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EPALE - ríomhArdán d’Fhoghlaim Aosach san Eoraip


 [As seen from France] Validation of Prior Learning in Education for Social Advancement

ag Isabelle Houot
Teanga: EN
Document available also in: FR DE
[Translation (French- English) : EPALE France]


Isabelle HOUOT, thematic expert at EPALE France and lecturer at the University of Lorraine, spent several days focusing on how validation of experience and certification work in Brussels. In this third episode, after looking at validation in the university environment, she explains the process of validation of prior learning in the Belgian education for social advancement programme. 


What is education for social advancement?

Education for Social Advancement (Enseignement de promotion sociale - EPS)[1] is part of the lifelong learning system in the French Community in Belgium.

It includes 160 institutes on the Wallonia-Brussels Federation territory, which operate as a network and are subsidised by the French Community.

In 2016-2017, the EPS programme had more than 158,497 students, 34,525 of whom were in higher education.

Who is the programme for?

It offers adults a wide range of training courses at secondary or higher education level (initiation, qualification, further training, retraining, specialisation, personal development), at the end of which it awards recognised qualifications (certificates and diplomas).

It is organized in sections: Each section has teaching units (UE). As each of these UEs results in a certificate of success, students can use these certificates in order to personalise their course. They can adapt the pace of their training by choosing the number of UEs they want to take and thus adapt according to any personal constraints (professional, family, a special timetable, etc.). With the EPS programme, they can combine studies and employment.


Its aims

Education for social advancement is governed by the decree of 16 April 1991[2]. It aims to:

  • Contribute to individual fulfilment by promoting better professional, social, educational and cultural integration (personal development),
  • Meet the training needs and demands of companies, administrations, education and, in general, socio-economic and cultural circles (needs of society).


How is prior learning recognised in education for social advancement?


What is the framework?

VPL in the context of education for social advancement is governed by the legal framework for the EPS programme as a whole.

The Decree of 16 April 1991: (modified on 01-09-2017 and 09-02-2017[3]. specifies:

 “Under the conditions and according to the modalities determined by the Executive, educational institutions for social advancement are authorized to take into consideration for access to study, courses and qualifications, the competences acquired in any education or in other modes of training including professional experience"

See also: /fr/resource-centre/content/valorisation-des-acquis-de-lexperience-vae-dans-lenseignement-secondaire-et

On 1 January 2018, social advancement schools received additional funding towards organising and developing the recognition of prior learning.


How does it work?

Types of learning recognised

2 types of prior learning can therefore be recognised in view of enrolment in training and/or to obtain an exemption:

  • Formal learning in previously attended courses,

This knowledge will be recognised through the automatic agreement signed between all social advancement schools.

  • Non-formal or informal learning in apprenticeships in the workplace or self-training,

This knowledge will be recognized after a pre-requisite test.

This recognition can be capitalized and is valid for between 6 and 9 years.

The candidates

Since the last decree, anyone who has:

  • 5 years of personal and professional experience
  • And 2 years of successful graduate studies
  • And who is aiming at access, exemption and/or recognition of studies

may request recognition of between a minimum of 60 and a maximum of 120 credits

Candidates will present a recognition application that they will defend orally before the Study Council.

The Study Council will then decide

  • If they are satisfied: they then convert the application into UEs
  • If they consider the file insufficient, they will request further tests or trials

More specifically, anyone who has

  • personal and professional experience  

may request recognition of a maximum of 60 credits

In this case, in accordance with the French Community Government Orders, the candidate will perform tests or trials for each UE requested.

What is the process?

Each candidate has information on the possibilities for recognition as well as "educational files", documents containing the common educational standards approved by the government.

The educational file is the reference document for the teacher as well as for the student enrolled in the teaching unit. It includes general information (title, level of education, number of sessions, minimum hours, etc.) as well as an appendix containing details on:

• the general and particular purposes of the teaching unit

• the prerequisites

• the creation of groups

• the programme for the training unit

• end capabilities

• the profile of the instructor

The candidate then meets the section manager who will provide them support in

  • drafting the recognition application
  • defending their application orally


  • They will present the required test(s) or trial(s)


Evaluation is performed by the Study Council which will make its decision on a unit by unit basis.

After deliberation, the study council issues a "Certificate of Recognition" to the student,

  • giving them the same capitalization rights as students taking courses,
  • and allowing them mobility within the social advancement system.


Analysis and perspectives

Within education for social advancement, we therefore speak of recognition of achievements, a means of recognising acquired knowledge, regardless of the manner in which it was obtained.

Social advancement schools are designed for people from a diverse range of professional and personal backgrounds who wish to acquire, develop or update their skills, give a new direction to their career, or develop personal activities. The EPS programme is thus a real tool for personal development of both professional and non-professional activities.

The courses are organised in a modular and networked way and thus facilitate training pathways that are not necessarily linear for people who may experience mobility in the territory.

The schools are widely solicited in developing recognition of achievements, and many of them have formed partnerships with socio-professional operators in order to work with the most vulnerable groups. This is a real opportunity for groups whose formal and non-formal achievements, although often fragmentary, are achievements nonetheless. Recognising their value in entering training gives candidates a valuable advantage on which future learning can be based.


[1] is external)

[2] is external)

[3] AGCF November 29, 2017: setting the terms and conditions for the recognition of prior learning for the admission, exemption and sanction of one or more UEs of the EPS Circular n°6677 of May 30, 2018 which came into force on January 1, 2018


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