In Romania over the last few years, some notable steps have been taken in the area of validation of formal, non-formal and informal learning. Although new legal and institutional frameworks have been created and a set of laws and decrees were adopted, not all the regulations have been put into effect. Work still needs to be done to improve coherence between the validation of non-formal and informal learning and the National Qualification Framework, as well as to stabilize more solid links between institutional actors responsible for non-formal and informal validation mechanisms and the stakeholders in the sectors of education, training, and employment.
Challenges and opportunities
One of the main challenges is to link structures and stakeholders from Vocational Education and Training (VET), higher education and the labour market in a more comprehensive framework. To this end, the National Qualifications Authority was established in 2011 to develop and implement a comprehensive NQF. This was adopted in Romania in 2013. Currently, it is not possible to acquire formal qualifications through the system of validation of non-formal and informal learning; the two systems are parallel and a link between them does not yet exist. At the moment, it is only possible to validate non-formal and informal learning for level four or lower.
The authorization of assessment and certification centres for non-formal and informal learning started in Romania in 2004. According to the National Authority for Qualifications (ANC), 146 assessment centres and 49,900 people were assessed and certified between 2004 and 2013. The validation of competences acquired in informal and non-formal contexts is gaining momentum in Romania, and there is a notable increase of certified validation centres and of beneficiaries. However, the institutional capacity and the limited geographic coverage of the assessment centres are challenges that still have to be addressed. These are the main factors that hinder access to validation services for potential beneficiaries, especially disadvantaged groups such as the Roma people, workers with low skill levels or people living in rural areas. As many stakeholders proposed within the framework of the new education law No.1/2011, this problem might be addressed efficiently by establishing a Community Lifelong Learning Centre as a local institution providing validation and counselling services according to specific local needs. This proposal has not yet been implemented. Another factor related to the low number of participants in validation services is the lack of information campaigns.
Generally, integrated approaches between agencies responsible for validation and institutions responsible for counselling and guidance must be made to improve access to validation procedures. The Ministry of Education is responsible for counselling services in schools and universities, whereas the Ministry of Labour oversees counselling services for unemployed people through its employment agencies. On other hand, the National Authority for Qualifications has assumed responsibility for the validation centres.
National standards, policy and framework activity
Non-formal learning in Romania is conducted mainly by educational institutions and the Centre of Education, public and private providers, governmental and non-governmental organizations, employee training programmes organized by employers and cultural institutions. Certificates attainable are professional qualification certificates and certificates of completion. The evaluation methods include self-evaluation, direct observation, oral testing, written testing, project-based evaluation, simulation or structured observation, reporting or evaluation by others.
In Romania there is a legal framework for the validation of non-formal and informal learning in relation to professional competences. A set of laws and decrees adopted in the early 2000’s organized non-formal and informal learning validation independently of formal VET, enabling NFIL validation to take place outside a formal program.
The first important steps were taken with Law 253/2003, which widened the duties of the National Council for Adult Training (CNFPA) and made reference to the certification of competences acquired through CVET, organized into non-formal and informal settings (Cedefop, 2014). In the next year, Governmental Law 76/2004 laid the foundation for accreditation of validation centres and Order No. 4543/468 of 2004 (supplemented by Order No. 3329/81 of 23 February 2005) formed the basis for the assessment and certification of non-formal and informal learning and the recognition of professional competences based on occupational standards. According to the order, assessment should be voluntary, accomplished in accordance with occupational standards and independent of a formal professional education and training framework. This order also stipulated the main principles that should guide the assessment and certification of professional competences in Romania, namely validity, credibility, impartiality, flexibility, confidentiality and simplicity.
