASE STUDIES Croatia There is currently no homogeneous system for the recognition of non-formal and informal education on the national level in Croatia, but it is constantly being developed. The Croatian Employment Service (CES) has special counsellors for employment divided by industrial sectors, whose main goal is to collect a detailed skills audit record about the formal, non-formal, and informal education of an individual. It is useful for employers who can easily identify the requirements for suitable job positions within the unemployed population, as well as beneficial for the development of further plan for professional training of unemployed, their counselling and support, respectively. Europass is a tool that CES uses in their CV database, and they are engaged in organizing workshops for unemployed in order to teach them how to use the Europass. The formal insight into this subject is provided within the concept of the Croatian Qualifications Framework (The Croatian Qualifications Framework Act- CROQF), which was adopted by the Croatian Parliament in 2013. The ‗‘Ordinance on recognition and validation of non-formal and informal learning‘‘ is also in the process of development and CROQF is its legal basis. According to the Act ‗’there are eight levels of units of learning outcomes with corresponding descriptions representing minimal conditions for placing units of learning outcomes at respective CROQF level‘‘3; and the validation will be formed in accordance with units of outcomes that are regulated within the database of CROQF Register. The CROQF Act also emphasizes the role of Croatian Credit System for General Education (HROO), European Credit System for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET), and European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS). These tools are being used for the regulation of the amount of qualifications and learning outcomes in comparison to the amount of time spent for achieving a certain qualification. The bodies of authority responsible for monitoring and implementation of the CROQF are: The National Council for the Development of Human Potential, The Ministry of Science, Education and Sports, The Ministry of Labour and Pension System, The Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds of the Republic of Croatia and regional development and sectoral councils. 3 European Comission, European inventory on validation of non-formal and informal learning 2014, Country report Croatia 6


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Although, there are some initiatives and the attempts of validation through a standardized tests similar to those of the formal education, the good practices in this area are still nonexistent, and the data about the practices of the Croatian Universities are very scarce. The national initiative „‟Competitive Croatian Higher Education for better EmploymentCompetitive Croatian Higher Education for better employability‟‟, however, gathered together the University of Split, University College for Applies Computer Science, and the Agency for Science and Higher Education as partners in order to develop new guidelines for qualifications in relevant fields, to reform a higher education and to provide the better implementation of the CROQF. On the regional level, The Republic of Croatia is a member of the Education Reform Initiative of South Eastern Europe (ERI SEE) that has established four clusters of knowledge. One of them is the Cluster of Knowledge Development of National Qualifications Frameworks, established and managed after Croatian proposal with Croatia as the leading country. 7


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Italy Today in Italy there are several examples regarding the validation of non-formal and informal learning. The process that led to the recent developments started in 1996: the Ministry of education and the Ministry of employment, regions, provinces began discussing about the need to promote tools that would help citizens in recognition of their skills acquired outside the formal learning. One of the main problems for the pathway to the validation of non-formal and informal learning was the legislative framework: in Italy the legislative competence in the field of education is shared between the State and the Regions. A significant change in the legislative framework was the reform of the labor market in 2012: this reform for the first time adopted a system of certification and validation of skills at the national level. Later, the legislative decree on the national certification of competence and validation of non-formal and informal learning, promulgated on the 16th of January of 2013, was the second big step toward the implementation phase and it defined in detail the principles, the responsible public Institutions, and functions of the new system of certification and validation of skills. It is possible to say that the decree clarifies the legislative framework entrusting responsibility for the certification of competencies to the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Labour. One of the first tool –and maybe the most important one – designed to fix some standards about the validation of non-formal and informal learning is the “Libretto del Cittadino” (the translations of the terms could vary, for example in English it could be Citizen Training Booklet or National Portfolio Competences): the Libretto collects information on formal, nonformal and informal from every citizen. This is a tool created to be transparent due to fixed standards for the validation of skills. Altough, the Europass portfolio and the European skills passport may look similar: the key difference is that the booklet is not compiled independently by the citizen but it is compiled with the help of professional experts and its full implementation requires from 4 to 8 hours. The Libretto is provided as a public service. Inside the Libretto, the skills and knowledge are divided into Competency Units and each sector is related to very specific knowledge and skills (eg: in the region of EmiliaRomagna, in the agro-food one of the specific skills acquired through non-formal learning in a restaurant is the ability to understand the specific needs of customers about how to combine wine and food). All the information and the procedures to obtain the Libretto are on the official website: 8


