European Commission logoEuropean countries are increasingly emphasising the need to recognise the full range of an individual’s knowledge, skills and competences – those acquired not only at school, university or other education and training institutions, but also outside the formal system.
This requires new approaches to validate such learning experiences (i.e. identify, document, assess and/or certify), making them usable for further studies or advancement in work. Helping people in this way could also make a contribution to smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. This is why the Commission has made a proposal for a Council Recommendation inviting EU governments to establish validation systems by 2015, linked to the European Qualifications Framework, including the possibility to obtain a full or partial qualification on the basis of non-formal or informal learning.
Benefits of validation
Systematic validation
mechanisms would make clear which skills are available in the European workforce:
  • facilitating a better match between skills and labour demand, addressing skills shortages in growing sectors
  • promoting better transferability of skills between companies and sectors
  • helping citizens move around the EU to live and work.
What is non-formal learning?
Broadly, learning outside the formal school/vocational training/university system, taking place through planned activities (e.g. with goals and timelines) involving some form of instruction, for example:
  • programmes to impart work-skills, literacy and other basic skills for early school-leavers
  • in-company training
  • structured online learning
  • courses organised by civil society organisations for their members, their target group or the general public.
What is informal learning?
Learning that is not organised or structured in terms of goals, time or instruction. This covers skills acquired (sometimes unintentionally) through life and work experience, for example.
  • project-management or IT skills acquired at work
  • languages and intercultural skills acquired during a stay abroad
  • IT skills acquired outside work
  • skills acquired through volunteering, cultural activities, sports, youth work and through activities at home (e.g. taking care of a child).
Proposal for a Council Recommendation More information
See also Validation of non-formal and informal learning.