Non-formal education and natural construction – ECVET Earth Building

Formal learning, non-formal learning and informal learning are three concepts which are recognized in the framework of lifelong learning approach.

Formal education usually happens in school, may be repressive, it’s structured and usually prearranged, motivation is typically more extrinsic; it’s compulsory and teacher-led; learning is evaluated and sequential. On the other hand, informal education can happen everywhere, it’s supportive, unstructured, spontaneous, motivation is mainly intrinsic, voluntary, usually learner-led and non-sequential.

Non-formal education (NFE) lies between these two: it happens at instition out of school, it’s usually supportive, structured and usually prearranged, motivation may be extrinsic but typically more intrinsic, usually voluntray, may be guide- or teacher-led, learning is usually not evaluated and typically non-sequential.

NFE is an addition or alternative to formal education and promotes young people’s personal development, giving them posibility to take an active role in solving problems globally and locally. NFE guarantees access to education for all, especially where formal education is not available to everyone.[1]


Informal and non-formal learning practices are often difficult to measure and value and that’s why EU Council made the Recommendation[2] on its validation and adopted the ECVET (European Credit system for Vocational Education and Training) in 2009, inviting Member States to apply the system to all VET (Vocational Education and Training) qualifications.

ECVET is one of the European Union (EU) instruments that help individuals to transfer, recognize and accumulate their assessed learning outcomes in formal, non-formal and informal contexts and to obtain a qualification, very often through transnational mobility.

ECVET complements and builds on concepts and principles shared with the European qualifications framework (EQF), Europass and the European quality assurance reference framework for VET (EQARF).

ECVET Earth Building

ECVET Building with Earth is a multi-level framework developed over 14 years of cooperation in working groups between practitioners, trainers, training organizations and associations from 9 countries. Designed for clay plasters between 2007 and 2009 with partners from 4 countries, it has been extended to load-bearing earth techniques between 2012 and 2015.

The nine fields of activity covered by the units are:

• Unit M: Prepare the soil, from extraction to mixing

• Unit P: Produce moulded, compressed, extruded raw earth bricks

• Unit B: Building in earth – Masonry, cob, rammed earth

• Unit C: Applying earthen plasters

• Unit F: Manufacture and install formwork for rammed earth

• Unit R: Maintain, repair, renovate, restore works and clay plasters

• Unit D: Developing an interior design

• Unit O: Executing decorative elements and ornaments

• Unit E: Developing an economic activity

According to the principles of ECVET, each unit is divided into knowledge, skills and competencies necessary to carry out these 9 activities and each has criteria and indicators for the evaluation.

Units range from level 1 to level 5 of the European qualification framework (EQF), but not all units have yet been described for all levels. Up to level 4 of the EQF, learning outcomes in construction concern execution (level 2 – mason helper, level 3 – skilled worker, level 4 – boss of the team) and from level 5, it’s more about designing, coordination and control of the works.

Units are freely downloadable by all users from the ECVET Earth Building website[3], but only organizations who signed partnership agreement (Memorandum of understanding – MoU) may issue an Acquis•Terre certificate, with an admission procedure. This approach is both a guarantee of quality and a tool support so that new training organizations become familiar with the framework.

The issued certificates are now recorded in a database for statistical purposes. From 2009 until 2016, more than 500 certificates have been issued. The 9 countries participated in drafting the units (Germany, Bulgaria, Spain, France, Portugal, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Serbia, and Slovakia); the 14 have already used the framework in assessments (Germany, Bulgaria, Spain, Estonia, Finland, France, Italy, Poland, Portugal, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Slovakia, Romania and Serbia.) Contacts exist in Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Sweden, and Turkey. Beyond Europe, dissemination has begun in several African and Latin American countries. In Argentina, for example, with architect Maria Brown (from ESTEPA organisation in Spain) units for wattle-and-daub technique were developed, based on ECVET principles.  

The actions that were launched in parallel with the work on the framework were: mobility, being also connected to academic gatherings and others events (first mobility of trainers and students was in 2007), training of trainers (as the principles of ECVET are new to many trainers and associations) and certification strategies (towards the recognition in national certification systems.)


National certifications will never cover all units at all levels of the existing and future matrix: it is trans-European cooperation that has led to this product, the strength of the network will continue to guarantee its development and scope.

Serbia, through Fine Arth & Craft Club (KFZ) joined MoU signatories in 2022 and since 2023 started organizing courses. This year, there were M2 course about material, R3 on restauration of earth building and O2 on decoration (two of them being part of EU project We are All Made Out of Mud.)

It would be very good if other West Balkan countries, apart from Serbia, would join the network.


Conceptualizing Environmental Citizenship for 21st Century Education, Andreas Ch. HadjichambisPedro ReisDemetra Paraskeva-HadjichambiJan ČinčeraJelle Boeve-de PauwNiklas GerickeMarie-Christine Knippels

Desk study on the value of informal education, with special attention to its contribution to citizenship education, civic participation and intercultural dialogue and learning, European citizenship, peace-building and conflict transformation; Sladjana Petkovic, Pool of European Youth Researchers, December 2018:

European credit system for vocational education and training (ECVET) :

Le référentiel de compétences pour enseigner la terre Lydie Didier, Grégoire Paccoud, Dragana Kojičić, Paulina Faria, Magali Aupicon, Terra 2016, CRAterre, Jul 2016, Lyon, France. pp.345-349. ffhal-02930348 :

ECVET Earth Building :



[2] Council Recommendation of 20 December 2012 on the validation of non-formal and informal learning (