HomeCategoryAPEL.Q Case studies

Making APEL.Q more accessible for Roma women’s social inclusion


According to estimations from NGOs, there are almost 2 million Roma in Romania, making up about 10 per cent of the country’s total population. Roma people face marginalization and live in extreme and poor socio-economic conditions. 52 per cent of them left school before the age of 16 (European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, 2012).

This case study covers projects on the implementation of validation of non-formal and informal learning of Roma people in Romania. It highlights how validation can become more accessible and inclusive, particularly for Roma women.

The ROM-ACT project comprised five European countries (Romania, Spain, Greece, the Czech Republic and Ireland) and was co-financed by the lifelong learning programme GRUNDTVIG. It identified the validation of non-formal and informal learning as a means to tackle social exclusion of Romani women and to increase their access to non-formal and informal validation systems. The focus was on three main target groups: Roma women, civil organizations, and policy makers and public administration. In recent years, two other projects also targeted Roma inclusion in Romania. The project entitled ‘LEGAL 2 – European investment in the Roma future in Romania’ focussed on validating prior knowledge of Roma affairs gained by beneficiaries working in local city councils, among other issues. The project ‘Validation of learning outcomes’, implemented by PRO VOCATIE in partnership with Romani CRISS, targeted training, evaluation and certification measures for sanitary mediators of Roma ethnicity, as well as the validation of practitioners and assessors of Roma ethnicity in this field.

Procedures and processes

To make validation more accessible to Roma women, the ROM-ACT project in Romania conducted communicative discussion groups with Roma women to share their viewpoints about the validation process. Discussions revealed that the participants had different occupational profiles and most of them worked in non-qualified jobs (e.g. as shop assistants) or as heath mediators. During the discussion, group barriers were identified that excluded Roma women from further education and training. These were:

  1. discrimination in the fields of education, training, the labour market and public life;
  2. lack of confidence to participate in a mainstream learning environment or a validation process;
  3. low qualifications due to financial constraints affecting the ability to participate in the validation procedures;
  4. inability to participate in training courses due to exclusive responsibility for domestic chores and child rearing;
  5. lack of accessible information in the field of validation.

Additionally, Roma women themselves identified factors conducive to their inclusion:

  1. programmes need to be adapted for Roma women to enhance employment opportunities;
  2. information campaigns and information points need to be accessible to Roma communities;
  3. training courses should be free of charge;
  4. Romani women need to be empowered;
  5. cooperation is necessary between the Roma community and the counselling, training and guidance centres; and
  6. childcare centres should provide support to Roma women.

Another communicative discussion group consisting of representatives of four Civil Society organizations (CSOs)[1] deliberated on the role of their organizations in increasing accessibility of validation for Roma people in Romania. Some of the main recommendations made by the representatives of the four civil organizations were:

  1. to create a network of civil organizations to share ideas and good practices;
  2. to disseminate the information given to Roma communities through civil organizations, trainers and evaluators;
  3. to create mechanisms enabling the accreditation for jobs held by Roma women that are not yet accredited on the labour market;
  4. to set up regular consultations between civil organizations and the National Qualifications Authority; and
  5. to organize training for Roma trainers and evaluators.

These organizations also supported the accreditation for Roma women participating in the ROM-ACT project.

Outcomes and ways forward

The main outcomes of the ROM-ACT-project are:

  1. a policy paper addressed mainly to legislative and administrative actors but also to institutions, with concrete recommendations in six areas:
  • enabling access to information on the validation systems and setting up information campaigns and information points in Roma communities;
  • offering qualifications in line with Roma women’s skills;
  • supporting women to engage in validation processes;
  • making access to validation processes free for Romani women without an income;
  • supporting individuals to overcome family-related barriers and gender role stereotypes; and
  • training staff involved in the validation process to respond to the specific needs of Roma women.
  1. Lobbying campaigns to promote the policy position of the ROM-ACT project among stakeholders at national, regional and local levels.
  2. Forming a ROM-ACT network of associations working at national and European levels to increase access to validation systems for vulnerable groups.

As the European report suggests, significant adjustments in the existing validation systems must be made to tackle the exclusion of Roma women by validating their competences. To this end, key recommendations include:

  • to adapt the procedures to the specific needs of Roma women to enable them to participate in the validation system;
  • to involve Roma women actively in the validation process and communication with stakeholders;
  • to achieve a more effective cooperation between the stakeholders; and
  • to implement measures for ensuring equal access to learning and employment opportunities for Roma women.


