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The EU Council recommendation of 2012 to validate non-formal and informal learning differentiates between three types of learning processes: 

Formal learning

Learning which takes place in an organised and structured environment, specifically dedicated to learning, and typically leads to the award of a qualification, usually in the form of a certificate or a diploma.

It includes systems

  • of general education,
  • initial vocational training and
  • higher education.

Non-formal learning

Learning which takes place through planned activities (in terms of learning objectives, learning time) where some form of learning support is present.


  • in-company training, through which companies update and improve the skills of their  workers
  • structured on-line learning 

Informal learning

Learning resulting from daily activities related to work, family or leisure  and is not organised or structured in terms of objectives, time or learning support.


  • project management skills acquired at work
  • languages learned during a stay in another country


In broader educational discussions, the term "skills" is used to mean the combination of knowledge and ability when accomplishing action requests. Those with skills are those who can use their knowledge to develop new abilities for the jobs currently required. Fulfilling requirements and mastering situations that require non-standard action and problem-solving is particularly emphasised through the concept of skills. (available in German only)


Validation means a process of confirmation by an authorised body that an individual has acquired learning outcomes measured against a relevant standard and consists of the following four distinct phases:

1. IDENTIFICATION through dialogue of particular experiences of an individual;

2. DOCUMENTATION to make visible the individual's experiences;

3. a formal ASSESSMENT of these experiences; and

4. CERTIFICATION of the results of the assessment which may lead to a partial or full qualification;