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Turkey has a growing population of 76.6 million inhabitants and is considered to be a large middle-income country. While it is a growing economy, it also has several social, economic and regional disparities. Turkey is also a candidate country for membership of the European Union.

Challenges and opportunities

Although there has been a steady progression of education reforms in Turkey over the last few years, many challenges still remain. The country is making great efforts to reach the five EU benchmarks: a reduction in early school leaving, participation in early childhood education and care, the completion of upper secondary education, the promotion of lifelong learning and an improvement in student performance in reading, maths and science. The overall employment rate in Turkey is also below the EU average. The educational attainment rates are below the EU average, as is the participation rate of the working population in all levels of education. These are challenging issues in light of a growing need for an internationally competitive skilled labour force in growth sectors (UIL, ETF, Cedefop, 2015).

According to the TURKSTAT figures[1], the working population’s overall educational attainment levels are low compared to the EU-28 average or that of other candidate countries: for example, 68 per cent of Turkey’s labour force consists of people with either basic education or incomplete basic education. The average number of years in education is 6.8 for males and 5.3 for females. Problems accessing education with relation to gender, rural/urban and social background (such as enrolment, dropout and graduation rates) continue to exist. EUROSTAT data for 2010 also demonstrate the high proportion (43.1 per cent) of early school leavers in Turkey compared to the average proportion of 14.1 per cent in EU-28. At the same time, Turkey faces the challenge of educational bottlenecks that hinder access to the current tertiary education system for young people, as a result of which many are compelled to join post-secondary vocational schools (MYOs), which are not sufficiently labour market-oriented. There is also a view that university graduates are preferred in the labour market, even though MYO-grads could be more useful.

National standards, policy and framework activity

To address the above challenges, Turkey promoted and developed some initiatives. One of Turkey’s aims while establishing the Turkish Qualifications Framework is to facilitate the recognition, validation and accreditation of non-formal and informal learning and to increase the participation and attainment rates, with more individuals obtaining qualifications that have an effect on their personal, educational and career development. For Turkey, recognition and validation is an important pathway to lifelong learning and a response to the many challenges its citizens face in the educational system.

The Turkish system of recognition and validation of non-formal and informal learning started development rather recently. Certificates awarded by authorized certification bodies are not considered equivalent to those acquired in formal education and do not provide access to the formal education system, but are recognized on the labour market.

In 2010, the European Union supported the strengthening of the Vocational Qualifications Authority and the National Qualifications System in Turkey by promoting lifelong learning and the recognition of the outcomes of formal, non-formal and informal vocational education and training aligned to labour market needs. It was considered important to have a sustainable National Qualifications System based on agreed occupational standards and an appropriate system of assessment and certification in alignment with all levels of the European Qualifications Framework (EQF).

A cornerstone of this development was Law 5544 in 2006, according to which the Vocational Qualifications Authority (VQA) was established as the responsible tripartite body at a national level for the validation of formal and non-formal labour market-oriented qualifications. The VQA was also deemed responsible for the implementation of the National Vocational Qualifications System based on National Occupational Standards (NOS) with a strong sector involvement and for reinforced quality assurance processes for assessment and certification. Since the establishment of VQA, over 500 NOSs, mainly between levels two and seven, have been developed and adopted as a basis for development of national vocational qualifications for validating non-formal learning through accredited and authorized certification bodies (Cedefop, 2014).

In March 2015, thirty-five accredited and authorized certification bodies were operational and it is expected that these numbers will grow (UIL, ETF, CEDEFOP, 2015). Specific occupational standards are in use within authorized certification bodies for certifying workers through validation of non-formal and informal learning. An EU grant scheme was launched to support the development of new authorized certification bodies with branches all over the country. However, at the end of 2014, the demand for certificates was not as high as expected. All the same, with the establishment of the TQF and its quality assurance functions, VQA will start authorizing training accreditation bodies, giving individual providers the accreditation needed to assess and certify workers based on occupational standards that inform national vocational qualifications. However, only VQA will be responsible for the verification of vocational qualification certificates once they have been obtained by workers.

The Regulation on Vocational Qualification, Testing and Certification[2] defines the stages of the validation process as a whole. This process is valid for vocational qualifications gained through formal, non-formal or informal learning and for the recognition of prior learning. Any individual intending to certify their qualifications can apply to be tested by an authorized certification body, which in turn passes on the relevant documents to the VQA to determine eligibility. Individuals have the chance to certify their competences based on single units as well as for full qualification. The RVA practitioners are mostly teachers but their occupational profile depends on the respective sector for validation.

Furthermore, the comprehensive Turkish Qualifications Framework (TQF) continues to develop, one which will bring together different types of qualifications for general education, initial and continuing vocational education and training, adult lifelong learning and higher education, as well as qualifications gained through non-formal and informal learning. The TQF will integrate the National Vocational Qualification System (NVQS) and a qualifications framework for higher education. The Ministry of National Education will award qualifications, as an alternative to qualifications as parallel sub-frameworks. TQF supports the processes for recognition of prior learning and identifies qualification type descriptors based on learning outcomes.

The TQF will become a key instrument for the recognition and quality-assurance of lifelong learning. The learning outcomes approach is seen as an essential part of the TQF. Occupational standards should also be described in terms of learning outcomes, corresponding units and assessment criteria. The MoNE has launched a curriculum reform in secondary education for both general and vocational/technical schools. Vocational curricula are modularized and the MoNE has a database of more than 4,000 modules that are also used to certify adult learning. Additionally, there are plans to establish a national credit system for VET.

Stakeholder engagement

Apart from formal education, the Ministry of National Education (MoNE) coordinates and supervises non-formal learning activities, initiatives and projects through the Lifelong Learning Directorate General. With respect to the National Vocational Qualifications System, the VQA, which is the main responsible body at national level, brings together a wide range of stakeholders and comprises a general assembly, an executive board and service departments. The general assembly is composed of representatives from different ministries, education state institutions, employers’ organizations and labour unions. The executive board consists of elected members from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the Ministry of National Education, the Higher Education Council, vocational organizations, the Confederation of Trade Unions and the Confederation of Employers’ Unions. The Council of Higher Education (CoHE) is the designated committee responsible for the development and implementation of a qualifications framework for higher education.

VQA supervises validation of non-formal and informal learning through accredited certification bodies, including sector organizations, some universities, chamber affiliated centres and private companies. The accreditation of these bodies for each qualification certification is based on the ISO-17024 standard for personnel certification, implemented by the Turkish Accreditation Agency (Türkak) and authorized by VQA.


CEDEFOP. 2014a. European inventory on validation of non-formal and informal learning: country report Turkey. http://libserver.cedefop.europa.eu/vetelib/2014/87078_TR.pdf

CEDEFOP. 2014b. Turkey: European inventory on NQF 2014. http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/el/publications-and-resources/country-reports/turkey-european-inventory-nqf-2014

Regulation on vocational qualification, testing and certification. http://www.myk.gov.tr/images/articles/editor/SBD_EN.pdf (Accessed 5 January 2016).

UIL, European Training Foundation(ETF) and CEDEFOP. 2015. Global inventory of regional and national qualifications frameworks, v II: national and regional cases. Hamburg, UIL.

[2] http://www.myk.gov.tr/images/articles/editor/SBD_EN.pdf


The development of validation practices in Switzerland can be divided into two main phases. The first phase comprises the 1990’s focus on projects and pilot projects in local areas. The second phase comprises the progressive centralization and institutionalization of validation practices with the VET Act of 2002, in force since 2004. The Federal Act provided the legal basis for the elaboration of comprehensive guidelines, piloted since 2010 in different professional areas of initial VET qualifications. This has resulted in validation being promoted from both a bottom-up, decentralized approach and a top-down, national approach. Historically, the extent of development of validation policies and practices has varied remarkably between the different regions in Switzerland, depending on the activities of various organizations engaged with validation practices. The French speaking region started the implementation process earlier than other regions and also offers the most opportunities for adults to have their prior knowledge recognized (Cedefop, 2014b).