CEDEFOP. 2014. European inventory on validation of non-formal and informal learning 2014: Country report Romania.   http://libserver.cedefop.europa.eu/vetelib/2014/87074_RO.pdf (Accessed 1 December 2015).

European Commission. 2011. Romania: promoting the social inclusion of Roma. http://ec.europa.eu/social/keyDocuments.jsp?langId=en

European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. 2012. Roma pilot survey.  The Situation of Roma in 11 EU Member States: Survey of results at a glance. http://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/fra_uploads/2099-FRA-2012-Roma-at-a-glance_EN.pdf

ROMACT. 2014. Widening Roma women’s access to non-formal and informal learning validation systems. European Report.

Romani CRISS. 2014. National informal and non-formal learning validation systems: overview of the system in Romania and recommendations from Roma women and civil organizations. http://www.rom-act.eu/IMG/pdf/national_report_romania_ro.pdf


The Academic Credit Bank System


One of the key features of the Academic Credit Bank System (ACBS) established in 1998 is to help learners to translate their learning experience into credits so that they can accumulate credits and transfer them to further learning and obtain a higher education degree (National Institute for Lifelong Education, 2013).

The ACBS offers six different routes or sources of credits to obtain, accumulate, and recognise learning experiences:

  • Credits from traditional higher education institutions;
  • Credits from part-time courses in traditional higher education institutions;
  • Credits from non-formal education and training institutions accredited by the ACBS division of the National Institute of Lifelong Education (NILE);
  • Credits recognised for vocational qualifications by ACBS (above the level of industrial technician);
  • Credits transferred from the Bachelor’s Degree Examination for Self-Education (BDES) under the Law of Bachelor’s Degree. It is possible to obtain a bachelor’s degree without attending a regular college or university by passing the examination operated by NILE. There are four exams for obtaining a bachelor’s degree, all held once a year.
  • Credits recognised for Accredited Important Intangible Cultural Properties. ACBS accredits masters and their apprentices engaged in artistic activities regarded as traditional and cultural heritage.

Procedures and processes

The ACBS is a summative process that recognises learning outputs via credit hours and includes counselling, documentary evidence and degree conferment:

  • Individuals are required to fill out a Learner Registration form and submit it to the ACBS division at NILE.
  • Individuals obtain assistance from advisors in educational institutions, or through ACBS counselling teams, who help in planning courses, assigning the appropriate subject, or choosing the most appropriate forms of assessment.
  • Individuals who have accumulated diverse learning experiences through informal or in non-formal learning settings have to submit documentary evidence to obtain credits. The type of document varies according to the type of institution conferring the degree (Baik, 2013).
  • After accumulating various learning experiences, learners apply to the ACBS division for credit recognition in order to convert the learning experiences into credits.
  • The degree conferred through ACBS is equivalent to a bachelor’s or associate degree under the Higher Education Act, and is conferred by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology or the president of the university or college.

To maintain and control the quality of the ACBS, the Korean government’s approach relies upon the quality of accreditation of various types of non-formal education institutions (Republic of Korea Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, 2008). ACBS has developed Curriculum Standards to assess providers and their programmes. Curriculum Standards define the number of credit hours, subject/major areas and assessment methods. ACBS does not assess the learning outcomes that an individual learner has acquired; rather, it assesses the learning providers and their programmes and accredits them based upon the Curriculum Standards. Based upon these Standards, ACBS offers 109 majors for 24 bachelor degrees and 109 courses for 13 associate degrees as of 2013 (NILE, 2013).

By law, a learner is not allowed to enrol in ACBS and a traditional higher education institution at the same time. A traditional higher education institution only accepts a certain number of the credits that an individual learner has obtained in the ACBS.

In the BDES, a learner must take a qualifying examination to progress to the next step. All examinations consist of both written and on-site tests.

To upgrade skills levels of the adult workforce, two- and three-year colleges offer courses in collaboration with firms. There is an exemption from entrance exams for employees; by contrast regular students have to appear for an entry examination (Lee et al., 2010).

To help learners to progress to higher education, the Republic of Korea’s ACBS is currently putting greater emphasis on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET). A vocational qualification and other learning experiences in the workplace can already be recognised towards higher education credits (e.g. the vocational qualifications of Industrial Engineer, Engineer, Master Craftsman and Professional Engineer make up 24, 30, 39 and 45 credits respectively) (Halasz et al., 2009).

