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Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe



Can one system for validation meet the needs of all users?

by Ernesto VILLALB...

Everyone learns outside formal institutions, but the needs to validate non-formal and informal learning might be different for a migrant wanting to start working, a person that dropped out of school that wants to resume education or an employee that wants to improve its career prospects. Do we need different systems for each of those users? Can we just have one system that meets all their needs? 

We want to take this opportunity to start the discussion that can continue at the conference Cedefop is organising on validation November 28-29 in Thesslaoniki, Greece. We will focus on 4 types of users:

  1. Validation for migrants 
  2. Validation for unemployed or at risk of unemployment 
  3. Validation for low qualified adults 
  4. Validation for people in employment 

What is it from your point of view?

I am looking forward to hear from all! 

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Viktorija Birjukova's picture
The use of information technology as a means of motivation to learn a foreign language.
n the modern world, the student’s ability to work autonomously is of great importance. In this, information technologies offer unlimited opportunities. Internet technology is the function of the manager:
- informative function, 
- organizational and management function 
- presentation function, 
- functional function, 
- optimizing function, 
- controlling function (through the student student conducts independent control of their knowledge and skills)
Internet technologies are a good help to autonomous learning process anywhere in the world. Internet technologies develop a student's ability to independently and independently learn.
Claudio Laferla's picture

I think that there are two important factors in learning, namely, (i) skills; and (ii) competences. Thus, there should be various systems allowing for validation of both. Someone having a particular skills might not necessarily be competent in that. Competency means that the person knows how to use their skill to a high level standard. 

This brings me to be in favour of a system whereby it will be able to validate either at a low or high level, and whether a person is skillful and competent at either low or high level.

This method/system may give more space to persons going up the skill-ladder at their own pace whilst the system acknowledges every step they take.


Furthermore, another system which is being already used in a number of places and universities is the 'badge-award' system, whereby a person may be awarded different badges for the different skills he masters.

Camilla Alfsen's picture

Sorry for joining this discussion so late! I like Simons comment earlier on the two different contexts; 1) validation against learning outcomes in formal qualification systems and 2) validation against labour market changes.

In Norway today we may claim to have one system for validation of prior learning that is linked to our formal education system. In this system, the overall principles and procedures are the same for all levels of education and the standards used as basis for assessment are learning outcomes described in curricula and study programs from the formal education system. Institutions accredited to deliver documentation from formal education document the outcome of a successful validation process.

This system is well suited for validation processes where learning outcomes from formal education are relevant as standards. It will meet the needs of all different target groups if they need recognition from formal education.

We are currently discussing in Norway how to recognise or validate competences based on standards from working life. Whether we need another system to validate working life competences for working life standards or whether we can somehow expand the existing system to include these types of standards are not yet decided.

In my opinion, it is important that the overall principles and procedures for validations systems should be the same, regardless one system or many; It is important to keep the individuals needs in focus and make sure that they are met by a system or systems that treat them fair and well. If these preconditions are in place, I think it is irrelevant if we have one system or many systems.

To set up a national network with RPL practitioners across the different education levels and providers, as Deirdre presents, seems like a very good idea to enhance further development of the system or of many systems.

I look forward to many interesting and inspiring discussions in the Thessaloniki conference! See you soon!


Deirdre Goggin's picture

I do believe that a system which is sufficiently flexible can meet the needs of all learners, in all situations and for all purposes.

If we look at what has happened at a European level over the past six years (and even before that) there has been extensive discussion and the development of tools, systems, structures, processes etc. for particular learners who are going through one, many or all stages of validation. I do agree with previous comments that there is a continuous re-invention of the wheel in this arena over the past number of years. At a national level in Ireland I feel we also have this issue between and within sectors where good practice has been developed, where considered responses have been achieved however these are not visible to the broader population or are not seen as transferable to other learners or learning situations. The rationale for these decisions are sometimes not clear or even applicable as they stem from a lack of information or familiarity(fear) but also the similiarity between and within sectors and learners.

I can only speak from my own national perspective but when we did a piece of resesarch on VNFIL in HE and we are currently doing one on VET the challenges are the same regardless of who you speak with. The aspirations of where and how VNFIL can be used is the same. What we have done at a national level is to start a RPL practitioner network which includes pracitioners from Qualifications authority (QQI), HE, VET, professional body, social partners, Ministry of Education, apprenticeships, industry representatives, trade unions no one is excluded from joining the conversation but the aim is to open the discussion to learn from each other, to avoid the re-invention of the wheel, to focus on the synergies rather than the differences. This is also interesting as it has input from practitioners , those working with learners, those making policy decisions, centre managers and everyone in between so it is about finding real solutions to real problems. One of the major stumbling blocks which always seems to be there is that the learning linked with these learners, how it was achieved, how it can be valued is different and from those who are less familiar with its worth as inferior. This I believe is our greatest challege it is the attitude and acceptance of all forms of learning rather than the process/ system. This also the factor which is much harder to change :)

I will see you in Thessaloniki and looking forward to the lively discussions.



Laura Ceci Galanos's picture

I also strongly believe that volunteering is a rich learning experience that provides an important non formal learning opportunity. Most people have been educated through formal education (school, college, university) and a big percentage find it hard and challenging to direct their own learning.

It is true that the skills acquired through volunteering often remain invisible. That is why it is crucial to develop a system that can validate and recognise the key competences gained during that experience (such as social and civic competences) : its final goal should be bridging the volunteer towards the labour market, since employability can be improved through validation processes. It could also increase motivation for lifelong learning, in particular for the socio-economically disadvantaged or the low-qualified.

