The government and other stakeholders view validation of non-formal and informal learning as one of the means to develop coherent procedures for quality assurance of qualification assessment and revision. One of the areas that the government prioritizes is improving workers’ skills and promoting their employability.
Challenges and opportunities
The Greek general public tends to show a preference for formal qualifications and traditional assessment methods rather than the validation of non-formal and informal learning. However, there has been a steady increase in the number of people at risk of living in poverty and social exclusion since 2010 (EUROSTAT, 2015). For those aged 18-24 years who enter higher education, 10.1 per cent leave the system before completing their initial education (EUROSTAT, 2015). The current economic and political crisis has also affected the country’s unemployment rate, recorded at 26.2 per cent in 2015 – one of the highest in the OECD countries (OECD, 2015).
National standards, policy and framework activity
In 2010, the Lifelong Learning law 3879/2010 paved the way for the National Framework for Lifelong Learning. This includes the recognition of non-formal and informal learning, however, it is still under development. This Lifelong Learning law facilitated the establishment of both Lifelong Learning Schools located within higher education institutions and vocational training courses in Lifelong Learning Centres run by social partners (employer and employee associations). Participants who complete these training courses and lifelong learning programmes receive a certificate of participation and/or a training certificate. Graduates may opt to sit for EOPPEP examinations.
In 2011, the the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs established and supervised the National Organization for the Certification of Qualifications and Vocational Guidance (EOPPEP), to develop and implement the Hellenic Qualifications Framework (HQF). The HQF is referenced to the European Qualifications Framework (EQF). So far, the HQF focusses on formal learning, but in the long term it aims to include outcomes from non-formal and informal learning. EOPPEP is responsible for validating formal, non-formal and informal learning outcomes relevant to the labour market in the context of Initial Vocational Education and Training (IVET) and Continuing Vocational Education and Training (CVET). Through a process of examination, EOPPEP certifies graduates of recognized non-formal learning institutions.
EOPPEP created the National System for Certification of Outputs, currently still under development, as an important step to veer away from the dominant input-based education system in Greece. The goal of this output-based system is to certify knowledge, skills and competences relevant to the labour market acquired by an individual across various learning pathways, and, ultimately, to boost employment. An online Qualifications Register has been created under this National System, which will be linked to the European Portal ‘Learning Opportunities and Qualifications in Europe’. In early 2016 the Register included 674 qualifications, all of which were classified in the HQF and thus referenced to the European Qualifications Framework (EQF). EOPPEP is the authority managing the continuous update of the Register although future plans should allow qualification awarding bodies to access and update the Qualifications Register directly.
Professionals who do not hold officially recognized certificates can apply for a certification regardless of where and how they developed their professional knowledge, skills and competences. These officially recognized certificates correspond to the requirements of relevant occupational profiles. Currently, EOPPEP is responsible for the certification of adult trainers of non-formal learning. The certification examinations include both a theoretical and a practical part and are based on the requirements of the relevant occupational profile. Furthermore, EOPPEP is in charge of certifying professionals in private security services who have acquired their competences only through work experience. EOPPEP also licenses individuals in specific technical occupations such as plumbing, machine moulding, liquid and gas fuel installation and welding.
EOPPEP cooperates with the Ministry of Education to organize inputs (development of curriculum for non-formal learning, infrastructures, training of trainers, etc.) and guidance. EOPPEP alone is responsible for the validation of the outcomes from non-formal learning, except for Colleges’ (Kollegia) graduates (see below).
In 2013, the law on the Restructuring of Secondary Education 4186/2013 led to the selection of public and private non-formal learning institutions and organizations authorized to offer officially recognized certification. These institutions and organizations are as follows:
- Vocational Training Schools (Sxolh Epaggelmatikhs Katartishs - SEK) offering IVET to graduates of lower secondary education. At the beginning of 2016, SEK were being redesigned
- Institutes of Vocational Training (Institouto Epaggelmatikhs Katartishs - IEK) offering IVET to formal upper-secondary education (general or technical lyceums) and SEK graduates;
- Lifelong Learning Centres offering CVET, general adult education, career guidance and counselling; and
- Colleges (Kollegia) offering non-formal learning to graduates of upper-secondary education.
Stakeholder roles, responsibilities and capacities are defined in relation to the implementation of the various non-formal learning programmes and activities described above. The EOPPEP conducts the official validation process of the outcomes of non-formal and informal learning. Although education and training providers may award certification of vocational training to their participants, they do not take part in the validation process. Private providers must conform to specific regulations pertaining to the quality of infrastructure and trainers to obtain and maintain their operational license. Social partners collaborate with EOPPEP in various ways: they develop and certify occupational standards and participate in examination committees and on the EOPPEP Board. Civil society organizations usually develop their own specific frameworks for validation.
CEDEFOP. 2014. European Inventory on Validation of Non-formal and Informal LearninG: country report Greece. http://libserver.cedefop.europa.eu/vetelib/2014/87059_EL.pdf (Accessed 17 January 2016).
CEDEFOP. 2016. 2016 Update to the European Inventory on Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning: Draft country report Greece.
EUROSTAT. 2015. Europe 2020 Indicators: Greece. http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Europe_2020_indicators_-_Greece (Accessed in 17 January 2016).
Greece. Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs. 2014. Greece EQF Referencing Report. http://www.eucis-lll.eu/eucis-lll/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/31-1-2014-GREECE-REFERENCING-REPORT.pdf (Accessed 17 January 2016).
OECD. 2015. Unemployment. https://data.oecd.org/unemp/unemployment-rate.htm (Accessed 17 January 2016).
Expert – Department for Skills and Labour Market
With assistance from:
Former intern at UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning
 The term ‘non-formal education/learning’ as used in Greece differs from the definition used in the 2012 Recommendation on the Validation on Non-formal and Informal Learning of the Council of the European Union. According to the 2010 law on Lifelong Learning, non-formal learning ‘is offered in an organised, educational environment outside the formal education system and can lead to certifications recognised on a national level’.