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The format of the book was conceived in 2006. From 2007 to 2010 was tested in 13 regions of Italy and in 2011 the region of Tuscany began offering people the opportunity to get their Libretto. 25000 unemployed citizens have compiled and then received their booklets. The success of this initiative has been evident in all regions. In Italy, some sectors in particular have benefited from the process of validation of non-formal and informal learning: tourism, mechanics, chemistry, agri-food, textile. Today some regions are still at an early stage of the process of formalization of the skill recognition, but in many others the work is in an advanced phase: the regions of Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna are ahead in the process of validation and other regions have asked Tuscany to create a partnership to develop together along this path, such as the Marche region, the Puglia region. The regions of Basilicata, Lazio, Lombardy, Umbria, Veneto, and the autonomous province of Trento are also going to approve a law on the validation of nonform and informal learning. The following image shows a concrete example of the Libretto delle Competenze (source: ): 9


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Poland Polish government as well as society on various levels identify and highlight the importance of non-formal and informal learning, and the improvement in this area is undoubtable necessary for the individual benefits on the labor market as well as the economic prosperity of the country as the whole. Although the system of education has gone through many different reforms, the harmonization in this area is still non-existent. Several features that have been made currently are still quite contemporary and due to this fact non- thoroughly efficient. Since validation of non-formal and informal learning de jure relies on legal framework established in accordance with the national policy, de facto validation can still be, and is furthermore existent on the level of few firms and in other sectors. Not only do the academic circles contribute to the whole issue, but there are numerous examples of very innovative projects presented in the third sector, of which many are supported by the EU programs, respectively. The Polish educational system allows individuals to continue with education if interrupted, as well as when they are already employed. In order to obtain the vocational qualifications, there is no need to attend vocational school; the gained experience in this area is enough to pass the exam in front of a special board resulting in the achievement of the suitable title. This is the example of a good practice in the area of separation in validation of formal, non-formal and informal education that can result in harmonized system of validation. The ‗‟ Crafts Act‟‟ (Government of Poland, 1989) is the second good example. Within the training for craftsmen and others, it provides the conditions for the examinations, specifically taken whether by young people who did the training or experienced adults who wish to validate their skills and knowledge gained through work practice. On the other hand the validation of proven professional work experience has been regulated by a joint ministerial decree (MoNe and MoLSP, 1993) where the formal title for qualifications can be approved by a special state commission. The third sector is the most active in taking the initiatives for recognition. Many NGO‘s such as Polish Red Cross, Union of Polish Scouts, Charitas, houses of culture, voluntary workers organizations, ‗‘Open doors‘‘ associations, ‗‘Semper Avanti‘‘, ‗‘Tratwa‘‘ etc. offer the participation, membership and learning by doing in fields of non-formal and informal 10


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education and their contribution to the practical experience and voluntary work is very extensive. The conference back in December 2004 organized by National Agency of the Programme Youth had these topics highly prioritized in their agenda. In Poland, obviously, both political, academic, sectorial and NGO levels gather together in discussions about the issue of validation. The companies level, however, needs to enhance their participation through the increase of transparency and classification of activities in this area. References ECOTEC Research & Consulting Limited. A European inventory on validation of non-formal and informal learning. Zelloth, H. et al. ETF, 2002, p.54 Vocational education and training and employment services in Poland, European Inventory on Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning 2010 Country Report: Poland 11