Outcomes and ways forward

ACBS has enabled traditional higher education institutions to open up for non-traditional learners and to change their academic-oriented curriculum. However, while there is no legal discrimination between university graduates and the ACBS degree holders, there is still doubt about the quality of education in ACBS and the social prestige that the degrees carry. There is therefore still work to be done in this respect.

At local level, ACBS has helped local governments expand accessibility to higher education for local constituents.

There is a growing demand from firms and learners for traditional higher education institutions to change their structure and policies so as to embrace labour market relevance, lifelong learning orientation and greater accessibility.

Since ACBS is currently the only system in terms of recognising non-formal and informal learning, it is considered the appropriate system for implementing National Competency Standards (NCS) including RPL. NCS are based on learning outcomes rather than on curricular standards.

In 2014, the South Korean government initiated an incentive: whereby accredited VET providers were eligible for public funding e.g. from the Employment Insurance Fund if they adopted the NCS framework in their curriculum. This is a response to the demand from firms to have their workplace training programmes accredited by ACBS and for ACBS to act as a bridge between the outputs of a competence-oriented training and formal higher education institutions.

The biggest challenge is still the connection between non-academic experience including vocational qualifications, and academic credits.


Baik, 2013. Republic of Korea: The Academic Credit Bank. In: M. Singh and R. Duvekot. eds. 2013. Linking Recogntion Practices and National Qualifications Frameworks. UIL, Hamburg.

Halasz, G., Sweet, R. and Taguma, M. 2009. Recognition of non-formal and informal learning: country note for South Korea. Paris, OECD.

Lee, H. Y. and Ko, Y.S. 2014. RPL/VPL Practices in the academic Bank system of South Korea. In: R.C. Duvekot, B. Halba, K. Aagaard, S. Gabršček, and J. Murray. eds. 2014. The Power of VPL – Validation of Prior Learning as a multi-targeted approach for access to learning opportunities for all. Inholland University AS & European Centre Valuation Prior Learning.

Lee, H.Y., Koh, Y.S., Park, S.O., and Park, S.M. 2010. Manual for Recognition of Prior Learning. Seoul, NILE.

NILE, 2013. National Institute for Lifelong Education (NILE). 2013. Manual for the Academic Credit Bank System. Seoul, NILE.

Republic of Korea. Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. 2008. Lifelong Learning Account System: Seoul, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and NILE.


Lifelong Learning Account System


In addition to the Academic Credit Bank System (ACBS), the Republic of Korea has developed the Lifelong Learning Account System (LLAS), in the context of which individuals are supported in developing their e-portfolios, curriculum vitae or learning records containing information on informal learning activities.

LLAS can be regarded as a “savings account” for lifelong learning. An individual can set up his or her own account, “deposit” different lifelong learning experiences, and plan ahead about how to “invest” learning experiences in the course of moving up the career ladder.

Procedures and processes

In an online learning account, individuals accumulate and manage their diverse learning experiences. Individuals may include learning results that are attained in higher education levels, but also various other kinds of learning experiences that can be translated into educational credits or vocational qualifications. In other words, LLAS incorporates information from both the academic qualifications system and the vocational qualifications system.

The National Institute for Lifelong Education (NILE) is responsible for recognising and approving the diverse experiences and documenting them for the convenience of learners.

In order to have their informal learning recognised, however, individuals need to register in a Lifelong Learning Centre. NILE undertakes the accreditation of these so-called Lifelong Learning Centres, which have a wider scope than the degree-centred ACBS and offer a variety of non-award lifelong learning courses. Lifelong Learning Centres apply for accreditation in accordance with Clause 2 under Article 2 of the Lifelong Education Act. The accreditation criteria include: 1) educational facilities and equipment; 2) teaching processes; 3) faculty members and lecturers; 4) management systems for learners; 5) other areas recognised by the Minister of Education, Science and Technology as necessary for the operation of learning courses.

The LLAS Learning Experience Management System website (www.all.go.kr) has been put in place to support individuals who have already opened their own learning accounts to search for lifelong learning courses in a particular region, institute or field of study.

Outcomes and ways forward

Individuals are supported in opening a learning account. They can use their learning records in order to review their learning activities, check the fields they have previously studied and make further plans accordingly.

