Editor: Tanja Božič, expert associate, tanja.bozic@lu-ptuj.si

Intro and perspectives of recognition of non-formal and informal knowledge

Although learning often takes place within formal settings and learning environments, a great deal of valuable learning also takes place either deliberately or informally in everyday life.

In the European guidelines for validating non-formal and informal learning, written in 2015, it states:

“Validation is first, about making visible the diverse and rich learning of individuals. This learning frequently takes place outside formal education and training – at home, in the workplace or through leisure time-activities – and is frequently overlooked and ignored. Validation is, second, about attributing value to the learning of individuals, irrespective of the context in which this learning took place.”

In the context of non-formal and informal learning the term ‘recognition’ has several different meanings:

  • In a general sense, it can mean the process of giving official status to competences (or learning outcomes) through the awarding of qualifications, equivalencies, credits, or the issuing of documents such as portfolios of competences.
  • It can also refer to social recognition in terms of the acknowledgement of the value of skills and competences in the labour market or for academic entry or progression – sometimes called currency.
  • It refers to the acceptance of the principle of recognition of non-formal and informal learning by national education, training and employment stakeholders (UIL 2012).
  • Ultimately, it underlines the recognition that learning is a social activity and depends its value on its connection within a social framework.

Policy makers in OECD countries have become increasingly aware that knowledge, skills and competences acquired through this way represents a rich source of human capital. In many cases, this is fully recognised through the wage premiums paid to those with experience. However, there are some people who are not fully aware of their own stock of human capital or its potential value. There are also some individuals who are unable to put all the learning they have acquired to full use because they cannot easily prove their capabilities to others. Recognition of non-formal and informal learning outcomes does not, in itself, create human capital. But recognition makes the stock of human capital more visible and more valuable to society at large.

So, why is the recognition of non-formal and informal knowledge so important and significant for individuals?

  • It can provide validation of competences to facilitate entry to further formal learning (people can in this way complete formal education more quickly, efficiently and cheaply by not having to enroll in courses for which they have already mastered the content);
  • Recognition provides  greater  visibility  and  therefore  potential  value  to  the learning outcomes and the competences of people in the labour market (this  can  make  it  more  efficient  and  cheaper  for  workers  and  employers  to  match  skills  to  jobs);
  • Recognition makes the stock of human capital more visible and more valuable to society at large.

We can say that the main objectives/purposes of assessment and recognition of non-formal learning of adults are:

  • For entering or continuing formal education: continuing terminated education, changing educational programmes, continuing education at a higher level.
  • For acquiring National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ)
  • For documentation and assessment of individuals knowledge and experience (competences), with the goals to provide a better flexibility on job market (easier re-employment, changing work, career development and changes), for personal growth (better self-esteem, higher motivation for education and work, better quality of life) and for the development of key competences.

Professional activities

Irrespective of the different legal basis in European countries and different arrangements, the entire process of recognition should include the following steps:

  • familiarizing the candidate with the procedure and options (Information),
  • advise the candidate in the preparation of the application,
  • candidate prepare and submit an application,
  • discussion or an interview with the candidate,
  • evaluation of knowledge acquired outside of accredited educational institutions,
  • decision on the recognition of (partially or fully),
  • carrying out verification (if necessary),
  • evaluation of the knowledge acquired: with the credit points and the recognition of the entire program or just a part of it.

Recognition of non-formal and informal knowledge largely depends on the work carried out by the practitioners and professionals directly involved with validation candidates at different stages of the process (all of those who offer information, advice and guidance (orientation), those who carry out assessment, the external observers of the process, the managers of assessment centres/procedures and a range of stakeholders that have an important but less direct role in the process).

They should all have not only recognition competences but also soft skills such as intellectual capacity.

Key knowledge and skills of counsellors:

  • Thorough knowledge of the recognition process.
  • Thorough knowledge of the education system.
  • Capacity to rephrase learning experience into learning outcomes that can be matched with existing standards.
  • Understanding of the labour market.
  • A list of contacts (experts) to answer specific technical questions (social partners and other sector experts).

Key knowledge and skills of assessors:

  • Be familiar with the recognition process (validity and reliability).
  • Have experience in the specific field of work.
  • Have no personal interest in the recognition outcome (to guarantee impartiality and avoid conflict of interest).
  • Be familiar with different assessment methodologies.
  • Be able to inspire trust and to create a proper psychological setting for the candidates.
  • Be committed to provide feedback on the match between learning outcomes and validation standards/references (via support systems).
  • Be trained in assessment and validation processes and knowledgeable about quality assurance mechanisms.
  • Operate according to a code of conduct.

