The European portfolio for youth leaders and youth workers by zcc46658


									The European portfolio for youth leaders and youth workers: an example
of recognition of non-formal education

Claude Bodeving
National Youth Service, Luxemburg
Member of working group appointed by the CDEJ
to elaborate the European Portfolio for youth leaders and youth workers
created by the Council of Europe

The definition of education and of lifelong learning covers different types of learning, which
can be formal, non-formal and informal: « any learning activity undertaken at any time in the
life of a person that has as its aim to increase knowledge, qualifications and skills, from a
personal, civic, social and/or vocational perspective. » (European Commission: Creation of a
European area of lifelong learning and training, November 2001)

Nowadays there would appear to be a consensus on the idea that non-formal learning for
young people is a clear added value in terms of a young person’s education: « Non-formal
education is an integral part of a lifelong learning concept that allows young people and
adults to acquire and maintain the skills, abilities and outlook needed to adapt to a
continuously changing environment. It can be acquired on the personal initiative of each
individual through different learning activities taking place outside the formal educational
system. An important part of non-formal education is carried out by non-governmental
organisations involved in community and youth work.» (Recommendation 1437(2000) 1
Council of Europe: Non-formal education).

Non-formal learning activities can take place in a variety of settings. In the youth sector, for
example, possible settings could include youth clubs or youth organisations and movements.
Non-formal learning is differentiated from formal education by its methodology and its
objectives: while in general it strives to help participants develop personal and social skills
and better abilities with regard to active citizenship, the definition of non-formal learning also
covers key competences for lifelong learning and training. In fact, by including social and
civic skills, an entrepreneurial spirit and sense of initiative, cultural awareness and expression
among the eight key competences, the European reference framework (Recommendation
2006/962/CE on the key skills for lifelong learning and training) covers the key competences
required for personal development and active citizenship. These skills cover the finalities
invariably referred to by actors working in the non-formal learning sector.

What remains to be established is whether this type of learning is genuinely recognised. This
will depend first and foremost on communication towards the outside world (how to show
others what has been accomplished) and is therefore a question of social recognition which
refers back to the level of respect felt by youth organisations and to the status given to this
type of learning by society in general.

At the same time it is also a question of political recognition (recognition of youth
organisations as delivery vehicles of non-formal learning) and, in addition to these two types
of collective recognition, to an even greater extent a question of individual recognition: how
can we deliver a certificate that aims to list and recognise the qualifications and skills
acquired by a young person as a result of a non-formal learning activity?

Given that the objective of the last type of recognition is, among others, to improve young
people’s employment prospects, we are immediately faced with a sensitive issue: how do we
develop certification based on reliable and valid criteria (methodological requirements)? What
are the criteria needed to ensure that the acquired skills are recognised, without at the same
time formalising the non-formal sector (a concern frequently expressed by youth

In other words, if we accept that: « non-formal and informal learning and training can enable
young people to acquire additional knowledge, skills and competences and contribute to their
personal development, social inclusion and active citizenship » (Resolution 2006/C 168/01 on
the recognition of the value of non-formal and informal learning and training in the youth
sector in Europe), how can certification acceptable to a third party be developed that will both
improve job prospects and respect the contextual and partly tacit aspect of non-formal

Many countries have developed their own certification instruments or recognition of non-
formal learning tools at national level. Just to cite a few examples:

   •   France: validation of experience based knowledge (opening up of the national
       educational and training system to include the competences acquired outside formal
   •   Finland: a leisure activities notebook that provides information on participation and
       learning in non-formal learning settings, listing projects, responsibilities assumed,
       courses followed.
   •   Germany: Kompetenznachweis International (focuses on experiences in the
       international youth work sector).
   •   Austria: Österreichischer Freiwilligenpass (provides information on the competences
       and knowledge acquired and the functions taken on as part of a volunteer activity).
   •   Luxembourg: certificate acknowledging the competences acquired in the non-formal
       learning sector (see pilot project at

Existing recognition instruments are thus characterised by a wide diversity of approaches and
are either based on formal recognition (France, Finland), international work (Germany) or on
a diversity of volunteer activities (Austria).

