6.4 Validation of non-formal and informal learning
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The Vocational and Technical Education Act (Zakon o poklicnem in strokovnem izobraževanju) is the legal basis for the recognition of informally acquired knowledge in secondary vocational education (see Article 71). Statutory instruments regulate recognition of higher vocational education.
The certification of non-formally acquired knowledge is the responsibility of the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities.
In Slovenia, two legally-regulated channels or two fundamental purposes of recognizing non-formally and informally acquired knowledge were introduced:
- for further integration into formal education (continuation of interrupted education or continuation at a higher level, change in the direction of education, etc.) and
- recognition of professional competence (system of national vocational qualifications) in the labor market.
In the latter case, a valid certificate of a national vocational qualification (Nacionalna poklicna kvalifikacija [NPK]) can be obtained through the evaluation process.
National vocational qualifications can be acquired by young people who have become apprentices and have appropriate work experience or wish to progress in the careers without having to obtain a higher level of vocational education or complete a formal education programme.
The process of acquiring the NPK has 4 phases:
- Identification of the individual's skills and knowledge is carried out through counseling conducted by specially trained consultants. The counselor provides the candidate with information about the process of verification and validation of the NPK, helps in identifying non-formally and informally acquired knowledge and possibilities for the candidate's demonstration, advises on the appropriate qualification, and helps to create a portfolio (personal collection folder).
- Documentation of an individual's knowledge and skills is carried out by collecting evidence in a personal collection folder (see also the National Reference Point for Occupational Qualifications Slovenia).
- Evaluation in the NPK system is carried out in two phases: on the basis of the validation of the evidence in the personal collection folder and on the basis of a direct examination of the candidate.
- Recognition – in the recognition process, the candidate is officially recognized for the knowledge, skills and competencies acquired through non-formal or informal learning, and a public document is issued: a certificate of a National Vocational Qualification.
Procedures for the validation of skills and competencies gained through non-formal and informal learning are based on the:
- European guidelines for validating non-formal and informal learning (CEDEFOP, 2015), see chapter 2,
- Recommendation of the Council (of the European Union) on the validation of non-formal and informal learning (Priporočilo Sveta o potrjevanju neformalnega in priložnostnega učenja).
Procedures for obtaining formal education qualifications on the basis of skills and competencies gained through non-formal and informal learning are arranged in respective acts, depending on the type of education in which the individual is enrolled. Detailed information is in the European inventory on validation of non-formal and informal learning 2014: country report Slovenia under section 2.1 (the Post-secondary Education Act was amended in 2013; however, no changes were introduced regarding aspects of validation).
There is no national system for validation, and thus, skills audits are a matter of each institution or field. The same goes for the development of the professional competencies of staff involved in the validation processes. There is no single overarching policy to facilitate the comprehension (see section 2.4 in European inventory on validation of non-formal and informal learning 2014: country report Slovenia).
There are two specific systems in place for the validation of competencies acquired through non-formal learning. Students have an option to validate acquired competencies based on the Rules on the Recognition of the Previous Education in Higher Vocational Education, which were drafted on the basis of The Recognition and Evaluation of Education Act (Zakon o vrednotenju in priznavanju izobraževanja). The rules differ among faculties. The system for validation of competencies for pupils is based on the Vocational Education Act (Zakon o poklicnem in strokovnem izobraževanju) and prescribed in the Rules on the Assessment of Knowledge in the Vocational and Secondary Technical Education (Pravilnik o ocenjevanju znanja v poklicnem in srednjem strokovnem izobraževanju). Other schools on the secondary level have to develop their own rules for validation.
The project "Professional Support to Informative Advisory Activities and Evaluation of Informally-Accomplished Knowledge 2016-2021" (Strokovna podpora informativno svetovalni dejavnosti in vrednotenju neformalno pridobljenega znanja 2016–2021) was created as a continuation of activities in the field of information and counselling and the identification and evaluation of previously acquired knowledge in the past ESS programme timeframe. The Slovenian Institute for Adult Education is coordinating the project.
The Institute of the Republic of Slovenia for Vocational Education and Training conducts activities that promote and increase the visibility of the system among users: companies and candidates (Nacionalne poklicne kvalifikacije). Through promotional activities, they provide the information about the system to the general public and offer the website: National Vocational Qualifications, which provides basic information on the certification system and examples of good practices in the use of the certificate system. They also distribute promotional materials to the units of the Employment Service of Slovenia, the Information and Career Advisory Centre, the adult education centres, the centres for lifelong learning, the Association of Employers of Slovenia and others. Promotional materials are also reasonably distributed to ministries, trade unions and chambers of commerce.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Sport established the website “Evaluation and recognition of non-formal learning“ (Vrednotenje in priznavanje neformalnega znanja) with cooperation of the Slovenian Institute for Adult Education. The aim is to instruct and facilitate the process for individuals seeking evaluation and validation of their non-formal and informal education. The focus is on adults, but the website has value for all demographic groups, including youth.