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Slovakia The Slovak Government is already working on the topic of the validation of non-formal education. Non-formal education is a part of the lifelong learning (LLL) strategy . The agenda of education belongs under the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sports. The current situation in Slovakia is regulated by the law no. 568/2009 from December 1, 2009 on Lifelong Learning and on amendments to certain laws. The last change was done in 2015. According to this law LLL is ―all activities that take place in the course of life with the aim of improving knowledge, skills and abilities.‖ Based on this law non-formal education is recognised at national level. Through non-formal and informal education individuals can obtain via accredited further education programmes qualification or certificate of professional competence. With the regard to implementation of European system of qualification in order to promote mobility, Slovakia created the National Qualification System. NQS should be able to connect formal, non-formal, informal education with the real qualification. The challenges for the future are the creation of national system on recognition of non-formal and informal education; and secondly, because till now, there is no legislation on informal education, there is a need to work on this matter. Qualifications standards have been set for 22 professions. The leading organisation in the public space in this area is IUVENTA – the Slovak Youth Institute. Based on the work of the IUVENTA in 2013, was introduced ―The Declaration of the Recognition of Contribution of Non-formal Education in the youth work‖. The goal of this document is creating a link between policymakers, NGOs, and employers in order to support and to recognise non-formal education. The other instrument, which was realised in IUVENTA is KomPrax national project- Competences for Practise. The aim is to prepare the youth for the practice via weekend training courses. Young people are trained in: project management, team work, communication, finance, etc. One of the first initiatives in 2010/2011 in this area was international project: Continuous Cross Border Improvement of National Lifelong Learning Strategies (CCBI-NLLS). Project was done in cooperation with Austria and Hungary. Each country chose different area, in the Slovak case: Recognition of non-formal and informal education. The current international cooperation was launched in June 2015 between the countries of Vysegrad Group, in the form of Memorandum of cooperation in the field of youth. 12


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The most recent development was done in the framework of the project VOLWEM – Volunteering as Way to Employment. Project was realised in 2012-2014 and the key finding was the creation of D-Zručnosti - D-Skills. D-Skills is the online tool, which could be used by a volunteer in order to get the recognition of the skills obtained during volunteer activities. The tool collects the evidences, proofs of activities. The volunteer is gathering the information. The organisation, where he/she worked, confirms the data. Then, the materials are sent to a special commission at the University. In the case, when the commission considers evidence relevant, the volunteer gets a certification. The last example is international project Qual'n'Guide: Competence-based career guidance in employment services through European quality criteria. The aim is to create skills audit - Bilan de competences. The project took place in two years 2013-2015. This project is focusing on unemployed people, which need career guidance. The other instrument is carried out by state´s officials. The public employment service can be asked by individual to provide skills audit. This tool is not used widely, and it is focused on long-term unemployed References Bilancia kompetencií[online] Available at: [Accessed 29 November 2015]. Continuous Cross Border Improvement of National Lifelong Learning Strategies (CCBINLLS) [online] Available at: [Accessed 29 November 2015]. D-ZRUČNOSTI [online] Available at: < >[Accessed 29 November 2015]. European Commission; Cedefop; ICF International (2014). European inventory on validation of non-formal and informal learning 2014: country report Slovakia. Available at: [Accessed 29 November 2015]. IUVENTA. KomPrax – Kompetencie pre prax. [online] Available at: [Accessed 29 November 2015]. IUVENTA. Podpis Deklarácie o uznávaní neformálneho vzdelávania v práci s mládežou na Slovensku. 13 [online] Available at: <


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vzdelavanie/Podpis-Deklaracie-o-uznavani-neformalneho-vzdelavania-v-praci-s-mladezouna-Slovensku.alej>[Accessed 29 November 2015]. MEMORANDUM OF COOPERATION BETWEEN THE MINISTRIES OF THE VISEGRAD GROUP COUNTRIES RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUTH. [online] Available at: <>[Accessed November 2015]. Ministerstvo školstva, vedy, výskumu a športu Slovenskej republiky. Celoživotné vzdelávanie. [online] Available at: < vzdelavanie/>[Accessed 29 November 2015]. Národná sústava kvalifikácií. Available at: <>[Accessed 29 November 2015]. ZÁKON č. 568/2009 Z.z. z 1. decembra 2009 o celoživotnom vzdelávaní a o zmene a doplnení niektorých zákonov Novely: 568/2009 Z.z., 568/2009 Z.z., 315/2012 Z.z. , 315/2012 Z.z., 292/2014 Z.z., 188/2015 Z.z. Available at: < >[Accessed 29 November 2015]. 14



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