Challenges and opportunities

Challenges regarding the development of a Swiss system for validation of non-formal and informal learning can be attributed to a number of key national factors. An important factor is the federalism of the twenty-six decentralized cantons, all of which have sovereignty regarding political measures. A second factor is quadrilingualism, reflected in the four different linguistic regions. A third factor is the complexity of the Swiss education sector, meaning that organization and decision-making practices are based on trilateral arrangements involving the Confederation, cantons and social partners, who all play a key role in defining regulations and professional profiles. These factors also influence validation practices, as social partners and cantons are free to decide to what extent they implement national regulations and guidelines. Although the reorganization of the educational sector and an enhanced political emphasis on validation practices and regulations have led to increased development of a structured validation system, system commencement and concrete practices remain underdeveloped  and, in many professional sectors, practically absent.

National standards, policy and framework activity

No overall binding legislation regarding validation practices has been introduced in Switzerland. A national legal framework on validation has only been established in the Vocational Education and Training (VET) system. The Federal Vocational and Professional Education and Training Act of 2002 (VPETA, SR 412.10) caters for qualification procedures to validate prior learning. Individuals who have acquired competences outside the formal education and training system can obtain a federally recognized qualification. Access to a qualification is a right that every individual can claim, and the requirements are 5 years of work experience and proof of required competences. Validation of prior learning is one of the least practiced routes for gaining a qualification as an adult. The most popular pathway is still a dual apprenticeship with adult participation in professional exams with preparatory training, in accordance with Art. 33 of the VPETA. The Federal Ordinance of 2003 on Vocational and Professional Education and Training (VPETO, SR 412.101), concerned with both VET and higher vocational education and training (PET), stresses that cantonal authorities shall decide whether an individual may shorten the duration of the VET/PET programme and the work-based training. Moreover, it stresses that examining bodies decide whether an individual may be admitted to qualification procedures in the form of a summative assessment of professional competences (examinations) or to the validation of non-formal and informal qualification procedures.

Regarding validation practices in the Swiss higher education sector, educational standards are specified by the Swiss National Qualification Framework (Qualifikationsrahmen für den schweizerischen Hochschulbereich, NQF CH-HS). The NQF CH-HS is linked to the outcome-based European Credit Transfer System.

Regarding validation in the sectors of VET, PET and continuing professional qualifications, national educational standards refer to the ‘Nationaler Qualifikationsrahmen Schweiz’ (NQR-CH) and are provided for all qualifications and diplomas (Cedefop, 2014a). Additionally, the VET validation process refers to the following:

  • The qualification profile, including a list of required skills, which must be validated for each particular profession. Individuals can use this list to compare their skills and competences against the required ones, and validation experts can assess whether or not the individual has reached the respective level;
  • The Language, Communication and Society subjects (LCS) in the VET profile, including personal and social competences. The individual confirms that he/she possesses the required skills and competences for the profession as well as for the management of daily operations;
  • The assessment, validation, and certification standards are defined according to the qualification profile and LCS requirements.

The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) – the national agency in charge of education – has issued National Validation Guidelines that distinguish five phases of the validation process. See Figure 1 below.

Figure 1: The five phases of a validation process in Swiss upper-secondary VET

Source: Cedefop, 2014b

  1. In the first phase, counsellors give candidates information and advice on the validation process and procedures.
  2. In the second phase, individuals carry out a self-assessment of competences based on a competency profile whereby the individual’s competences are compared to the various standards required for the given occupation or course.
  3. In the third phase – after self-assessment is completed – the individual collects the necessary documentation and compiles an assessment portfolio together with the self-assessment material. In some cases, experts interview the candidate to determine his/her knowledge and may ask the individual to demonstrate practical skills.
  4. In the fourth phase, experts examine the portfolio. If gaps exist in the individual’s knowledge or skill level, a partial certification is granted. Then the individual must undertake supplementary training to obtain a full qualification.
  5. In the final phase, full certification in the form of a formal qualification is issued once all modules have been recognized.

It is worth mentioning that an individual can enter the formal assessment phase in the VET sector without having undertaken the first two phases. However, it is not possible to enter the certification phase without having firstly undertaken the assessment phase. In the higher education sector, the phases of validation are not organized as thoroughly as in the VET sector. The identification and documentation phases are structured differently and according to different degrees. It is not yet possible to access phases of assessment and certification directly, as it is in the VET sector.

Regarding the third sector, a national project implemented in 2001 in the social and health sectors focussed on identifying and documenting volunteer work by developing validation dossiers. Thus, the validation process takes volunteer work into account in these sectors.

With respect to labour market policies, nationally recognized competence assessment centres use portfolios and self-assessment material as incorporated tools to identify jobseeker perspectives and to shorten periods of unemployment. The results of these portfolios are often included in a report and delivered to counsellors working in regional unemployment centres. These counsellors guide individuals in the direction of a suitable job or continuing training.

Stakeholder engagement

Since 2013, SERI has been in charge of all federal level education matters. SERI is the main authority responsible for assuring that validation projects are carried out according to the legislation and educational framework. Launched at the end of 2015, SERI is an initiative aiming to revise the National Guidelines, making them more flexible and attractive for beneficiaries and stakeholders. This is because the first phase of implementation showed that existing procedures are often rigid and discouraging.

In the VET system, cantons are responsible for adult qualification procedures. Based on the National Validation Guidelines, cantons cooperate with social partners to develop qualification standards and to validate non-formal and informal learning, in order to secure a clear link between the VET qualifications and the labour market.

In PET, social partners and third sector organizations initiate validation projects mostly by using a bottom-up approach. SERI must approve these projects. The bottom-up approaches also account for the validation of non-formal and informal learning in the higher education system. However, in this sector, the universities themselves initiate the validation projects according to the existing legal framework (Cedefop, 2014b).


CEDEFOP. 2014a. European inventory on NQF 2014: Switzerland.http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/nqf_developments_2014_switzerland.pdf(Accessed 1 December 2015).

CEDEFOP, 2014b. European inventory on validation of non-formal and informal learning 2014. http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/publications-and-resources/country-reports/validation-switzerland-2014 (Accessed 1 December 2015).

EHB. Validation of prior learning. http://www.ehb-schweiz.ch/en/researchanddevelopment/services/Pages/validationofpriorlearning.aspx. (Accessed 1 December 2015).


Recognition of prior learning (RPL) is a key mechanism for redressing past injustices by recognizing knowledge, skills and competences gained through experience and practical workplace learning (DHET, 2013). RPL refers to the principles and processes through which the prior knowledge and skills of a person are made visible, mediated and assessed for the purposes of alternative access and admission, recognition and certification, or further learning and development (SAQA, 2014). Within this context, RPL is a key feature for insuring an inclusive, democratic education and training system and lifelong learning culture in South Africa.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, 2007) described the RPL strategy in South Africa as having ‘islands of excellence’. The plan for the next five years is to develop RPL so that, instead of islands of excellence, a fully-fledged national system of excellent practice exists.

RPL as driver of opportunity

As part of the education and training system, RPL plays an important role in increasing employability, reskilling and bridging the inequality divide in South Africa. The South African Qualifications Authority identifies two components of RPL: (1) access and (2) credit (SAQA, 2013).

  • Access refers to alternative access routes into learning programmes that offer registered qualifications or part-qualifications. It increases opportunities for learners who do not meet formal entry requirements.
  • Credit refers to credits awarded, leading to a registered qualification.

Both access and credit involve recognition of learning obtained through informal or non-formal means, thereby addressing social injustice and expanding pathways to accessing formal learning. The awarding of credits further aids learners’ progression through the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) by expediting the time spent in further education.

National standards, policy and framework activity

RPL in post-apartheid South Africa operates as part of the South African NQF that came into effect with the passing of the SAQA Act of 1995 (South Africa, 1995). The SAQA Act was then replaced by the NQF Act 67 of 2008[1] (South Africa, 2008), which further strengthened the role of SAQA and introduced innovative changes to the South African NQF. The South African NQF is a single integrated system comprising three coordinated qualifications sub-frameworks. A quality council (QC) is assigned to each of these frameworks as follows:

  • The Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training (Umalusi) oversees general and further education and training qualifications.
  • The Council on Higher Education (CHE) manages higher education qualifications.
  • The Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) oversees occupational qualifications.