That is why I am sure there will be a lot to discuss during the Cedefop conference on strategies for implementing validation of non-formal and informal learning, coming on the 28th and 29th of November.


Kind regards,

Angela Higgins's picture

The posts in this thread are very interesting. It has casued me to wonder whether it is more important to define the principles and purpose behind the processes very clearly, to ensure that systems are fair and equitable. If there are a number of different systems, then there is a risk of compromising standards due to bias. 

My understanding is that the purpose is to identify what applicants for VNFIL know, and to recognise this, instead of expecting that the applicant will have to complete a complete course of learning to achieve the level of competency they may already have achieved. If this is the case, then the expertise of the professionals supporting hte VNFIL process is critical. 

VNFIL is a new concept for me, so apologies if I have misunderstood!

Ernesto VILLALBA GARCIA's picture

Thanks Bianca!

I would be very interested in knowing more about some of those projects you are talking about.

It is people like you that we need at the conference that can bring in first hand insights, so we can create better systems that really meet the needs of the users you are describing.

In some countries and in some sectors, like in the care-sector, the ‘mandatory access conditions’ are a big driver of validation initiatives. See:

Hope you can make it to the conference, so you bring in all these insights you put here!  

Bianca BUZETTO's picture

First of all, let me tell you how thrilled I am that someone will be really talking and hopefully proposing solutions about that "hot" issue.

Our organization is working in the field of employment in Romania since 2007. Most of the times we are dealing with three categories having difficulties to enter or reach their full potential on the job market :

1. People lacking education as mandatory access condition (in Romania if you don't have at least 8 grades you cannot participate in any kind of VET even the lowest one which is EQF Level 2 such as cook help) - and we are talking mostly but not only about Roma people or other vulnerable categories (young people coming from poor families forced to abandon school in order to work, ecc). They could be maybe very good workers, but they don't have any real possibility to become a qualified worker and earn a decent wage. The only possibility offered to them is to register for a "second chance program" where by attending courses in the evening or during weekends they could "earn" two grades in one school year.

Please think about a father who has to provide for a family of at least 4 and if he dropped off in 4th grade needs 2 more years before he may enter any kind of certified VET! Working without a contract he may earn about 250-350 Euro/month now  and he has maybe the prospect of earning 400-450 Euro/month in 3 years with a contract if he gets a EFQ3 certification.

Why not thinking of fast track courses and certification/validation of competences when we are talking about competence based curriculum in schools?

Last week we were talking with some colleagues working with refugees, who may not account for their level of education/qualification and already need at least 6 months to learn the basics of a foreign language. A part of them already worked in very interesting craft workshops, but they could only be hired as unqualified workers. Is there a fast solution for them in order to motivate them in becoming a part of the society and not just move along further to the west seeking for better social subsidies? 

2. People lacking soft skills such as communication, adaptability, motivation (no matter how good or well prepared they are, lacking self esteem, adaptability and motivation is the first cause of failure during interview or drop-out during the first months of contract). Personally I don't think that validation is the main issue here, but first of all training the counselors and tutors working with the unemployed in order to be able to develop and cultivate those soft skills. Participation in a job-shadowing Erasmus project under KA1 was very helpful for us in this sense.

In our experience validation is the best opportunity of professional advancement for low qualified working adults. During 2014-2016, together with our partners in a ESF project we have trained about 800 people and offered validation of competences to about 150 people mainly from the field of construction and retail commerce). Validation builds on the professional experience and growth that a worker may have within its company - and often workers are used in different positions so flexibility is a must and its a lot faster which is an advantage both for the employer and the employee (the validation process from start to end shouldn't take more than a month, while a training course may take in average from 4 to 6 months). Let's not talk about what it means to work 8-10 hrs shifts in construction and then attend a VET training for at least 2 hrs/day!

Validation although has the same problem - you have to have completed at least 8 grades and not all construction workers for example have them.

3. The last group struggles with functional illiteracy (and even people with a low secondary education degree may face it), prohibiting them to make a full use of the talents and competences they have, subjecting them often to discrimination and workplace abuse. Literacy training courses are foreseen in some cases, especially for Roma adults, but this problem goes far beyond Roma population. 

So please, we really need your help asap and we are very interested to hear what the conclusions of the conference will be.

Ernesto VILLALBA GARCIA's picture

Thank you Jo for the info! Very interesting projects! Let's see if the conference can work towards creating that system that prevents us from re-inventing the wheel every time!

Ernesto VILLALBA GARCIA's picture

Thanks for the insight Jo! Volunteering is indeed very relevant and I hope that it comes out in the discussions, even if we have not signaled it out as a specific user, but rather, volunteers cut across the other categories that we have selected.

Can you share the links to the projects you mention? And thanks for referring to the guidelines as a possible framework. We are hoping that they are!  

I totally agree with you! There is so much going on and so many practices… still it seems SO difficult to obtain consistency and coherence across sectors and countries. How do we scale up? And are those practices applicable in all sectors and for all users?

In 2014 the inventory showed, and as Eleni above pointed out, that one of the biggest problems on validation of non-formal and informal learning is the fragmentation of practices. I believe that countries are working towards coordinating efforts across sectors, but the question remains: How do we adapt the framework to meet all the user’s needs?  What do you think the system will look like? Can the practices from volunteering be transferred to all sectors of education? In what way?