We can add the projects recently developed by the European Commission and the Council of
Europe to that list. The Youth Pass, which was developed by Salto–Germany for the
European Commission and is now in its test phase, is a certification instrument for youth
activities organised as part of the youth programme (exchanges, European Voluntary Service,
youth initiatives, backup measures). A group of specialists from the European Commission is
currently examining the possibility of introducing a specific youth instrument into Europass
(personal and coordinated portfolio of documents to facilitate transparency in qualifications
and skills and which presently regroups 5 documents: Europass-CV; Europass-Mobility;
Europass-Supplement to diploma; Europass-Language Portfolio, Europass-Certificate
The move to have non-formal learning recognised generates as a corollary the need to look at
the quality of this type of learning: « Recognition of non-formal learning also implies that the
youth organisations involved are responsible for guaranteeing the quality of the learning
offer when organised learning programmes are involved» (European Youth Forum:
Recognition of non-formal education: confirm the real competences of young people in a
knowledge-based society; policy document, November 2005).

H. Otten, in his article on the qualification and professional aspect of pedagogical practice in
an intercultural context, stresses the importance of quality: « Whatever the case, the question
of validation must be subordinated to that of quality and refer back to it: without a consensus
on the possible indicators designed to demonstrate the quality of European youth activities, a
validation of the project in the sense of an additional and recognised qualification of
significant outcome cannot be carried out and the degree of professionalism with which
projects are executed, while of significance, is nevertheless not the most important
indicator. » (Hendrik Otten: Jugendarbeit in Europa, Documents no 9, Jugend für Europa,
July 2006)

All these questions prompted the Council of Europe to develop the European Portfolio for
youth workers and youth leaders. The aim of the portfolio is precisely to provide youth
leaders and youth workers with a tool that will help them:
  identify, assess and record their competences,
  describe their competences to others,
  set their own learning and development goals.

The portfolio lists 5 key functions for the youth leader/worker in its functional analysis of a
youth leader/worker, which could also be called « the professional profile of the youth
leader/worker »:

1: to empower young people
2: to develop relevant learning opportunities
3: to accompany young people in their intercultural learning process
4: to contribute to the development of youth organisations and youth policy
5: to avail of assessment

Function 2 highlighting the pedagogical approach to youth work is to be interpreted in the
context of the « enrichment of young people’s learning settings ». Note also that the idea of
« learning » comes up repeatedly in this analysis: « take advantage of spontaneous learning »,
« identify a specific learning need» etc.
Table . Functional analysis (portfolio test version 2005)
Functions                                               The youth leader/worker can:

1: Empower young people to …              1.   empower young people to participate by developing a
                                               collective project and learning process
                                          2.   involve young people in the planning, implementation
                                               and assessment of activities
                                          3.   help young people to work on realising their own goals
                                          4.   contribute to building confidence in, knowledge about,
                                               know-how and understanding of young people
                                          5.   be in contact with young people on an emotional level
                                          6.   sensitise them to a greater extent on the ideas of force and
                                               of change.

2:    Develop      relevant    learning individuals and groups
opportunities                             2. give young people a sense of direction and appropriate
                                          3. take advantage of spontaneous learning situations and
                                          opportunities to advance in ordinary life
                                          4. identify any specific learning needs
                                          5. use an extensive variety of teaching methods and
                                          6. stimulate young people’s creativity.

    3: Accompany young people in their    1.   help young people to recognise their cultural, values and
    intercultural learning process             behavioural referential framework
                                          2.   encourage active tolerance and interaction with people
                                               from other cultures both at home and abroad
                                          3.   manage conflicts creatively in order to find peaceful
                                          4.   help young people find their place in a changing world.

    4: Contribute to the develop of       1.   find and manage resources
    youth organisations and policy        2.   manage others and work effectively in teams
                                          3.   promote change and development inside organisations
                                          4.   work with others on the development of youth policies.

