Thursday, October 20, 2005

Euro Report on Informal Learning Validation

This report on national policies and practices on validation of non-formal and informal
learning is intended to open up a more systematic exchange of experiences in Europe. It is our
hope that this effort will support the development of high quality methodologies and systems
for validation at national, regional, sector and enterprise levels. This report is the first step
towards establishing a European inventory of validation of non-formal and informal learning
which it is hoped will contribute to more coherent, high quality and cost effective methods
and systems for validation.

By linking ‘lifelong’ to ‘life-wide’ learning, the Communication signals that there is a need to change perceptions of when learning takes place (cradle to grave) as well as where it takes place. To succeed, a knowledge-based society must be able to link together the full diversity of learning processes and learning outcomes, irrespective of the institutional setting. Continuity of learning is central.

This report covers Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the
Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. It includes
information on eight new Members States (Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta,
Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) and two candidate countries (Bulgaria and Romania). The
European Training Foundation (ETF) provided an overview of initiatives in the countries
which, at that time, were candidate countries.

informal learning is defined as learning resulting from daily life activities related to
work, family, or leisure. It is often referred to as experiential learning and can, to a
degree, be understood as accidental learning.

The Communication on lifelong learning (European Commission, 2001) defines core
concepts as follows:
(a) formal learning is typically provided by education or training institutions, structured (in terms of learning objectives, learning time or learning support) and leading to certification. Formal learning is intentional from the learner’s perspective;
(b) non-formal learning is not provided by an education or training institution and typically it does not lead to certification. However, it is structured, in terms of learning objectives, learning time or learning support. Non-formal learning is intentional from the learner’s point of view;
(c) informal learning results from daily life activities related to work, family or leisure. It is not structured (in terms of learning objectives, learning time and/or learning support).
Typically, it does not lead to certification. Informal learning may be intentional but in
most cases, it is non-intentional (or incidental/random).

Other countries (France, Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom) do not refer to the
term non-formal or informal learning. This applies in particular to Ireland and the United
Kingdom where terms like prior learning and prior experiential learning are used. In France,
the term acquis de l’expérience professionelle is reported and points to validation of already
acquired learning outcomes. In the Scandinavian countries, the term Realkompetanse has been
established in relation to the developments in validation (Nordic Council, 2001).
Realkompetanse covers the entire scope of learning outcomes, from formal to informal, and
has been criticised for being too broad. However, the concept is important in addressing the
totality of qualifications and competences held by an individual.

This is nutty. The Europeans define informal learning as both unplanned and unintentional. What I call informal, they call non-formal, unless of course they happen to be in France, Ireland, the Netherlands, the UK, or Scandinavia.

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