Validation of Prior Learning

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1 Finland 1

2 Good Practice Executive Summary Finland is one of the few European countries that have permanent systems and comprehensive national policies in place for validating informal and non-formal learning (prior learning). The public and voluntary sectors in Finland have had a number of validation initiatives in place for over a decade and the private sector, as well as social partners, is integrated into the planning and development work of those initiatives. The implementation of competence-based qualifications, the National Certificate of Language Proficiency and the Computer Driving Licence are prime examples of the ways in which competence and skills acquired outside of formal education systems are recognized in Finland. The competence-based qualification system (Näyttötutkinto) is the most established form of validation in Finland. Competence-based qualifications can be awarded regardless of how and where the skills and knowledge have been acquired; knowledge, skills and competence can be demonstrated in officially approved tests. The qualifications came into force in 1994 through the implementation of the Vocational Qualifications Act 306/1994 and are now included in the Act on Vocational Adult Education The framework was created by the National Board of Education in close co-operation with the main labour market organisations and teachers. One may take competence-based vocational qualifications, further vocational qualifications and special vocational qualifications or only parts of them. The popularity of competence-based examinations has increased rapidly since their introduction and they have continued to strengthen their position in the Finnish education system. Nearly 400 qualification titles are in place, a total of 422 educational establishments have a right to carry out examinations and almost 90,000 competence-based qualifications were acquired during the first 10 years of its operation. Recent statistics show the continuing popularity of the system; some 36,000 vocational qualifications are awarded annually, including 6,670 competencebased qualifications. The annual number of further and specialist qualifications is 12,450. The National Certificate of Language Proficiency is a test aimed at measuring the practical language skills of adults regardless of how and where their linguistic proficiency has been acquired. The tests measure language skills in practical situations in which an adult could be required to speak, listen, write or read a foreign language. The Act on language tests was passed in 1994 and the first national certificates of language proficiency were granted in the same year. Some 22,000 people had been granted a Certificate by the end of In 2008, about 4,900 people were awarded the National Certificate of Language Proficiency The National Certificate offers a choice of nine languages: English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Russian, Sami, Spanish and Swedish. There are over 100 educational institutions arranging tests all over the country. According to the new Nationality Act (359/2003), the National Certificate of Language Proficiency has been related to the policy of applying for Finnish citizenship. Foreigners must present an official certificate of satisfactory oral and written skills in the Finnish or Swedish language. Therefore, it is recommended that immigrants take 2

3 the National Certificate of Language Proficiency because it tests their skills in standard language. 1. Reflects current EU and regional policy on multilingualism The general policy good practice clearly addresses the policy of multilingualism policy and promotes lifelong learning and learner mobility and it seeks to improve the quality and efficiency of provisions and outcomes. 2. Includes incentives to enhance & sustain language learner motivation & employment The examinations provide a possibility for individuals to get a valid certificate of their proficiency, e.g. for work purposes. It is the choice of the individual to decide to take the first and crucial step to explore the possibilities of at least documenting their learning or skills. Communication strategies about the benefits of validating nonformal and informal learning, explaining how the system works, can motivate the individual to take control of the process. 3. Reflects regional strategy for employability and intercultural benefits The good practice clearly reflects strategies for regional employability and development. Validation activities are, to a great extent, decentralised in Finland. More than 100 examination and validation centres are active throughout the country. Their activities clearly reflect and reinforce regional strategies for employability and development as well as the integration of immigrant work force. 4. Addresses local language minority and migrant community language resources The good practice clearly addresses issues related to local language minority and migrant community languages and language resources. A salient feature in this respect is the languages of the National Certificates. The National Certificate offers a choice of nine languages: English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Russian, Sami, Spanish and Swedish. Among these languages there are minority languages (Swedish and Sami) and Russian. People speaking Russian are the largest and fastest-growing group of immigrants in Finland. 5. Provides for international networking and/or mobility Not applicable in general. However, some aspects can be mentioned. For example, the philosophy of validating prior learning naturally includes time spent learning in various learning environments abroad. Thus the national validation system recognizes all learning outcomes gained outside the national formal educational and training context. 6. Incorporates the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) with transparent validation/ credits Validation has gradually become part of the policy agenda at European level. It is increasingly clear that the ongoing development of national qualifications frameworks in many European countries, mostly in response to the European qualifications framework (EQF), encourages developments in and mainstreaming of validation. 3

