What is RPL

Policy background of RPL in the EU

Validation of non-formal and informal learning (VNFIL), also called recognition of prior learning (RPL), is about identifying and recognising all forms of learning, irrespective of where and when it takes place. Validation makes it possible for individuals to gain recognition, including via certification of their knowledge, skills and competences and makes staff skills visible to employers. In European policy, it contributes to the Europe 2020 strategy aiming at smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

Validation became part of the European policy agenda in 1995 when the European Commission underlined the need to recognise learning taking place outside formal education and training. The 2001 strategy on lifelong learning, Making the European area of lifelong learning a reality,  took this idea further and introduced the concept of life-wide learning, stressing that learning takes place in a wide range of settings, in school, at home and at work. These ideas fed the 2002 Copenhagen Declaration on European cooperation in vocational education and training, where validation was promoted as one of the key priorities.

In 2012, the Council adopted the Recommendation on validation of non-formal and informal learning, encouraging Member States to establish arrangements for systems of validation by 2018.

This VNFIL Recommendation is closely related to the Recommendations on the EQF, the first adopted in 2008, and the updated version in 2017. The EQF Recommendation aims to encourage development of national qualifications frameworks in the countries, foster lifelong learning and facilitate recognition of qualifications and mobility. This instrument is linked to the 2012 VNFIL Recommendation by their shared principles of learning outcomes, promotion of lifelong learning, the shared aims of better linking formal to non-formal and informal learning, and mobility objectives, among others.

Europe-wide, implementation of VNFIL is overseen by the EQF Advisory Group. This body is chaired by the European Commission and comprises the EU countries, EEA countries, candidate and potential candidate countries and European social partners, students’ groups and other representative associations and institutions. This Group, as name suggests, was initially founded to oversee implementation of the EQF Recommendation, but it now has a dual mandate, to cover also the 2012 Council Recommendation on VNFIL.

The European Inventory on validation of non-formal and informal learning

The European Inventory on validation has been published in 2004, 2005, 2008, 2010, 2014 and 2016, collecting information on validation practices in Member States and other European countries in order to support decision makers and practitioners. Countries’ implementation of VNFIL is aided by the practical Guidelines. This tool was first published in 2009, followed by an update in 2015.

The aims of the 2018 European Inventory update are to gather information on participating countries, in order to support monitoring of progress towards implementing the 2012 Recommendation on validation.   This edition further aims to monitor how VNFIL is being used in the countries to support individuals enter and move within labour markets.