6.4 Validation of non-formal and informal learning
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Sweden is the processes of developing a structure for validation of non-formal and informal education. There is no regulated framework for validation in Sweden yet.
The definition of validation was decided by the Government in 2003. The definition states that
'Validation is a process which involves a structured assessment, evaluation, documentation and recognition of knowledge and competences possessed by a person independently of how it is acquired.'
This definition is included in the Education Act.
The Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education (Myndigheten för yrkeshögskolan) is responsible for coordinating and supporting a national framework for recognition of prior learning and validation of skills and competences.
The agency collaborates with other public authorities to provide information and guidelines to support key actors, such as the Swedish Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen), the Swedish Council for Higher Education (Universitets- och högskolerådet) and the Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket).
From June 2016, this responsibility has been revised to focus on supporting sector organisations in their work with validation and development of validation models. The agency’s responsibility to promote the use of validation within higher vocational education is also being emphasised.
For more information, see Sweden’s report on the European inventory on validation of non-formal and informal learning 2014.
Strategy for validation
In November 2015, the government decided on a national delegation for validation. The delegation consists of members representing trade unions, employers’ associations and national authorities and has taken the name ‘Valideringsdelegationen 2015–2019’. Its main task is to follow, support and promote coordination of validation on both regional and national levels. The delegation presented a proposal for a national strategy for validation in March 2017. The final report was presented in December 2019.
The notion of ‘skills audits’ is not relevant to Swedish formal education. All learners, including learners in vocational education and training, who aim to have their prior learning and competences validated, must follow the procedure relevant to the actual level of education.
In higher vocational education there is a concept of 'Real competence' (Reell kompetens), relating to a person’s actual knowledge, skills and competences. Competences can be developed in formal education (organised education in the formal education system), non-formal learning (organised education outside the formal education system) or informal learning (e.g. working life or everyday life). Competence standards define the learning outcomes that an individual must have to be recognized for a qualification, such as a degree, a certification or an occupational certificate.
The Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education (Myndigheten för yrkeshögskolan) has the main role in raising awareness and providing information on validation, along with the Swedish National Agency of Education regarding adult education. The agency´s web portal includes a validation mapping tool, (Valideringskartan), for those who need to find their way among those who assess education and professional experience.
Awareness-raising and recruitment
From 2016, the National Delegation for Validation is commissioned to follow, support and promote coordination of work to develop validation. In the ministerial report from 2016, Validering med mervärde, the government has emphasised the task of each national authority for promoting and supporting the use of validation within their area of responsibility. The clarified responsibility of each national agency includes easy access to information about validation, for both individuals and practitioners.
The existing evaluation framework is provided in the national criteria and guidelines of validation in Sweden. The national criteria and guidelines focus primarily on systematic quality work and assurance to carry out validation at first hand, and do not include external quality assurance. However, the Delegation for Validation emphazises the need of further development of quality assurance in their proposal for a national strategy for validation from 2017.
Validation methods in Sweden differ between different actors. Career and guidance counsellors within adult education and employment services are generally key practitioners in initial validation. They identify the purpose of a validation for an individual and follow up the process at different stages. Today, there are no formal requirements for carrying out a validation. The national criteria and guidelines note that those professionals who contribute to carrying out validation should meet set competence requirements. The information here is based on the European Inventory on validation of non-formal and informal learning, country reports for Sweden 2014 and 2016.
In March 2017, the Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education introduced a standard for validation in different business sectors. The standard is based on the competency criteria that the business sector has identified, for the individual to be employable within a field of competence or in a professional role. Validation can respond to the question whether an individual is employable, with or without competence development, and whether an individual meets the eligibility criteria for obtaining relevant qualifications. If the individual meets all the eligibility criteria, the certificate of competence from the validation may be the basis for the issue of a professional certificate or certification.
In adult education, the guidelines from the Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket) have another approach. First, a general competence mapping aims to describe in general the student’s knowledge and competences in order for the student to identify which possibilities are available to him/her in adult education.
The adult learner has a central role in the validation process and his/her interests guide the direction of the process. The general validation process can be carried out together with a guidance or career counsellor and tools and methods such as discussions, self-assessment, portfolio or similar can be used.
After the general mapping, an in-depth mapping of competences can be carried out. In-depth mapping aims to describe the student’s knowledge and competence in specific areas. The in-depth validation process can be carried out together with guidance or career counsellors and a subject or vocational teacher. The validation is implemented using the curricula as a standard.