4 Finland is a pioneer in this area and is one of the few European countries that has a permanent systems and comprehensive national policies in place for validating informal and non-formal learning. 7. Can be readily and usefully implemented The good practice has substantial potential in the current European context of increased interest in all European countries in validation of non-formal and informal learning. European developments in terms of surveys, analyses, guidelines and good practices create a particularly favourable international context for its exploration, exploitation and transfer. 8. Transferability assessment The good practice can be regarded as a pioneer example for validating prior learning at European level. As this issue has become of primary importance and is central to the discussions at European level its transferability has a very high potential. Furthermore, it can be concluded that real measures for its transfer are being undertaken. The good practice has a recognised innovative component both nationally, regionally and on European level. It has been included as a model example in the European inventory of validation of non-formal and informal learning. 4

5 1. Reflects current EU and regional policy on multilingualism The policy clearly addresses the following multilingualism policy areas: promotes lifelong learning and learner mobility seeks to improve the quality and efficiency of provisions and outcomes ensures the provision of the necessary skills and qualifications for the world of work The practice reflects the policy of improving lifelong learning. Validation of non-formal and informal learning is increasingly seen as a way of achieving this goal. It reflects the importance of making visible and valuing learning that takes place outside formal education and training institutions (for example, at work, in leisure time activities and at home). This has been recognized both at European level and by more and more European countries. There are documents and guidelines developed at European level: A set of common European principles for identifying and validating non-formal and informal learning were adopted by the European Council in May 2004; A cluster on the recognition of learning outcomes was established in the context of the Education and Training 2010 work programme in It brings together representatives of 25 countries to exchange and identify good practice in the recognition of learning outcomes; European guidelines for the validation of non-formal and informal e\learning were developed in Finland has had a comprehensive structure to validate informal and non-formal learning for adult education and training since the mid-1990s, when a competencebased qualification system for initial, further and specialist vocational education and training (VET) was first established. Competence-based qualifications can be awarded regardless of how and where the skills and knowledge were acquired. Recognition of prior learning is at the core of this procedure. In addition to the competence-based qualification system, several laws were passed in the 1990s to enable individuals to access formal studies at different levels on the basis of their prior experience even if they do not meet the formal entry criteria. (the Vocational Qualifications Act 306/1994, the Act on Vocational Adult Education 1998) A legal framework is in place for the validation of informal and non-formal learning in higher education institutions. The implementation of competence-based qualifications, the National Certificate of Language Proficiency and the Computer Driving Licence are prime examples of the ways in which competence and skills acquired outside of formal education system are recognised in Finland. The good practice has a clear reference to the following aspects of this identification criterion: 5

6 which economic priority is driving this Validation of prior learning became a key issue in educational debates in the 1990 s as the ageing of the labour force, the growing differences in education between generations as well as the increasing demand for ever higher skills all presented new challenges for education. which organisations are targeted for implementation of programmes The implementation of the programme for validation of prior learning targets public organizations, vocational training and educational institutions, industry and employers organizations and the private and voluntary sector. The public and voluntary sectors in Finland have had a number of validation initiatives in place. The private sector and social partners are integrated into the planning and development work of those initiatives. which organisations are instrumental for oversight of implementation of the policy The framework for validation of prior learning was created by the National Board of Education in a close co-operation with the main labour market organisations and teachers. The Finnish National Board of Education (FNBE) is the national agency in charge of development of education in Finland. It is working under the auspices of the Ministry of Education. The qualifications came into force in 1994 through the implementation of the Vocational Qualifications Act 306/1994 and are now included in the Act on Vocational Adult Education the extent to which it is driven by employer representation Social partners and individual companies play an integral role in the competencebased qualification scheme. Involvement of the private sector in the validation of informal and non-formal learning is very strong and stretches from national to local level. whether it is long-term or short-term It is a long term comprehensive structure to validate informal and non-formal learning for adult education and training since mid-1990s when a competencebased qualification system for initial, further and specialist vocational education and training (VET) was first established. It has a sound legal basis. whether it is sector-driven and, if so, which sectors It is a comprehensive qualifications system with no focus on a specific sector. Nearly 400 qualification titles are in place and all stages of vocational training and education are targeted. However, it can be considered of specific significance and is aimed predominantly at the adult sector. impact of the programme The popularity of competence-based examinations has increased rapidly since their introduction and they have continued to strengthen their position in the Finnish education system. Nearly 400 qualification titles are in place, a total of 422 educational establishments have a right to carry out examinations and almost 90,000 competence-based qualifications were acquired during the first 10 years of its operation. Recent statistics show the continuing popularity of the system; some 36,000 vocational qualifications are awarded annually, including 6,670 competence-based qualifications. The annual number of further and specialist qualifications is 12,450. 6