SAQA is mandated to advance the objectives of the NQF, oversee its development and implementation, and coordinate its sub-frameworks.

In line with NQF Act 67, the Ministry of Higher Education and Training determines the overarching national policy on RPL that frames the policies and guidelines developed by SAQA, the QCs and relevant stakeholders. The policies and criteria put forward by SAQA follow consultation with the QCs; these councils then advance said policies and criteria for their own sub-frameworks, aligning them with the overarching guidelines and adopting them in their education and training institutions.

No distinction is made for certificates received through RPL; however, the Ministry of Higher Education and Training, SAQA, QCs and relevant stakeholders play a key role in assuring quality in RPL procedures and processes. The national policy for the implementation of RPL identifies quality assurance as:

  • establishing and adhering to policies, standards, processes and associated practices;
  • increasing standardized practices within sectors, as a single approach does not necessarily work across different contexts;
  • adhering to generally agreed upon quality assurance principles, including qualified personnel, fitness for purpose, transparency and fair outcomes;
  • safeguarding the integrity of RPL processes and outcomes.

The South African NQF encourages the achievement of qualifications through RPL. Some stakeholders have recognized this by posting RPL records on the SAQA National Learners’ Records Database (NLRD)[2]. As of May 2016, the database showed that 26,379 learners obtained 28,969 qualifications through RPL (some learners received more than one qualification through RPL). The most popular sectors attracting RPL candidates according to this information were:

  1. Manufacturing, engineering and technology (35 per cent);
  2. Business, commerce and management (20 per cent);
  3. Physical panning and construction (17 per cent).

Although SAQA works closely to encourage the uploading of RPL records onto the NLRD, up-to-date data is often not available.

Challenges and solutions to successful RPL implementation

Within the quality assurance context, SAQA assists both public and private providers of RPL. The barriers to the implementation of RPL are both conceptualand practical.

  • Conceptual barriers refer to society’s understanding of what knowledge is and which knowledge counts (perceived value of workplace knowledge versus academic knowledge), power relationships associated with disciplines (academic and vocational) and their boundaries, and the false notion that one RPL size fits all. Consistent advocacy and organisational development are needed to overcome these barriers, as is ongoing support to encourage RPL within organizations.
  • The main practical barrier is funding. Funding at an organizational and individual level is a critical aspect that contributes to successful implementation of RPL. Practical barriers at an individual level refer to attitudes and motivation of individuals responsible for RPL processes within an organization such as: the absence of an effective RPL driving mechanism within an organization; the lack of understanding of the importance of RPL for candidates and a lack of co-operation due to personal expectations and unsatisfactory conditions for encouraging RPL in the workplace. Discussions to motivate, inform and direct actions are required to drive an RPL process successfully.

To address some of these challenges, the Ministry of Higher Education and Training published a national strategy for the wide-scale implementation of RPL (South Africa, 2016). The strategy proposes legislating for and establishing a national RPL coordinating and sustainable funding mechanism for RPL implementation. The DHET is also engaging in a national drive to workshop all interested parties to guide the establishment of RPL centres. SAQA and the three QCs continue to advocate the implementation of RPL with the relevant stakeholders and encourage the data uploads of RPL achievements for recording on the NLRD.


DHET (Department of Higher Education and Training). 2013. White Paper for Post-school Education and Training. Building an expanded, effective and integrated post-school system. Pretoria, Department of Higher Education and Training.

OECD. 2007. SAQA Country Report 2007. Paris, OECD

South Africa. 2008. National Qualifications Framework Act No. 67 of 2008. Pretoria, Government South Africa.

South Africa. 2016. Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) Coordination Policy.Government Gazette Vol.609 No. 39876. Pretoria, Government of South Africa.

SAQA (South African Qualifications Authority) 2014. NQF Glossary of Terms. Pretoria, South African Qualifications Authority.

SAQA. 2013. National Policy for the Implementation of the Recognition of Prior Learning. Pretoria, South African Qualifications Authority.

[1] NQF Act 67 was passed in 2008 and came into effect on 1 June 2009.

[2] The NLRD is an electronic management information system of the NQF under the authority of SAQA. It contains records of qualifications, part-qualifications, learner achievements, recognized professional bodies, professional designations and all related information such as registrations and accreditations.



In Romania over the last few years, some notable steps have been taken in the area of validation of formal, non-formal and informal learning. Although new legal and institutional frameworks have been created and a set of laws and decrees were adopted, not all the regulations have been put into effect. Work still needs to be done to improve coherence between the validation of non-formal and informal learning and the National Qualification Framework, as well as to stabilize more solid links between institutional actors responsible for non-formal and informal validation mechanisms and the stakeholders in the sectors of education, training, and employment.

Challenges and opportunities

One of the main challenges is to link structures and stakeholders from Vocational Education and Training (VET), higher education and the labour market in a more comprehensive framework. To this end, the National Qualifications Authority was established in 2011 to develop and implement a comprehensive NQF. This was adopted in Romania in 2013. Currently, it is not possible to acquire formal qualifications through the system of validation of non-formal and informal learning; the two systems are parallel and a link between them does not yet exist. At the moment, it is only possible to validate non-formal and informal learning for level four or lower.

The authorization of assessment and certification centres for non-formal and informal learning started in Romania in 2004. According to the National Authority for Qualifications (ANC), 146 assessment centres and 49,900 people were assessed and certified between 2004 and 2013. The validation of competences acquired in informal and non-formal contexts is gaining momentum in Romania, and there is a notable increase of certified validation centres and of beneficiaries[1]. However, the institutional capacity and the limited geographic coverage of the assessment centres are challenges that still have to be addressed. These are the main factors that hinder access to validation services for potential beneficiaries, especially disadvantaged groups such as the Roma people, workers with low skill levels or people living in rural areas. As many stakeholders proposed within the framework of the new education law No.1/2011, this problem might be addressed efficiently by establishing a Community Lifelong Learning Centre as a local institution providing validation and counselling services according to specific local needs. This proposal has not yet been implemented. Another factor related to the low number of participants in validation services is the lack of information campaigns[2].

Generally, integrated approaches between agencies responsible for validation and institutions responsible for counselling and guidance must be made to improve access to validation procedures. The Ministry of Education is responsible for counselling services in schools and universities, whereas the Ministry of Labour oversees counselling services for unemployed people through its employment agencies. On other hand, the National Authority for Qualifications has assumed responsibility for the validation centres.

National standards, policy and framework activity

Non-formal learning in Romania is conducted mainly by educational institutions and the Centre of Education, public and private providers, governmental and non-governmental organizations, employee training programmes organized by employers and cultural institutions. Certificates attainable are professional qualification certificates and certificates of completion. The evaluation methods include self-evaluation, direct observation, oral testing, written testing, project-based evaluation, simulation or structured observation, reporting or evaluation by others.

In Romania there is a legal framework for the validation of non-formal and informal learning in relation to professional competences. A set of laws and decrees adopted in the early 2000’s organized non-formal and informal learning validation independently of formal VET, enabling NFIL validation to take place outside a formal program.

The first important steps were taken with Law 253/2003, which widened the duties of the National Council for Adult Training (CNFPA) and made reference to the certification of competences acquired through CVET, organized into non-formal and informal settings (Cedefop, 2014). In the next year, Governmental Law 76/2004 laid the foundation for accreditation of validation centres and Order No. 4543/468 of 2004 (supplemented by Order No. 3329/81 of 23 February 2005) formed the basis for the assessment and certification of non-formal and informal learning and the recognition of professional competences based on occupational standards. According to the order, assessment should be voluntary, accomplished in accordance with occupational standards and independent of a formal professional education and training framework. This order also stipulated the main principles that should guide the assessment and certification of professional competences in Romania, namely validity, credibility, impartiality, flexibility, confidentiality and simplicity.

