In Estonia principles for validation of non-formal and informal learning (also known as Recognition of Prior Learning, RPL) have been developed and are now regulated by the HE and VET educational legislation. The validation principles are generally also used in the system for awarding occupational qualifications. In the field of general education, the validation is allowed by law, but validation process and practice has not been clearly defined. Validation processes are being developed for adult gymnasiums, institutions providing non-formal education have been only partially involved in the implementation of validation.
Validation practices in Estonia are well developed in the formal educational sector. Higher education (HE) has been leading development in relation to validation, followed by the VET sector. The challenge in Estonia is for other sectors to follow the developments in HE and VET and to create unified system.
The current system of RPL is fragmented and for potential applicants it is difficult to find his/her way around the various systems.
In Estonia the validation is understood as follows: Validations is a process that helps a recognized institution assess the competence of an applicant based on specific criteria. The key criteria are designed to assess how applicant’s knowledge, skills and aptitudes match the entry requirements of the educational institution, the learning outcomes of the programme or sections of it or the competency requirements of occupational standards.
Validation in HE and VET is seen as a regular part of study programme. Each institution is responsible for implementing validation including providing information, guiding, assessing and certifying.
Due to the end of funding a well-functioning network of validation practitioners is no longer active, therefore there is are no new common initiatives in HE sector.
How well the institutions are implementing validation is not possible to analyse, because there is no uniform database on validation processes and beneficiaries.
For the years 2014-2020 new goals have been set by the Estonian Lifelong Learning Strategy which is the document that guides the most important developments in the area of education. The general goal of this strategy is to provide all people of Estonia with learning opportunities through their lifetime. In this context the Adult Education Programme aims to implement validation in general adult education. Higher education and VET sectors programmes state the need to improve quality of validation practices and develop futher validation in the education area.
Validation has an important role to play in enhancing links among different levels of education and labour market.
Higher educational programme 2016-2019 features validation as a means for a flexible form of study by supporting the access to HE for various groups of learners.
VPL in Higher Education
General legislation supporting HE in Estonia is laid down in the following legal documents:
- Universities Act,
- Institutions of Professional Higher Education Act,
- Private Schools Act
- Standard of Higher Education
The Universities Act requires universities to accredit prior experiential learning and it has obliged them to develop their own rules and procedures for VPL. Since 2008 the major rules and purposes of VPL have been set up in major principles by Standard of Higher Education.
The Standard of Higher Education stipulates the aims and general principles for validation in very broad terms. According to subsection 12 (3) of the Standard of Higher Education, validation can be implemented:
- for complying with the conditions for admission established by the educational institution
- for transfer of previously acquired credit points upon completion of a curriculum
- for accreditation of prior studies and professional experience as credit points
Validation can also be used to access HE, replacing the necessary entrance qualifications except for the first degree level entry.
Since 2007 there have also been no limitations on the extent to which a HE programme can be completed through VPL, except for the final thesis. This means that whole curriculum can be attained on the basis of VPL, except for the final thesis or final examination.
Governmental regulation ‘Statutes and forms of diploma and diploma supplement’ stipulates that validation shall be reflected in the Diploma Supplement. The indication ‘recognised on the basis of prior learning (formal, non-formal or informal)’ shall be added to the subject/module in the diploma supplement.
The Standard of Higher Education also includes a broad framework of common validation implementation regulations and states that HE needs to have validation regulations within the institution.