7 2. Includes incentives to enhance and sustain language learner motivation and employment benefits The examinations provide a possibility for individuals to get a valid certificate of their proficiency, e.g. for work purposes. The principle for validating non-formal and informal learning puts the individual at the centre of the process. The process of making visible the full range of knowledge, skills and competences held by the individual is carried out in a way that remains voluntary and the results of validation remain the property of the individual. Whether the context of the validation is work, social communities or higher education, whatever the purpose, the individual is always at the centre. It is the choice of the individual of the individual to decide to take the first and crucial step to explore the possibilities of at least documenting their learning or skills. Communication strategies about the benefits of validating nonformal and informal learning, explaining how the system works, can motivate the individual to take control of the process. For individuals, the reasons for turning to the recognition of non-formal and informal learning can be classified into four main categories, which are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Even though they are also relevant to other stakeholders, they are nevertheless set out under the individual heading to indicate that the individual is the focus. The four categories are: Economic benefits saves time and thus money broadly through the decrease in the direct costs of formal learning non-formal and informal learning outcomes are more visible everywhere opportunities are offered by the recognition of non-formal and informal learning in securing a better job and/or becoming more occupationally mobile it is indispensable resource for creating and safeguarding jobs Educational benefits facilitates a return to the lifelong learning system may motivate people to return to learning in a formal context helps learners when they plan and develop their career, by identifying weaknesses, special interests or strengths helps to raise awareness of the value of the lifelong learning concept Social benefits potentially positive consequences for social cohesion, one component of which is equal access to qualifications Other personal benefits helps to motivate those who still tend to be reluctant to return to formal learning, especially if they are poorly qualified boosts self-esteem and confidence, and raises awareness of the knowledge, skills and competences they possess The good practice includes a message of the benefits of possessing language and culture skills. Details of specific incentives to encourage uptake of language learning Individuals who engage with validation as a candidate benefit from personal outcomes such as improved confidence and self-esteem. Although these are soft 7

8 outcomes, they may help an individual to gain access to formal education and/or employment or simply to take on more variety or responsibilities within their current role in society. It can result in gaining credit for learning from experience for purposes of further formal learning. It may lead to entry to a programme of study at a college or university or allow joining at a more advanced level than would normally be the case and can effectively shorten the study period. Channels to be used to deliver messages Since the validation system is an established and comprehensive one, it is present in all communication channels related to vocational training and education in the country. More than 100 accredited qualifications and examination centres act as agents for the information campaign. Details of any planned informal learning contexts The National Certificate of Language Proficiency is a test aimed at adults to measure their practical language skills regardless of how and where their linguistic proficiency has been acquired. The tests measure language skills in practical situations in which an adult could be required to speak, listen, write or read a foreign language. The nature of the examinations promotes various contexts of learning formal, informal, non-formal, related to the community, etc. and encourages learners to take advantage of informal learning environments. Public authorities believe education policies should take advantage of non-formal education and also consider other spheres of life (work, civil society activities and hobbies) as learning environments. Use of web-based channels for promotion of benefits of acquiring language skills The official websites of the National Board for Education, The Finnish Immigration Service, the website of all vocational training and educational institutions, of the accredited examination centres, public, employers and private institutions refer to the Certificates. 3. Reflects regional strategy for employability and intercultural benefits The good practice clearly reflects strategies for regional employability and development. Validation activities are, to a great extent, decentralised in Finland - each individual education institution is provided with a significant level of freedom. More than 100 examination and validation centres are active throughout the country. Their activities clearly reflect and reinforce regional strategies for employability and development as well as integration of immigrant work force. Local curricula, which are usually decided by municipalities, are developed on the basis of the national framework curriculum, which envisages and includes validation within the national comprehensive validation system. Relevant information on the extent to which the language policy builds on overall regional policy and the level of expected response to current regional priorities ensues. Extent of support for small and medium-sized enterprises As a comprehensive validation system acting nationwide it reflects the needs of qualified labour force and employability issues of small and medium-sized enterprises. It is of particular value especially for them, since most of them do not 8