Individuals can use learning records to obtain a primary school certificate, an exemption from secondary school courses, or for public and private employment.


Validation practitioners in adult education and training


In Portugal, Qualification and Vocational Education Centres – Centros para a Qualificação e Ensino Profissional (CQEPs) – deploy a specialised counselling and guidance service to help low-skilled individuals (above fifteen years of age) to find and pursuing the best route for their education and training. Additionally, they develop academic and vocational VNFIL/RPL processes, the so-called recognition, validation and certification of competences processes (OECD, 2012). The National Agency for Qualification and Vocational Education (Agência Nacional para a Qualificação e o Ensino Profissional – ANQEP), is the national public institution responsible for CQEPs’ coordination, management, financing and quality assurance mechanisms, as well as for the regulation of the vocational education and training (VET) offer, at the national level, and for implementing the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). It is also responsible for the design and implementation of the National System for Recognition, Validation and Certification of Competences (RVCC, meaning VNFIL/RPL processes).

The RVCC processes have two main routes:

  • an academic route for adults who do not have basic or secondary education certificates; and
  • a vocational route for adults who do not have formal vocational qualifications.

The CQEPs team must have the following RVCC practitioners, according to the current legal act (Portaria no. 135-A 2013), introduced in 2013:

  • a technician in charge of the coordination of the RVCC process;
  • a specific practitioner tasked with counselling and guidance, and support to the candidates through the RVCC processes (Técnico de Orientação, Reconhecimento e Validação de Competências); and
  • a number of assessors according to the qualifications available for validation and certification (subject-matter teachers or specialised vocational trainers) (Cedefop, 2014).

Procedures and processes

The regulatory Act from 2013 requires that teachers and trainers in basic and secondary education have certified experience in adult education and training, besides the specific requirement of knowledge in the relevant field of studies, as per the key competences or vocational qualification national standard. Teachers (RVCC assessors) responsible for the academic RVCC route must have a teaching qualification in the particular area of key competences as well as experience in adult education and training. Trainers responsible for assessing candidates going through vocational RVCC routes must have specific technical expertise as well as experience in the respective occupational area.

The Act requires practitioners tasked with counselling, guidance and validation to have work experience in at least one of the following areas: general education, vocational education and training, and guidance; methods of adult education and training – including identification of competences and portfolio development; or methods of different types of training – including training of young people, adults or people with disabilities.

The jury responsible for academic certification comprises a teacher or trainer (an RVCC assessor) who is – according to the law – qualified to teach in the area of the key-competences or on the specific vocational profile. The jury responsible for higher education institutions usually comprises career teachers who are not required to have a particular qualification. Thus, their educational level varies from Master’s to PhD degrees in different fields (Cedefop, 2014).

The jury also includes the participation of an external assessor, who is accredited by the National Agency for Qualifications and Vocational Education through a competitive and open procedure, at national level.

There is no current information about the role of ANQEP in providing training and support to RVCC practitioners (Cedefop, 2014).

Outcomes and ways forward

From 2006 to 2011, the New Opportunities Initiative was the largest governmental programme aimed at massively upgrading the qualifications level and profile of the Portuguese population. The target-groups of this Initiative were two: youngsters at risk of early school leaving; and low-skilled adults with levels of education below than the upper-secondary. More than 450 CNOs were operational during this period country-wide. The results in terms of lifelong learning participation and schooling levels achievement have been quite impressive, but still far from solving the problem of the accumulated stock of low skilled adults. The interruption of its operations has caused major delays in such an important area for social and economic development of the country.

In 2016, the current Government has launched a new intervention in this field, as an attempt to resume the former dynamic of the 2008-2012 period, called the Qualifying Program (Programa Qualifica), which is also part of the national Economic Reform Program, submitted to the European Commission in late 2015. The main goal is to resuscitate and amplify the network of adult education and training providers, re-establishing the national coverage of the VNFIL/RPL centres, and of course, to revitalize the RVCC processes as one of the main routes available for adult learners’ progression on their qualification pathways.


Carneiro, R. 2011. Accreditation of prior learning as a lever for lifelong learning: lessons learned from the New Opportunities Initiative, Portugal. Braga, Publito; Hamburg, UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning; MENON Network, and Study Centre for Peoples and Cultures (CEPCEP), Portuguese Catholic University.

