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In Portugal, the non-formal and informal learning validation is carried out through the National System of Recognition, Validation and Certification of Competences (RVCC) and through the accreditation of learning in higher education institutions.
Recognition, Validation and Certification of Competences (RVCC)
In 2005, a joint initiative of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Labour and Social Solidarity was launched in Portugal - the "New Opportunities" Programme - which intended to reverse the low number of school certification and qualifications in Portugal through the qualification of one million adults until 2010, thus contributing to the increase of school and professional skills of the adult population.
This initiative allowed new recognition, validation and certification methodologies for non-formal and informal learning with the aim of valuing knowledge acquired throughout life - the RVCC process.
In 2017, the Qualifica Programme was launched, a revitalization of the New Opportunities Programme, within the framework of the national goals of giving continuity to policies of lifelong learning and recognition of school and professional competences acquired by adults throughout their life, having in mind their certification.
RVCC processes are carried out by Qualifica Centres, integrated in the National Qualifications System. They consist in the recognition of competences acquired by adults, throughout their life, in formal, informal and non-formal contexts, having in mind the school and/or professional certification (school RVCC and/or professional RVCC).
The recognition of competences is carried out by a set of evaluation instruments and competency examinations with a biographical approach, based on criteria integrated in the National Qualifications Catalogue(Reference point for Basic and Secondary level key competencies and Reference point of Professional competencies). The school-related RVCC is organised in key competences areas and the professional-related RVCC by units of competences.
Due to the RVCC process, candidates with a skills profile and adequate professional, social and personal experience can acquire basic level (6th or 9th grade level) and secondary level certification (12th grade level) or professional certifications.
The recognition, validation and certification of skills is aimed at adults aged 18 years or over, without adequate qualification for the purpose of insertion or progression in the labor market and, as a priority, without the completion of basic or secondary education, being particularly suitable for adults with incomplete training paths. Adults up to and including 23 years old must have at least three years of professional experienceThe development of a RVCC process is carried out through a preparation of a portfolio (school RVCC) and through specific assessment instruments (professional RVCC) that reflects their skills and acquired knowledge throughout their life, whether in formal school environment, in non-formal or informal and professional context, that will be later assessed by a jury.
The duration of the RVCC process is adaptable and flexible. It varies according to the skills that each candidate displays and the desired qualification level, it does not follow the school calendar, therefore the process can start at any time of the year.
For more detailed information, refer to Eurydice - Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning.
The completion of a process of recognition, validation and certification of competences allows the achievement of a school certification of basic level (4th, 6th or 9th grade) or secondary level (12th grade), of a professional certification or both, designating in these cases double certification and conferring level 1, 2, 3 or 4 of qualification of the National Qualifications Framework.
The can be total, if a qualification is obtained, or partial. Candidates who obtain a partial certification in RVCC may complete the qualification through different training offers (such as EFA Courses and Certified Modular Training) or may be evaluated by a specialized technical committee. The permeability between courses and the capitalization of certified competences is ensured because the standards used have the same contents, allowing the construction of pathways adjusted to the needs, starting from what is already known (RVCC) to what is still needed to learn.
Certificates and diplomas obtained through RVCC have the same legal value as any other way of obtaining a qualificationFor more detailed information about the certification process, refer to Eurydice - Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning.
Within the scope of the Higher Education reform and the Bologna process, alternative ways to access Higher education were developed for candidates that do not meet the access requirements for the National Competition for Access to Higher Education.
In this case, the access to higher education is carried out through a Special Competition for People older than 23. The competition is targeted at students that do not have sufficient qualifications to access higher education and are older than 23. This competition has no date limit for access.
The candidates that do not have sufficient qualifications to apply to the general access regime to higher education can now access Higher Education through a special regime, based on their previously acquired knowledge, be it through formal, non-formal or informal education.
The educational establishments are responsible for the final decision about the access and exceptions. They define the group of admission prerequisites required for each course.
The ability assessment for attending a bachelor's degree or an integrated master’s in a higher education institution is held annually and the institutions are responsible for said assessment. Also, higher education institutions are responsible for the operating rules and access prerequisites, such as deadlines, qualification and selection criteria.
The set of mandatory evaluation components are defined by law, in particular: school and professional curriculum; motivation of each candidate examined, for example, by interview; theory tests and/or assessment practices according to knowledge areas directly relevant to the entry and progression in the chosen course.
The information about the RVCC process is provided by Qualifica Centres to whom they are addressing and by ANQEP I.P., which is the coordinator and executor of the education policies and professional training for young people and adults, and ensures the development and management of the recognition, validation and certification of competences system. Furthermore, information is available on the website of both entities.
ANQEP, I.P. promotes and stimulates training actions to all technicians and trainers of the Qualifica Centres with the aim of enabling the teams to carry out their work, and creating awareness among training professionals about RVCC initiatives and practices.
In higher education, each institution is responsible for the information about the validation of competences for people older than 23. Higher education institutions offer this information as they think fit, from providing online information in their websites to the systematization and distributions of leaflets.
Information and counselling
In the case of RVCC processes, Qualifica Centres are responsible for the information, counselling and guidance. They provide it to young people (NEET) and adults that are looking to complete a qualification.
Among its purposes, there is the guidance of young people (NEET) to the training offers available within the system; contact with companies to raise awareness of the importance of qualification of human resources; carry out information sessions in companies and other employers; guidance and referral of adults to education and training and RVCC processes; development of RVCC processes.
In the case of Higher Education, most institutions have information and counselling offices for students, which can provide information to candidates wishing to validate their non-formal and informal learning in order to access higher education.
The activity of the Qualifica Centres developed under regulamentary legislation and a set of guiding principles produced by ANQEP, I.P that regulate RVCC processes.
The non-formal and informal learning validation in RVCC processes is characterized by the standardization of assessment and monitoring tools and the activities carried out by RVCC technicians and trainers.
In RVCC processes, the evaluation is done by a qualified jury, which consists of the following elements:
- School certification - A trainer or teacher from each of the key-competences areas and the guidance, recognition and validation of competences practitioner who accompanied the candidate’s process. Trainers or teachers involved in his/her RVCC process are excluded from the jury.
- Professional certification - Two trainers with adequate technical qualification in the education and training area of the standard under assessment (with at least five years of work experience); the trainer who accompanied the candidate's process; a representative of the business associations or employers; and a representative of trade union associations in the activity sector.
The monitoring and validation of the whole process is carried out through an electronic platform - Information and Management System of the Educational and Training Offer (SIGO) -, which gathers information about each candidate in the Qualifica Centres, recording the path carried out by young people and adults, while guaranteeing the confidentiality of the data and information provided.
ANQEP, I.P. also provides supporting documentation to the Qualifica Centres' pedagogical team, in particular methodological and reference functioning guides of the RVCC processes - Reference of key competences for different levels of qualification; Reference Guides for Quality Assurance (indicators and their respective quality assurance reference standards, regarding organisational and operational requirements and intervention steps).
In the case of Higher Education, A3ES’s duty is to assess and externally accredit higher education institutions and their study cycles, as well as the performance of tasks inherent to the integration of Portugal in the European system of higher education quality assurance.