With a recent reform in 2010, the National Authority for Qualification was established by merging the National Council for Adult Training (CNFPA) and the National Agency for Qualifications in Higher Education and Partnership with the Economic and Social Environment (ACPART). Among its other responsibilities, the authority coordinates the validation of professional competences acquired in non-formal and informal settings and is responsible for accrediting assessment centres. Each assessment centre is specialized in specific vocational competences and can issue certain types of qualifications. The accreditation duration for validation centres is 1-3 years, depending on their track record. Validation of occupational competences is based on the assessment of separate units, but no partial qualifications can be awarded: the result for the candidate can be either ‘competent’ or ‘not yet competent’. Participants in validation procedures must pay participation fees that vary depending on the number of competences to be validated and the fee-setting policies of the validation centres.

National Education Law 1/2011 with subsequent amendments opened up the education system and promoted the role of validation of non-formal and informal learning based on a learning outcomes approach. However, there are no targeted measures for a specific sector, with the exception of validation of the learning outcomes acquired by teaching staff in non-formal and informal contexts, and the conversion of these learning outcomes into equivalent credits for teachers’ continuous professional development.

Stakeholder engagement

Regarding validation, according to Law 1/2011, the National Authority has certain responsibilities in the following areas:

  • Providing quality assurance by monitoring the validation procedures and the performance of the validation centres;
  • Coordinating the authorization process of the assessment centres;
  • Setting up the national register of certified assessors;
  • Training and certifying validation experts, assessors and internal and external observers;
  • Issuing vocational competence certificates that have the same value in the labour market as those obtained in the formal education and training system.

According to Common Order No. 4543/468 of 2004, any legal entity can apply to the National Authority for Qualification (formerly to CNFPA) to become a validation centre. The legal entity should provide evidence for assessment procedures, tools and appropriate expertise in the specific qualification or competence for which they are applying. Centres can only be accredited to evaluate an occupation’s competences if they have at least two certified assessment experts with a higher educational degree in the respective field. These experts must also participate in specific training courses provided by the National Qualifications Authority.

No specific responsibilities exist for education and training providers, private sector actors or third sector organizations. Education and training providers may apply for authorization to become assessment centres for certain qualifications. Since 2011, schools may use assessment and validation methodology by implementing a ‘Second Chance’ programme. Economic actors can become involved in the validation processes by way of sectoral committees in which certain sectors’ employers and employees participate. These committees can contribute to the development of sector-related validation standards and assessment criteria. Although third sector organizations make important contributions, they are not considered providers of qualification-related skills.

Generally, the lack of an efficient coordination mechanism between stakeholders is one of the main causes for the small number of potential beneficiaries from validation services.


CEDEFOP. 2013. Analysis and Overview of NQF Level Descriptors in European Countries: annual report 2012. Romania. Luxembourg, Publications Office of the European Union. http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/publications-and-resources/publications/6119 (Accessed 1 December 2015).

CEDEFOP. 2014. European Inventory on Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning 2014: country report Romania. http://libserver.cedefop.europa.eu/vetelib/2014/87074_RO.pdf (Accessed 14 January 2016).

Damesin, R., Fayolle, J., Fleury, N., Malaquin, M., and Rode N. 2014. Challenges, actors and practices of non-formal and informal learning and its validation in Europe. Brussels, European Trade Union Institute. https://www.etui.org/Publications2/Books/Challenges-actors-and-practices-of-non-formal-and-informal-learning-and-its-validation-in-Europe (Accessed 14 January 2016).

Stanciu, S., Banciu, V. 2012. National Qualifications System (NQS) in Romania and validation of formal and non-formal learning. Elsevier Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 69, pp. 816–820 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877042812054638 (Accessed 14 January 2016).

[1] In October 2010, the total number of certificates issued was 28,000 and 21,900 people were assessed and certified between 2010 and 2013.

[2] Recently, a national media campaign was launched by an ESF-funded project to enhance participation in lifelong learning in Romania. One of the main findings from the campaign was that although a significant number of beneficiaries requested more information on the validation process, the assessment centres network is not accessible enough and only a small number of qualifications are eligible for validation (Cedefop, 2014).


The Republic of Korea’s demand for Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) through its Academic Credit Bank System (ACBS) and Lifelong Learning Account System (LLAS), derives from socio-economic developments such as demographic changes and the emerging knowledge-based economy (Lee et al., 2010). In this respect, the Republic of Korea is attempting to move away from an overly examination and instructor-based pedagogy to one which takes into account experiential learning.

Challenges and opportunities

The Republic of Korea has one of the highest rates of progression from secondary school to tertiary and higher education. It also has a high ranking of student performance in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results. Nevertheless, despite such a highly educated young population, the country is facing several challenges: (1) it has one of the highest youth unemployment rates among the OECD Member States (Park, 2011); (2) the schism between the labour market and higher education creates societal instability; (3) the link between industry and the higher education sector is weak in terms of the level of workforce training (Woo, 2010); (4) the skills mismatch forces young people to seek more education, while employers have to invest in more on-the-job training for new recruits; (4) academic degrees are currently not linked to the national qualifications standards; (5) the academic learning culture of higher education does not promote the full appreciation and value of recognising non-formal and informal outcomes through the assessment of prior learning.

National standards, policy and framework activity

The Lifelong Education Act (LEA) provides the legal framework for lifelong learning. The Act required the Republic of Korea to establish a National Institute for Lifelong Education (NILE), which operates the ACBS and manages and supports the LLAS. The aim of the ACBS is to promote an open learning system that provides higher education opportunities and raises the academic level of the entire society by providing opportunities to neglected groups to participate in higher education. The LLAS enables learners to plan their learning process systematically and accumulate learning outcomes in non-formal and informal settings. It also ensures that every learner has the right to choose from a variety of learning options and promotes self-directed learning. Finally, it helps to link learning achievements to general and vocational certification.

Efforts are being made to link various TVET systems and vocational qualifications systems, and to enhance the development of a competence-based education and training system. Since 2010, the Ministry of Labour and Employment and its affiliates have therefore taken charge of developing and operating National Competency Standards (NCS) (KRIVET, 2009)[1]. The country considers the alignment of the ACBS and LLAS to the NCS an important way forward in the future.

Stakeholder engagement

The benefits of the ACBS are associated with the involvement and interests of various stakeholders (NILE, 2013). First, traditional higher education institutions have established on- and off-campus and online lifelong education centres for non-traditional students that are accredited by NILE to be part of the ACBS. Second, the Republic of Korea government departments, including the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Employment and Labour, have lately put pressure on traditional higher education institutions to change their structure and policies and orient more towards the National Competency Standards (NCS) including RPL. Third, the Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) providers offer programmes usually relevant for the labour market and are expected to adopt the NCS on their curricula. Fourth, an employer or a firm may be a key stakeholder in the ACBS system. A firm may want its training programmes to be accredited by the ACBS. With its programmes accredited, a firm can help its employees in obtaining higher education degrees through its own firm-specific training programme, alongside vocational qualifications. Last but not the least, the ACBS is attractive to adult learners given that it provides them a second chance to study at higher education level, acquire vocational qualifications, and change their speciality or major. The latter would be difficult in a traditional higher education system.


Baik, E.S. 2010. Company Needs Analysis for the Network Between the Lifelong Learning Account System and the Job Market. Seoul, National Institute for Lifelong Education (NILE).

Choi, S. D. 2007. Country Background Report Republic of Korea. OECD, Thematic Review on Recognition of Non-Formal and Informal Learning. Paris, OECD.

Halasz, G., Sweet, R., and Taguma, M. 2009. Recognition of non-formal and informal learning: country note for South Korea. Paris, OECD.

Korean Institute for Vocational Education and Training. 2009. NCS Development Promotion Project. Seoul, Republic of Korea Ministry of Education.

Lee, H.Y., Koh, Y.S., Park, S.O., and Park, S.M. 2010. Manual for Recognition of Prior Learning. Seoul, NILE.

Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. 2007. Second National Lifelong Learning Promotion Plan (2008–2012). Seoul, Republic of Korea, Ministry of Education.