9 have established systems and procedures for in-service training or training and qualification is conducted in informal learning environments. Many industries and individual companies have successfully exploited the opportunities of the competence-based education system and have established procedures to recognise skills and competences that employees acquire at work (in a formal, informal or non-formal manner). Companies particularly from the traditional manufacturing sectors have been keen on validating skills of their workforce in order to broaden their employees skills base and therefore provide greater flexibility and opportunity to refine their production systems according to the current economic and market trends. Planned surveys of employer need, including details of questions to be asked and information targeted Employers are particularly active through their national and local associations. They are integrated into the planning and development work of validation initiatives. They also provide evidence through surveys and recommendations. For example, according to the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK) it is imperative to increase the number of options for language studies in schools and in further education, as the demands for language skills at work have also become more diverse. Increased linguistic diversity in schools should be secured through cooperation, information technology, language schools, and foreign language teaching. EK released a survey conducted late in 2009 with the total number of staff employed by the respondents of 370,000 people. There is significant current data concerning language skills. It indicates that the significance of English skills has increased as a criterion for employment, while the importance of Swedish has declined. In 2009, English skills were required by 88 per cent of companies, while in 2005 the proportion was 80 per cent. According to the survey, half of the respondents value Swedish, while in 2005, the proportion was still 65 per cent. Russian skills are the third most important one, which means that Russian has overtaken German in significance. Particularly the construction sector is likely to value the knowledge of Russian. French, Estonian, Spanish, Chinese, and Italian skills are regarded as important by some companies when they are recruiting new staff. The survey indicates further that in the service sector, language requirements are more diverse than in the manufacturing industry or in the construction branch. Previous surveys: Elinkeinoelämän keskusliitto (the Confederation of Finnish Industries) made a survey of language requirements when recruiting new staff in Companies expect a good command of languages. These languages are mainly English, Swedish and German. A good command of English was expected from new staff in 80% of the companies, Swedish in 65 % and German and Russian in 40%. Compared to earlier surveys it can be seen that the need of the command of French, Italian and Chinese has also increased. There is a clear link between validation practices and their extension and employer need as assessed based on results of survey Whether a diverse range of languages is foreseen, and which languages are seen as a priority 9

10 The National Certificate is a language examination system for adults. The tests measure language skills in situations in which the adult could be required to speak, listen to, write or read a foreign language. The National Certificate offers a choice of nine languages: English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Russian, Sami, Spanish and Swedish. To address the issue of diversification of language offer in education and training the Ministry of Education and its executive branch, the National Board of Education launched a programme to diversify and develop language education in 1996 (abbreviated KIMMOKE in Finnish), which lasted till 2001 and partly till 2004 and resulted in the more diverse language offer for learning and language skills validation. Whether funding or similar support for language training is an output of the policy Validation, examination and certification of language skills act as a powerful drive for supporting, reforming and sustaining of language learning and teaching. Similarly, the Finnish comprehensive validation system was conceived with the intention to get a major positive wash back effect in the learning, teaching and assessment of foreign languages in particular in adult education. Development of resources for careers advisors and business skills brokers highlighting the benefits of language & culture skills Hundreds of language teachers have benefited from their involvement in validation activities as assessors, interviewers and item writers. 4. Addresses local language minority and migrant community language resources The good practice addresses clearly issues related to local language minority and migrant community languages and language resources. A salient feature in this respect is the languages of the National Certificates. The National Certificate offers a choice of nine languages: English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Russian, Sami, Spanish and Swedish. Among these languages there are minority languages (Swedish and Sami) and Russian. People speaking Russian are the largest and fastest-growing group of immigrants in Finland. They may get a valid certificate of language proficiency for work purposes in less widely used languages as well. Details of envisaged minority language literacy programmes According to the Constitution of Finland, the national languages of Finland are Finnish and Swedish. The linguistic rights relating to the national languages are guaranteed in the Constitution and they are specified above all by the Language Act. In accordance with the Language Act, in addition to Finnish and Swedish, at least the Sami, Romani and sign languages and where necessary, are other languages used in Finland and the linguistic conditions in Finland. The Language Act and related legislation mainly concern state authorities and bilingual municipalities. Municipalities form the basic units for the linguistic division. Municipalities are either unilingual or bilingual with Finnish or Swedish as the majority language. In 2008, there were 399 municipalities on the mainland, 43 of which were bilingual. Of them, 22 had Swedish and 21 Finnish as the majority language. The 10

