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On 20 December 2012, the Council of the European Union issued the Recommendation on the validation of non-formal and informal learning, calling on individual Member States to implement the relevant guidelines by 2018. This was expected to complete almost 50 years of discussions on the nature, significance, methods and results of validation. qualifications acquired outside the formal education process. Highlighting these issues in EU and national education policies is a response to the need for an increasingly flexible workforce in a rapidly changing labour market, which the formal system is no longer managing.
In 2013, the Declaration on the Recognition of the Contribution of Non-formal Education in Youth Work was created. The Declaration is a tool that raises the profile of non-formal education and brings together all those who realize that non-formal education has an important role to play in educating the young generation. The declaration has so far been signed by more than a hundred prominent representatives of the state, private, public and non-governmental sectors.
In Slovakia, there is no national model for validating the skills acquired through youth work. Act no. 568/2009 Coll. on the Lifelong Learning Act created at least some preconditions for further progress. In § 21 it defines the National Qualifications Framework as “a publicly accessible register containing a description of partial and full qualifications distinguished and recognized in the Slovak Republic required in the form of qualification standards and assessment standards” and in Part 3 it defines the eligible educational institutions and the process of recognition of the results of further education. The created qualification standards serve only as inspiration in the creation of educational programs and are not yet regulated by the law.
National ESF project KOMPRAX - ‘Competences for Real Life’, implemented by IUVENTA in 2011-2015, was the largest national initiative to support non-formal education in youth work. The aim of the project was to enable young people and youth workers to have access to the renewed and flexible acquisition of competencies in youth work with comprehensive counselling services.
The specific objectives were:
- to support the quality of educational programs in youth work with the aim of preparing graduates for lifelong learning;
- to develop the level of key competences of youth leaders and youth workers to facilitate their access to the labour market;
- contribute to the recognition of competences acquired in youth work in the field of formal education and labour market;
- to promote social recognition of youth work and ensure the development of information channels and databases on youth work and the education system in this area.
As a part of its role in promoting quality youth work and providing education and training for youth workers, IUVENTA undertook a national project PRAKTIK – Practical skills through non-formal education in youth work, over a two-year period (2013-2015). The project was cofunded by the European Social Fund. The PRAKTIK project focused on developing practical skills in youth work for both youth workers and youth leaders as well as contributing to change and innovation in youth work and non-formal education. The aim of the project was to improve the quality of youth work in leisure activities and to ensure the development of practical skills; provide space for youth leaders to actively participate in the preparation and implementation of activities; and ensure the transfer of know-how from youth workers to youth leaders.
The PRAKTIK project was implemented in all regions of Slovakia, apart from Bratislava. Within the PRAKTIK project, there were 35 facilitators working in the regions to ensure the implementation of the project at regional level. The project comprised three main activities with accompanying outcomes.
The aim of Activity 1 was to create a network of thematic youth centres, specifically oriented towards the creation, development and evaluation of practical education and training programmes for youth workers and youth leaders. Each youth work centre focused on a priority thematic area which resulted in an experiential education programme for youth workers and youth leaders. These programmes were developed, in the following areas, by a group of experts and the programmes were accredited under the 2008 Act on support of youth work:
- promoting a healthy lifestyle
- promoting the practical use of ICT
- development of practical skills in working with small materials
- search and support work with talented youth
- support and development of experiential activities in environmental education
- support and development of citizenship education and multiculturalism
- support and development of global education.
Quantitative outputs, relating to the establishment of thematic centres, training programmes, and publications, were also identified and measured.
The aim of Activity 2 was to improve the quality of further education and training for youth workers and to promote the use of innovative methods, such as experiential learning, and approaches in youth work. The activity aimed to teach youth workers and youth leaders how to prepare, implement and evaluate youth activities and how to share their experiences of working with young people with their peers and 20 fellow youth workers. Certificates of completion of accredited education in the field of specialized activities in youth work as provided for in the 2008 Act were awarded to each participant. Activities were supported by experts in the relevant fields, educational experts and at regional level. Quantitative outputs, relating to the training of youth workers and youth leaders, activities and accreditation, were also identified and measured.
The aim of Activity 3 was to implement short-term and long-term activities, which served as a space for practical verification of the acquired knowledge, skills and attitudes of youth leaders and youth workers. At the same time, one of the tasks of the activities was to create space for the intersection of formal and non-formal education through activities and events. Quantitative outputs, relating to short term and long-term activities, participants and methodologies, were also identified and measured.
During the project, a total of 40 entry and 37 thematic educational programmes were implemented, attended by some 500 professional and voluntary youth workers; and 40 short-term and 37 long-term activities were organised involving some 3 250 children and young people. Seven thematic publications also resulted from the project reflecting the experiences of the different regional thematic centres.