National Institute for Lifelong Education (NILE). 2011. Lifelong Learning Account System. Seoul, NILE.

National Institute for Lifelong Education (NILE). 2013. Manual for the Academic Credit Bank System. Seoul, NILE.

Park, D.Y. 2011. South Korean policies on secondary vocational education. Bundesinstitut für berufliche Bildung. BWP. No. 3, 2011.

Woo, C.S. 2010. Post-secondary vocational education and training in South Korea: What is new and unique? http://www.slideshare.net/mindrom/post-secondary-vet-in-korea-what-is-new-and-uniquecheonsik-woo-hr-forum-2010pdf-seoul-korea(Accessed 6 April 2014).

[1] Previously, the development of the National Occupational Standards (NOS) was the responsibility of the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MOEL), whereas the Korean Skills Standards (KSS) was under the Ministry of Education (MoE). Recently, however, in 2010, NOS and KSS have been merged together to form the National Competency Standards (NCS). Additionally, the MOEL now operates the NCS in collaboration with its affiliates. This change is expected to enhance the overall coordination function of the NCS.


The Portuguese education and training system – including policies and practices regarding the validation of non-formal and informal learning (VNFIL/RPL) – changed remarkably since 2012, due to impacts of the international financial crisis. After a steady pace of implementation and progress on adult education and training policies, in 2012, the Portuguese government decided to interrupt the implementation of the New Opportunities Initiative (the Iniciativa Novas Oportunidades [1] – an action plan that was  implemented since 2007, on adult education and vocational education and training fields).

This decision (later on, formalized by the Portaria No.135-A/2013) has led also to the reduction, reorganization and reorientation of the existing network of New Opportunities Centres (452 Centros Novas Oportunidades – CNOs [2]), replacing them by the current Centres for Qualification and Vocational Education (Centros para a Qualificação e o Ensino Profissional – CQEPs). This has happened subsequently to the reorganization of the National Agency for Qualifications (Agência Nacional para a Qualificação – ANQ)[3], into the National Agency for Qualification and Vocational Education (Agência Nacional para a Qualificação e o Ensino Profissional – ANQEP), with an increased focus on vocational education, rather than on adult education policies (Cedefop, 2014).

The 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)[4]. It enjoys administrative and financial autonomy and is jointly supervised by the Ministries in charge of labour affairs, of education affairs, and of economic affairs.

Challenges and opportunities

In comparison with other European countries, the qualifications and schooling levels of Portuguese citizens is significantly lower. Persistently high rates of early school leavers have resulted in a substantial stock of underqualified young people entering the labour market for more than four decades.

In recent years, 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: youth 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 participation in lifelong learning 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 the operations of CNOs caused major delays in such an important area for social and economic development of the country.

In 2016, the current Government launched a new intervention called the Qualifying Program (Programa Qualifica), in order to resume the former dynamic of the 2008-2012 period. The Qualifying Program is also part of the national Economic Reform Program, which was 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-establish 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.

National standards, policy and framework activity

The state-funded CQEPs, although reduced in the number of operational units, have a broader responsibility than the previous CNOs. Their aim is to bridge the gap between education, training and employment by providing quality (career) guidance and counselling to both young people and adults, on schooling routes, VET programs and dual certification opportunities.

As already mentioned, these centres are not only targeting low-skilled adults, but also young individuals from 15 years of age. The legislation states that CQEPs can be established in public and private schools (general and vocational education schools), and vocational training centres, for which the Institute for Employment and Vocational Training is responsible. Enterprises or social partners can also establish CQEPs. Any public or private body with a track record in adult education and continuing training or skills’ assessment can apply to become an accredited Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning (VNFIL) centre, although the public funding has been significantly reduced since 2012.

The CQEPs are responsible for the development of Validation processes (RVCC), which has two main routes – academic and vocational. The former serves adults who do not have basic or secondary education certificates, whereas the latter serves adults who do not have formal vocational qualifications. Through the vocational route, adult learners can choose between 280 different national qualifications from the National Catalogue of Qualifications (Catálogo Nacional de Qualificações [5]).

The RVCC processes – for both the academic and vocational routes – are an integral component of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF), which is fully referenced to the European Qualifications Framework. This means that qualifications obtained through the RVCC processes correspond to the levels acquired in the formal education and training system, and provide access to the next levels of qualifications. Horizontal permeability within the system is also possible. Through the RVCC processes, NQF qualifications from levels one to four (the latter, equivalent to upper-secondary education, plus a vocational qualification) can be granted. For the academic route, Level 3 of qualification (upper-secondary education) can be granted through RVCC according to the key-competences standards for secondary education. The same applies for Levels 1 and 2 of qualifications, assessing the candidates against a key-competences standard for Basic Education.

The process is organized into four phases (Gomes e Simões, 2007):

  • information and guidance (decision on the qualification pathway best fitting each individual candidate, either RVCC or a full adult education and training program);
  • identification of competences and preparation of evidence documentation (dossier or portfolio);
  • validation (assessment by subject-matter evaluators); and
  • certification (issuance of certificates and diplomas, for both partial and full qualifications).

In the first phase, the individual is given information about the adult education and training system, and is interviewed by a counsellor to define the appropriate (best-fit) education and training pathway (it could be a RVCC process, an adult education and training course, or a modular short-training course), depending on each individual’s profile, and aims and expectations. Only candidates between 18 and 23 years of age and having three years of work experience can be forwarded to a RVCC process.

In the second phase, if the RVCC process has been indicated as the best route for the individual, he/she – with support of a counsellor if needed – constructs his/her personal dossier/portfolio containing evidences (documentary proof of competences) held in the key-competences standards or vocational competences standards.

In the third phase, the assessors (subject-matter teachers or vocational qualification specialised trainer) evaluate the dossiers/portfolios and validates the demonstrated competences (always against the national standards), and decide if the candidate needs further training to complete the full certification, or he/she needs to be sent for a formal education and training course after a partial certification is awarded. In both cases, the candidate presents his/her dossier/portfolio to a jury, which includes also an external assessor, and who is responsible for the final decision on the candidates’ certification.

The awarded certification (partial or full) is registered in the Individual Competences Booklet, which is an online system accessible to learners, and if the candidate wishes to do so, also to the providers, and employers. In the case of a partial certification, the RVCC counsellor assists the individual in finding the right career path or further education and training programs. In the case of being awarded a full qualification, the RVCC awards a certificate that officially recognizes the competences acquired and a diploma for the respective qualification level within the NQF. (EAEA, 2011)

At the level of higher education, the validation process is linked to the European Credit System, which means that students receive ECTS points for the approved competences that they can use for exemptions from parts of a course. The legislation has set a limit to the validation process in such a way that maximum one-third of a degree programme can be obtained through validation. At this level, there is no national institution in charge of the validation process. The individual universities are responsible for the validation process as well as for allocating their own funding to finance it (Cedefop, 2014).

Stakeholder engagement

The legal Act of 2013 on the establishment of CQEPs stresses the importance of partnerships and strong cooperation between employers, vocational education and training institutions, third sector organizations and public sector organizations during the validation process.

Relevant stakeholders, including social partners, are involved in the coordination and cost sharing of continuing training for adults. According to the Labour Code, enshrined in law by the Parliament, employers must contribute to the upskilling of their employees, with at least 10 per cent of their permanent contract employees participating in training courses and to assert the right of every worker to receive a minimum of 35 hours of certified training each year[6].


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-non-formal-and-informal-learning/european-inventory (Accessed 20 November 2015).

European Association for the Education of Adults (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).

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.

