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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 5 September 2012

Commission urges Member States to recognise skills gained outside school and university

As part of its strategy for creating jobs and growth, the European Commission has launched an initiative to boost the recognition of skills and competences gained outside school or university. The Commission's proposal aims to increase job opportunities in particular for the young unemployed and those with few formal qualifications such as older and low-skilled workers. It also seeks to increase access to higher education, especially among mature students.

Through this recommendation, the Commission is urging Member States to establish national systems for the validation of non-formal and informal learning (see background for definitions) by 2015. This would allow citizens to obtain a full or partial qualification on the basis of skills and competences acquired outside formal education. Only Finland, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands currently have comprehensive systems in place for validation of non-formal and informal learning.

"Our aim is for all citizens to make full use of the learning opportunities which are available to enhance their skills and employability, whether at the work place, through civil society groups or via the internet," said Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth. "In a time of high unemployment and low economic growth, it is essential that Europe develops the right mix of skills and competences to boost competitiveness, prosperity and social inclusion."

The Commission's proposal was envisaged as part of the Europe 2020 initiatives "An Agenda for New Skills and Jobs" and "Youth on the Move". It complements the European Qualifications Framework which promotes validation of formal education.

The Commission's proposal for the new Erasmus for All programme 2014-2020 foresees funding for all education sectors, including schools, adult learning, higher education, vocational education and training, as well as non-formal and informal learning.

Next steps

The Commission's proposal will be discussed by the Council and is due to be adopted by education and youth ministers on 23/24 November.


'Non-formal learning' occurs in a formal learning environment and does not generally lead to a qualification or diploma. It typically involves courses, workshops, conferences or seminars. 'Informal learning' takes place in a variety of places, such as at home, work, in an association and through daily interaction between people; it includes language learning, cultural norms and manners.

Four Member States currently have comprehensive systems in place for the validation of non-formal and informal learning:

In France all qualifications, except regulated professions such as medical doctors, dentists, veterinarians and architects, can be obtained through validation of non-formal and informal learning. Individuals submit details of their learning experiences and the skills/competences gained. An expert jury appointed by the relevant ministry may then grant a full or partial qualification. A similar system exists in Luxembourg.

In the Netherlands people can submit a description of their experiences to a recognised provider of "experience certificates" for the purpose of job applications or formal recognition by an examination board. In Finland education laws allow for the validation of experiences in many education fields and levels.

For more information

Proposal for a Council Recommendation on the validation of non-formal and informal learning

European Commission: Education and training and validation of non-formal and informal learning

Androulla Vassiliou's website

Follow Androulla Vassiliou onTwitter @VassiliouEU

Contacts :

Dennis Abbott (+32 2 295 92 58); Twitter: @DennisAbbott

Dina Avraam (+32 2 295 96 67)

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