11 remaining 356 municipalities were unilingual, three of which were unilingual Swedish-speaking municipalities. In addition to the national languages, more than 120 other languages are spoken in Finland. In 2008, 3.3 percent of the Finnish population had a mother tongue other than Finnish or Swedish. Some of the other languages, such as the Sami language, the Romani language, the sign language, Tatar and Yiddish as well as Russian and Carelian, spoken on both sides of the eastern border, have been spoken in Finland for a long time. There are Language Proficiency tests for citizenship application as part of the National Language Examination. According to the new Nationality Act (359/2003), foreigners applying for Finnish citizenship must present an official certificate of satisfactory oral and written skills in the Finnish or Swedish language. In order to receive a certificate of Finnish or Swedish skills, applicants must complete a language proficiency test for the National Certificate of Language Proficiency equivalent to level three (intermediate level) or above or the National Language Examination with satisfactory oral and written skills. The National Language Examination measures the language proficiency required in the civil service so the applicant must be familiar with the language used in this particular field. Therefore, it is recommended that immigrants take the National Certificate of Language Proficiency because it tests their skills in standard language. A fee is charged for both the National certificate of language proficiency and the National Language Examination. The number of times a person may take the Finnish test went up from two to three in 2004 in order to increase opportunities for immigrants to pass the test and apply for citizenship, for which the certificate of the test is required. The Finnish language test is now organized our times a year. In other languages, tests are organized twice a year. The immigration policy programme was set up by the government in In an expert group prepared the second immigration policy programme. Central themes included, for instance, preparing for issues related to the availability of labour, developing work-related immigration, creating a guiding system, making the steering system of the integration of immigrants more effective, improving ethnic relations between different groups and ensuring that Finland also in the future will be able to take care of its humanitarian and other international commitments. The focal point is on the promotion of work-related immigration. The change in language requirements for Finnish citizenship involves a change in the law (the Nationality Act of 2004). The rather widespread availability in Finland of language examinations whereby one can demonstrate his/ her language proficiency makes it rather straightforward for applicants to get access to required examinations (the National certificates). More recently the examination has increasingly been taken by immigrants who need to prove their proficiency in Finnish and Swedish. This has increased the number of test-takers (to around 3,000 a year). The National Certificates provide valuable assistance to learners in the setting of targets for learning (especially for adults in evening classes). 11

12 Financial support offered to migrant communities in the learning of languages of the host community Municipal adult education centres provide a wide range of language programmes. Surveys were carried out in 1995 and 2004 on language lessons in liberal adult education and vocational adult education leading to further vocational qualification. Many educational institutions organize Finnish and Swedish language courses for foreign students. Finnish and Swedish can be studied at vocational adult education centres, folk high schools, adult education centres, and general upper secondary schools for adults, at language centres within higher education institutions and summer universities. Courses offer many different levels and durations. Tuition fees also vary. Details of language training programmes for migrant communities and the levels of competence at which these are targeted The Nationality Act passed in 2003 defines the target level as B1 on the Common European Framework scale. Applicants are required to have a B1 CEFR level both in oral and written proficiency. A candidate can choose from three test levels the one that best corresponds to his or her language proficiency. Integration of children of migrant workers in mainstream education and how language support is offered Migrant children demonstrate their language skills by attaching to the application for citizenship the most recent school certificate indicating the grade in Finnish or Swedish, in addition to which a written statement of the applicant s language skills by the Finnish or Swedish teacher is required. The aims of immigrant education, for both children and adults, include equality, functional bilingualism and multiculturalism. The objective of immigrant education provided by different educational institutions is to prepare immigrants for integration into the Finnish education system and society, to support their cultural identity and to provide them with as well-functioning bilingualism as possible so that, in addition to Finnish (or Swedish), they will also have a command of their own native language. Immigrant pupils in basic education may study their own native language as their first language within the school s normal curriculum. However, at the moment, this form of instruction is only available in a few schools. The Basic Education Act also allows education to be carried out, wholly or in part, in the native language of the immigrant pupil. Some local authorities have offered either bilingual or own-language education in Arabic, Somali, Russian, Vietnamese and Estonian. Details of enhance migrants motivation to learn the language of the host community, and other languages Half of the bilingual municipalities state that the language skills of the applicant are clarified in connection with recruitment by requiring a language skill certificate. In addition, many bilingual municipalities state that in the case of professional staff of the social welfare and health care sector the requirement of 12

