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In Flanders the term Recognition of Competences (Erkennen van Competenties – EVC) is used to refer to the validation of non-formal and informal learning. Validation is possible in institutions for higher education and adult education, in the field of work, socio-cultural sector, youth sector and sports sector.
Since 2011, the Department of Education and Training as well as the Department of Work and Social Economy and the Department of Culture, Youth and Media have been discussing the development of an integrated approach towards validation. In Flanders the procedures and practices of RAC vary amongst the policy domains on the basis of different regulations. In order to avoid this fragmentation, the Flemish government developed an integrated approach towards the recognition of acquired competences. The Flemish government approved on 17 July 2015 the concept note ‘Integrated policy for the recognition of competences’ (Geïntegreerd beleid voor erkenning van competenties (EVC). The aim of this concept note is to create a single framework linking the validation process to the Flemish Qualification Structure (Vlaamse Kwalificatiestructuur) and creating common standards and quality assurance. On 26 april 2019, the Flemish Government also approved the decree concerning an integrated policy for the recognition of acquired competences (EVC, Decreet betreffende een geïntegreerd beleid voor de erkenning van verworven competenties). This decree ensures that individuals can have their competencies assessed in EVC test centres established within educational institutions or other public or private organizations. The new regulations determine the conditions for being allowed to act as a test centre and define the framework for the organization and financing of the EVC test centres in various policy areas.
An EVC-pathway consists out of four steps (in Dutch):
- Identification: to become aware of and appoint competencies
- Documentation: providing information, and (evidence of) material to illustrate and visualize skills
- Assessment: the evaluation of competencies on the basis of a recognized standard
- Certification: the formal recognition of competencies, based on the results of assessment of competencies
More information on this pathway can be found on
Currently, in Flanders there are several validation strategies in education and training, according to the educational level (De Rick, 2016). None of these strategies was introduced recently. In the education system, validation strategies have been mainly developed in the higher education and the adult education sectors.
- Secondary education: Those who wish to obtain the diploma or certificate of secondary education at a later stage can take an exam at the Exam Committee (Examencommissie). This is possible for a selection of educational programmes offered in secondary education
- Higher education: Validation of prior learning in higher education is defined by the Codex Higher Education (11 October 2013). This system is decentralised with each association in higher education elaborating their own rules of procedure. The procedure result in a proof of acquired competences (Bewijs van Bekwaamheid) which can then lead to the appropriate exemptions/shortened study duration and credit certificates and/or a proof of qualification. Validation in this sector can be used to pursue education or for professional aims.
- Adult education/ In the Flemish Decree of 15 June 2007 relating to (formal) adult education (Decreet betreffende het volwassenenonderwijs), exemptions linked to the modular organisation of educational programmes are defined. All programmes (i.e. modules) in the centres for adult education are developed based on course profiles approved by the Flemish Government. This implies that all (modular) certificates are mutually interchangeable. The centres for adult education provide an evaluation for each module. Each centre has a code of conduct that defines the procedures for exemption and disputes of evaluation. Exemptions can be granted on the basis of credits for prior learning and/or evaluation of competences.
The arrangements set up by the Department of Work essentially aim at the recognition of non-formal and informal learning through the ‘Certificate of Work Experience’ (Ervaringsbewijs) created by a decree approved on 30 April 2004. In short, people can receive a certificate of work experience if they demonstrate that they have acquired the skills needed to perform an occupation. Professional competence profiles are translated into standards by the Flanders’ Social and Economic Committee (Sociaal Economische Raad van Vlaanderen – SERV) and the social partners. These standards are used in a test situation to assess whether people dispose of the required competences.
Within the cultural, youth and sports sector, and more specifically within youth work, consultation and debate long prevailed. However, several instruments have been developed over the past years to make competences visible. Overall though, certificates issued to participants in these types of learning or training activities are in general known as “certificates of participation”, which are mainly based on self-assessment practices rather than on institutional or formal assessments, except for the – formal – procedures and diplomas within the Flemish School for sports coaches (Vlaamse trainersschool - VTS).
In the cultural and youth sectors the focus is for the moment only on validation in the sense of ‘identification’ and ‘documentation’ and less so on ‘assessment’ and ‘certification’. Based on the concern that a higher degree of formalisation could undermine the voluntary nature of activity, there is no strong support in the youth sector in developing formal qualifications for voluntary youth workers.
- JES (a city centre for children and young people in Antwerp, Brussels and Ghent) developed the C-Stick for (low skilled) young people. C-Stick, is a digital portfolio with a personal development plan, a screening and scaling tool and a job application tool. C-Stick also includes a set of techniques for the identification of competences and competence development, with the core elements: observation of competences, feedback, group dynamics, peer learning and experiential learning.
- The City of Antwerp worked out ComPas, the Competence Passport. Schools or organisations accredited with the ComPas label can give a ComPas certificate to young people who followed their course and gained the competencies.
Since October 2015, there is a specific legal agreement with regard to the attestation of training courses for youth workers (Attesten voor jeugdwerkers), delivered by the Department of Culture, Youth, and Media (Youth). The validation of competences acquired through courses including apprenticeships, based on competence profiles, leads to the award of certificates.
At the moment, different recognized organisations can judge and officially acknowledge competencies. The following EVC providers can provide a formal proof of acquired competencies:
- The Examination Board of Secondary Education (Examencommissie Secundair Onderwijs) for diploma or certificate of secondary education
- Higher education (for the diploma of bachelor and master)
- NARIC-Vlaanderen (recognition of foreign study certificate)
- “Cel become teacher” (cel ‘word leerkracht’) (recognition of useful experiences for teachers)
- Test centres experience certificate (experience certificates)
- VDAB (Flemish Public Employment Service) (certificate of education or training; entrance ticket for a function at the Flemish government)
- Syntra (certificate or diploma)
- SELOR (Entry card for a job at the federal government; currently this card is only available for penitentiary security officers)
- Flemish Trainingschool (VTS qualification: applicants who have successfully gone through the validation procedure can obtain either an exemption for a course or training programme or a full exemption which means that a proof of competences equal to a VTS qualification is awarded)
So far, little information activities have been implemented in Flanders. Awareness-raising activities are undertaken independently by the respective governmental departments and/or by validation actors. However, in time a large, coordinated awareness-raising campaign will be needed to inform the public about validation. In the meantime, information regarding validation has been made available to the public via the website ‘Erkennen van Competenties’. In addition, intermediate organisations which are closely related to the target groups can function as information centres.
The quality control at EVC is currently part of the existing quality control systems in the various policy areas. However, EVC is rarely explicitly investigated in all its aspects (EVC procedure, EVC standard, EVC instruments, personnel). In addition, the quality of EVC practice is variable and the EVC expertise in the field is limited.