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

[1] The New Opportunities Initiative was a governmental action plan, elaborated jointly by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Labour and Social Solidarity, back in 2006, which has made possible the engagement of more than 1.6 million adult learners, and the certification of around half million low-skilled adults, in the period 2006-2012), representing a very important programme implemented in Portugal in the adult education and training field (Carneiro, Roberto (coordinator), 2011). The objective of the initiative was to give low-qualified workers the opportunity to obtain an elementary or secondary education diploma, and/or a vocational qualification (which in combination would allow the awarding of a double certification), combining VNFIL/RPL routes, with modular short-training courses, or full adult education and training programs. As such, it was recognized as a good example of a formal recognition of informal and non-formal qualifications within the Portuguese national education and training system, which built upon the experience of the previous RVCC centers, established since 2000. More information available at http://www.unevoc.unesco.org/fileadmin/user_upload/pubs/New%20Opportunities%20-%20Portugal.pdf

[2] The New Opportunities Centers provided public adult education and training offers, mainly through the Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning (VNFIL) routes, that were equivalent to grades nine (lower-secondary education) and twelve (upper-secondary education), as well as vocational certification in more than 100 occupational profiles. Moreover, a national standard for recognition, validation and certification of skills at upper-secondary education (Gomes, 2006), was adopted for VNFIL/RPL routes and Adult Educational and Training Courses.

[3] The ANQ had previously been responsible for VNFIL/RPL coordination – both academic and vocational components – at the level of elementary and secondary education, and vocational qualifications.

[4] More information at http://www.anqep.gov.pt/

[5] The Portuguese National Register of Qualifications is available online, and permanently updated though the operations of the Sectoral Committees, which can be consulted at http://www.catalogo.anqep.gov.pt/

Non-formal and informal learning, known in the Philippines as Alternative Learning Systems (ALS), are embedded in the Philippines constitution since 1987. The recognition, validation and accreditation (RVA) of ALS has been an essential policy direction to ensure that Filipinos are given wider access to education.

Challenges and opportunities

One in every four (25.8 per cent) of the 9.2 million Filipinos live in poverty (NAPC, 2015) while one in every 10 of the 4 million Filipino children and youth are considered to be out-of-school (PSA, 2015c). For those who manage to enter formal schooling, the challenge is how to stay in school as evidenced by the country’s drop-out rate of 24.2 per cent, one of the highest in Southeast Asia (UNESCO, n.d.). For those who manage to complete school, they face rising unemployment (6.6%) and underemployment (19.5%) rates (PSA, 2015a). As an alternative, Filipinos choose to work abroad largely as labourers and unskilled workers comprising 32.8 per cent of the 2.3 million overseas Filipino workers (OFW) (PSA, 2015b). These challenges may serve as potent opportunities for the country to further improve its education system – widening reach and access and ensuring that learning outcomes are recognized, validated and accredited.

National standards, policy and framework activity. The recent institutionalization of the Philippines National Qualifications Framework (PNQF) has led to the implementation of a nation-wide qualifications system, hinged on quality assurance measures, applied to “all institutions and systems which provide trainings, specializations, skills and competencies, and professional experience through lifelong learning” (IRR of EO No. 83, Section 5, 2012). The PNQF unites the three sectors of the Philippines education system (basic education, higher education and technical and vocational education and training [TVET]) by further developing “a system of pathways, ladders and equivalencies between qualifications and across the education sector” (Isaac, 2011).

Through the PNQF, certain alternative learning programmes are awarded the same qualification as in the formal system (Isaac, 2011). These qualifications, equivalencies and Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) are present in all the sectors of the education system: Basic Literacy Program (BLP) and Continuing Education Program Accreditation and Equivalency Test (CPE A&E) for basic education; the Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency and Accreditation Program (ETEEAP) for tertiary education; and the awarding of National Certificates and/or Certificate of Competency for TVET.

Stakeholder engagement. Corresponding to the above three education sectors, the public management of education in the Philippines is likewise decentralized to three agencies. These are: Department of Education (DepEd) for basic education; the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) for higher education; and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) for TVET. These agencies ensure improved policy-making, planning and programming at the local level.

In addition to the three departments mentioned, the implementation of the PNQF is also the responsibility of the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) and the Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE). Industries, chambers and professional associations are also involved to ensure the alignment of educational outcomes to job requirements in the market. Coordination with parents and employers as stakeholders is also important (Isaac, 2011) while establishing and maintaining linkages among implementers of the National Qualification Frameworks (NQF) from other countries and those in the region.

Funding the implementation of the PNQF and all its components is the responsibility of DepEd, TESDA and CHED. In 2014, DepEd had the highest budget among all the government departments in the country (DBM, n.d.).


Commission on Higher Education (CHED). n.d. Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency and Accreditation (ETEEAP). http://www.ched.gov.ph/index.php/projects-programs/programs/expanded-tertiary-education-equivalency-and-accreditation-eteeap/ (Accessed 19 May 2015).

Department of Budget and Management [DBM]. n.d. Summary of Allocations.

Department of Education [DepED]. n.d. ALS Programs. http://www.deped.gov.ph/als/programs (Accessed 19 May 2015).

Executive Order No. 83. 2012. Institutionalization of the Philippine Qualifications Framework. http://www.gov.ph/downloads/2012/10oct/20121001-EO-0083-BSA.pdf

Implementing Rules and Regulations of Executive Order No. 83. S. 2012. http://www.gov.ph/2012/12/17/implementing-rules-and-regulations-of-executive-order-no-83-s-2012/ (Accessed 18 May 2015).

Isaac, I. 2011. The Philippine National Qualifications Framework. Paper presented at the International Conference on Implementation of NQF Policies and Strategies.

Manasan, R. 2000. Basic Education: Improving Quality and Quantity. Policy Notes: Philippine Institute of Developmental Studies. 2000-20. pp. 1-10.

National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC). 2015. Poverty Count. http://maps.napc.gov.ph/drupal/articles/poverty-count-0 (Accessed 19 May 2015).

Philippine Statistics Authority [PSA]. 2015a. Labor and Employment. http://census.gov.ph/statistics/survey/labor-force (Accessed 19 May 2015).

PSA. 2012. The 2010 Census of Population and Housing Reveals the Philippine Population at 92.34 Million. http://census.gov.ph/content/2010-census-population-and-housing-reveals-philippine-population-9234-million (Accessed 19 May 2015).

PSA. 2015b. Total Number of OFWs Estimated at 2.3 Million (Results from the 2014 Survey on Overseas Filipinos). http://census.gov.ph/content/total-number-ofws-estimated-23-million-results-2014-survey-overseas-filipinos%C2%B9(Accessed 19 May 2015).

PSA. 2015c. Out-of-School Children and Youth in the Philippines (Results from the 2013 Functional Literacy, Education and Mass Media Survey). http://census.gov.ph/content/out-school-children-and-youth-philippines-results-2013-functional-literacy-education-and (Accessed 19 May 2015).

TESDA. n.d. Philippine TVET Qualification and Certification System (PTQCS). http://www.tesda.gov.ph/uploads/File/PHILIPPINE%20TVET%20QUALIFICATION%20AND%20CERTIFICATON%20SYSTEM.pdf(Accessed 19 May 2015).


Pakistan is in the process of developing mechanisms for the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and is interested in setting up criteria for assessment, equivalencies and credit transfer. RPL is not only beneficial for traditionally disadvantaged groups but is also relevant for empowering youth and early school leavers. RPL is a way of recognizing and respecting different ways of knowing, particularly those acquired through the traditional apprenticeship system known as the Ustad-Shagird system. RPL is also considered a bridge between non-formal and formal learning and a reliable way to evaluate non-classroom learning for the purpose of facilitating certification, meeting job requirements and achieving academic credit or transfer. All these points relate to the growing stakeholder perception placed on learning outcomes, on what someone knows and can do, and to the contribution of RPL in promoting social inclusion and enhancing learning and employment opportunities.

Challenges and opportunities

The 18th Amendment in the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan[1] decentralized legislative power with regard to educational affairs to all existing eight provinces.[2]However, while the provinces have been given key roles in educational policy formulation, curriculum and standard setting, the lack of educational responsibility at the federal level has meant that educational sectors are fragmented and uncoordinated, so that equivalencies and certificates may be recognized at the provincial level but not necessarily at the federal level.

Pakistan is also facing immense socio-economic challenges caused in part by the ongoing conflict with the Taliban, as a consequence of which, hundreds of Pakistanis are being displaced. Such challenges affect the education sector as can be seen in the literacy rates which are at 65 per cent for men and 42 per cent for women. These rates have, in turn, negatively affected the labor market and the country’s rate of economic growth.