13 knowledge in both languages of the municipality is taken into consideration already in the job description. A total of 19 out of 21 municipalities with Finnish-speaking majorities and 8 out of municipalities with Swedish-speaking majorities pay their staff of the social welfare and health care a language skill bonus. Many municipalities pay the language skill bonus on the basis of an official language certificate whereas, for example, hospital districts pay the language skill bonus on the basis of how much the other language is actually used. The bonus is paid mainly to customer service staff who use the other language daily. There are Language Proficiency tests for citizenship application as part of the National Language Examination. (for more see above) If immigrants need to improve their vocational skills or update them to suit the requirements of their job, there are many kinds of vocational and professional education and practical training on offer. There are also many different alternative ways in which you can study depending on your own specific needs. They can demonstrate your special skills and experience to an employer by showing certificates and/or by taking a competence test. Many immigrants have got jobs through work experience or practical on-the-job training. 5. Provides for international networking and/or mobility Not applicable in general. However, some aspects can be mentioned. For example, the philosophy of validating prior learning naturally includes time spent learning in various learning environments abroad. Thus the national validation system recognizes all learning outcomes gained outside the national formal educational and training context. The Finnish and Swedish Language Examination Boards issue a general statement to confirm that the language skills requirement laid down in the Nationality Act shall be satisfied, where a person has: completed a higher education degree abroad, which has been determined by the Finnish National Board of Education to be comparable with a higher education degree taken in Finland and which includes no less than 15 credits of studies in the Finnish or Swedish language; OR the upper secondary school syllabus where the language of instruction was Swedish; an academic degree where at least some subject studies were completed in the Swedish language. Competence-based qualifications can be awarded regardless of how and where the skills and knowledge have been acquired; knowledge, skills and competence can be demonstrated in officially approved tests. Thus periods of training in target language countries, mobility training programme outcomes, work experience, home stay, activities under regional, international and other networks can effectively lead to validation of acquired language skills. 13

14 6. Incorporates the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) with transparent validation/ credits Validation has gradually become part of the policy agenda at European level. It is increasingly clear that the ongoing development of national qualifications frameworks in many European countries, mostly in response to the European qualifications framework (EQF), encourages developments in and mainstreaming of validation. Finland is a pioneer in this area and is one of the few European countries that has permanent systems and comprehensive national policies in place for validating informal and non-formal learning. Levels of target qualifications The National Certificate is a language examination system for adults. The tests measure language skills in situations in which the adult could be required to speak, listen to, write or read a foreign language. The National Certificate offers a choice of nine languages: English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Russian, Sami, Spanish and Swedish. A candidate can choose from three test levels the one that best corresponds to his or her language proficiency. A description of skills levels is provided that is clearly correlated to the Common European Framework of Reference. (see Description of Skill Levels: els) Awarding bodies The Finnish National Board of Education is responsible for the examination; the maintenance and development work is done at the University of Jyväskylä. Links to the EQF A committee appointed by the Ministry of Education has completed its proposal for a National Framework for qualifications and other learning. Preparation of the National Framework is part of the process of relating Finnish qualifications to the European Qualifications Framework (EQF). At the same time, another aim of preparing the National Qualifications Framework was to improve the effectiveness and transparency of the Finnish qualifications system. According to the proposal, the National Framework consists of eight levels, similar to the EQF. The Framework describes the competence required by Finnish qualifications in terms of knowledge, skills and competences based on the EQF level descriptions, while further specifying the EQF level descriptions from a national perspective. The proposal places Finnish qualifications at the following requirements levels of the National Qualifications Framework: completion of the basic education syllabus at level 2; the matriculation examination and completion of the upper secondary syllabus at level 4; vocational upper secondary qualifications and further vocational qualifications at level 4 and specialist vocational qualifications at level 5 (notwithstanding, an individual vocational qualification may be placed at a higher level in an exceptional case, if the qualification clearly and justifiably has higher requirements than other qualifications of the same type); university and polytechnic Bachelor s Degrees at level 6; 14

