APEL.Q Case studiesAfghanistan APEL.Q case study in training and the world of work

Recognition and validation for decent work


Afghans, especially those excluded from national education and training and skills development, gain their learning and competences primarily through grassroots programs in non-formal settings and through informal apprenticeships. Currently, Afghanistan is aiming to create a long-term vision for the skills development of adults. This is seen to be helpful in encouraging adults who lack a formal education to continue to learn and build on the knowledge, skills and competencies they acquired through non-formal and informal learning.

In Afghanistan, different ministries have the responsibility for formal and non-formal education and training. Formal Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) means vocational education imparted through formal schools under the Ministry of Education (MoE). Any training or teaching outside these schools is referred to as non-formal and informal learning, including the skills development programs offered by the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled (MoLSAMD).

The Afghanistan National Qualifications Framework (ANQF), initiated by the Government in 2008, is seen by the government as an important policy instrument for the recognition of non-formal learning and informal learning. The ANQF aims to: (1) recognize the different forms of learning and their specific contribution to the entire spectrum of education and training (basic education, secondary education, higher education, TVET, Islamic education, and literacy and non-formal education; (2) develop the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) as a pathway to certification; (3) promote the further education and career progression of individuals.

A comprehensive recognition system linked to the ANQF is in the process of being developed. One of the building blocks in this process is the development of an assessment methodology based on a competency-based training (CBT) approach. This labour-market-driven vocational training together with the National Occupational Skills Standard (NOSS) has been developed by the National Skills Development Programme (NSDP). The NOSS serves as a reference framework against which skills recognition takes place. Since 2009, the NSDP has been supported through the first Afghanistan Skills Development Project (ASDP1), funded by the World Bank and a consortium of donors including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Government of Norway.

Procedures and processes

The recognition of skills includes the following steps:

  • The identification of competencies.
  • The collection of evidence on performance and knowledge that can be compared to the required occupational standards.
  • The award of a certificate, when the learner demonstrates the required competencies.
  • The recommendation to do a further training course, when the learner is only partially able to demonstrate the required competencies.

The NSDP also provides Training-of-Trainer (TOT) workshops for providers/trainers who have already had some experience with NOSS and its implementation. During the TOT workshops trainers are taught how to assure the quality of the NOSS framework. TOT workshops are conducted for all kinds of providers such as those from NGOs and private and public TVET sectors. These workshops are conducted in all major provinces of Afghanistan, such as Herat, Balkh, Kandahar, Nangarhar and Paktya and also in the city of Kabul.

Outcomes and ways forward

Providing Afghans with decent work through RPL needs to be seen in the context of the employment situation and the level of job creation prevailing in the country. Estimates from the National Risk and Vulnerability Assessment (NRVA) for 2011-2012 show that unemployment stood at 8 per cent whilst vulnerable employment was nearly 50 per cent (NRVA, 2011-12). In addition, the country faces a shortage of skilled labor that is able to respond to the demands created by new investment initiatives. A crucial element in RPL is therefore to ensure the certification of skilled people who are directly employable after skills training.

Where RPL is part of a training program, it is important to ensure the quality of that training. The TOT workshops ensure that both formal and non-formal training providers follow the NOSS standards and certification procedures, and also take into account the employability of adults and the market relevance of the skills they impart. Often non-formal training providers do not base their programs on NOSS nor consider the value and acceptance of the certifications that are awarded in the labor market. These issues need to be systematically addressed in RPL. Furthermore, NOSS needs to be comprehensively applied across the major providers of skills development and adhered to in the training provision. This depends largely on whether the existing curriculum has been revised by the training providers according to the NOSS skills standards.

A recent World Bank assessment of Afghan Skills Development Program, ASDP1 (World Bank, 2015).

concluded that it is possible to provide demand-driven training in Afghanistan as long as increased  focus is placed on improved governance, the quality of delivery, institutional management and strengthening collaboration with the private sector. ASDP1 tracer studies also established the improved effectiveness of informal skills development programs supported by the project and delivered through the NSDP. These courses delivered 75 per cent employment within six months of completion with wages improved by 150-400 per cent for both male and female trainees. By comparison, persons who had not been trained improved their wage earnings only by 10-20 per cent in the period studied.

However, to further strengthen certification systems and quality assurance of skills development, the Second Afghan Skills Development Program (ASDP2) has been proposed and prepared by NSDP with financial and technical support from the World Bank. It aims to build on the gains of ASDP1 and address primarily the quality of certification and assessment issues in skills development. The ASDP2 funded by the World Bank runs from 2014 to 2018. The International Labour Organization is a major partner and is particularly involved in linking NOSS and curriculum learning outcomes, to the generic/core skills for each level of the ANQF. This referencing to the ANQF is expected to provide direct certification to Afghans through competency-based assessments linked to learning outcome descriptors in the ANQF. These inputs will hopefully also remedy the situation for adults where presently, under the existing qualifications system, only non-formal and informal learning that is equivalent to grade six of formal schooling is recognized, and only on the condition that the learner is of an age for the level at which he/she is assessed, and that the learner continues his/her education in a formal school (Nasry, 2013).


CINOP. 2009. Draft Structure and Model of Qualifications Framework (ANQF) for Afghanistan Revised Submitted by: CINOP dvies B.V. February 2011 Kabul, Afghanistan, Project: VPO/CESP/949/FBS http://www.cesp.gov.af/anqa/Documents/Output%201-%20ANQF-Revised-Final.pdf(Accessed 31 August 2015).

Committee on Education and Skills Policy (CESP). National Qualifications Authority. Available on the website of CESP at http://cesp.gov.af/about/

Committee on Education and Skills Policy (CESP). 2010. Annex 1: Meeting Minutes of Technical Advisory Group (to discuss the final version of the ANQA/ANQF). Kabul, Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled (MoLSAMD).

Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled (MoLSAMD). 2009. National Skills Development Program. Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. http://molsamd.gov.af/Content/files/research/An%20Urban%20Base%20Study%20of%20Media%20and%20tourism%20and%20hospitalitysectors%28Eng%29.pdf(Accessed 11 June 2015).

Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled (MoLSAMD). 2007. TVET in Afghanistan. National Skills Development Project (NSDP). Kabul, MoLSAMD.

Nasry, A. R. 2013. National Qualifications Framework: Assisting citizens excluded from education. Singh and Duvekot (eds), Linking Recognition Practices and National Qualifications Frameworks. International benchmarking of experiences and strategies on the recognition, validation and accreditation of non-formal and informal learning. Hamburg, UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL).

UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL). 2014. Global Inventory of National Qualifications Framework: Country case studies compiled by the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning. Hamburg, UIL.

World Bank. 2015. Non-formal Approach to Training Education and Jobs in Afghanistan. Implementation Status Results Report. Washington DC, World Bank.


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