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European countries need to give informal learning a greater emphasis, says CEDEFOP


CEDEFOP, the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training, has been conducting research into the role of informal learning in Europe and has come to the conclusion that "the current position on non-formal learning across Europe has to change."

As a central point of reference for vocational education and training across the European Union, CEDEFOP has been analysing the way that non-formal learning is identified, assessed and recognised by the different member countries in a new report, 'Making Learning Visible'. CEDEFOP says that non-formal learning is an "indispensable but very often invisible part of modern societies," and as such it has a far more active role to play in the workplace than it currently does.

CEDEFOP has found interest in non-formal learning has grown rapidly in the past few years, with some countries making moves to investigate how to accredit skills gained at work (NVQ being one possibility). Other countries place a great emphasis on academic learning but have hardly considered the importance of skills developed outside of this route. The Mediterranean countries have no formal way of accrediting some of their key industries such as tourism. CEDEFOP observes that the UK, like Ireland and The Netherlands, places a strong emphasis on outputs and performance-based education and training but does have a general acceptance of learning outside formal education as being valid and important. Both the UK and The Netherlands do however struggle with defining the methods which should be used to measure and record this type of learning, in particular making a definition between general and specific definitions of competencies.

CEDEFOP conceeds that identifying and assessing non-formal learning presents a number of practical problems, as well as a struggle to be recognised as important by politicians and employers, as well as employees. It argues that a change is needed in the way that we define what makes for "good and valuable learning" - something which will ultimately impact upon the way employers recruit and promote staff as the emphasis moves towards what has been learned and not where the learning took place. It concludes by saying that learning that takes place outside the classroom is a resource that needs to be far more systematically used.


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