With a recent reform in 2010, the National Authority for Qualification was established by merging the National Council for Adult Training (CNFPA) and the National Agency for Qualifications in Higher Education and Partnership with the Economic and Social Environment (ACPART). Among its other responsibilities, the authority coordinates the validation of professional competences acquired in non-formal and informal settings and is responsible for accrediting assessment centres. Each assessment centre is specialized in specific vocational competences and can issue certain types of qualifications. The accreditation duration for validation centres is 1-3 years, depending on their track record. Validation of occupational competences is based on the assessment of separate units, but no partial qualifications can be awarded: the result for the candidate can be either ‘competent’ or ‘not yet competent’. Participants in validation procedures must pay participation fees that vary depending on the number of competences to be validated and the fee-setting policies of the validation centres.
National Education Law 1/2011 with subsequent amendments opened up the education system and promoted the role of validation of non-formal and informal learning based on a learning outcomes approach. However, there are no targeted measures for a specific sector, with the exception of validation of the learning outcomes acquired by teaching staff in non-formal and informal contexts, and the conversion of these learning outcomes into equivalent credits for teachers’ continuous professional development.
Regarding validation, according to Law 1/2011, the National Authority has certain responsibilities in the following areas:
- Providing quality assurance by monitoring the validation procedures and the performance of the validation centres;
- Coordinating the authorization process of the assessment centres;
- Setting up the national register of certified assessors;
- Training and certifying validation experts, assessors and internal and external observers;
- Issuing vocational competence certificates that have the same value in the labour market as those obtained in the formal education and training system.
According to Common Order No. 4543/468 of 2004, any legal entity can apply to the National Authority for Qualification (formerly to CNFPA) to become a validation centre. The legal entity should provide evidence for assessment procedures, tools and appropriate expertise in the specific qualification or competence for which they are applying. Centres can only be accredited to evaluate an occupation’s competences if they have at least two certified assessment experts with a higher educational degree in the respective field. These experts must also participate in specific training courses provided by the National Qualifications Authority.
No specific responsibilities exist for education and training providers, private sector actors or third sector organizations. Education and training providers may apply for authorization to become assessment centres for certain qualifications. Since 2011, schools may use assessment and validation methodology by implementing a ‘Second Chance’ programme. Economic actors can become involved in the validation processes by way of sectoral committees in which certain sectors’ employers and employees participate. These committees can contribute to the development of sector-related validation standards and assessment criteria. Although third sector organizations make important contributions, they are not considered providers of qualification-related skills.
Generally, the lack of an efficient coordination mechanism between stakeholders is one of the main causes for the small number of potential beneficiaries from validation services.
CEDEFOP. 2013. Analysis and Overview of NQF Level Descriptors in European Countries: annual report 2012. Romania. Luxembourg, Publications Office of the European Union. http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/publications-and-resources/publications/6119 (Accessed 1 December 2015).
CEDEFOP. 2014. European Inventory on Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning 2014: country report Romania. http://libserver.cedefop.europa.eu/vetelib/2014/87074_RO.pdf (Accessed 14 January 2016).
Damesin, R., Fayolle, J., Fleury, N., Malaquin, M., and Rode N. 2014. Challenges, actors and practices of non-formal and informal learning and its validation in Europe. Brussels, European Trade Union Institute. https://www.etui.org/Publications2/Books/Challenges-actors-and-practices-of-non-formal-and-informal-learning-and-its-validation-in-Europe (Accessed 14 January 2016).
Stanciu, S., Banciu, V. 2012. National Qualifications System (NQS) in Romania and validation of formal and non-formal learning. Elsevier Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 69, pp. 816–820 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877042812054638 (Accessed 14 January 2016).
Former intern at UIL.
 In October 2010, the total number of certificates issued was 28,000 and 21,900 people were assessed and certified between 2010 and 2013.
 Recently, a national media campaign was launched by an ESF-funded project to enhance participation in lifelong learning in Romania. One of the main findings from the campaign was that although a significant number of beneficiaries requested more information on the validation process, the assessment centres network is not accessible enough and only a small number of qualifications are eligible for validation (Cedefop, 2014).