“We need (to be) ambassadors of validation”

Thu 07 Jul 2016 12:13:00 PM EEST

A policy debate on validation of non-formal and informal learning took place at the European Economic and Social committee (EESC) on the 29th June 2016. The event was organised in the framework of the Action plan for Validation and non-formal Adult education project (AVA) with the aim of presenting the final outcomes of the project. The event was attended by around 70 practitioners and civil society representatives from the adult education and youth sectors as well as key policy-makers.

The AVA project results were presented at the EAEA Annual Conference.

The debate started with the welcoming words of Mr. Pavel Trantina, Czech member of the EESC, President of the Section for Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship and event’s host.

Being its rapporteur, he presented the Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on Validation of skills and qualifications acquired through non-formal and informal learning — the practical input of organised civil society, which was issued at the beginning of the year. The opinion was a joint effort of the three components of the EESC – the employers’ group, workers’ group and the various interests’ group. It reflected the different perspectives of those stakeholders while setting the basis for cooperation on the topic.

“The AVA plan is complementary to the EESC opinion and they share the same spirit,” Pavel Trantina stated while explaining the main recommendations of the opinion.

The EAEA Secretary General Gina Ebner and the Nordic Network for Adult Learning (NVL) director Antra Carlsen then took the floor to describe the AVA project outcomes and highlight the key messages included in the plan. Both presenters put a strong emphasis on the need to raise awareness on validation of non-formal and informal learning and make the business sector participate in the process.

“The AVA consortium is proposing a way forward to reduce the fragmentation of policy and practice at all levels”, Gina Ebner said.

The panel discussed the ways to promote validation.

An enriching exchange

The panel discussion was an occasion to promote the work done in the field and to present suggestions to the draft action plan.

Godelieve Van Den Brande from the European Commission expressed appreciation for the project bottom-up approach and proposed the partners and the audience to increase the efforts in engaging both other lifelong learning sectors and the social partners in the design and implementation of the plan.

Bernard Horak, from the Austrian Chamber of Labour congratulated the consortium on the good work done: “The plan complements the most important EU documents on validation and, coming from the providers, is equally relevant for the progression on the issue”. He suggested making a clearer reference to the formal system by mentioning the National Qualification Framework (NQF), the European Qualification Framework (EQF) and the European Skills, Competences, qualifications and Occupations (ESCO).

In the perspective of the Lifelong Learning Platform, validation is a key element to create effective lifelong learning strategies. “Policy-makers should understand that validation is a long-term investment,” Alen Maletic from Lifelong Learning Platform said. He also invited the AVA consortium to stress the importance of monitoring and professional development.

Pavel Trantina’s main proposals are to mainstream validation by matching it with internal activities and tools of stakeholders as well as to find validation ambassadors in order to convince the highest number of people possible. “We need to show the benefits of validation and try to look at the bigger picture”.

Participants all agreed on the importance of looking at the learners’ needs: “Reaching out to disadvantaged learners should be a priority for all stakeholders as they are those more in need of functional validation systems and those that will benefit from them the most”, Gina Ebner underlined.

The way ahead

Antra Carlsen (NVL) closed the event by inviting all participants to stay informed about the policy development on the topic, to get to know the potential candidates and their needs as well as to use all the available arenas to promote the AVA action plan. “The plan will be extremely useful for the Members States, who must have in place arrangements for the validation of non-formal and informal learning by 2018”, Antra Carlsen affirmed.

However, the AVA project consortium and the EESC will monitor the situation even beyond that date.

“2018 is only the beginning,” Pavel Trantina declared, “we need to continue our work to make sure the implementation phase will be successful”.

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Text: Francesca Operti Photos: Helka Repo