This section draws mainly on input from: Lárusdóttir, F.M. (2019). European inventory on validation of non-formal and informal learning 2018 update: Iceland.
Validation of prior learning (VPL) in Iceland is a systematic process whereby all knowledge and competences an individual has gained through various activities – such as work experience, work-related learning, non-formal and informal learning, formal learning, social activities and family life – are formally documented and validated. The Education and Training Service Centre (ECTS) ( ) Education and Training Service Centre: http://www.frae.is/um-okkur/about-us/) works according to contract with the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture to ensure quality and to guarantee that approved methodology for validation is implemented by providing counselling to partners, coordinating training for validation staff and publishing guidelines and checklists. VPL projects are conducted in cooperation with lifelong learning centres distributed around the country.
There is a legal framework on VPL in Iceland and its practices are based on a regulation introduced in 2011 ( Regulation on further education (in Icelandic): https://www.reglugerd.is/reglugerdir/allar/nr/1163-2011).
A national strategy for validating prior learning is in place for people with low levels of education and qualifications.
The main objective of the national validation strategy is opening pathways for people with little formal education, focusing mainly on reducing the length of studies based on curricula subjects at upper secondary level and formal adult education where a system of credit-based units is in place. The process focuses on assessing competences using these credit-based units. Assessment results are documented, and credit units registered into a general databank for upper secondary schools and formal adult learning. It is possible to obtain a full qualification through validation. In some sectors however, this is rarely the case and a full qualification as a skilled worker is not granted until a trade – or journeyman's examination – is completed.
The methodology of validation of prior learning is not generally used at university level, but some universities do, to some extent, consider work experience of candidates during intake procedures. A committee has been working on developing VPL in higher education; it presented its findings in a report in June 2018 ( Eyþórsdóttir I.D. et al. (2018). Real skills assessment at university level: results of a working group on real skills assessment at the university level (in Icelandic): http://frae.is/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Raunf%C3%A6rnimat-%C3%A1-h%C3%A1sk%C3%B3lastigi-ni%C3%B0urst%C3%B6%C3%B0ur-vinnuh%C3%B3ps.pdf ). The committee's proposals on the development of VPL in higher education include better coordination of laws and regulations and cooperation between faculties. It also suggests that an independent third party, such as ETSC, could conduct the validation.
Validation against standards in specific jobs has not been linked to a credit system or modularised structure of qualifications. However, standards have been developed for specific jobs for validation purposes. The standards used are based on a formal process linking competences to jobs through competence analysis conducted with main stakeholders. This has proven to be successful in the service and tourism sectors, for example.
Iceland, together with Belgium (FL), Ireland and Norway, took part in the Erasmus KA3 project VISKA (visible skills for adults) ( http://www.viskaproject.eu). The project ran from March 2017 to February 2020 and was managed and coordinated by Skills Norway ( https://www.kompetansenorge.no/english/). VISKA addressed the need to make the skills of low-skilled adults, migrants, asylum seekers and refugees more visible, to enhance their employability, improve their access to education and training offers and support active engagement in society. In Iceland the project was coordinated by ETSC and the education centre IÐAN on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. The aim of VISKA in Iceland was to address the challenge linked to the lack of access and awareness of VPL services for migrants, mainly Polish, the largest cohort of migrants in the country.
The trials carried out showed that language learning in general and the lack of language support in educational pathways and career development was a main challenge. In this respect, the Icelandic project recommends that language barriers should be addressed, such as through access to professional interpreters. The Icelandic project further concludes that VISKA findings and recommendations should be part of the revised Parliamentary action plan for 2020-24.