Non-formal and informal learning helps young adults acquire valuable competences. Youth in Action project participants can reflect on and document their learning experiences, which helps promote individual and social recognition of non-formal and informal learning in particular.

What is non-formal and informal learning?

According to Kompass, non-formal learning is any planned activity through which participants can acquire personal, social and specialist competences outside of state educational institutions. The hallmarks of non-formal learning are its voluntary nature and open access.

The learning programme is based on the participants’ needs, has learning objectives and utilises participatory methods. Through these methods, learners are actively involved in the activity and can learn through their actions and experiences. The selected methods help learners achieve the learning objectives. Learning outcomes are recorded using a variety of methods, from learner self-assessments to formalised certificates.

According to the SNYC, informal learning involves self-learning processes that take place in real life settings (“learning by doing”). (Voluntary) self-learning is mostly unplanned, incidental and unintentional. In international projects, informal learning can occur during the non-organised parts of the programme (e.g. meals, breaks and free evenings). Soft skills are often acquired through informal learning.

Through non-formal and informal learning, young adults can acquire valuable competences for successfully coping with life, their personal development and their participation in society. The learning experiences also help boost opportunities in the employment market. Because of these reasons it is important these learning experiences receive greater recognition.

How can the participants’ learning outcomes be recognised?

Erasmus+ supports the «Youthpass» tool. With «Youthpass», participants can reflect on and document their own learning outcomes based on the eight key competences for lifelong learning. “Youthpass” therefore provides as well a confirmation of participation and contains a description of the activity. The official “Youthpass” cannot be issued under the Swiss Erasmus+ programme. Movetia recommends using the “Youthpass” model as a guide when designing your own certificate and adapting it to your needs.

The Boostbox platform provides another model for reflecting on learning outcomes in mobility projects. The intercultural module is tailored to young people’s needs and can be used to assess their own abilities.

With the “Council of Europe Youth Work Portfolio”, the Council of Europe has created an online tool for analysing and recording acquired competences.

The SALTO Training and Cooperation Resource Centre has developed a competence model for youth workers which shows youth workers's skills and knowledge. The model helps users identify personal learning outcomes.

What are the different dimensions of recognition?

According to Youthpass, there are four different dimensions of recognition of competences acquired through non-formal and informal learning in the youth field. These dimensions describe the various goals and target groups of recognition.

Self-recognition or individual recognition refers to personal awareness. It involves assessing your own learning outcomes and the ability to use these learning outcomes in other fields. It also refers to awareness within the youth sector about the value of youth work. Self-recognition is an important precursor for the other forms of recognition and for developing the quality of youth work.

Social recognition means that various actors in society (parents, schools, employers, etc.) understand and acknowledge the value of youth work and of the competences acquired in non-formal learning settings.

Formal recognition is often associated with the validation of learning outcomes and with certifying a learning process and/or its outcomes. Through this process, learning achievements are mostly compared with qualifications acquired in formal education. It can also mean having official status (e.g. the accreditation of a learning programme).

For the Youth Work team, validation in Youth in Action projects means participants themselves recording their learning outcomes in a document. The organisation responsible for the learning activity then signs this document.

Political recognition is manifested through the policies and laws concerned with youth work and non-formal education, for example. It may be seen in the extent to which non-formal learning and its providers are included in political strategies.