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Elektronisch platform voor volwasseneneducatie in Europa



Validation of Prior Learning in Iceland (first day of study visit)

door Karine Nicolay
Taal: EN

A group of Belgian (Flemish) stakeholders travelled to Iceland to learn more about Validation of Prior Learning (VPL). Thanks to the efforts of the National Support Services of EPALE and Euroguidance in Iceland the participants of the study visit had a more than filled and interesting programme for the 3 days of their study visit. A very special thanks to Margrét Sverrisdottir and Dora Stefansdottir and their colleagues to help us with every part of our journey.

Participants of the study visit to Iceland

Nathalie Druine from the Department of Education and Training in Flanders. She is responsible for the implementation of VPL in Flanders.

Ariane Rober from the Department of Work and a member of the Flemish Upskilling Pathways steering group.

Monique De Ridder, pedagogical advisor and member of the Upskilling Pathways steering group.

Inés Neefs from the Department of Education and Training and involved in the Erasmus+ VISKA project (Visible Skills of Adults)

Karine Nicolay, EPALE coordinator in Flanders/Belgium.

Programme of the study visit

Day 1 – 24 September 2019 (see a report of day 1 lower on this page)

Visit to Rannís. Welcome by the Director of Erasmus+ and Head of Division at Rannís, Mr. Ágúst H. Ingthórsson. Meeting with Margrét Sverrisdóttir, coordination of Adult Education at Rannís and Project Manager for EPALE and Dóra Stefánsdóttir, coordinator for Euroguidance.

Visit to the Education and Training Service Centre. Meeting with Director Sveinn Adalsteinsson.

Visit to Mímir símenntun. Meeting with Bryndís Bessadóttir, project manager.

Day 2 – 25 September 2019

Visit to IDAN Educational Centre. Meeting with Helen Gray, Development manager.

Visit to the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, Meeting with Hulda Anna Arnjótsdóttir, expert in adult education/national coordinator for adult education. 

Visit to Directorate of Labour. Meeting with Ásdís Gudmundsdóttir.

Day 3 – 26 September 2019

Visit to the Lifelong Learning Centre in Reykjanes. Meeting with Gudjónína Sæmundardóttir, director.


Here's a report of the first day of the study visit



In the morning of the first day we visited Rannís, the Icelandic centre for research.

We were welcomed by the Director of Erasmus+ and Head of Division at , Mr. Ágúst H. Ingthórsson. And we met with Margrét Sverrisdóttir, coordinator of Adult Education and Project Manager for EPALE and Dóra Stefánsdóttir, coordinator for Euroguidance.




Top picture: visitors Nathalie Druine, Monique De Ridder, Inès Neefs and Ariane Rober.Bottom picture: Dóra Stefánsdóttir, coordinator for Euroguidance Iceland and Margrét Sverrisdóttir, coordination of Adult Education at Rannís and Project Manager for EPALE.




  • supports research, innovation, education and culture in Iceland
  • administers competitive funds in the fields of research, innovation, education and culture, as well as strategic research programmes
  • coordinates and promotes Icelandic participation in European programmes such, as Horizon 2020, Erasmus+ and Creative Europe
  • monitors resources and performance in R&D and promotes public awareness of research and innovation, education and culture in Iceland 
  • cooperates closely with the Icelandic Science and Technology Policy Council and provides professional assistance in the preparation and implementation of the national science and technology policy.

Mr. Ágúst H. Ingthórsson explained us how the Rannís strategy 2025 came about. This strategy was formulated in close cooperation with the employees of Rannís and external stakeholders such as universities, ministries, public companies and interest groups. Additionally, an online survey was sent to main stakeholders, asking about the most important challenges today and in the future. In shaping the strategy, Rannís has made an effort to summarise the aspects that are likely to matter in Rannís’ future endeavours to serve Icelandic rapidly changing society which requires well targeted policy in relevant areas.