    5.   Exploit assessments              1.   plan and implement a wide variety of participative
                                               assessment methods
                                          2.   use appropriate information system tools when necessary
                                          3.   write up reports and make presentations to different
                                          4.   analyse and exploit the results to improve practices.

In another chapter, the portfolio sets out a list of the competences required to carry out these
functions and thus transforms itself into self-assessing tool. Each competence comes with a
grid that enables the youth leader/worker to assess his own competences and to give written
proof of it (e.g. when did I last demonstrate this competence? Who was involved? Do I have
the corresponding certificates, letters or some other proof that will enable me to prove that I
possess that competence?). The reminder to provide proof is an important element of our
reflection on recognition, particularly at individual level: it encourages users to collect proof
that can demonstrate experience and competences and give added value to a CV.

A coherent self-assessment tool must also incite users to learn: « Learning is always a self-
awareness process and always aims at self-education. It should be understood as the ability
to lead a self-determined life, the acquiring of capabilities, the appropriation of self-
education possibilities… . » (Sturzenhecker 2007: Jugendarbeit ist Bildung)

After getting feedback from others as part of the self-assessment process, the portfolio user is
encouraged to make an action plan for personal development and learning and to thus
become a « reflective user». The quality of a pedagogical approach is only guaranteed if the
actors constantly extend their capacity to achieve outcomes by offering a productive learning
environment to the young people they work with.

The provision of a competence framework and the creation of a functional analysis made the
portfolio into an instrument of social recognition (by increasing the visibility of the youth
sector) that also works in favour of higher quality youth work. It therefore seems to me to
bear out the reflections of Pohl and Walter: «... It is important to take the concerns,
particularly those of youth organisations, about a « formalisation » of outside school
activities seriously. Encouraging informal and non-formal learning mustn’t come to mean
« overburdening» activities in favour of young people through the application of standards
and training certificates, otherwise the advantages and the positive aspects of non-formal
settings will be completely undermined and weakened. Instead, it is more important, via a
more specific know-how on the prerequisites and structures involved in the informal and non-
formal education processes, to create positive incentives for the creation of such settings. This
also implies sensitising and creating the professional competence needed for potentials and
the learning processes at all the training levels involved in youth activities. » (Axel Pohl,
Andreas Walter: Bildungsprozesse in der Jugendarbeit im europäischen Kontext, IRIS
e.V.Tübingen )

The portfolio has proved useful in identifying individual qualifications and competences
(personal recognition) and in encouraging users to develop those competences and
qualifications even further.

In a word, the portfolio has characteristics that would appear to be basic conditions for any
kind of recognition of non-formal learning, namely:
    - self-assessment: no formalisation of non-formal learning, the person assesses what he
        has learnt by reflecting on the process,
    - dialogue: assessment is based on ongoing dialogue with peers ,
    - voluntary: assessment is completely voluntary,
    - quality: reflection on the quality of the learning offer,
    - partnership with youth organisations: the portfolio has been developed in partnership
        with youth organisations and it is planned to offer them the option of adapting it to
        their needs.

Lastly (and this is perhaps the crux of the matter): any form of recognition cannot merely
offer « proof » of what one knows how to do but should also generate a positive image of
learning and training. The personal desire to learn and train remains the most important
criterion in terms of the pedagogical quality of any type of education, be it formal or non-
formal and, with regard to young people themselves, it is a vital key competence in a
knowledge based society, which is itself constantly evolving.

Lifelong learning implies creating a learning culture. Facilitating such a culture amounts to
giving value to and rewarding learning whether it is formal, non-formal or informal: « The
work and achievements of young people and those active in youth work and youth
organisations deserve greater recognition in order to enhance their value and visibility, and
should be given due consideration by employers, formal education and civil society in
general. » (Resolution 2006/C 168/01 on the recognition of the value of non-formal and
informal education and training in the youth sector in Europe).

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