APEL.Q Case studiesPortugal APEL.Q case study in education

Validation practitioners in adult education and training


In Portugal, Qualification and Vocational Education Centres – Centros para a Qualificação e Ensino Profissional (CQEPs) – deploy a specialised counselling and guidance service to help low-skilled individuals (above fifteen years of age) to find and pursuing the best route for their education and training. Additionally, they develop academic and vocational VNFIL/RPL processes, the so-called recognition, validation and certification of competences processes (OECD, 2012). The National Agency for Qualification and Vocational Education (Agência Nacional para a Qualificação e o Ensino Profissional – ANQEP), is the national public institution responsible for CQEPs’ coordination, management, financing and quality assurance mechanisms, as well as for the regulation of the vocational education and training (VET) offer, at the national level, and for implementing the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). It is also responsible for the design and implementation of the National System for Recognition, Validation and Certification of Competences (RVCC, meaning VNFIL/RPL processes).

The RVCC processes have two main routes:

  • an academic route for adults who do not have basic or secondary education certificates; and
  • a vocational route for adults who do not have formal vocational qualifications.

The CQEPs team must have the following RVCC practitioners, according to the current legal act (Portaria no. 135-A 2013), introduced in 2013:

  • a technician in charge of the coordination of the RVCC process;
  • a specific practitioner tasked with counselling and guidance, and support to the candidates through the RVCC processes (Técnico de Orientação, Reconhecimento e Validação de Competências); and
  • a number of assessors according to the qualifications available for validation and certification (subject-matter teachers or specialised vocational trainers) (Cedefop, 2014).

Procedures and processes

The regulatory Act from 2013 requires that teachers and trainers in basic and secondary education have certified experience in adult education and training, besides the specific requirement of knowledge in the relevant field of studies, as per the key competences or vocational qualification national standard. Teachers (RVCC assessors) responsible for the academic RVCC route must have a teaching qualification in the particular area of key competences as well as experience in adult education and training. Trainers responsible for assessing candidates going through vocational RVCC routes must have specific technical expertise as well as experience in the respective occupational area.

The Act requires practitioners tasked with counselling, guidance and validation to have work experience in at least one of the following areas: general education, vocational education and training, and guidance; methods of adult education and training – including identification of competences and portfolio development; or methods of different types of training – including training of young people, adults or people with disabilities.

The jury responsible for academic certification comprises a teacher or trainer (an RVCC assessor) who is – according to the law – qualified to teach in the area of the key-competences or on the specific vocational profile. The jury responsible for higher education institutions usually comprises career teachers who are not required to have a particular qualification. Thus, their educational level varies from Master’s to PhD degrees in different fields (Cedefop, 2014).

The jury also includes the participation of an external assessor, who is accredited by the National Agency for Qualifications and Vocational Education through a competitive and open procedure, at national level.

There is no current information about the role of ANQEP in providing training and support to RVCC practitioners (Cedefop, 2014).

Outcomes and ways forward

From 2006 to 2011, the New Opportunities Initiative was the largest governmental programme aimed at massively upgrading the qualifications level and profile of the Portuguese population. The target-groups of this Initiative were two: youngsters at risk of early school leaving; and low-skilled adults with levels of education below than the upper-secondary. More than 450 CNOs were operational during this period country-wide. The results in terms of lifelong learning participation and schooling levels achievement have been quite impressive, but still far from solving the problem of the accumulated stock of low skilled adults. The interruption of its operations has caused major delays in such an important area for social and economic development of the country.

In 2016, the current Government has launched a new intervention in this field, as an attempt to resume the former dynamic of the 2008-2012 period, called the Qualifying Program (Programa Qualifica), which is also part of the national Economic Reform Program, submitted to the European Commission in late 2015. The main goal is to resuscitate and amplify the network of adult education and training providers, re-establishing the national coverage of the VNFIL/RPL centres, and of course, to revitalize the RVCC processes as one of the main routes available for adult learners’ progression on their qualification pathways.


Carneiro, R. 2011. Accreditation of prior learning as a lever for lifelong learning: lessons learned from the New Opportunities Initiative, Portugal. Braga, Publito; Hamburg, UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning; MENON Network, and Study Centre for Peoples and Cultures (CEPCEP), Portuguese Catholic University.

CEDEFOP, 2014. European inventory on validation of non-formal and informal learning 2014: Country report Portugal.  http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/events-and-projects/projects/validation-… (Accessed 20 November 2015).

Gomes, M. 2006. Referencial de competências-chave para a educação e formação de adultos–nível secundário. Lisboa, Direcção Geral de Formação Vocacional (DGFV).

Gomes, M. and Simões, M.F. 2007. Carta de qualidade dos Centros Novas Oportunidades. Lisboa, Agência Nacional para a Qualificação (ANQ).

Milagre, C, Simões, M.F. and Gomes, M. 2011. Guiding and counselling adults in Portugal: new opportunities for a qualification. Luxembourg, Publications Office of the European Union. EAEA, 2011. Country report on adult education in Portugal.  http://www.eaea.org/media/resources/ae-in-europe/portugal_country-report-on-adult-education-in-portugal.pdf (Accessed 27 November 2015).

UNEVOC. New Opportunities Initiative- Portugal.  http://www.unevoc.unesco.org/fileadmin/user_upload/pubs/New%20Opportunities%20-%20Portugal.pdf (Accessed September 2016).


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