The AVA survey results indicate that adult education professionals working with validation wish to cooperate more with other institutions both from the non-formal and formal sector and to see more efforts in making the validation process more accessible for disadvantaged groups.
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Accessibility and cooperation needed in validation systems

The Action Plan for Validation and non-formal Adult Education (AVA) project, coordinated by EAEA, contributes to reducing the fragmentation of validation systems by analysing tools and methodologies in different European countries and proposing solutions from the civil society perspective.

The survey was drafted by Bodil Husted and Kirsten Aagaard from the Nordic Network for Adult Learning (NVL) and widely promoted from February to June 2015. It collected the in-depth opinions of 50 adult education providers and civil society representatives from 20 countries.

Besides getting grassroots feedback on the existing systems, the survey was intended to collect interesting experiences and practice as well as to understand validation actors’ challenges and fears. A special focus was kept on methodologies and innovative approaches to make validation systems more inclusive and allow disadvantaged groups to move vertically and horizontally in their personal and professional lives.

On the basis of the survey results, the same NVL researchers have drafted an extensive analysis composed of 20 national reports, a collection of national summaries as well as a horizontal analysis and four thematic cases. Providing a cross-country and cross-thematic analysis of results, the horizontal analysis presents the main challenges and needs of the respondents.

From the survey to the Action Plan

The preliminary results were presented in October 2015 at the AVA jour fixe in Vienna and then integrated with comments and suggestions gathered from the event’s participants.

Now the consortium is ready to launch the final results and continue the discussion about the main outcomes during the AVA expert seminar which will be held in Oslo on 1-2 February 2016. More than 40 participants are expected in the Norwegian capital in a few days to debate the main challenges non-formal Adult Education providers and national policy-makers are currently facing in implementing validation systems in the EU, to learn from successful practice and contribute to the final output of the project, the AVA Action Plan.

The AVA Action Plan will provide policy-makers and adult education organisations with key messages and concrete proposals to improve validation systems in the EU, in particular in terms of accessibility.

Cooperation and inclusion strategies are a must

What comes out most strongly from the horizontal analysis is that respondents wish to cooperate more with other institutions both from the non-formal and formal sector in their countries. When cooperation is verified, not only providers get more recognition of their validation activities, but also candidates, in particular from a disadvantaged background, have the possibility to progress in their working life or educational paths. To do so, respondents are very aware of how important it is to develop a better understanding between different actors as well as transparent assessment criteria and standards.

Another important finding of the analysis is the lack of inclusion strategies for disadvantaged groups into the validation process. This is true not only at the national level, but also at the providers’ one and might hinder the participation of the candidates that need validation the most. Interesting recommendations were made on this point and a few enriching cases were also presented by the respondents.

Other obstacles mentioned include the shortage of financial resources and training for validation professionals as well as the lack of coherence, transparency and structure in the national validation processes. These might be inconsistently implemented also because some providers still seem to feel resistant towards the recognition of non-formal and informal learning as a concept. The intensive debate about the added value of validation itself opposed to a danger to “formalize the informal” will be for sure one of the main discussion points at the AVA expert seminar.

Text: Francesca OpertiPhotos: Francesca Operti

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