This section draws on input from: Ure, O.B. (2019). European inventory on validation of non-formal and informal learning 2018 update: Norway.
The implementation of validation arrangements in Norway (Skills Norway, April 2019).
There are laws and regulations on validation of non-formal and informal learning for each level of education and training covered by the NKR. Validation of prior learning is based on agreed common principles that have been developed for many years as part of overarching lifelong learning policies since these were launched through the 1998 white paper on the Competence reform (Meld. St. 42 (1997-98) Kompetansereformen). One of these principles is that the validation process should be voluntary and of benefit to the individual. Although participation in validation is voluntary, the legal framework guarantees the rights of individuals to undertake it.
In Norwegian legislation and practice, validation comprises all prior learning: formal, non-formal and informal. In terms of validation, there is no distinction between these different kinds of learning, as it is not seen as useful to categorise in which arena the learning has taken place.
Responsibility for local provision in primary, lower and upper secondary education (levels 2 to 4) is decentralised to municipality and county education administrations respectively and VPL is based on the learning outcomes described in the curricula. Statutory rights for adults to complete upper secondary education and training were introduced in 2000 and for primary and lower secondary education in 2002. At this level, the outcome of validation of VPL can be a document showing that the individual has achieved a full qualification (certificate); if the individual has not achieved a full qualification, the document awarded is a 'certificate of competence'. In VET, individuals must pass the final trade examination to obtain the final VET (trade or journeyman's) certificate.
Validation for admission to vocational college education was introduced with the original law for this level in 2003; the possibility to grant exemption from parts of programmes was introduced through regulation in 2013. Adults from the age of 23, without required formal qualifications, may be validated for admission to studies and/or exempted from parts of a study programme based on VPL. In higher education, VPL is regulated by law stating that adults from the age of 25, without required formal qualifications, may be validated for admission to studies and/or exempted from parts of a study programme based on prior learning. At levels 5-8, each institution provides validation procedures based on the learning outcomes of the relevant study programme. Each institution is autonomous, so there are no general procedures for VPL. However, in 2013, as a follow-up of a 2009 white paper on the education strategy ( Report No 44 to the Storting, 2008-09. The education strategy. https://www.regjeringen.no/no/dokumenter/stmeld-nr-44-2008-2009-/id565231/ ), Skills Norway developed two guidelines on assessing prior learning together with representatives from the sectors: one related to admission to vocational college education, and one to recognition of prior learning in (as part of) higher education.
Norway together with Belgium (FL), Iceland and Ireland took part in the Erasmus KA3 project VISKA 2017-20 (visible skills for adults) ( VISKA report: https://www.viskaproject.eu ). The project ran from March 2017 to February 2020 and was managed and coordinated by Skills Norway. VISKA addressed the need to make the skills of low-skilled adults, migrants, asylum seekers and refugees more visible, in order to enhance their employability, improve their access to education and training offers and support active engagement in society. In Norway, the focus was on developing methods and processes to increase the access of migrants to validation of prior learning processes, education and work. During the trial period, 612 asylum seekers went through the two first phases of the validation process (identification and documentation) using an electronic tool for self-registration (Kompass) ( Kompass comprises 15 languages and has many similarities with the EU Skills Profiling Tool for Third Country Nationals.) followed by career guidance. A total of 74 persons also finalised the two last phases (assessment and certification) against upper secondary education and training. The VISKA project was given an exemption from the regulations in the Education Act to carry out assessment in languages other than Norwegian and Sami as it was essential to the trials to allow candidates to speak their own language and to use interpreters. It was a strong recommendation from the project that assessment in upper secondary education for this target group depends on the regulations of the Education Act opening for assessment in languages other than Norwegian and Sami. The regulations in question have now been changed in that respect ( https://lovdata.no/dokument/LTI/forskrift/2019-12-02-1691 ).
There are validation mechanisms in enterprises (such as the 2018-21 social partner agreement on documenting workers' competence, Paragraphs 18-4 ( Basic agreement between the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions and the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprises, 2018-21: https://www.nho.no/siteassets/publikasjoner/basic-agreement-lo-nho-2018-2021.pdf )). Internal validation procedures at the workplace, linked to wage negotiations or competence development in companies, can be found outside the formal system of validation. In these instances, validation references are based on local requirements defined by the company concerned.
Although the Norwegian VPL system has a firm foundation in legislation and at policy level, and has developed in a positive direction over the years, challenges remain. A crucial factor in a successful VPL system is trust: that the system has legitimacy across all levels of the education sector as well as in the labour market. In certain areas of education, non-formal and informal learning may not be seen to have equal value to formal learning. Also, mistrust can spring from a lack of knowledge about validation, or lack of clarity and coherence in routines and processes. In the labour market, mistrust may be at the root of a perceived lack of interest in and acceptance of validation, for similar reasons. The substantial regional variations in practice may also serve to undermine trust in the VPL system. According to Skills Norway's report on the implementation of validation arrangements in Norway, the challenges related to information, practice and statistics should be further discussed. To improve access to VPL and awareness and knowledge about the possibilities and limitations of the system, information is of major importance. Although much information can be found online, it still takes a lot of sifting through to find the right detail. Most is in Norwegian only and is not easily accessible for newly arrived migrants, a relevant target group for VPL.
Challenges linked to practice relate to good processes and strong staff environments. Improvements that might strengthen the trust in the VPL system include support for staff in the form of better, more robust and updated ICT systems for better data flow and clearer descriptions of procedure for both staff and candidates.
A sound base of statistical evidence is crucial for research and development of the validation system, as well as for governance and policy development. Several studies, most recently the 2018 NIFU report (NIFU 2018:10) ( Realkompetansevurdering: En studie av systemet for vurdering av realkompetanse i utdanning og arbeidsliv, NIFU-rapport, 2018:10: https://nifu.brage.unit.no/nifu-xmlui/handle/11250/2502219), point out a great many shortcomings in this area. One major reason, especially at primary and secondary levels of education, is that the systems for collecting data are inadequate and disconnected. The situation is considerably better for higher education but only for admission, not for exemption. There is no statistical evidence on validation for working life.
In sum, information, practice and statistics are areas in VPL in need of improvement across all levels of education. Deficiencies in the VPL system may hinder efficiency and effectiveness; deter potential candidates and frustrate staff; and weaken trust in the system both within education and in working life (Skills Norway, 2019).