Here you can find the general presentation prepared for our delegation at Rannís with more information about the Strategy 2015: PDF iconrannis_general.pdf


Margrét Sverrisdóttir presented EPALE Iceland: PDF iconepale_iceland.pdf


Dóra Stefánsdóttir told us more about the education system in Iceland. A summary:

  • The state is obliged to offer school until 18, but they can stop after 16.
  • Until 15, the program is the same for all, all doors are open. There is assistance for those who need it (but not for highly gifted). The focus lies on Icelandic, English and Mathematics.
  • Pupils don't stop school at the age of 15, they either follow grammar schools or vocational educational training. Iceland tries to get more people with technological skills.
  • There is a system of 'dual learning' that always start at school and there is a workplace part afterwards. Pupils can only do the skills test when they have done the workplace part.
  • 12% of the pupils come from outside Iceland (mostly Poland). They cannot fail the compulsory part. People who 'fail' start at level 0 in the upper secondary school. The same exams are held in all schools.
  • After compulsory school pupils get a certificate.
  • For many there are occupational standards. For the new (e.g. computer) they don't have those standards. They are made  by occupational councils (7), which has members of ministries and from the sector.
  • Lifelong learning percentage is very high (24,7%). The reason could be that people don't have many skills when they graduate, so they have to keep adding. The access to lifelong learning is easy. There is no age limit to upper secondary school.
  • There are no incentives, most people work and learn at the same time but there are 'cheap' loans.
  • The employers mostly do not complain about their employees following training, their only concern is if the job can still be done.
  • Public education is cheap, but the private market is expensive. Also short courses are expensive. Employers still fear that the employee will leave, but otherwise they will have an unhappy employee.
  • Iceland participates in the European project: “Be active through lifelong learning” because an increasingly larger part of the population in industrialized countries is spending longer time in retirement than before and it is of utmost importance for the future of Europe to guarantee the highest quality of life for this large group of citizens and to ensure that their valuable resources of experience and knowledge are made accessible to the younger generations and society at large.

Here you can find the slides of Dóra  PDF iconeducation_and_training_in_iceland.pdf


More on educational and vocational guidance in Iceland can be found here:


In the afternoon day 1 we had a meeting with Director Sveinn Adalsteinsson of the Education and Training Service Centre.

The Education and Training Service Centre (ETSC) operates in accordance with The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. The centre is owned by the Icelandic Confederation of Labour, the Confederation of Icelandic Employers, the Federation of State and Municipal Employees, the Ministry of Finance and the Association of Local Authorities in Iceland. Operation began in 2003. In 2010 Parliament passed the Adult Education Act. The aim of the Act is to meet the needs of adults with short formal education and also to meet the needs of the labour market for staff with increased knowledge and skills. On the basis of the Adult Education Act, studies outside upper secondary schools and universities will have increased weight.

The main responsibilities of the center include

  • writing curricula and programme descriptions and collaborating with ETSC’s contracted partners in their development
  • ensuring the development and dissemination of methods to validate non-formal and informal learning, as well as monitoring their implementation and providing training and feedback to specialists
  • supervising the development of guidance and counselling for ETSC’s target group in cooperation with educational providers and specialists in Iceland and abroad, and sharing this knowledge with professionals in the field.
  • identifying the educational needs of the target group in cooperation with the employment sector and educational providers in order to develop an inventory of long- and short-term courses to meet those needs
  • developing methods in the field of accredited adult education in cooperation with educational providers and communicating both national and international innovations to specialists
  • enhancing the quality of educational activities and guidance by accredited educational providers through the development of quality standards in consultation with the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture
  • collecting, maintaining and sharing information on the target group and its educational needs
  • administering The Education Fund and its finances
  • developing and maintaining a student registry in cooperation with educational providers and the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, taking into account the validation of informal study and non-formal learning.

The Education and Training Service Center also undertakes various projects in adult education in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, the owners of ETSC and other partners. ETSC also hosts the Icelandic coordinator in the Nordic Network for Adult Learning.

Read the FULL INTERVIEW with ETSC's director Sveinn Adalsteinsson.



In Mímir Lifelong Learning Center we were welcomed by project manager Bryndís Bessadóttir. Mímir is an educational organisation operating in the field of adult education and vocational education. The center wants to create opportunities for learning for people with short formal education and to promote lifelong learning and career development to people in the labor market. It also offers courses Icelandic as a second language at different levels, as well as language courses. The lessons are scheduled taking into account the needs of employed people or people who are in  the business community at any given time. 

Mímir Lifelong Learning is a private organisation owned by the Icelandic Confederation and started in 2003. Mímir has a service agreement with the Education and Training Service Center and has been accredited by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. Profit from the Mímir's operations is used to benefit the educational needs of adults in the Icelandic labour market.

Mímir offers validation of prior learning in social services, languages, mathematics, employability skills (soft skills).

Read more about the second day of the study visit.

Read more about the third day of the study visit.

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