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PIMA BULLETIN NO 48

Individual Learning Account and Micro-credentials:

Empowering Lifelong Learning and Tailored Skill Development

Éva Farkas

The focus of my professional work and academic research has always been on how to ensure that the right to quality and inclusive (adult) education is accompanied by proper opportunities and support so that everyone has equal access to quality education, regardless of their family, social, financial, or community background, and equal opportunities to realise their full potential and successfully adapt to the changing world.

While the implications of the global megatrends we face every day - including but not limited to industry 4.0, digitalisation, ageing society, climate crisis, migration, COVID, war and limitation of human rights - have made it particularly clear that learning is key to adapting to accelerated changes and development, participation in adult learning in Europe remains low (the EU average for the last 4 weeks was 11.9% in 2022; Eurostat, 2022).

The European Union has set ambitious targets for increasing participation in learning activities, aiming for a participation rate of at least 60% every year by 2030 (European Commission, 2021). To achieve this goal, innovative approaches, initiatives, and tools are needed that complement the existing adult learning and funding schemes. Two of the flagship initiatives of the European Skills Agenda (European Commission, 2020), the Individual Learning Account (ILA) (European Commission, 2022) and Micro-credentials (European Commission, 2022a), can be effective strategies to promote adult learning engagement and up-skilling for lifelong learning and employability.

Based on the Council Recommendation and funded by the European Union, the process of introducing and implementing ILA and micro-credential in the EU Member States, including Hungary, started in 2023.  I am involved in both projects aiming at the establishment of a system of the ILA and micro-credentials in Hungary, defining the steps, building blocks and elements of the enabling framework for their implementation into the national adult learning system.

The ILA serves as a funding instrument within the adult learning ecosystem, providing tailored entitlements and subsidies based on individual needs, policy priorities, and available resources by addressing financial and motivational barriers to learning. It is designed to offer portability across jobs and life stages, broad coverage of learning subjects, and a focus on individual needs and responsibility in career and skills development planning. 

Micro-credentials offer short modular, learning outcome-based learning opportunities that align precisely with the needs of both learners and employers. These certifications validate specific skills that respond to societal, personal, cultural, or labour market needs. Micro-credentials allow learners to accumulate credentials progressively, building a comprehensive and adaptable skillset over time.

By addressing financial constraints, tailoring learning experiences, and fostering a culture of continuous skill development, ILAs and micro-credentials pave the way for a more inclusive, adaptable, and future-ready adult education landscape. In addition, this integration gives priority to demand-side instruments and puts learners into the driver’s seat to be proactive in their learning journey and take greater ownership of their learning endeavours. 

Implementation of micro-credentials can also be an engine for the validation of learning outcomes acquired in non-formal and informal contexts, which is one of my main research topics. Over the last two decades, a number of policy documents have emphasised the equivalence of different forms of learning. Several initiatives and instruments at the European level have been developed to support valuing all forms of learning. However, there is limited progress in this area. Adult learners with diverse backgrounds and learning needs often find it challenging to access formal education. Non-formal and informal learning can provide them with more flexible, accessible, and tailored (individualised) learning opportunities. Ignoring these pathways limits the inclusivity and effectiveness of adult learning.

In summary, by analysing international experience and involving a wide range of stakeholders, I am working with my colleagues to promote equality and inclusive adult learning ecosystem in Hungary and hope to contribute to creating the conditions that will ensure equal access to adult learning for all adults at the level to which they aspire.

About the Author

Éva Farkas has 25 years of experience in adult learning and education policies in Hungary and Europe, with a special focus on the validation of learning outcomes achieved in non-formal learning contexts, as well as the professionalisation of adult learning.  In 2019 she was inducted into the International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame, and she was elected President of the Hall in September 2022. She holds a Ph.D. in education and works as a teacher and supervisor at the Doctoral School of Education, University Szeged, Hungary. Website: https://drfarkaseva.hu/en/ Email: farkaseva9@gmail.com

References

Council of the European Union. (2022). Council Recommendation of 16 June 2022 on individual learning accounts. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=celex%3A32022H0627%2803%29

 

Council of the European Union (2022a). Council Recommendation of 16 June 2022 on a European approach to micro-credentials for lifelong learning and employability. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=OJ:C:2022:243:FULL

European Commission. (2021). The European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan.  https://op.europa.eu/webpub/empl/european-pillar-of-social-rights/en/

European Commission. (2020). European Skills Agenda for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilience. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52020DC0274

EUROSTAT (2023). Participation in lifelong learning in 2022. https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/databrowser/view/TRNG_LFSE_01/default/table?lang=en

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