Continuity in discontinuity


To create continuity in discontinuity, that is the role of validation in lifelong learning according to Michel Feutrie. But in spite of support from EU-policy there is no shared definition or vision of validation, rather resistance from some important stakeholders, he said.

It was on the basis of 25 years of working with validation in a European context and with a very strong commitment to the issue that Michel Feutrie delivered his key-not speech on “Validation – from intention to practice”.
Michel Feutrie is a former president of EUCEN, the Association in University Lifelong Learning. Presently he is secretary-general for EUCIS-LLL, The European Civil Society Platform on Lifelong Learning.
Because of other obligations he had to present his speech in a video.

No shared vision

“Validation is at the heart of EU policy,” Michel Feutrie stated, referring among other documents to The Adult Education Action Plan from 2007 and the Guidelines for the validation of non-formal and informal learning from 2009.
“It is a challenge that is getting higher on the agenda on a number of member states and institutions, but important resistance from the formal sector and from companies still exists. There is no shared definition of validation and no shared vision.
Among the countries of Europe we can see very different levels of implementation,” he said.

Much reflection

Quoting The European Observatory on validation practices of non-formal and informal learning in European countries (OBSERVAL), Michel Feutrie told the conference:
“In Europe there is a multiplicity of good practices and a very strong commitment of “militants”. The survey also documented a huge development of reflection on practices.
But something is still lacking. There is no leading role from states and ministries. The result is lack of coordination, few evaluations and no capitalization and dissemination.”

A trend towards learning outcomes

Supportive of validation is a trend in educational policy and praxis that moves the focus towards learning outcomes. Michael Feutrie detects that trend in ECTS and ECVET, because they are credit based systems instead of modules based systems.
“The Europass portfolio present programs in terms of learning outcomes, not contents and disciplines, and the qualifications frameworks are part of the same trend,” he said.
“Learning outcomes are becoming a common European “language” but is not yet a common European “currency” for all educational sectors and for all countries,” Michel Feutrie said. Among the many benefits of creating such a common currency that he mentioned was:
• Move emphasis from teaching and teachers to learning and learners
• Can help consistency across modules and programmes
• Promote reflection on assessment and diversity of assessment criteria and methods
• Assist in the development of multiple progression routes through and between different education systems

Guidelines and standards

“Validation requires reference points. That is why a set of guidelines has been published by the Commission,” Michel Feutrie explained, showing a chart that describes different pathways in different sectors of education:
“At the top of the chart is the formal process and at the bottom validation of non-formal and informal learning procedures. What is important is that the chart links the formal with the non-formal and the informal on the basis of common references and standards leading to similar qualifications.
There is no difference between the awards related to formal programmes and the competences acquired through non-formal and informal learning,” he said.

Same steps – different results

Michel Feutrie also referred to a study of European experiences in validation. From this study he identified fem steps that were similar from country to country and a set of agreed tools for assessment.
“But the results of the processes in different countries are not identical. Some give access to formal programs, some are adapted to formal programs, and some lead to qualifications or exams,” he said.
The link between validation and information, guidance and counseling was also important to Michel Feutrie.

Independent or not

Michel Feutri addressed the debate on separation or integration:
“Do we want validation of non-formal and informal learning to be an independent system, or do we want it to be part of the educational system, of all institutions and of all stakeholders.
This debate is not closed, but I think that we have to be aware of what is happening in the system. There is a need for a dedicated assessment as part of the system. At the end what is important is the value that is given to recognition of prior learning,” he said.
Concluding his speech he made a couple of points on the future of validation:
“We have to move from using validation as one-shot decisions by the learners to see validation as a recurrent access to “formalization” for individuals.” In this way Michel Feutrie once more stated his point about validation as continuity in discontinuity.