The 3rd Validation of Prior Learning (VPL) Biennale took place in Berlin on 6-7 May and focused on taking stock of what has been achieved so far in terms of policy development and implementation. Most of all, it addressed the key issue of how to move forward. The Lifelong Learning Platform was partners in the organisation of this milestone event.
Globalization, new technologies and migration are changing the way we work and learn. Our systems need to reflect the changes that we already witness in the world, but sometimes we lag behind and struggle to keep up with societal needs. Pivotal to any further action or policy development, the conference was the perfect occasion to launch the Berlin Declaration, a comprehensive statement that unified all stakeholders behind the need to give structural framework to validation needs. The event managed to gather all actors under the same banner, delivering a great example of what transectoral cooperation worldwide should look like.
Marianne Thyssen, European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, shared the ambitions of the Biennale, stressing the importance of empowering the validation practitioners and stakeholders worldwide. A timely message, that places extra emphasis on the participation of practitioners, providers, guidance professionals, and civil society in making all learning visible. In the EU, validation stakeholders will be consulted by the EC this year to take stock on the implementation of the 2012 Council recommendation and look forward on how to ensure everyone acknowledge that validation, indeed, benefits: the learners, the economy and our society.
Cedefop and UNESCO drew on consolidated evidence from the EU Inventory report as well as the Global Inventory on National Qualification Frameworks to outline the state of play of validation in Europe and in the entire world. While there is a strong need and a shared will towards validation, results are far from encouraging as they depict a very fragmented scenario. Nonetheless, all participants and stakeholders were keen on establishing a VLP network, able to serve a vast harmonisation purpose.
In fact, the shared feeling is that validation is about giving visibility and value to all forms of learning; through validation, we can uncover and unlock latent talent in the workforce and in society. We dig deep, and bring hidden knacks to the surface. After all, this was the meaning of the presentation by UNESCO, that highlighted how validation is an extension of the human right to education, and should thus be universally recognised.
“Validation is about opening doors”
As main takeaways, stakeholders at the conference identified six main tracks, essential to the blossoming of a healthy European validation system.
Organisational arrangements are fundamental to the success of a VPL system. Key stakeholders’ areas of responsibility need to be clearly demarcated, with extensive collaboration and cooperation across sectors.
Validation systems have a financial impact. For this reason, the creation of financing structures and a response to the question of who pays what towards the cost of validation or qualification procedures are of crucial significance.
Procedures and instruments
Procedures include structured pathways for validation of learning outcomes, training for assessors and guides, as well as mechanisms for quality assurance of validation processes. Instruments are tools that make learning outcomes visible or help to assess them.
Access to guidance is essential for learners trying to navigate recognition procedures. A combination of face-to-face support and online tools and information form a valuable component of any functioning VPL system.
The true value of VPL results on the job market and to education providers determines the success of a VPL system. VPL results must facilitate an individual’s mobility, opening up pathways which were previously closed off. This is the most evident contribution of lifelong learning to VPL, and it’s lifelong learning that ensures VLP lives ‘longer’ than the actual validation process.
A clear legal framework, which coordinates and oversees quality provision of VPL, is the bedrock of a sustainable VPL system. No system can be effective without clear and stable foundations and clear legal incentives in cooperation with different policy departments (employment, education, social affairs, youth…).
The lifelong learning contribution to the VPL Biennale Declaration is overwhelming. A functioning validation system leaves no one behind, ensuring that validation of non-formal and informal learning serves the common interest and benefits everyone. Even more than that: a validation system centred on lifelong learning impacts an individual career path and personal development way beyond the actual validation process: it opens up possibilities and pathways for self-development, truly projecting all individuals in the society they live in and contribute to.
Practitioners and stakeholders will gather for the next VPL Biennale in May 2021 in South Africa, to assess the progresses made in the light of the Berlin Declaration. The Lifelong Learning Platform will keep on following the latest debates, influencing decision-making processes through the thrust of its membership in the Validation Task Force; the work of LLLP will keep on pushing for assessment, recognition and validation of non-formal and informal learning as a crucial step towards a lifelong learning Europe.