15 university and polytechnic Master s degrees at level 7; scientific and artistic postgraduate degrees, such as licentiate and doctoral degrees, at level 8. Recognition of competencies & qualifications The good practice is about recognition of competencies and qualifications. Validation of informal learning Finland is one of the few European countries that have permanent systems and comprehensive national policies in place for validating informal and non-formal learning. Competence-based qualifications can be awarded regardless of how and where the skills and knowledge have been acquired; knowledge, skills and competence can be demonstrated in officially approved tests. 7. Can be readily & usefully implemented The practice is implemented nationwide and is a stable and well established set of procedures. To that extent it could relatively easily be used more widely, subject to issues raised below (section 8). In the broader European context of increased interest in all European countries in validation of non-formal and informal learning this good practice has considerable potential. European developments in terms of surveys, analyses and guidelines and good practices create a particularly favourable international context for its exploration, exploitation and transfer. 8. Transferability assessment 8.1. Evidence of transfer The good practice can be regarded as a pioneer example for validating prior learning at European level. As this issue has become of primary importance and is central to the discussions at European level its transferability has a very high potential. Furthermore, it can be concluded that real measures for its transfer are being undertaken, partly through its inclusion in major publications by European agencies and institutions Innovation The good practice has a recognised innovative component both nationally, regionally and at European level. It has been included as a model example in the European inventory of validation of non-formal and informal learning. Finland (ECOTEC Research and Consulting) and in a number of publications by CEDEFOP on the validation of non-formal and informal learning. Finland has had a comprehensive structure to validate informal and non-formal learning for adult education and training since the mid-1990s, when a competencebased qualification system for initial, further and specialist VET was first established. At that time validation was a theme addressed by very few countries and considered to be of limited interest. Since then, interest has grown rapidly and validation is now 15

16 high on the policy agenda in almost all European countries. This change is closely related to the increasing importance of lifelong learning. The combination of a rapidly changing labour market, an ageing population and intensified global competition makes it necessary to use any available knowledge, skills and competences irrespective of where and how they have been acquired. The interest in validation can be seen as closely linked to efforts to create more flexible qualifications systems making it possible for individuals to build learning careers stretching from cradle to grave. While some countries are making substantial progress others have yet to put in place approaches for individuals to have their non-formally and informally acquired experiences identified, assessed and/or validated. European developments are therefore described as strongly differentiated Dependence on political context The implementation of the good practice requires political will and incorporation in the legislative system of the country concerning vocational training and education, immigration policy and certification of qualifications procedures. Therefore items to identify would include: Whether political drivers are specifically region-focussed and do not reflect the general political environment of potential transfer markets Whether it is based on EU structural funds or other EU funds Whether there are limits to the type of beneficiary Whether the business support context it is based upon is not restricted in such a way that a transfer country could support the policy or programme (i.e.: it is built solely on certain structural assumptions that are unique to that particular country) The degree of flexibility in the employer-government arrangement of support (financial or otherwise) which would not restrict its transfer to other regions (e.g.: if it can only work if based on a system of tax training credits, this could only logically be transferred to a region with similar arrangements) 8.4. Flexibility See above 8.5. Multi-region transfer The good practice has substantial transferability potential in the current European context of increased interest in all European countries in validation of non-formal and informal learning. The European developments in terms of surveys, analyses, guidelines and good practices create a particularly favourable international context for its exploration, exploitation and transfer. 16

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