Since the Swedes opened up the perspective from not only being lifelong but also lifewide learning in the year 2000, a lot of work has been done in the EU Commission in this field, Martina Ni Cheallaigh explains. And in 2010, she tells us, validation was revisited.
Saving time and money
Ni Cheallaigh’s presentation listed the processes and initiatives run by the EU Commission within the last decade or so, and explained the benefits for individuals, for employers and the economy and for society as a whole. – Through validation individuals gain improved employability, career prospects and working conditions, which saves time and money, Martina Ni Cheallaigh concludes.
Target group: Low skilled
The EU Commission sees validation as important for people with low skills. Disadvantaged groups are often the target for such initiatives. –Validation can provide pathways back to formal education, states Ni Cheallaigh. – But of course, you cannot push people, participation has to be voluntary! - Validation can also solve the mismatch between requirements and documented competences that often occurs, Ni Cheallaigh explains.
Higher education moves slowly
- The progress of validation processes in higher education, though, is slow, says Ni Cheallaigh. -The aim is widening participation – but what happens is that universities acknowledge competences from another university, but not competences gained in the work force or through other sources, she explains.
- The biggest challenge for validation today is that no budget is foreseen for it, Martina Ni Cheallaigh concludes. - The costs are hidden and we have only anecdotal evidence of the real cost, and this has to be addressed properly. – Remember, validation is not a cheap or easy way of getting a qualification –rather, it is an alternative way, Ni Cheallaigh points out. She also believes firmly that the full potential of a well-functioning European lifelong learning system cannot be reached without validation.
New opportunities initiative
In her presentation Maria Francisca Simões from the National Agency for Qualifications in Portugal described how Portugal has addressed this issue, based on the fact that 72% of the country’s labour force was below secondary level of education. They initiated their “new opportunities initiative”. – Our ambitious goal was to qualify 1 million of adults before 2010, and 60% of these through RPL processes, Simões explains.
The Portuguese solution was to establish “new opportunities centres”, with the aim of being “a doorway to different qualification pathways contributing to raise the qualification level of the Portuguese population”. 453 such centres are established throughout the country, and provide services to people in their local community. Simões thinks these centres are quite well functioning, but concludes, just like Martina Ni Cheallaigh, that the biggest challenge for the future is funding.
Martina Ní Cheallaigh:PDF | Maria Francisca Simões:PDF