Background and detailed project objectives
In times of rapidly rising unemployment – particularly acute among young people – and lack of economic growth, making use of new learning opportunities outside the formal system and of the skills acquired through these is urgent. Nowadays more than 120 million people are living in poverty or at the threat of falling into one within the European Union; approximately 25 million people are unemployed, of which 5.5 million young people, while 77 million European still have at most lower secondary education. In this context the Europe 2020 Strategy stresses the need for more flexible learning pathways and sees the validation of non-formal and informal learning as a pre-requisite and as a strong incentive for the fulfilment of the agreed social targets: 20 million fewer people in or at risk of poverty and social exclusion, 75% of the 20-64 year-olds should be employed, reduction of school drop-out rates below 10%.
Europe needs to develop the right mix of skills and achieve a better match between skills and jobs to help boost competitiveness and prosperity (source: draft Council recommendation on the validation of non-formal and informal learning). The validation of skills, competences and knowledge acquired in non-formal and informal learning environments, can significantly improve the functioning of the labour market, promote mobility, and increase the motivation for lifelong learning amongst disadvantaged groups and unemployed, especially in the context of economic crisis, raising unemployment, and demographic changes, and decreasing average level of participation in lifelong learning (in 2011 8.9%, while the EU target for 2020 is set at 15%).
Against this background, the European Commission has identified two major challenges for better matching skills and jobs to help boost competitiveness and prosperity (source: impact assessment accompanying draft Council recommendation on the validation of non-formal and informal learning):
- Validation opportunities are limited and underused in the majority of Member States. The limited and underused validation opportunities make that skills remain invisible and are not used to their full potential for the benefit of individuals, the economy and the society at large, which becomes especially apparent in times of economic crisis and increasing skills mismatches;
- A lack of comparability and coherence between the validation approaches of Member States, this makes it difficult for citizens to combine learning outcomes acquired in different settings, on different levels and in different countries.
The partners in this project Workers’ Education Associations (WEA), Trade Union Education Institutes (TUEI), Vocational education and training providers (VET), and popular education movements (PEM), work on a daily basis with socio-economically vulnerable people i.e. working poor, precarious workers, unemployed, migrants, people with disabilities, youth in their respective countries. Together they stress the growing need for enhancing adult education for disadvantaged groups and unemployed and seek to provide (young) adults with possibilities to identify, document, asses, and certify their acquired skills and competences. The Council Recommendation (2012/C 398/01), allows for the development of comparable framework arrangements that support cross-border mobility, comparison of acquired competences, facilitate further learning and active inclusion into the labour market. This will contribute to fight existing educational inequalities and through that contribute to the process of creating learning societies and recognizing a wide variety of educational endeavours.
To tackle those challenges mentioned above and the general lack of knowledge amongst adults on further education opportunities, the recognition of skills and competences acquired in non-formal and informal learning environments can be of assistance. To that end, the awareness of adult learners has to be increased on how validation as such can improve their position in the labour market and within the society at large. At the same time, national policy makers have to be more engaged in strengthening national processes or setting up of national arrangements for validation with the collaboration of education and training providers, employers, trade unions, and civil society organizations.
The consortium members have developed together this project proposal on the basis of a joint policy paper entitled Building learning societies, round table on the challenges for validation in the European Economic and Social Committee engaging CEDEFOP and European Commission, and the SOLIDAR Education Experts’ Network meetings in March 2012 in Paris and November 2012 in Brussels, where country realities were discussed, experiences in the topic of validation exchanged, and the needs for further cooperation and exchange identified. During these activities organized in 2012 the project partners have identified a need for an awareness raising campaign to promote validation of NFIL amongst national decision makers and learners.
This project proposal aims at developing an awareness raising campaign for the validation of learning outcomes of non-formal and informal learning as a tool to further improve adults’ career perspectives and stimulate their further education and training. This will be done by:
- Exchanging existing validation practices and developed methods for identification, documentation, assessment and certification of the learning outcomes of non-formal and informal learning, and the EU-wide promotion of validation amongst adult education and training providers, employers, trade unions, civil society organizations, and learners themselves;
- Developing a European strategic guide for fostering the participation and raising awareness on validation of learning outcomes of NFIL to improve career perspectives and stimulate further learning of adults
- Initiating cooperation between relevant stakeholders, both at national and European level
Moreover this project seeks to contribute to diminishing inequalities within the society and to unlocking its full potential through the aim of promoting the concept of “learning societies” – where each personal contribution is being utilized, and skills and competences are recognized and further developed.
To achieve this, this project will contribute to stimulate adults to seek further learning opportunities outside of the formal system, and will encourage them to actively participate in non-formal and informal learning, especially in times of the fiscal consolidation, raising unemployment, and economic stagnation.
This project seeks to support adults who may not have the formal education and professional qualifications, hence highly developed their skills, competences and knowledge in non-formal and informal learning environment and/or raise awareness of those individuals about their actual set of skills and competences, to have them valorised and comparably recognised, increase their further learning opportunities, provide better access to labour market, and to take an active role in the society.
Addressing the “Europe 2020” priorities, especially the social targets of reducing a number of people who are unemployed, at risk of poverty and social exclusion and school drop outs by offering them possibility to enter into and progress at labour market, facilitate transition between the phase of learning and working, and to validate their skills, competences and knowledge that are a result of prior learning.
As an accompanying measure, the project foresees the development of tools that can be used by the consortium partners long after the project is terminated.
To that end, in the course of the project it has been envisioned to launch national campaigns involving a range of stakeholders – such as employers, trade unions, education and training providers, civil society organizations, chambers of industry, and national validation entities – to promote the validation of NFIL at European and national levels. Furthermore the project aims to support the setting up national arrangements as specified in the Council Recommendation. Additionally, the project will develop a European strategic guide for fostering the participation in NFIL and raising awareness on validation of NFIL learning outcomes (including mobility experiences). Whilst, national experts will develop recommendations and identify knowledge gaps during the national activities that will be a corner stone for developing EU recommendations and national campaigns.