To encourage more people to take part in lifelong learning activities, Denmark focusses strongly on creating better opportunities for individual guidance, increased recognition of non-formal and informal learning and the creation of a more coherent and transparent education system.
Challenges and opportunities
In 2006, Denmark developed a strategy for lifelong learning aimed at promoting a lifelong upskilling for all – in the education system, in adult education and continuing training, in working life and in many other areas where individuals learn (Ministry of Education, 2006). Lifelong learning is a part of the government’s globalization strategy, which addresses the challenges of making Denmark a leading knowledge society, with strong competitiveness but also with strong social cohesion. Both strategies are based on an agreement between the government and labour market participants to assume co-responsibility and thus secure a lifelong skill upgrade for everyone on the labour market.
All active stakeholders wish to see more progress in relation to the validation of prior learning. They also agree that cooperation between the main stakeholders is important to making progress. Collaboration between stakeholders is expected to strengthen the use of validation of prior learning, to create stable and visible processes, to develop a common use of terminology and to exchange process knowledge.
National standards, policy and framework activity
Denmark has a legislation covering the entire adult education and training area. In addition, a comprehensive NQF has been developed that covers all types and levels of qualifications awarded and quality-assured by public authorities. In 2000, the Danish government introduced a major reform of the vocational education (VET) and continuing training (CVET) systems, aimed at creating a more coherent and transparent adult education system. The Danish education system now contains two separate parts: a general education and training system and a parallel adult education and continuing training system that can be compared to all levels of the general system (see Table 1 below).
A new legislation for VET (2015) for adults aged 25 and above (EUV) includes a general principle in which individual competence assessment is the basis for preparation of individual personal education plans. The personal education plan is based on an assessment of the pupil’s competences and outlines an individual pathway through the VET system.
Table 1: Denmark’s formal educational system compared with the adult education and training system
CERTIFICATIONS AND DEGREES
General Adult Education
Preparatory adult education certifications
General Adult Education certificates
Basic VET courses and single subject VET certificates
Upper secondary certificates
Other vocational certificates
Higher preparatory single subject certificates
Supplementary upper secondary certificates
Adult vocational training certificates
Academy Profession degrees and VVU degrees
Bachelor and Diploma degrees
Source: Adapted from the Ministry of Education
*The acronyms used in Table 1 are the equivalents in Danish
In 2007, a key legislation (Act no. 556) on validation of non-formal and informal learning was introduced, giving an individual citizen the possibility to have his or her prior knowledge and experiences recognized. The legislation provides adults with the right to claim their prior learning for assessment within the adult education and continuing training system. In Denmark, validation has been developed using both a top-down and a bottom-up approach. This implies that legislation and the formal framework was nationally set and publicly funded, but the implementation was decentralized to the institutional level (European Commission; Cedefop; ICF International, 2014).
The Ministry of Education handbook (2008) on validation stresses the need to apply valid and reliable methods in the validation of prior learning to safeguard quality and acceptance on the labour market and in society. Thus, in Denmark’s education sector, validation is always tied to educational objectives and the admission requirements of specific education programmes. Validation is carried out by education institutions that are authorized to provide the courses for which the assessment is intended. The Danish legislation states that the ‘validation takes place on the basis of declaration and guidance, documentation and assessment of prior learning’ (Ministry of Education, 2007). The Ministry emphasizes the procedures and different phases in the validation process. The following model is used to illustrate the process:
Figure 1: The different phases in the validation process
Source: Ministry of Education, 2004
The four stages in Figure 1 entail:
- guidance and clarification relating to the validation process for which the institutions are responsible;
- documentation of the individual’s competences and prior learning, prepared by both the individual and the institution;
- competence assessment carried out by the institutions responsible for ensuring that recognized competences can be compared with specific course standards (Ministry of Education, 2008). The competence assessment is conducted by combining different methods and tools, which are in turn adjusted in accordance with the individual's qualifications and choice of education. The different methods include:
- Written documentation of competences in the form of a CV or personal document file, etc.
- Structured interviews conducted during different phases of the assessment process
- Observation and assessment of the applicant's skills and competences. For example, the applicant may be asked to solve a practical task which is relevant to the competences required for the education or training programme
- Tests and examinations to assess the individual's theoretical knowledge and practical skills (Ministry of Education, 2004); and
- recognition: institutions issue a certificate listing the individual’s acquired competences. The institutions are obliged to provide guidance on how an individual can use the validation – including the development of a tailor-made education plan.
Approaches to validation differ depending on whether it is conducted to facilitate further learning, to advance a career or to document voluntary and leisure activities. In the area of voluntary and leisure activities, the online tool ‘My Competence Folder’ was developed in cooperation with stakeholders from voluntary organizations and civil society agencies. The folder contains information and documentary evidence on the accumulated competences acquired in formal, non-formal and informal settings. In the employment sector, a company-specific systematic identification, documentation and assessment of employee competences is usually already in place. Enterprises are free to choose their own reference frameworks for employee competence validation, but can also choose state-approved education or training programme standards as a point of reference.
While the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Education and Research have the main regulatory responsibility at all levels of education, social partners are equally as important – such as employers’ associations and trade unions – for realizing policy goals and recognition practices. Especially in CVET systems, social partners are responsible for the validation of non-formal and informal learning.
The government works closely with social partners such as the Council for Vocational Training (REU), the Council for Adult Education and Training (VEU-Rådet), the Council for Academy Professional Education and Professional Bachelor Education. These councils advise the government on specific areas of education and training. However, the Ministry of Education’s evaluation of the 2007 Act’s impact stressed the need for further improvement in cooperation between social partners – educational institutions, unemployment funds, job centres, trade unions and the third sector (European Commission; Cedefop; ICF International, 2014).
Drawing on the findings of an evaluation study on the status of validation in adult education carried out in 2010-2011, the Danish Ministry of Education has identified some areas for improvement, such as guidance and counselling, validation for business and employment, the quality code for validation and public access to information on validation.
Andersen and Laugesen. 2012. Recognition of prior learning within formal adult education in Denmark. Prior Learning Assessment - Inside Out, 1, 2. https://english.eva.dk/publications/recognition-of-prior-learning-within-formal-adult-education-in-denmark/download
Bekendtgørelse om erhvervsuddannelser [Legislation of Vocational Education]. 2015. www.retsinformation.dk/Forms/R0710.aspx?id=164802
CEDEFOP. 2014. European Inventory on Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning: country report Denmark. http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/publications-and-resources/country-reports/validation-denmark-2014 (Accessed 4 November 2015).
Denmark. Ministry of Education. My Competence Portfolio. http://www.minkompetencemappe.dk (Accessed 4 November 2015).
Denmark. Ministry of Education. 2004. Recognition of Prior Learning within the Education System. http://pub.uvm.dk/2005/priorlearning/hel.html#kap02 (Accessed 9 November 2015).
Denmark. Ministry of Education. 2006. Danmarks strategi for livslang læring. http://pub.uvm.dk/2007/livlanglaering/hel.html (Accessed 5 November 2015).
Denmark. Ministry of Education. 2007. Act 556. Lov om ændring af forskellige love på Undervisningsministeriets område. https://www.retsinformation.dk/forms/r0710.aspx?id=25349 (Accessed 5 November 2015).
Denmark. Ministry of Education. 2008. Realkompetencevurdering inden for voksen- og efteruddannelse – en håndbog http://pub.uvm.dk/2008/rkvivoksen/hel.html (Accessed 12 November 2015).
National Knowledge Centre for Validation of Prior Learning
With assistance from:
Kristina Rynt Larsen - Intern at UNESCO Institute of Lifelong Learning, Hamburg, Germany