This section draws mainly on input from: Dhzengozova, M. (2019). European inventory on validation of non-formal and informal learning 2018 update: Bulgaria.
The validation of knowledge, skills and competences acquired in non-formal and informal learning is an integral part of Bulgarian lifelong learning policy. The national lifelong learning strategy 2014-20 aimed at introducing validation of knowledge, skills and competences acquired through non-formal training and informal learning by 2018; and the VET development strategy 2015-20 defined validation as a priority in the context of lifelong learning.
Validation arrangements currently exist in general, vocational and adult education, but not in higher education. The Vocational Education and Training Act (VETA) was amended in 2014 to include a procedure for validation, to establish equivalence between vocational knowledge, skills and competences acquired through non-formal or informal learning and VET standards related to a specific professional qualification (Article 40, State Gazette No 61/2014). In relation to this, Ordinance No 2 ( Ministry of Education and Science (2014). Ordinance No 2 on the conditions and procedures for the validation of professional knowledge, skills and competences: https://www.navet.government.bg/bg/media/N2_Validirane_21_11_14.pdf [in Bulgarian]), on the conditions and procedures for the validation of professional knowledge, skills and competences, was approved and has been in force since 2015 (State Gazette No 96/2014). It defines validation stages, requirements for assessors, procedural requirements and types of validation certificate to be issued. It also sets in place an institutional framework with clear allocation of responsibilities and coordination between public institutions and social partners, which is one of the strengths of the current system. Amendments to the Pre-school and School Education Act (in force since 2016), brought it in line with VETA. Validation provides access to general education, VET and/or facilitates access to the labour market.
In VET, validation includes two main stages. The first, 'identification of professional knowledge, skills and competences acquired by a candidate', is further subdivided into sub-stages: determination of the professional field and profession; preliminary comparison of the declared professional knowledge, skills and competences with the learning outcomes included in the VET standard; guidance on additional training where necessary and verification of acquired professional knowledge, skills and competences; and assessment by examination in the theory and practice of the profession. The second stage refers to the recognition of the professional qualification or partial professional qualification (Article 6 of State gazette No 96/2014). The standards used for validation are the same as the VET standards used in formal education and training.
While there are no explicit quality assurance indicators for validation, current legislation stipulates that institutions must put in place internal quality assurance systems. A project ( System for validation of non-formal acquired knowledge, skills and competences: new opportunity for my future (2013-15). ), implemented by the Ministry of Education and Science in cooperation with NAVET, other relevant ministries and social partners, contributed to developing internal quality assurance mechanisms related to assessing evidence of previous learning. Training was provided to validation practitioners in VET and a Manual for vocational schools for validating non-formal and informal learning was developed, providing methodological guidelines and instruments for assessing equivalence between competences declared by a candidate and those defined for a specific vocational qualification in the corresponding VET standard.
One of the aims of the BQF is to facilitate validation and recognition of prior learning, including non-formal and informal learning and work-based training, by virtue of presenting detailed descriptions of learning outcomes in line with State education standards. Each unit of learning outcomes can be independently assessed and validated. However, at this stage the framework is restricted to qualifications from the formal education and training system. Certificates acquired through validation differ, in title and description, from those issued in VET: the former describe validated competences ( A demo version of a certificate for validation is available in Bulgarian at: http://www.navet.government.bg/bg/media/Svidetelstvo_validirane.pdf ) and the latter subjects of education.
The project New chance for success (2014-20), implemented under the Science and education for smart growth operational programme 2014-20, enables validation arrangements for disadvantaged groups, including unemployed individuals and those at risk of unemployment. It provides literacy and basic education courses and awards certificates that allow access to general secondary education or to training for the acquisition of a VET qualification at BQF/EQF level 2.
In the VET system, the validation of professional knowledge, skills and competences for adults is still poorly represented. According to NAVET data, procedures for recognition of qualifications through validation have been completed as follows: 570 procedures in 2015; 257 in 2016; 162 in 2017; 117 in 2018; 413 in 2019 and 176 in 2020.