6.4 Validation of non-formal and informal learning
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Validation of learning outcomes achieved in non-formal and informal education is related to mechanisms applied in formal education. In Poland, intensive work has been underway for several years to introduce changes in these areas. They involve not only the development of a system for validation, certification and transfer of learning outcomes and, consequently, of qualifications, but also the revision and standardisation of terminology.
The Act on the Integrated Qualifications System came into force on 15 January 2016. The main instruments of the IQS include:
- the 8-level Polish Qualifications Framework providing information on knowledge, skills and social competences; and
- the Integrated Qualifications Register.
The Act defines concepts such as qualifications, full and partial qualifications, market qualifications and regulated qualifications. This will increase the transparency and comparability of skills acquired outside school.
The IQS aims to:
- ensure quality of the qualifications awarded;
- ensure recognition of learning outcomes achieved in non-formal and informal education;
- enable the accumulation and recognition of achievements/credits;
- provide information on qualifications available in Poland;
- enable comparing qualifications acquired in Poland and other EU countries.
The responsibility for coordination of the IQS rests with the Minister of National Education.
With the vocational education and training system now being more open to learning in non-school settings (which concerns, in particular, adult education and training), effective mechanisms are being developed for the validation of learning outcomes achieved by adults, also through non-formal and informal learning.
The Polish Qualifications Framework describes eight levels of qualifications distinguished in Poland and referenced to the corresponding levels of the European Qualifications Framework, as defined in Annex II to the Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2008. Qualifications in the PQF are defined in terms of knowledge, skills and social competences.
The information and guidance is provided via the website of the Polish Qualifications Framework. Moreover, a list of comprehensive publications and reports is made available. The publication “Encyclopaedia of qualifications framework” is an example of an informative source of information on the subject.
Poland does not yet have a single coherent system for the validation of learning outcomes achieved in non-formal and informal education. Existing procedures are applied in various sectors and related to various practices and validation processes. Some of them have been in place for many years now, others are innovations adopted from abroad, and still other have been introduced on a pilot basis.
In 2011-2012, the Educational Research Institute carried out a ‘Study on procedures applied for the validation of learning outcomes achieved in non-formal and informal education’ (commissioned to Coffey International Development). The study covered 5 areas: construction industry, ICT services, service industry, automotive industry and financial services. The procedures applied in this area were presented from the perspective of participants and their employers.
Extramural exams are one of the methods of validating learning outcomes achieved outside the formal education system. They enable validation of learning outcomes achieved in schools for adults at the level of primary, lower secondary and basic vocational schools (within the requirements laid down in the core curriculum for general education) and general upper secondary schools.
The bodies responsible for formal procedures related to these exams, their organisation and the publication of results are the Central Examination Board and Regional Examination Boards. The procedures specify technical requirements for the conduct of examinations.
The Law on School Education of 14 December 2016 has introduced changes in extramural exams. Some of them have been in place since 1 September 2017.
Pursuant to the Act on the Integrated Qualifications System, there will be institutions and entities which are authorised, by way of an administrative decision, to certify a given market qualification (i.e. a qualification which is not regulated by national legislation and is awarded as part of the freedom of economic activity). An entity engaged in economic activity may apply for such an authorisation if it meets certain requirements laid down in the Act. A certifying institution conducts the validation process in accordance with the provisions of the Act (accessed in July 2017).