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Recognising Non-Formal and Informal Learning: Outcomes, Policies and Practices
Although learning often takes place within formal settings and designated environments, a great deal of valuable learning also occurs either deliberately or informally in everyday life. Policy makers in OECD countries have become increasingly aware that non-formal and informal learning represents a rich source of human capital.
Policies which recognise this can play a significant role in a coherent lifelong learning framework, and present practices can be improved to make the knowledge and competencies people acquire outside of formal schooling more visible. The challenge for policy makers is to develop processes for recognising such learning, processes that will generate net benefits both to individuals and to society at large.
This report, based on an OECD review in 22 countries, explores the advantages of recognising non-formal and informal learning outcomes, takes stock of existing policies and practices, and recommends how to organise recognition of these learning systems.
Although learning often takes place within formal settings and learning environments, a great deal of valuable learning also takes place either deliberately or informally in everyday life. Policy makers in OECD countries have become increasingly aware that this represents a rich source of human capital. In many cases, this is fully recognised through the wage premiums paid to those with experience. However, there are some people who are not fully aware of their own stock of human capital or its potential value. There are also some individuals who are unable to put all the learning they have acquired to full use because they are cannot easily prove their capabilities to others. Recognition of non-formal and informal learning outcomes does not, in itself, create human capital. But recognition makes the stock of human capital more visible and more valuable to society at large.
Recognition plays an important role in a number of countries by providing validation of competences to facilitate entry to further formal learning. This often involves exemption from certain coursework or parts of a formal study programme. This approach lets people complete formal education more quickly, efficiently and cheaply by not having to enrol in courses for which they have already mastered the content. Allowing people to fast-track through formal education by making the most of their nonformal and informal learning can also create a virtuous circle by making it more attractive for people to engage in self-directed learning.
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