Another similar information source on validation is offered by the Institute of the Republic of Slovenia for Vocational Education and Training (Center za poklicno izobraževanje) in the form of a website explaining their services and duties.
With specific respect to young people, a measure called “Activation of young people in the labour market” (Aktivacija mladih na trgu dela) was put in action, which is part of the Youth Guarantee scheme. Sub-section number 10 is comprised of measures specifically aimed at promotion of non-formal and informal learning (see also Chapter 3.6: Youth Employment Measures).
- Informal education and training for youth,
- On-the-job training – youth,
- PUM-o; Project learning for young adults,
- Support for new career prospects,
- Obtaining additional knowledge for young people in the field of cultural activities within the framework of the public fund for cultural activities (JSKD),
- Workplace trainings “I can, because I know”.
Institute Nefiks is the most prominent actor in the field of recognition of non-formal acquired knowledge and skills. Nefiks is a non-governmental organization that is working on promotion and recognition of knowledge and competence acquired through non-formal education and informal learning. The main project of the Nefiks is booklet with its online version that has been designed to help individuals and organizations with recording knowledge, skills and competences developed through different activities like volunteer work, workshops, language courses and other activities where learning took place. The index was created according to the Scandinavian model and was adapted and implemented on the basis of the analysis and experiences of the creators in the Slovenian youth space. At the national level, there is still no comparable tool that could present both informally acquired knowledge of the individual both comprehensively and partially. Their aim is to include, recognize and consider youth and volunteer work in the formal education system, scholarship schemes and employment. For this reasons different promotional and educational events are organized, they also prepare publications and cooperate with stakeholders on local, national and international level.
Quality assurance in the NPK system:
- In the process of acquiring the NPK, the candidate proves his/her qualification and knowledge for the effective performance of certain professional competencies (with regard to a particular professional standard and a catalog of standards of professional skills);
- The procedure for verification and validation of NPKs is carried out by the contractors, which are in the register of the National Examination Centre (Državni izpitni centre – RIC);
- Verification and validation of the NPK takes place in front of a three-member commission appointed by the RIC. The members of the verification and certification committees are experts in their field of work, which is proved by the required knowledge, education and work experience.
- In the framework of the system of obtaining National Vocational Qualifications, a process has been developed that includes four phases of recognition of non-formal and informal knowledge and is set out in the Rules on the method and procedure for the validation of national professional qualifications (Pravilnik o načinu in postopku preverjanja in potrjevanja nacionalnih poklicnih kvalifikacij). This ensures uniformity, transparency and quality of certificates for NPK.
- The candidate has the right to object the decision of the commission.
- The Inspectorate of the Republic of Slovenia in charge of labour is supervising the legality of procedures.
- The Institute of the Republic of Slovenia for Vocational Education and Training is designated by the law to monitor the NPK system and monitor the work of consellors.
- National Examination Centre is designated by the law to monitor the work of the verification and certification commissions, and at the same time to ensure the quality, transparency and objectivity of the examination of knowledge.
Each educational level has its own quality assurance framework for institutional and programme evaluation and accreditation. Recognition and validation of non-formal education is a part of these frameworks. A system of quality assessment and assurance exists for each level of education. State-budgeted bodies (councils, agencies) are autonomous from the government and perform quality assessment.
The bodies responsible for quality assessment and assurance in cooperation with stakeholders prepare measures for quality assurance for each educational level and develop tools for evaluation and accreditation. Quality assurance is regulated by the acts for the respective fields of education and, more specifically, by national measures and regulations. These documents are based on international examples, EC guidance and international standards (see report).
Measures and regulations for validation are checked and so is the quality of the procedure of validation and recognition, required evidence and the body responsible for validation (type of committee, how members are chosen and appointed, how often they meet, how they work and cooperate, how validation processes are performed).
The quality assurance checking process ends with an opinion from respective body and recommendations. If quality does not meet minimal standards, public validity can be cancelled, and subsequently public funding is withheld.
Further detailed information on validation of informal learning can be found in the European inventory on validation of non-formal and informal learning 2014: country report Slovenia, section 4 and subsequent sub-sections.