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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.4 Validation of non-formal and informal learning

Last update: 25 April 2024
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  1. Arrangements for the validation of non-formal and informal learning
  2. Information and guidance
  3. Quality assurance

Arrangements for the validation of non-formal and informal learning

The validation of non-formal and informal learning became an issue in Germany in particular in connection with the introduction of the German Qualifications Framework (Deutscher Qualifikationsrahmen, DQR). Since then, possibilities for equalising formal qualifications and non-formally and informally acquired skills have been developed and discussed at various levels. However, efforts in this regard were only partially put into practice. Implemented measures relate to selected areas of education, such as vocational training or higher education, and in some cases to specific sectors or occupations. So although there are various approaches to recognition of non-formal and informal learning, there is no standardised, overarching system. 

In Germany, the main approaches to recognising skills acquired non-formally and informally in vocational education and training and higher education are the following:

External students’ examination: The external students’ examination offers people with low formal qualifications the opportunity to obtain a vocational qualification. According to Section 45(2) of the Vocational Training Act (§ 45 Abs. 2 Berufsbildungsgesetz, BBiG), persons may, in special cases, be admitted to the final examination in a training occupation if they can prove they have worked in the occupation in which the examination is to be taken for at least one and a half times the period required for training. Preparation courses are offered to help students pass the external examination. 

Professional Qualifications Assessment Act (BQFG): The BQFG regulates the recognition of professional qualifications acquired abroad. Assessment of the equivalence of a foreign vocational qualification with a German one can also take into account skills acquired informally or non-formally. If the requirements for a professional qualification obtained abroad are met, the equivalence check is carried out on the basis of a document check. Under certain conditions, professional skills may also be determined individually.

Admission to higher education for people with vocational qualifications: The higher school leaving certificate (Abitur) is generally a prerequisite for university study in Germany. However, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, people can also study without an Abitur certificate, if they have completed vocational education and training, have several years of professional experience and have passed an aptitude assessment procedure. 

Credits for knowledge gained towards a degree programme: Students can also have the knowledge and skills they have acquired outside higher education credited towards a university degree programme. One of the prerequisites for this is equivalence in terms of content and level with the part of the degree programme that is to be replaced. 

In addition to these measures, further competence assessment procedures and certificates have been developed – in part with the support of federal and state ministries and chambers – which (may) play a role in the labour market but are ineffective in the formal education system. One corresponding project at federal level is the ValiKom project (Validierung non-formal und informell erworbener Kompetenzen,) which was launched in 2015 by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) and the German Confederation of Skilled Crafts (ZDH). As part of this project, a procedure was developed and tested to assess and certify vocationally relevant skills acquired outside the formal education system. A certificate issued by a chamber certifies those professional activities participants are able to perform. The validation procedure is aimed at people who have acquired professionally relevant skills in Germany and/or abroad, but who cannot prove this with a professional qualification. The validation process is open to people without a vocational qualification as well as to those with a vocational qualification but who work in a different profession. Since 2018, the project has been in a transfer phase, which has seen the setting up of competence centres at chambers to implement validation procedures for dual occupations.

For more information on recognition, see also the Cedefop report ‘European inventory validation 2018 Germany (’.

Information and guidance

The websites Anerkennung in DeutschlandBQ-Portal and anabin provide information on options for having foreign professional qualifications recognised, including acceptance of informally and non-formally acquired skills.   

On the Anerkennung in Deutschland site, which was commissioned by BMBF, people with foreign professional qualifications can clarify whether they need an official ‘certificate of recognition’ in order to be able to work in their occupation in Germany. It is also aimed at employers and staff at advice centres and authorities. 

BMWI’s BQ-Portal offers a comprehensive online work and knowledge-sharing platform, which helps the assessment authorities and companies to better assess and evaluate vocational and further training qualifications obtained abroad.

Finally, the anabin website provides information on the assessment of foreign education certificates and enables authorities, employers, employees and private individuals to rank a foreign qualification within the German education system. Anabin is the responsibility of the KMK.

Applications for admission to the external students’ examination are submitted through the chambers. Employment agencies or job centres cover the cost of the preparatory course under certain conditions. Relevant information can be found on the website of the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit, BA).

Further information on validating skills through ValiKom can be found on the ValiKom website. The chambers also provide advice on participation requirements and other aspects of validation.

Finally, each university is individually responsible for recognising achievements in studies or examinations.

Quality assurance

Due to the lack of a general validation procedure in Germany for non-formally and informally acquired skills, there is also no general quality assurance instrument that combine the use of different instruments. However, some of the credit transfer and recognition procedures described above have their own quality assurance procedures. These are developed by the initiatives or programmes themselves; the process is in part supported by relevant stakeholder groups, such as educational practitioners, scientists or political decision-makers. 

One example of this is the Matrix for Quality Assurance in Recognition Counselling (Matrix zur Qualitätssicherung in der Anerkennungsberatung), which was developed by IQ Fachstelle ‘Anerkennung’. The matrix is intended to help institutions involved in qualifications recognition to organise their quality development processes. It is deliberately designed to enable the integration of existing quality assurance elements.