7.1 The Importance of Recognising Prior Learning

7.1 The Importance of Recognising Prior Learning

While formal education is a cornerstone in a person’s life path and leaves an imprint on anyone who has gone through some form of formal schooling, it is a known fact that people acquire much of their knowledge, as well as the skills and competences they have, outside of formal schooling and training. A person who does not have any formal degrees obtained through formal education can at the same time have many professional competences and skills which can only be gained through personal immersion and other styles of learning.

Cedefop (European Center for the Development of Vocational Training) provides a definition of what learning is and describes it as a process “in which a person absorbs information, ideas and values, ​​and in this way acquires knowledge, skills and competences.” The various settings, arrangements and circumstances in which the process of learning itself takes place are extremely diverse and colourful. Overall, there are three types of learning which are internationally recognised: formal qualification, non-formal learning, and informal learning. All of these types of learning are essential and they all play an important role in a person’s individual educational development.

In order to benefit from formal or non-formal learning, a person has to make the decision to participate in a learning process either voluntarily or mandatorily (in the case of compulsory school, education or workplace training) while informal learning happens constantly and in everyday situations. Whatever prior learning is based on and wherever learning experiences are made – what they have in common is that they enrich a person’s life, provide them with new skills and competences, let them experience new things, improve their knowledge and add to their personality. To make this learning visible and tangible, it is therefore essential that prior learning is recognised in order to validate the learning outcomes in professional settings.


Reflective questions for the reader:

  1. What is something that you have learned that makes you feel proud and wish it would be formally recognised?
  2. Why do you think it is important to recognise prior learning?