APEL.Q Case studiesIndia APEL.Q case study in education

APEL.Q in community colleges


Studies have shown that one of the biggest challenges in India is to improve the progression possibilities of those who are currently engaged in vocational education and training or have experience in a vocational trade and have limited progression possibilities to technical education (Polytechnics and Colleges of Engineering) and more generally to higher education (IAMR, 2010; Teamlease, 2007). At present only 12 per cent of young people aged 18 to 24 are enrolled in higher education. National policies aim to enroll 30 per cent of Indian youth in higher education by 2020 (Indiainfoline, 2011).

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) considered the establishment of community colleges to serve as an important bridge between vocational education and training and higher education. Another purpose of community college is to formalize skills through certification procedures.

Guidelines on a scheme for community colleges that include the recognition of prior skills and learning were prepared by the University Grants Commission (UGC, 2012). Community colleges are an alternative system which aims to empower individuals through appropriate skills development leading to qualifications in the National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF). Studying at a community college can lead to a two-year advanced diploma or associate degree and hence to transfer to an undergraduate college for completion of a degree. Alternatively, it can lead to the students’ direct entry into an occupation or trade with a certificate or diploma by completing the required number of credits (Pillai, 2009). As an illustration, the following types of qualifications are awarded in community colleges at levels 5 and 6 of the NSQF.

NSQF Level Skilil Component Credits Gieineral Education Credits Normal calendar duration (post meeting the entry criterion) Exit Points / Awards
6 72 48 Four semesters Advanced Diploma
5 36 24 Two semesters Diploma
18 12 One semester Advanced Certificate
9 6 Three Months Certificate

Source: UGC, 2012.

Procedures and processes

Individuals who apply to community colleges need to fulfill the following entry requirements: (1) certification at the lower secondary (8-10) and higher secondary levels (11-12 Grades) or equivalent certificate; (2) along with vocational certificates at levels 1 to 4 under the NSQF.

It has been recommended by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD, 2012) institutes such as the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) to conduct RPL for those who may want to attend an undergraduate college (BA) but are not academically, personally or economically ready to begin their studies in the formal system.

NIOS will conduct RPL against learning outcomes standards at the VET levels (levels 1-4) of the NSQF, so that vocational skills and work experience may be assessed and avenues for certification and lifelong learning are created.

Experienced practitioners as resource persons conduct assessment of prior learning (UGC, 2012).

To conform to the NSQF, the NIOS and community colleges will collaborate to offer training programmes and courses that are modular, credit-based, career-oriented and relevant for local employers. These courses allow flexibility in entry and exit, and most importantly, are relevant for local employers (Planning Commission, 2013).

To maintain the connection to further education, learning outcomes are linked to curricular structures as well as occupational standards. Curricula in community colleges are periodically monitored, evaluated and updated in consultation with all stakeholders, particularly the industry, keeping in view their requirements, changes in National Occupational Standards (NOSs) and technological developments.

To make curricula in community colleges industry-friendly, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), jointly with Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and the National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology (NIELIT) under the Department of Information and Technology, are contributing to periodically revise curricula in community colleges, creating an enabling environment for the recognition of prior learning.

New IT professional courses are also proposed at the lower secondary and upper secondary school levels (levels 3-4) to be aligned with levels 5 and 6 levels of the NSQF and offered through community colleges courses. This has been made possible through collaboration between AICTE and NIELIT. There is also strengthened collaboration between the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) and Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE). Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) under the jurisdiction of MoLE and polytechnics under the jurisdiction of MHRD are obliged to co-opt a community college to meet skills development at the community level by 2017, i.e. by the end of the current five-year plan in 2017.

Outcomes and ways forward

RPL in community colleges is conducted on the principle that qualifications in an NQF are relevant, of high quality, trusted and accepted by employers and society in general.

RPL is a tool that matches: (1) the skills profile of people; (2) the competency requirements in the labor market and; (3) the learning outcomes and the curriculum standards without compromising on the quality (UGC, 2012).

RPL is not seen as an end in itself or a procedure leading to just a certificate; rather it is seen as a means to further educational and personal development.

The demand for developing RPL in alignment with community colleges is increasing. This has to do with the offer of work-based learning programs through community colleges. Open universities such as Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU, New Delhi), at present offer 338 programmes in vocational education and training through over 35,000 courses to a cumulative student body of over 300,000 in community colleges (MHRD, 2011).

Both RPL and community colleges are expected to overcome the deficit in formal vocational skills and facilitate certification in one of the levels of the NSQF.


Institute of Applied Manpower Research (IAMR). 2010. The Challenges Facing Skills Development in India: An Issue Paper. (International Workshop ‘Skills Development: Policy Learning and Exchange’, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, 6-7 May 2010). New Delhi, IAMR, in cooperation with the Network for Policy Research, Review and Advice on Education and Training (NORRAG).

Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). 2011. Fifty Eight Meeting of the Central Advisory Board of Education. Agenda Items and Background Notes. Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, New Delhi. 7 June, 2011.

India. Ministry of Human Resource Development. 2012. National Vocational Education Qualifications Framework (NVEQF) F. No.1-4/2011-VE, dated the 3rd September. New Delhi, Ministry of Human Resource Development. http://mhrd.gov.in/sites/upload_files/mhrd/files/EXECUTIVE%20ORDER.pdf(Accessed 22 January 2014).

Ministry of Finance. Department of Economic Affairs. Notification No. 8/6/2013-Invt. on the National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF). Gazette of India. Extraordinary, Part 1, Section 2. New Delhi, Ministry of Finance, Department of Economic Affairs.

Pillai, L. 2009. Institutionalising Community Colleges in India. http://www.digitallearning.in/interview/interview-details.asp?interviewid=697(Accessed 11 August 2011).

Planning Commission. 2013. Twelfth Five Year Plan (2012–2017): Faster, More Inclusive and Sustainable Growth. Volume I. New Delhi, Sage Publications of India. http://planningcommission.gov.in/plans/planrel/fiveyr/welcome.html (Accessed 23 January 2014).

TeamLease. 2007. India labour Report 2007: The Youth Un-employability Crisis. India, TeamLease Services.

University Grants Commission. 2012. Scheme of Community Colleges for Universities and Colleges (2012-2017). New Delhi, UGC.


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