Validation of different forms of learning
December 5, 2021|
5 min read
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Validation of non-formal and informal learning is a process that identifies, assess, and formally certifies the knowledge, skills, and competences earned throughout life through non-formal and informal learning. The scope of validation is to enable skills, and competences to be validated against defined occupational standards. Validation of non-formal and informal learning is an alternative pathway through which candidates can get an award for their experience.

Learning is divided into three categories: formal learning, non-formal learning and informal learning. During the learning process, the individual gather information, ideas and values to acquire knowledge, skills and competences. Formal Learning may be described as learning which takes place in a structured manner and within an organised environment, such as a university, educational institution or at the workplace. Formal learning is intentional from the learner’s point of view and may lead to a qualification. Informal Learning is normally gained from various activities in everyday life such as the place of work, leisure and family activities. Objectives may be achieved unintentionally, and without the candidate’s awareness or perspective. Non-formal Learning is defined as learning which takes place within the context of other planned activities outside the formal educational system. Usually, non-formal learning is not necessarily intended as learning but contains an important learning component.
There are various benefits that one can achieve through validation. A validation award adds value and help validate all the skills and competences that one has acquired throughout their life. With the ever-increasing prevalence of mobility across EU countries and different occupations, the need for validation of skills has gained prominence throughout the years. When interviewing an individual with a validation award, employers find it easier to identify what capabilities that individual possess, as all the skills and competences available have been mapped. Validation is also a tool for promotion of employment and career advancement.
With a validation award, one would have equal opportunities as their peers with formal qualifications. For example, one may apply for the same job as an individual with a formal qualification. Besides employment prospects, with validation one can also choose to further their studies via recognition of prior learning (RPL). Validation helps to empower and fulfil individuals as it validates their personal achievements for better futures. 
The National Occupational Standards (NOSs) outline a set of criteria that indicate the level of knowledge expectancy within a particular job, area, or sector. Occupational standards may be revised from time to time to reflect the needs of the industry. The National Occupations Standards direct the curriculum development and specify competences which workers need to possess. They can help certify workers through the validation of non-formal and informal learning, promote the mobility of workers and facilitate the recruitment process for employers. Employers can carry out skills-audits and direct the professional development of the workforce. The NOSs set quality standards within sectors and promote mobility of workers within the European labour market and beyond.
The validation process has been designed to be clear, fair, transparent and confidential. The candidates will be given the necessary guidance along the process in order to facilitate their validation experience. During the validation process, assessors identify the range of knowledge, skills, and competences you have in a particular sector. The portfolio is very important, as through it the assessors will have an idea of how much learning outcomes the candidate has acquired over the years of experience. The portfolio may include personal details, work experiences, resumes, references from employers or other professionals, documents related to formal qualifications, photographs and audio and video clips relevant to the validation being sought. During the assessment stage, the candidate’s knowledge, skills and competences are compared against the national occupational standards. The assessment can be in the form of a debate or an interview where the candidate present knowledge through communication and social skills. It can also take place through declarative methods where the portfolio is discussed and thus including evidence-based statements in the presentation. Another form of assessment is through observation where the candidate can carry out a simulated or a real-life work scenario while being observed by the assessors. The candidates may also demonstrate their competences orally or in writing regarding a specific subject through tests and examinations. For the lower MQF levels, the written examination is in the form of multiple-choice questions. Alternative arrangements may be provided upon request.
If all the necessary criteria stated in the national occupational standards have been met, the candidate will receive an official validation award certificate issued by the MFHEA. An ‘Award’ in Malta refers to the title of certification of learning achieved through courses which do not have the required number of credits at the specific MQF Level to be considered as a ‘Qualification’. A Qualification is achieved when an Awarding body determines that an individual has achieved learning outcomes to the standards in terms of level descriptors on the MQF and a number of credits as specified in the Referencing Report. A Qualification is the formal outcome of an assessment process. 
The Malta Qualifications Framework is based on the principles and objectives of learning outcomes that are subsequently linked to Validation of non-formal and informal learning. All learning outcomes are assessed, and the learner obtains credits allotted to the units within the programme in order to achieve the award or qualification. Institutions determine the workload needed to achieve the particular group of learning outcomes. The total learning hours are determined by the number of credits assigned to the Unit. The learning hours are divided into contact hours, supervised practice hours, self-study, and assessment hours. This is subject to the national minimum accreditation requirements of five hours of direct contact teaching hours per credit assigned.
The MFHEA is organising the EU VET Tools final webinar on the Validation of Informal and Non-formal Learning, to be held on Tuesday, December 7, 2021. Register on www.mfhea.mt 
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