The Value of Recognizing Informal Learning

Transcripts, diplomas, certificates and other qualifications. Most of us are familiar with the official documents used to record our education and formal learning. Proof of what we can do  from legitimate sources is an important way to communicate aptitude, skills sets, and value to potential employers.


But what about the skills that people have but without  an elegant piece of paper? Skills picked up over years of experience or when people decide to teach themselves new skills without enrolling in a course or a programme. This can include learning a new software or technology at home. It can even include becoming familiar with social media communications or mastering the art of blog writing.


Andreas Schleicher mentions in his blog that skills seem to have become the ‘’Holy Grail’’ of modern education policy. Nevertheless, many people have found ways to upgrade their professional and vocational skills without formal training. But how do we measure these skills?


Policy makers in OECD countries have become increasingly aware that recognizing informal learning is an important way to make the most of economic potential – both at the individual level and for the overall economy. In the just published, Recognizing Non-Formal and Informal Learning: Outcomes, Policies and Practices, researchers provide recommendations  on how to recognize informal learning in ways that provide valid and credible assessments of skills.  By granting greater visibility and therefore potential value to learning outcomes, individuals, employers and policy makers will be better able to match skills to jobs. This is especially important in a time of economic crisis. When unemployed and displaced workers’ skills have been clearly identified, they can more easily be placed in other parts of the labour market.


By identifying and acknowledging skills and learning obtained through less official avenues, policy makers, employers, and individuals can turn the unknown knowns into known knowns, and put them to good use.