Validation of non-formal and informal learning outcomes is linked to mechanisms which are in place in formal education. Intensive work has been underway in Poland for several years to introduce changes in these areas. This involves not only the development of a system for validation, certification and transfer of learning outcomes and, consequently, of qualifications, but also the revision and standardisation of terminology. The 2030 Integrated Skills Strategy is expected to contribute to more effective assessment, validation and certification of learning outcomes, regardless of the setting in which they have been achieved. The document also addresses the development of guidance for validation and recognition of prior learning (RPL) at the national, regional and local levels.
Integrated Qualifications System
The Act on the Integrated Qualifications System (IQS) (Ustawa o Zintegrowanym Systemie Kwalifikacji) came into force on 15 January 2016. The main instruments of the IQS include:
- the 8-level Polish Qualifications Framework providing information on knowledge, skills and social competences; and
- the Integrated Qualifications Register.
The Act defines concepts such as qualifications, full qualifications, partial qualifications, market qualifications and regulated qualifications. This will increase the transparency and comparability of skills acquired outside school.
The IQS aims to:
- ensure quality of the qualifications awarded;
- ensure recognition of learning outcomes achieved in non-formal and informal education;
- enable the accumulation and recognition of achievements / credits;
- provide information on the qualifications available in Poland;
- enable comparison of qualifications acquired in Poland and other EU countries.
The responsibility for coordination of the IQS rests with the Minister of Education and Science.
As the vocational education and training system is now more open to learning in non-school settings (which is relevant, in particular, to adult education and training), effective mechanisms are being developed for the validation of learning outcomes achieved by adults, also through non-formal and informal learning.
Polish Qualifications Framework and the Integrated Qualifications Register
The Polish Qualifications Framework (PQF) describes 8 levels of qualifications identified in Poland which are referenced to the corresponding levels of the European Qualifications Framework, as defined in Annex II to the Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2008. Qualifications in the PQF are defined in terms of knowledge, skills and social competences.
The PQF assigns levels to full qualifications. Such qualifications are confirmed by a certificate or diploma. The levels of the PQF and corresponding certificates and diplomas are presented in the table below.
Certificates and diplomas confirming a given level of qualifications
Primary school leaving certificate: awarded to pupils finishing the 6-year primary school that was in place before the ongoing reform of the school education system
1st grade music school leaving certificate
1st grade general music school leaving certificate
Primary school leaving certificate: awarded to pupils finishing the 8-year primary school that has been established by the ongoing school education reform
Lower secondary school leaving certificate: awarded to pupils finishing the lower secondary school that was in place before the ongoing school education reform
Diploma conferring vocational qualifications: awarded upon finishing a stage I sectoral vocational school or achieving the same level of education through other equivalent education paths, and upon passing exams leading to qualifications for a given occupation
Diploma conferring vocational qualifications: awarded upon finishing a basic vocational school or achieving the same level of education through other equivalent education paths, and upon passing exams leading to qualifications for a given occupation
Journeyman certificate: awarded upon finishing a basic vocational school or stage I sectoral vocational school and passing examinations for so-called craftsman occupations. The qualifications acquired should correspond to the level of qualifications identified in the PQF.
Diploma conferring vocational qualifications: awarded upon finishing a technical upper secondary school or post-secondary school or achieving the same level of education through other equivalent education paths, and upon passing exams leading to qualifications for a given occupation
Art school diploma conferring a vocational title. The qualifications acquired should correspond to the level of qualifications identified in the PQF.
Diploma of a teacher training college
Diploma of a foreign language teacher training college
Diploma of a college of social work
Doctoral / PhD diploma
Source: Based on the Act of 22 December 2015 on the Integrated Qualifications System (ustawa o Zintegrowanym Systemie Kwalifikacji z dnia 22 grudnia 2015 r.), with subsequent amendments (accessed Sept. 2019), and the PQF levels (accessed Sept. 2019).
Integrated Qualifications Register
The Integrated Qualifications Register (IQR) is a public register which gathers information on all qualifications included in the Integrated Qualifications System (IQS), independently of other registers and catalogues created in Poland for individual ministries, branches, professions and institutions. The IQR was established in 2016 on the basis of Act of 22 December 2015 on the Integrated Qualifications System (ustawa z dnia 22 grudnia 2015 r. o Zintegrowanym Systemie Kwalifikacji) and is one of main elements of the system. The IQR provides information on the specific requirements that should be fulfilled to acquire a given qualification, and on the institutions that are authorised to award such qualifications.
The IQR includes qualifications for which quality will be assured through specific procedures and monitored by the institution establishing a given qualification. Validation of qualifications in formal education is an integral part of the system (see Table 5). Currently, the IQR includes 9,620 full qualifications (acquired within the school education and higher education systems) which are assigned to 4 areas, and partial qualifications which include qualifications awarded in vocational education (referred to as sector-specific vocational education), qualifications awarded upon completion of non-degree postgraduate programmes, regulated and market qualifications and market qualifications in crafts.
The IQR also has a liaison function for institutions which cooperate within the framework of the IQR. The IQR is kept by the Educational Research Institute (Instytut Badań Edukacyjnych), which ensures that the data gathered is complete and up to date.
The validation process aims primarily to assess whether a person knows, understands and is able to do what is specified in the description of a qualification. The IQR places emphasis on compliance with validation standards, which includes the separation or independence of the validation process from the learning process. Validation helps learners to verify information on the skills possessed that are necessary to obtain a given qualification and a certificate which is recognisable in EU countries, and provides employers with reliable confirmation of employees’ or job applicants’ skills.
Cedefop’s ‘European guidelines for validating non-formal and informal learning’ (2009) (updated in 2015) identify several dimensions of the process: individual, organisational, national, and European.
The validation process includes the following elements:
- identification of learning outcomes (LOs): defining and analysing the knowledge, skills and social competences that the applicant has acquired;
- documentation of LOs: collecting evidence of the achievement of selected LOs (e.g. certificates, practical placement certificates, examples of work, video recordings, recommendations, a description of the job / work performed by the applicant, etc.;
- assessment: checking through appropriate methods whether the applicant has achieved specific LOs, and validation of the assessed LOs; and
- certification of the LOs achieved: in the form of a qualification or credits (ECTS, ECVET) or achievement leading to a qualification, or in another form.
Poland does not have yet a single coherent system for the validation of LOs achieved in non-formal and informal learning. Existing mechanisms are applied in various sectors and related to various practices and validation processes. Some of them have been in place for many years, others are innovations adopted from abroad, and still other have been introduced on a pilot basis. Such measures are taken under the Programme “Chance: new opportunities for adults” („Szansa – nowe możliwości dla dorosłych”) (see also the section on Developments and Current Policy Priorities).
Source: Based on ‘From competences to qualifications: a review of procedures and practices for the validation of learning outcomes’ (Od kompetencji do kwalifikacji – diagnoza rozwiązań i praktyk w zakresie walidowania efektów uczenia się; in Polish only), Educational Research Institute, Warsaw 2013, p. 32.
Extramural or external exams (which adults take as externals) are one of the methods of validating learning outcomes (LOs) achieved outside the formal education system. They enable validation of LOs achieved by adults who choose to prepare independently for exams at the level of a primary or post-primary school; such exams cover the requirements laid down in the national core curriculum for general education. In the case of schools providing vocational education, adults may also prepare independently for an exam leading to qualifications for a given occupation (extramural / external vocational exam). It is worth noting that an extramural / external vocational exam is not conducted for all occupations for which pupils are trained in the school education system; for example, it does not cover medical occupations.