In Bulgaria there is no specific strategy on VNF-IFL. Nevertheless the political will with regard to the elaboration and implementation of a system for validation of qualification, acquired through non-formal and informal learning is expressed through the main objectives of priority 3 of the Strategy on Continuing Vocational Training 2005-2010 â€“ Ensuring high quality of continuing education and training. Special chapters are devoted to validation of non-formal and informal learning also in the Adult Training Strategy (not officialised yet) and the Lifelong Learning Strategy - 2008-2013. This strategy envisages the validation and certification of learning results on the basis of internal or external evaluation of achievements; elaboration of instruments for measuring the results from non-formal and self-learning; expanding the participation of employers organizations in the elaboration of assessment criteria for learning results; revision of the normative framework in order to define the rights and obligations of stakeholder groups in the process. The respective texts in these papers give the strategic vision for implementation for the next years.
On a legislative level â€“ texts in three different laws are related to VNF-IFL. The Law on VET provision, the Law on Employment and the Craftsâ€™ Law.
The Law on Vocational Education and Training includes the approved framework program E, which makes possible the validation of transitional vocational training, professional experience or self-acquired competencies. The texts in the VET-law make possible the validation of skills and competences according to national standards even without attending a VET educational programme (validating in this way prior vocational experience â€“ Art. 40).
The amendments and alterations to the Law on Employment made in 2007/2008 have expanded the tasks of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy (MLSP) and Ministry of education and Science (MES, from 2010 on â€“ Ministry of Education, Youth and Science â€“ MEYS)) by including that of creating possibilities to assess and validate the knowledge and skills of adults, accumulated through non-formal or individual learning. In order to encourage the participation of adults in lifelong learning the amendments envisage the creating of conditions for evaluation and validation of knowledge and skills, acquired through non-formal or informal learning.
The Craftsâ€™ law gives the opportunities for recognition of professional experience or validation of learning and knowledge acquired outside of the system of crafts
The real Validation of Non-Formal and informal experience was supposed to have taken place in Bulgaria within the framework of the Legislation on Crafts, where it has been envisaged for specialists, not being "masters" in the meaning of the law, but possessing some other formal qualification (engineer for example), or previous experience, to may pass the "master's exam and get his/her competences validated Because of various reasons - fears of creating a parallel system to the VET one, low level of elaboration and implementation of the system and other more politically oriented, the regulations of the law have not had much impact on the recognition of competences and the examples of successful recognition of "masters competences" remain far below that which could have be expected.
The working group on Validation, established within the Ministry of Education, Science and Youth (MEYS), has elaborated several proposals (July 2009) on amendments for the legislative base in the field. Either a new chapter in the VET Law, or an Ordinance of the MEYS are proposed, where the whole system of the process of validation should be fixed: obligations of the partners involved, training programme for the experts in validation, model for potential valuating bodies, regulations of the whole validation process, definition of the terms and including them in the whole legislation; elaboration of certificates etc.
Important prerequisite for the establishment of the validation system is the presence of professional standards, directed towards learning results/outcomes. In relation to that in 2006, within a Phare Project, the consultant offered technical support for the elaboration and bringing up to date 80 vocational qualification standards, taking into account best practices in EC member states (according to the PHARE project). Total number of standards is 82 in 11 professional directions â€“ electronics and automation; chemical products and technologies; textile, clothing shoes and leather clothing production; wood product production; food and drink production; the hotel, restaurant and catering business; travel, tourism and leisure time; planting and floriculture; agriculture, forestry and fisheries. Framework requirements for the elaboration of vocational qualification standard in Bulgaria have also been revised.
State education requirements for the acquisition of a profession are now seen as an instrument for validating knowledge and skills, acquired in a non-formal environment. The measure has been successfully implemented in the process of ensuring the application of European instruments in the country. There are sporadic practices for validating adult vocational competencies, acquired through in-company training and concrete jobs- in the centres for vocational training.
There is a common understanding of the importance of validation of knowledge and skills, acquired through non-formal learning, because 66% of the unemployed registered at the labour offices have no profession or qualification certificates but still might have some skills or knowledge, acquired through experience or non-formal learning.
The time has indeed come to start the establishment of the above mentioned system, not only because most of the European member countries have one, but also because of the labour market needs. Validation has direct effect, because it will assist the increase of the qualified labour force supply, it will attract the inactive persons to the labour market by giving them better chances to find qualified work, and will motivate the unemployed to be more active in looking for a job and it will be beneficial for seniors. It is also expected that this process will have impact on certain problem areas in Bulgaria, so as to increase labour productivity, improve mobility of the workforce and direct it from ineffective and non-productive work to better quality work places.
Despite the political will regarding the validation issues, expressed by the normative documents, in real practice there is no working mechanism in the system of continuing vocational training to validate the knowledge and skills (competencies) acquired, except in the limited examples of applying the Craftsâ€™ law. That is why training on certain topics is organized, although the fact that they have been acquired in a non-formal way in the course of another (training is funded twice). Funding of monitoring and evaluation of competencies faces certain difficulties. There is no methodology for the collection of proof in relation to the requirements defined in the normative framework. Methods and instruments for the evaluation of vocational competencies are also lacking.
Concrete validation activities will be addressed after the adoption of the national strategy for lifelong learning for 2008-2013 period.