Dear Reader!

 

Lately we have seen a growing interest in our societies in how people’s competencies can be mapped and their hidden talents revealed. Such measures are important because they help us to support individuals, promote progress, increase flexibility and bring resources to the labour market that would otherwise go to waste.

In 1996 the education ministers of the OECD countries made a decision about developing strategies to promote lifelong learning for everyone. The idea behind the decision was that learning takes place from cradle to grave. This is a continuous process which requires that all forms of learning are duly appreciated: formal learning, non-formal learning and informal learning. The concrete consequences of this attitude change are now beginning to be seen, especially in the Nordic countries. But have we actually got very far? Learning that takes place outside formal education is still rarely truly understood. Making non-formal and informal education visible, evaluating it and including it in quality assurance is not easy.

These themes are precisely the ones that this issue of DialogWeb focuses on, with special attention paid to the end-user – the human being at the heart of lifelong and life-wide learning. 

Clara Henriksdotter’s article points out that quality leads to visibility. The fact that quality seems to be a fashionable word today has positive effects, as it draws attention to the importance of creating sustainable forms of education. At the core of the concept of quality is that quality can be seen by everyone and that the end-users themselves can see what is good about the service or product.

Visibility is a central theme in Arnbjörn Olafsson’s article, which looks at developing quality criteria for education forms outside the formal education system. The article shows that the concept of quality is just as important for the inner development of flexible, appropriate learning environments as it is for the end-users themselves. Quality assurance gives education providers a better chance to react quickly and efficiently to the users’ demands and the different needs that arise in society.

Erica Sahlin’s article, too, focuses on quality in adult education. She points out that a considerable amount of resources has been used lately on mapping and systematising quality-related work. As in Iceland, it has been noted in Sweden that developing and discussing quality tools is just as important to the development of adult education itself as it is to the end-users.

Raivo Juurak’s article ”Recognition of qualifications from prior learning and work experience in Estonia” stresses the importance of quality assurance of non-formal educational institutions and education forms to validation of learning. The article describes validation of learning in Estonia and the problems encountered there.

Åland is another area where validation of learning has only recently been recognised as and acceptable and usable concept in adult education. Viveca Lindberg’s article gives an overview of how validation of learning has been introduced to a small community and what initiatives have been taken.

The article “Fordi hustruen siger at jeg skal” presents some practical examples of validation experiments. Despite the fact that there is a general interest in validation of learning in Iceland, some obstacles still remain.

Norway is perhaps the country where validation of learning has progressed furthest. However, new problems have appeared there, too, as the article ”Realkomptance bliver vurderet” notes. In the future, even more attention must be paid to identifying and documenting  competencies.

Learning outside the formal education system has become a decisive factor for individual development, businesses and society as a whole. Thus validation of learning and quality assurance for lifelong learning is needed so that we can develop and widen our understanding of learning and learning processes.This in turn is important if we are to adapt to the needs of the knowledge economy by providing a flexible, adaptable and open society. We need validation of learning and a quality concept connected to making all learning visible through identification, evaluation and validating competencies.

September the 27th 2006


Vocabulary

Formal competencies:
Competencies gained and evaluated within the formal education system. A diploma or certificate is granted for the competencies accrued and it may make the individual formally competent for a job or further studies.
 
Non-formal competencies learned in organised learning environments:
Competencies gained  in an organised learning environment, for instance a course organised at the workplace or a short course at a folk high school.  A certificate has traditionally not been issued for such forms of learning but you can usually get some sort of documentation or report.

Informal competencies:
Competencies gained  outside school-like circumstances in all areas of life.

Quality: something good... that all of  us can  recognise!