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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.4 Validation of non-formal and informal learning

Last update: 19 March 2024

Modalities for validation of non-formal and informal learning

According to the periodic surveys conducted by the Institute for the Development of Vocational Training of Workers - ISFOL (now the National Institute for the Analysis of Public Policies - INAPP, see 6.2), the main target groups for non-formal and informal learning outside formal education and training paths, are:

  • unemployed people or workers at risk of unemployment
  • workers in poorly regulated sectors and professionals in need of accreditation;
  • immigrant workers without any formal qualifications who take permanent beginners roles in whole segments of the labour market (i.e. in logistics, construction, 'white jobs' for health and social care);
  • highly qualified young Italians moving abroad for work or study;
  • volunteers, interns, apprentices.

Processes of validation of competences, also of a non-formal type are now emerging for these categories.

Law 92/2012 on the labour market reform provided for the first time a formal definition of the concept of lifelong learning: 'lifelong learning means any activity undertaken by people in a formal, non-formal and informal way, at different stages of life, with the aim of improving knowledge, skills and competences, within a personal, civil, social and employment-related perspective'. Formal learning is that which takes place in the education and training system and in universities and institutions of higher artistic, musical and dance training, and ends with the awarding of a qualification or professional qualification or diploma, also achieved through an apprenticeship, or a recognised certification. Non-formal learning is learning characterised by a person's intentional choice, which takes place outside formal systems, in any body pursuing educational and training purposes, including voluntary work, national civil service and private social work, as well as in businesses. Informal learning is that which, even without an intentional choice, takes place in the performance by each person of activities in everyday life situations and in the interactions that take place therein, in the context of work, family and leisure. In addition, the law included the establishment of a national public system of competence certification, based on homogeneous minimum service standards throughout the territory. 

‘Certifiable competence' is a structured set of knowledge and skills that can also be recognised as training credits, subject to a specific validation procedure in the case of non-formal and informal learning. The certification of competences is a public act aimed at guaranteeing the transparency and recognition of learning, in line with the guidelines set by the European Union. Certification leads to the issuing of a certificate, diploma or title formally documenting the assessment and validation carried out by a public body or an accredited or authorised entity.

The RUIAP (Network of Italian Universities for Lifelong Learning) plays a decisive role in the promotion of lifelong learning initiatives also linked to the CAPs (Centres for Lifelong Learning) of the various member universities. Legislative Decree no. 13/2013, issued in implementation of Law no. 92/2012, has defined the general rules on the national skills certification system. The legislative decree makes the new 'National System for the Certification of Competencies' operational and aims to bring out and enhance the professional skills acquired not only at work but also in leisure time, so as to promote geographical and professional mobility, to facilitate the matching of supply and demand in the labour market, to increase the transparency of learning and the expendability of certifications at both national and European levels. Based on the aforementioned decree, on 30 June 2015, an inter-ministerial decree (Ministry of Labour and social policies and the Ministry of Education  and Merit defined the National Framework of Regional Qualifications. This established: a mutual recognition mechanism between regional qualifications; process, attestation and system standard procedures for services for the identification/validation of non-formal and informal learning and certification of competences. The inter-ministerial decree (Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Education) of 8 January 2018 established the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) as a tool for describing and classifying qualifications awarded under the National Skills Certification System.

The NQF represents the national device for the referencing of Italian qualifications to the European Qualifications Framework, with the function of linking the Italian qualifications system with the systems of other European countries. The NQF aims at coordinating and strengthening the different systems that contribute to the public offer of lifelong learning and services for the identification and validation and certification of competences. An innovative aspect of the new adult education system, which contributes to the promotion of national lifelong learning policies, is the valorisation of the cultural and professional heritage of the person starting from the reconstruction of his/her individual history. The introduction of the Individual Learning Pact allows for the recognition of the formal, informal and non-formal knowledge and skills possessed by the adult. The Pact is a contract shared and signed by the adult, the Commission (whose main task is to define it) and the head of the CPIA and - for those enrolled in Level II courses - also by the head of the upper secondary school. With the Individual Formative Pact, the personalised study pathway (PSP) is formalised for the educational period of the pathway requested by the adult at the time of enrolment. The Certificate of Recognition of Credits for the personalisation of the pathway is attached to the Pact.

Validation of learning happening in other international contexts

 Cimea (Information Centre on Mobility and Academic Equivalences) projects are also oriented towards the recognition of qualifications obtained in Italy in other international contexts. In the field of non-formal and informal learning, the Italian Cooperation 4 Transparency of Skills & Mobility project has been launched to support the development of general norms and standards for the definition and validation of non-formal and informal learning, as well as to facilitate the certification of skills, in order to enhance the learning of individuals, regardless of the environment in which the learning took place. Cimea promoted and activated the National Coordination on the Evaluation of Refugee Qualifications (CNVQR): an informal network of administrative experts working within higher education and training institutions dealing with recognition of qualifications, to share evaluation practices, problematic cases, information sources and methodological practices in cases of the evaluation of qualifications held by refugees, including those with no or little documentation.

In the framework of the DimiCome project of the ISMU Foundation, a set of 'Guidelines for the identification and assessment of soft skills of migrants' has been developed. Migrants bring with them a wealth of valuable personal resources, but the receiving society is not always able to recognise and exploit this potential in a Diversity Management perspective. In order to enhance the rich heritage migrants bring, it is crucial to develop the methodologies and tools available for the recognition of skills acquired in non-formal and informal contexts. This is a series of operational guidelines that aim to improve the effectiveness of interventions aimed at making these valuable resources transparent and valued. The guidelines were developed through consultation with 30 organisations involved in the identification and assessment of migrants' skills. The consultation involved entities operating in Lombardy, Veneto, Lazio and Puglia, with the involvement of the project's international partners, i.e. organisations with a wealth of experience in the sector and active in France, Germany and Hungary.

Information and guidelines

Ministerial Decree no. 774 of 4 September 2019 approved the new guidelines aimed at enhancing guidance within secondary school. In addition to transmitting and teaching content, the teaching activities aim to increase self-growth within the social reality in which the young person is inserted, strengthening the skills possessed to read and cope with the complex reality of today's world, thanks to the development of the processes of knowledge, growth and learning. This is the context in which guidance competences come into play, i.e. the set of resources, characteristics, skills, attitudes and motivations that allow the person to consciously face the training experience. It is necessary for schools to set up activities to develop these competences.

Quality assurance

Among the systems and tools for validating learnt competences, there is the skills review, which has found a progressive, though still incomplete, regulatory recognition. In a general sense, skills review actions allow workers to analyse their professional and personal skills, as well as their aptitudes and motivations, with a view to determining a professional project and, if necessary, a training project. In the circular n.93 /13 of 1993 of the Vocational Training Delegation (DFP) of the Ministry of Labour and social policies, it is specified that a skills assessment should allow the worker to:

  • Review all their professional activities in order to take stock of  their personal and professional experiences;
  • Find and assess  their acquisitions related to work, training and social life;
  • Better identify  their knowledge, skills and aptitudes;
  • Discover  their unexplored potential;
  • Collect and structure the elements enabling  them to elaborate a professional and personal project;
  • Better manage  their personal resources;
  • Organise their professional priorities to better use their resources in the negotiation of a job or in the choice of a career.