Challenges in the Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) sector include: (1) limited capacity of the training system to provide necessary programs; (2) disparity between learning outcomes and market needs; (3) limited pathways to facilitate flow between TVET and formal education systems; and (4) lack of nationally-recognized standards[3] for competences so that each institution issues its own certificate, which may or may not be recognized at the level of the province. Such practice leads to a reduction of the economic value of training and provides little transparency and confidence to employers in selecting and hiring graduates.

Participation in TVET is also low. With regard to formal TVET (NAVTEC, 2009), in 2009, there were only 315,000 students enrolled across 1,522 technical and vocational education and training institutes. As regards non-formal learning, a huge number of Pakistani workers have received their training based upon Ustad-Shagird system. Several short term (three months to one year) courses conducted by vocational institutes are also available requiring a Class 8 pass for entry that lead to the grade of a skilled worker. But such courses are only recognized at the provincial level and not at a federal level.

In the world of work, only 6 per cent of Pakistani workers has acquired vocational and technical skills through the formal TVET system; 2.5 per cent gain their skills through on-the-job training in the formal sector.

National standards, policy and framework activity

Given the importance of human resource development, the government, as part of its National Skills Strategy 2009-2013, has made skills development a joint federal and provincial responsibility. In line with this strategy, Pakistan designed the National Qualifications Framework (NQF), with the central aim of bringing together all national qualifications under one coherent system (NAVTEC, 2009) and accommodating all kinds of learning, whether formal, non-formal or informal (from both public and private providers). As part of the TVET Reform Support Program, NQF developments have focused on the TVET sub-framework called the National Vocational Qualifications Framework (NVQF) (NAVTTC, 2012). It consists of six vocational levels and two prevocational levels. Depending upon the establishment of equivalencies and the skill level one achieves, the NVQF is able to support the recognition of learning outcomes and competences from any learning setting leading to the award of a qualification equivalent to a secondary school certificate, a higher secondary school certificate and/or a bachelor’s degree. These certificates allow an individual to enter further higher education. Currently, non-formal education and training programs – such as short-term vocational courses, distance learning or workplace learning – run parallel to the mainstream education programs; however, the goal of the government through the NQF is to put the quality and standards of non-formal learning programs on a par with and equivalent to formal education and training programs and accommodate them within the national qualifications framework.

Stakeholder engagement. Several stakeholders have been involved in the development of the NQF, recognition and certification mechanisms, and the TVET sector reform processes. Public and private sector, especially practitioners from various industries, and professional associations such as the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) are all involved in the process of curriculum development in order to increase the relevance of training for employers and increase workers’ employability. The National Vocational and Technical Training Commission (NAVTTC) is the main authority for implementing RPL in relation to the learning outcomes based standards in the NVQF. These federal agencies cooperate with the provincial Technical and Vocational Training Authorities (TEVTA).

Many projects are implemented by international and bilateral assistance. The “TVET Reform Support Program” is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmBH (German Agency for International Cooperation and Development) in cooperation with the NAVTTC and TEVTAs. The Program is co-funded by the European Union, the Embassy of the Netherlands and the Federal Republic of Germany.


de Voogd, Jan and Qureshi, Muhammad Iqbal. 2011. Labour Market Information: A situational analysis of Pakistan. Islamabad, Project Office, GIZ.

Eighteenth Amendment. 2010. http://pakistanconstitutionlaw.com/18th-amendment-2010 (Accessed 10 August 2015).

Federal and Provincial Roles and Responsibilities in Education. Eighteen Constitutional Amendment.http://www.aserpakistan.org/document/learning_resources/2014/18th Amendment Federal and Provincial Responsibilities in Education.pdf (Accessed 10 August 2015).

German Agency for International Cooperation and Development (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) (GIZ). 2013. Supporting TVET Reform in Pakistan. Progress Report – 1 April 2012 to 31 March 2013. Islamabad, Project Office, GIZ.

National Vocational and Technical Education Commission (NAVTEC). 2009. National Skills Strategy 2008-2013. Islamabad, Prime Minister’s Secretariat.

National Vocational and Technical Training Commission (NAVTTC). 2012. The National Vocational Qualifications Framework (NVQF): Framework with level descriptors and rules for managing the National Vocational Qualifications Framework. Islamabad, Prime Minister’s Secretariat.

UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL). 2014. Global inventory of regional and national qualifications frameworks. Country Case studies compiled by the UNESCO Institute of Lifelong Learning. Hamburg, UIL.

World Bank. 2009. National Qualifications Framework and Technical Vocational Education and Training in Pakistan. South Asia: Human Development Unit, Report No. 26. Washington DC, World Bank.

World Bank. 2011. World Bank Supports Vocational Training to Boost Employment for Youth in Pakistan. The World Bank Group. Washington DC, World Bank.


Validation of prior learning has been high on the political agenda since 1999 when the government was tasked with establishing a system that gives adults the right to document the learning outcomes and competencies acquired in non-formal and informal settings without having to undergo traditional forms of testing.

Challenges and opportunities

The recognition and validation of non-formal and informal learning in Norway prioritises adults who have not completed formal education, offering them a possibility to enter formal education at the right level based on their prior learning.

National standards, policy and framework activity

Validation of Prior Learning (VPL) is an important component of lifelong learning reform and the so called Competence Reform (kompetansereformen), which was introduced in 1997 (Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, 1997a). The Competence Reform aims to meet the need for new or changed competences in society, in the workplace and at the individual level (Ministry of Education and Research, 1997b). To accomplish the Competence Reform, the Validation Project (Realkompetanseprosjektet) was given the mandate to form the foundation for a national system for validation of non-formal and informal learning during 1999-2002.

As a result of the Competence Reform of 1997 adults without lower secondary and upper secondary education (including Vocational Education and Training (VET)) were given the statutory right to have their prior learning validated. In addition, according to the amendment to the act of 2001 relating to universities and university colleges, adults without a general college and university admission certificate can apply for admission to higher education on the basis of their documented prior learning. The applicant must be over 25 years of age. The act also allows for exemption from parts of a study programme on the basis of a validation of prior learning, i.e. where an applicant’s competences from prior learning are of equal worth to the learning outcomes of the course or parts of a study programme

Enrollment in tertiary vocational education is usually based on a vocational diploma from upper secondary education. Since 2003 candidates without a vocational diploma are also entitled to apply for enrollment if they can prove relevant competence from prior learning according to the requirements for admittance in the specific institution. The student may also be allowed exemptions from parts of study programs based on prior learningWith regard to further developments, the Government’s white paper Report No. 16 (2006–2007) (Ministry of Education) on early intervention for lifelong learning focused on the national system for documenting and validating the non-formal and informal learning of adults. The government’s initiative on Lifelong Learning 2009 states that the system for validation of prior learning must be promoted and strengthened. A Government’s white paper Report No. 16 (2015-2016) suggests a new learning pathway for adults in VET based on validation of non-formal and informal learning.

The Ministry of Education and Research appointed a committee to investigate how to reference non-formal learning to the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). So far the NQF is been closely linked to the formal education system, describing levels of competences acquired through formal schooling. Many stakeholders are especially interested in making visible the vast reservoir of experiential learning from working life, which today is mainly documented within sectoral recognition systems, but is not visible in the NQF.  The Committee presented a report in April 2015 suggesting two different models for linking non-fomal learning to NQF.

As a follow up of OECD Skills Strategy Action Report 2014 the Norwegian Ministry of Education and research has initiated a national work to develop a national and holistic skills strategy. Vox has the role as secretariat for the process, working closely with all the national stakeholders. Validation of prior learning will be one of many subjects in these strategy discussions.