In a process of assessment, evaluation and recognition of informal knowledge, there are three professional profiles:

  • Informer,
  • counsellor/advisor,
  • assessor

It is not excluded that one person can combine two or even all tree roles.

Key task of the professionals in the process of assessment, evaluation and recognition of non-formal and informal knowledge are:

  • Work with the candidate,
  • management , work planning and development work,
  • documenting and preparing reports,
  • cooperation with other organizations and individual experts,
  • promotion of the importance of informal knowledge and assessment procedures and recognition,
  • Professional training.

The main tasks of a professional worker in the role of informants are:

  • informing potential candidates and the wider public about the possibilities , evaluation and recognition of non-formal and informal learning,
  • presentation of the usefulness and benefits of the process of identifying, evaluating and recognizing non-formal and informal learning,
  • presentation of the process itself,
  • motivating candidates to participate in the process,
  • cooperation with consultants in a particular procedure,
  • concern for their own professional development.

The main tasks of counsellor working with candidate are:

  • informing,
  • motivating the candidate to participate in the process,
  • management of the consulting interviews for planning and derivation evaluation – preparation of plan,
  • promoting the processes of identifying and self-assessment of the acquired knowledge, skills and competences of the participant,
  • promote and supervise the preparation of the portfolio as a key instrument in evaluation,
  • providing overall support and advice to the candidate during the evaluation.

Other tasks of the counsellor are:

  • providing information on the procedures for the evaluation and recognition (promotion ) to the participants (in the phase of the recruitment) and to other actors (partners in the environment),
  • preparing the necessary database to support the evaluation procedures;
  • to maintain contacts with other organizations and professionals,
  • participate in the development (planning) of tools, instruments (methods) for carrying out evaluations,
  • Monitoring of derivation processes from different perspectives,
  • fulfilment of agreed documentation,
  • management and work planning,
  • preparing reports,
  • various tasks for promotion,
  • evaluating the results and effects,
  • service training for the work of an evaluation consultant.

The main task of the assessor for the recognition and validation of non-formal and informal knowledge are:

  • search and review evidence of candidates learning outcomes,
  • management of the evaluation,
  • assessment of the adequacy of competence in accordance with certain standards of knowledge,
  • verification of the candidate’s qualifications in the specific area using appropriate methods of examination and assessment,
  • give feedback information regarding matching of learning outcomes with the evaluation standards,
  • service training.


The recognition, validation and accreditation of non-formal and informal learning is a constantly evolving field, and many countries are poised to implement significant changes in the future that will impact on the on-going RVA dialogue.


A 2012 report by JISC, “Learning in a Digital Age”, noted that e-portfolios, blogs, wikis, podcasting, social networking, web conferencing and online assessment tools are increasingly being employed alongside virtual learning environments to deliver “a richer, personalized curriculum to diverse learners”.

In the time when almost nothing is done without the use of modern technology and the evolution of mobile phones and other electronic devices is advancing with supersonic speed the possibilities of distance counselling are spreading. The mobile application iYot offers the opportunities for users to contact Iyot counsellors via e-mail, social networks, instant messaging, videoconferencing, to easy access to resources and information. Our intention is to develop a simple, user-friendly tool which would make distance counselling popular and wide used as a good comparison to face to face counselling sessions.

From the recognition/validation of non-formal and informal knowledge point of view we see a great potential in identifying, documenting, assessing and even certifying this kind of knowledge, skills and competences of individuals over distance.


e-portfolio, provided by ACS Slovenia.

Benefits and advantages of recognition of non-formal and informal knowledge

Recognition generates four different types of benefits:

  • economic benefits (by reducing the direct and opportunity costs that are associated with formal learning, by shortening the time required to acquire qualifications in formal education, by allowing human capital to be deployed across the economy more productively by giving people access to jobs that better match their true skills);
  • educational benefits (it helps to underpin lifelong learning by helping people learn about themselves and develop their career within a lifelong learning framework);
  • social benefits (it provides a way to improve equity and strengthen access to further education and to the labour market for disadvantaged minority groups, disaffected youth and older workers who did not have many opportunities for formal learning when they were younger);
  • psychological benefit (it can provide a psychological boost to individuals by making them aware of their capabilities as well as offering external validation of their worth).

