There are two types of validation of non-formal and informal learning:
- The validation of competences (VDC) in the continuous vocational education and training sector, leading to a recognised certificate.
- The valorisation of prior experience (VAE-valorisation des acquis de l’expérience) in adult education and higher education, leading to the validation of learning units or exemptions from certain parts of a study pathway.
VAE and VDC are different in several ways, with regard to their methodologies, objectives, and outcomes. It is important to make the distinction between the two concepts of ‘valorisation’ (to enhance and get credit for prior experience, in view of obtaining access to formal education and training) and ‘validation’, which gives access to a recognised title or certification.
Stakeholders recognise projects targeting immigrants/refugees are an important issue. A number of recent changes should have a positive impact on vulnerable groups. In particular, the regulatory changes made to VAE in adult education will allow individuals to validate and get recognition certificates for single ‘units’, for instance language skills.
VPL in Higher Education
VAE in higher education has a stronger institutional basis. Through VAE, higher education institutions assess and/or recognise knowledge, skills and competences acquired by an individual who wishes to be admitted to a higher education programme. It does not lead to the award of a certification or qualification.
There is a common regulatory framework for all HE institutions that allows VAE for admission for all cycles of higher education. The experience that the candidates wish to see recognised must correspond to at least five years of experience (prior studies in HE can be taken into account, up to two years or 120 credits). This is done through a portfolio that summarises his/her experience.
The priority is to make VAE sustainable, and to increase access for adults who would benefit from returning to education (e.g. making procedures easier and simpler to understand), by taking into account their specific constraints and difficulties.
Validation in the Labour Market
Specific sectoral conventions were signed with social partners to increase the recognition of Skills Certificates on the labour market.
The skills validation system in French-speaking Belgium was set up in the context of policies promoting lifelong learning at the Federal level. In 2001, the Federal Government introduced the right for all workers to undertake a ‘skills audit’ (bilan de compétences). The law grants every worker a right to be assessed to identify and validate skills gained outside the formal education system.
Validation in the Third Sector
Links between VDC and the third sector seem to be gradually developing. The 2012 activity report of the Consortium noted that some candidates were being sent to validation centres by non-profit organisations.
In relation to VAE in higher education, voluntary activities can be taken into account in the ‘relevant experience’ presented in the candidate’s portfolio.
Funding of VPL
- The validation tests for VDC are subsidised by the government. Compensations received by the observers are covered by European funds. Funding dedicated to VDC has remained stable but has not increased proportionally with the increase in the number of candidates seeking to have their competences validated.
- VAE in universities is partly supported by regional funding, partly by universities and partly by European funds.
- Different policies are being implemented with ESF-funds in order to help immigrants and refugees to get their skills valorised, mainly in languages: French and adult literacy but also later in their vocational or non-vocational skills.