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As described in Eurydice database/Finland 8.2 Developments and Current Policy Priorities, the Vocational Qualifications Act enacted in 1994 created a new system of competence-based qualifications, where people may acquire vocational qualifications by demonstrating their vocational skills in competence tests irrespective of how they have acquired their skills. At the same time, a uniform quality assurance system was created for vocational adult education and training.
Eurydice database/Finland 6.4 Organisation of Vocational and Technical Upper Secondary Education also mentions, that one of the purposes for changing the law base of the vocational upper secondary education and training in 2014 was to strengthen the learning-outcome approach of vocational qualification requirements and the modular structure of qualifications which supports the building of flexible and individual learning paths and promotes the validation of prior learning. Upper secondary VET students are for example required to have completed the basic education syllabus or an equivalent previous syllabus. In addition, VET providers may ignore the order of scores in student admission for individual student-related reasons (‘flexible selection’): applicants deemed by the provider to have sufficient capabilities to complete education and training may also be admitted as students. VET applicants include young people and adults from different educational and working backgrounds, whose prior competencies must be recognised as part of their vocational qualifications. It is also possible for general upper secondary school graduates to apply for vocational education and training and complete vocational qualifications.
As pointed out in Eurydice database/Finland 8.5 Validation of Non-formal and informal learning, validation of non-formal and informal learning has relatively long and established roots in Finland and the legislation and policies are well developed and detailed. However, there is no one single law regarding validation of non-formal and informal learning, but rather laws and regulations for each field of education define validation separately. These fields include general upper secondary education, vocational education and training (including adult VET), and higher education. The core message of the legislation is that validation of non-formal and informal learning is a subjective right of the individual and the competences of an individual should be validated regardless of when and where they have been acquired.
According “2016 update to the European inventory on validation of non-formal and informal learning: Country report Finland”, the strengths of the Finnish validation arrangements are in the strong co-operation between all stakeholders.For example, social partners including employers are strongly involved in all aspects from designing the content of qualification requirements to individual validation procedures. Transparency and co-operation promote trust and high market value of the system, i.e. employers see qualifications gained through validation as equally valuable or trustworthy as the qualifications gained through school-based learning. (Karttunen 2016). See also Youth Wiki/Finland 2.8 Skills Recognition for more information about the role of the third sector in validation.
Like Nevala described in the European Inventory on Validation of Non-Formal and Informal Learning 2010: “The validation of informal and non-formal learning is not advertised in Finland as such. Instead, the public authorities and the social partners are actively involved in raising awareness about the competence-based qualification system in which validation is embedded as a central feature. For example, a dedicated website provides information from the qualification system itself, to good practice examples and assessment methods and offers information on the benefits of acquiring such qualifications” (Nevala, 2011; for more information see also the 2016 update to the European inventory on validation of non-formal and informal learning made by Karttunen). In practice the validation providers are at the core of guidance and counselling, like Karttunen (2016) points out. In CBQ it is the legal obligation of the provider to arrange adequate guidance and counselling services to the candidates at each stage of the individualisation process, which is documented for learners’ individual study plans (Karttunen 2016). More about information and guidance services in Finland, see Youth Wiki/Finland 3.4 Career guidance and counselling.
As Karttunen points out in “2016 update to the European inventory on validation of non-formal and informal learning: Country report Finland”: “In Finland there is no specific quality assurance framework concerning validation procedures. As validation is embedded in the formal qualification system, the quality assurance mechanisms that apply to education and training with special emphasis on assessment are also applied to validation procedures” (Karttunen 2016). The same publication also includes more information for example about qualification requirements determining the learning outcomes, performing external audits, contracting and planning procedures and certifications of the assessors.