Stakeholder engagement

While the Ministry of Education and Research has the main regulatory responsibility at all levels of education, equally important are social partners – professional associations and trade unions -, both nationally and regionally, for realising policy goals and recognition practice. The new basic agreement for 2014 – 17 between the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprises (NHO) and the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) emphasises the importance of making prior learning visible, stating in § 18–-4 for the Documentation of prior learning (i.e., informal learning): “It is important that the enterprise has a system for documenting the individual’s experience, courses and practice related to the employment.” (Norway. LO and NHO, 2009, p. 42). Professional associations and trade unions offer, for example, apprenticeships and other training schemes in enterprises locally, thus supporting adults in VET schemes.

Skills Norway (former The Norwegian Agency for Lifelong Learning, Vox) is the body designated by the Ministry of Education in 1999 to work on VPL at the national level. In the past two years, Skills Norway has been responsible for developing guidelines for validation towards enrolment in tertiary vocational education and towards exemption in higher education. Skills Norway has developed these guidelines in cooperation with relevant stakeholders from the sectors. In addition, in 2013, the Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training developed national guidelines for VPL in lower and upper secondary education. Skills Norway cooperates with NGOs and social partners in order to further adult learning in working life.

There are still challenges in the validation of non-formal and informal learning. A Skills Norway report has shown that only 26 per cent of employees are sufficiently informed about their rights and opportunities and calls for a more targeted information strategy (Guthu and Bekkevold, 2010). Also, the co-operation between the Labour and Welfare Administration and the county centres responsible for the recognition of learning at upper secondary level needs further strengthening. The Skills Norway report (2010) has highlighted the importance of improving co-operation at county level between the different sectors and draws attention to the need for greater cooperation between the different levels of the education system.

The social partners will be deeply involved in the national work to develop a national and holistic skills strategy initiated by the Norwegian Ministry of Education and research. RVA of workplace learning is a subject of interest in this work.


Alfsen, C. and Hagen, I. 2008. Økt bruk av realkompetansevurdering for arbeidssøkere: i grenseflaten mellom utdanningspolitikk og arbeidsmarkedspolitikk.Oslo, Vox.

Andersson, P. and Hult, Å. 2007. Validation policy and practice in the Nordic countries: an overview. Conference paper prepared for the Nordic Network of Adult Education (NVL).

Bologna Follow-up Group, Stocktaking Working Group. 2007. Bologna Process stocktaking: London 2007. Brussels, European Commission.

Confederation of Trade Unions and Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise. 2009. Basic agreement 2010-2013 LO-NHO with supplementary agreements. Oslo, LO and NHO.

Guthu, L. and Bekkevold, K. 2010. The Vox Mirror 2009: Key figures on adult participation in education and training in Norway.

Hawley, J. and Ure, O.B. 2011. European inventory on validation of non-formal and informal learning 2010: country report Norway. European Commission; CEDEFOP.

Holmesland, I. and Deanne Lundin, J. eds. 2009. Formal and informal learning: shall the TWAIN ever meet in higher education?  Oslo, Vox.

Nilsen-Mohn, T. 2007a. Valuation and validation of non-formal and informal learning in Norway: experience and challenges. Oslo, Vox.

Nilsen-Mohn, T. 2007b. Validation of Prior Learning (VPL) in the Nordic countries. In: R.C. Duvekot, G. Scanlon, A. Charraud, K. Schuur, D. Coughlan, T. Nilsen-Mohn, J. Paulusse, and R. Klarus eds. 2007. Managing European diversity in lifelong learning: the many perspectives of the valuation of prior learning in the European workplace. Nijmegen/Vught/Amsterdam, Hogeschool Arnhem-Nijmegen/European Centre Valuation Prior Learning/ Hogeschool van Amsterdam’ HAN/EC-VPL/HvA, pp. 161-175.

Nilsen-Mohn, T. 2008. Validation of non-formal and informal learning outcomes in Norway. Paper presented at the ADEA (Association for the Development of Education in Africa) Biennale on Education in Africa, ‘Beyond Primary Education: Challenges and Approaches to Expanding Learning Opportunities in Africa’, held in Maputo, Mozambique, 5–9 May. Tunis, ADEA.

Nilsen-Mohn, T. and Størset, H. 2010. Realkompetanse innen høyere utdanning: en studie ved tre institusjoner. Oslo, Vox, Nasjonalt fagorgan for kompetansepolitikk.

Norway. Ministry of Education and Research. 1997a. The Kompetence reform.Oslo, Ministry of Education and Research.

Norway. Ministry of Education and Research. 1997b. New competence: The basis for a total policy for continuing education and training for adults. Oslo, Ministry of Education and Research. Norway. Ministry of Education and Research. 2015. Innplassering av kvalifikasjoner fra ikke-formell opplæring i Nasjonalt kvalifikasjonsrammeverk, Oslo, Ministry of Education and Research.

Norway. Ministry of Education and Research. 2016. Fra utenforskap til ny sjanse.Oslo, Ministry of Education and Research.

Norway. Ministry of Education and Research. Kompetensereformen: Handlingsplan 2000-2003. Oslo, RNMER.

OECD. 2007. Recognition of non-formal and informal learning: country background report 2006 Norway. Paris, OECD.

Refernet. 2009. VET in Europe: Norway country report.

Røstad, S. et al. 2008. På rett vei med realkompetanse – modeller fra Hedmark, Hordaland, Nordland og Sogn og Fjordane. Oslo, Vox.


Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) originates in the 1980s and is very much dominated by the NQF discourse. In New Zealand, RPL is also known as Accreditation of Prior learning (APL and credit transfer).

Challenges and opportunities

The Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) in New Zealand is closely tied to challenges and opportunities on the policy level. These relate to areas such as skilled employment, education, equity and immigration. By promoting an individual’s self-knowledge, recognition may encourage individuals who have not previously taken part in the formal education system to do so. It also provides individuals with the evidence to meet any entry standards for vocational or higher education. A planned approach to the recognition of informal workplace learning can lead to employees taking part in workplace training or enhancing capabilities and competence and obtaining a qualification.

National standards, policy and framework activity

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA)[1] is responsible inter alia for maintaining mechanisms for the recognition of prior learning (RPL), for example, the recognition of learning against qualifications and standards.

The NZQA supports lifelong learning through the administration of the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF). The NZQF provides the foundation for lifelong learning because its enables flexibility in learning pathways. Individuals are able to make informed pathway choices because NZQA’s quality assurance requirements ensure that the qualifications listed on the NZQF can be compared across sectors.

Furthermore, RPL is an important requirement for qualification developers to take account of before a new NZQF qualification can be approved by NZQA. One of the requirements is that the credit awarded as a result of either RPL[2] or recognition of current competency (RCC) is of equal standing to the credit awarded through other forms of assessment and the credit should be transferable across sectors once the learner has been awarded the credit through RPL or RCC.

The governing policy for RPL is NZQA’s Supporting Learning Pathways: Credit recognition and transfer policy (NZQA, 2002). It requires Tertiary Education Organisations to have arrangements in place for the assessment of prior learning. Quality assurance then occurs in relation to assessment that leads to recognised standards and qualifications. Both the industry and educator sectors follow the same governing policy for recognition.

Stakeholder engagement

Education providers are required to adhere to the Credit recognition and transfer policy and have their own administrative and practical arrangements in place for RPL. The policy, therefore, relates to individual learners, educational organisations, employing organisations, industry and professional bodies, as well as a number of institutes of technology and polytechnics in New Zealand designated as centres for the assessment of RPL


Competency International Limited (CIL). 2011. Ensuring Consistency of Qualification Outcomes – a discussion paper. Wellington, CIL.

Education Act. 1989. http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1989/0080/latest/DLM175959.html(Accessed 11 July 2013).

New Zealand Qualifications Authority. 2002. Supporting Learning Pathways – Credit Recognition and Transfer Policy. Government of New Zealand, NZQA.

New Zealand Qualifications Authority. 2013. The New Zealand Qualifications Framework.  Government of New Zealand, New Zealand Qualifications Authority. Version 3.0, November 2013.

Vaughan, K. and Cameron, M. 2009. Report prepared for the Industry Training Federation Research Network, Assessment of Learning in the Workplace: A Background Paper. September 2009. New Zealand Council for Educational Research.


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