Recognition can also help to improve equity:

  • it can make  it  easier  for  dropouts to return to formal learning, giving them a second chance;
  • it can be attractive to members of disadvantaged groups such as indigenous people  and  migrants  whose  competences  may  be  less  evident,  or  who  for  one  reason  or  another  have  not  been  able  to acquire  qualifications  through  the formal education system;
  • it can help to re-balance equity between generations,  since  a  much  smaller  cohort  of  older  workers  had  access  to  higher  education  (and  the  corresponding  qualifications)  than  is  the  case

Benefits and advantages from the iYOt application point of view:

  • Accessibility – everyone who has interest in assessing and validating his/her skills, knowledge and competences acquired in non-formal or informal way can get instant information about processes, methods, tools, the list of informers, counsellors, assessors,…. over distance and find all the information in one place. Distance counselling provides access from many places, 24/7 and can serve very large and dispersed audience. Especially for those who live outside major settlements in rural areas and lack adequate transport links or are not able to visit counsellor services, can benefit from accessibility of online counselling.
  • Anonymity- especially for the people who are introverted or have low self-esteem, the possibility of a distance counselling is much better than face to face sessions, because they can communicate more openly without concern for race, gender, age, size or physical appearance issues, which may lead to more open and increased level of honesty, higher validity in the case of self-disclosure.
  • Affordability – distance counselling assures more economical practice for both the counsellors and for the users, as it avoids many of the expenses related to the physical facilities where the service can be provided. Users on the other hand can save time and money that would otherwise be spend for transportation to the counselling services.
  • Convenience- distance assistance regarding recognition of non-formal and informal knowledge permits the users to access the information at a convenient time (in his/hers own time). The interaction between users and counsellors can be agreed on a time convenient to both sides, especially when conducting face to face session via videoconference.
  • Access to a wide variety of information – distance counselling, giving information is frequently based on a web portal containing different sections with different information related to the recognition of non-formal and informal knowledge (what is knowledge acquired in non-formal and informal ways, how can this be assessed and validated, what are the tools and methods form for validation of non-formal and informal knowledge, the list of counsellor working close to where they live, the list of institutions where they can get their knowledge, skills and competences assessed and certified,…). Iyot mobile app can incorporate links to other sources and provide access to useful and specialised sites where the users/clients can get information regarding their interests.
  • Different communication options – through distance counselling the user can chose from a variety of communication ways: the most commonly are written form (e-mail, messengers, forums) or in oral via video-conferences or Skype meetings. Everyone can find the way which is suited to his or hers character or the way they can express themselves best.

Nowadays more or less every person possesses or has access to different modern technologies such as mobile phone, tablets or computer. More and more people search for information via internet, through web portals where they can find variety of resources or services.

So, the question we are asking here is how can recognition of non-formal and informal knowledge could work over distance, with the help of iYot mobile app?

  • There are some people who are not fully aware of their own stock of human capital or its potential value, or have no idea that the knowledge they gain in informal or non-formal settings can be recognize. SO first of all we see the value of such application to even promote and introduce the process of recognition of non-formal and informal learning to its users, to familiarise them with basic information and possibilities.
  • Second of all they can interact with peers and professionals through a wide diversity of communicational channels (forums, e-mail, chats/instant messaging, videoconference,..) and get immediate feedback on the information they inquired or at least as soon as possible. The users would have the opportunity to select a distance counsellor and use the communication methods of his/her choice. For those who experience difficulty in expressing them orally and express them better in writing could contact them through e-mails, messengers or write in forums, for those who rather speak and have eye contact with other person could use videoconference, Skype meetings ..
  • Useful links so other websites where the user can find further information about the recognition of non-formal or informal knowledge (a list of counsellors working in the area, assessors and institutions, described process of recognition of non-formal and informal knowledge, tools and methods, costs ect.)
  • App will include an electronic portfolio as one of fundamental tool for the evaluation, which was developed at the Institute for Adult Education Slovenia in the project Identification and validation of non-formal learning which bases on evidencing and evaluation of skills, work experiences and competencies to facilitate the re- employment, development and change of career, personal development and reflection ‘ where am I ‘ and ‘ where to next’. Candidates can attest their knowledge and developed skills by various documents prepared by others (teachers, counsellors, employers, service users,…), with their own products and reflections on each learning activity , especially about their learning outcomes. The advantage for the individual is the ease of the information stored in one central location and that this information is then readily available to distribute when required.

iYOT application: user friendly and easy to use will have the SELF ASSESSMENT button, where the users can self-evaluate their general skills and get in contact with iYOT counsellor over distance for later possible individual sessions.



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