Validation of adult learning is a common concern in Europe

How can you prove that you have a skill? Can you grade democratic competencies? Validation in non-formal adult learning has been a thorny issue for decades. Now, we might be close to a solution. At least, that seemed to be the implicit message when more than 45 experts from all over Europe met in Oslo for a two-day expert seminar on validation.
Albert Einarsson Participants at the AVA expert seminar in Oslo 1-2 February 2016
Rather than focusing on the many questions, these experts looked at answers. They proposed feasible and concrete solutions for a Europe-wide system of validation. If implemented, these solutions can help countries overcome the skill gap, help with integration, and bring an injection to sagging economic systems.
The experts, coming from more than 15 countries, worked on the basis of research conducted by the Erasmus + project “Action plan for validation and non-formal adult education” (AVA). Based on the results of the AVA survey, the research highlights the main challenges of implementing a functional validation system.
The research also provides some clear answers. More cooperation among providers, policy-makers and social partners is needed. The researchers Bodil Husted and Kirsten Aagaard state that “Key actors working with validation should find a common language and agree on shared principles. Above all, they should put the candidate at the centre of the validation process to avoid increasing fragmentation or competition within or between different sectors”.
A deeper lever of cooperation will make validation systems more permeable and thus allow people with low level of formal qualifications to make the one-step-up in their private and professional lives.
Why is this a priority in Europe today? With the recent large flows of immigration, the EU needs to consider validation of prior learning and working experience as an opportunity for integration. Coherent and well-structured validation systems benefit individuals and society alike: notably in contributing to decreasing the skill mismatch and to fighting the development of a black market.
The experts’ proposals are now being collected into an Action plan, to be discussed and adopted in Brussels in June 2016. In order to further help develop a good plan the Norwegian representative of European Commission initiative EPALE will host a consultation at the beginning of May 2016. The Plan will provide all validation stakeholders with concrete recommendations and implementation proposals and serve as an advocacy tool to support validation of non-formal and informal learning.