It is well recognised that lifelong learning covers the full range of provision of learning opportunities, from early childhood through schools to further and higher education. However, it extends beyond formal education to non-formal and informal learning for out-of-school youth and adult citizens. In recent years, in addition to traditional qualifications systems, some countries have developed mechanisms for the recognition, validation and accreditation (RVA) of non-formal and informal learning. With the overall aim to propose principles and mechanisms that can assist Member States in developing or improving structures and procedures to recognise all forms of learning, particularly the outcomes of non-formal and informal learning, UNESCO has recently developed the Guidelines on the Recognition, Validation and Accreditation (RVA) of the Outcomes of Non-formal and Informal Learning. Two of the six principles highlighted in the Guidelines - promoting the equal value of learning outcomes of formal, non-formal and informal learning, and improving flexibility and openness of formal education and training - are relevant to higher education in particular. Given that the traditional higher education qualifications have usually been defined with reference to fixed durations, subject, levels of study, the integration of RVA into higher education has the potential to stress the importance of what learners actually know, are able to do and understand. This integration will be conducive to creating alternative pathways in an open and flexible higher education system, To put these principles into practice in higher education system, some concrete mechanisms/approaches are prerequisite: (1) to develop a mechanism for higher education system that pays more attention to the quality of learning outcomes; (2) to create awareness and acceptance of the learning outcomes gained in non-traditional settings; (3) to use RVA to build bridges between higher education and the sub-sectors of education and training and to promote the integration of formal, non-formal and informal learning; and (4) to develop approaches to increase interaction between higher education institutions, enterprises and voluntary organisations to translate learning outcomes from working and life experiences into credits and/or qualifications.
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