CEDEFOP, 2014. European inventory on validation of non-formal and informal learning 2014: Country report Portugal.  http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/events-and-projects/projects/validation-… (Accessed 20 November 2015).

Gomes, M. 2006. Referencial de competências-chave para a educação e formação de adultos–nível secundário. Lisboa, Direcção Geral de Formação Vocacional (DGFV).

Gomes, M. and Simões, M.F. 2007. Carta de qualidade dos Centros Novas Oportunidades. Lisboa, Agência Nacional para a Qualificação (ANQ).

Milagre, C, Simões, M.F. and Gomes, M. 2011. Guiding and counselling adults in Portugal: new opportunities for a qualification. Luxembourg, Publications Office of the European Union. EAEA, 2011. Country report on adult education in Portugal.  http://www.eaea.org/media/resources/ae-in-europe/portugal_country-report-on-adult-education-in-portugal.pdf (Accessed 27 November 2015).

UNEVOC. New Opportunities Initiative- Portugal.  http://www.unevoc.unesco.org/fileadmin/user_upload/pubs/New%20Opportunities%20-%20Portugal.pdf (Accessed September 2016).


Recognizing life and workplace skills through the Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency and Accreditation Program (ETEEAP)


The Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency and Accreditation Program (ETEEAP) was established in 1996 through Executive Order 330. ETEEAP is a comprehensive educational assessment program for tertiary-level education that ‘recognizes, accredits and gives equivalencies to knowledge, skills, attitudes and values gained by individuals from relevant work’ (CHED, n.d.). This is seen as an important recognition, validation and accreditation (RVA) framework for many Filipinos who have sought employment without beginning or finishing tertiary education but who have acquired competencies in the workplace that correspond to those acquired in a formal college degree. This is also seen as relevant to many Filipinos who have worked and gained competencies abroad as overseas Filipino workers (OFW).

Filipinos, who have at least finished secondary education, may be assessed through the ETEEAP standards provided that they have gained substantial work experience (five years as per guidelines) related to the academic program for which they are seeking an equivalent qualification. Moreover, applicants must be able to satisfy set assessment criteria and show proficiency, capability and thorough knowledge in the field of their academic equivalency. Through deputized higher education institutions (HEI), applicants may be awarded a college diploma, a master’s degree or even a doctoral degree.

CHED deputizes HEIs to be implementers of ETEEAP by accrediting them against the following quality standards: (1) the HEI has to be a Center of Excellence[1] or Center of Development[2] in the programme offered through the ETEEAP; (2) the HEI should enjoy a valid autonomous status; (3) the HEI is accredited at Level II by any accrediting agency recognized by CHED; and (4) the HEI should be in Category A under the CHED-IQuame[3]. If the HEI is interested in accreditation of its alternative programmes or courses, it applies through the CHED regional office and will be evaluated through a series of document appraisals and an evaluation visit which will determine whether the HEI can offer courses under the ETEEAP. Monitoring mechanisms are then set up for quality assurance.

Procedures and processes

The processes of recognition and certification are as follows:

  1. The applicant submits documents (e.g. employment records) to a deputized/accredited HEI. If qualified, the HEI will conduct applicant assessment through written or oral exams, a laboratory demonstration practicum or interview and worksite visits depending on the academic field the applicant is in.
  2. If the competences meet those required in the degree program, the applicant may be automatically awarded the corresponding certificates.
  3. If the competences do not meet those required in the degree program, the applicant may make use of competency enhancement services and programs through participation in formal education courses, additional time and experience on the job or short-term courses and training. If successful, the applicant will be given the corresponding degree thereafter.

The legal basis of ETEEAP stipulates that CHED shall:

  1. certify, after thorough evaluation, the relevant work experience, knowledge and expertise acquired by individuals from non-formal and informal training that could be taken into account towards the award of a corresponding academic degree;
  2. determine the areas in which the applicant needs to undertake supplementary academic studies via formal course work in order to satisfy all degree requirements;
  3. develop, on a continuing basis and with the assistance of consultative panels and other competent authorities, standards, methodologies and criteria for a diversified system of assessing skills, values, knowledge and levels of competencies which should include, but is not limited to instruments such as written examinations, practical work and/or laboratory demonstrations and qualification portfolio assessments;
  4. delegate and/or accredit agencies, organizations and higher education institutions which will conduct equivalency assessments, develop assessment tools, provide supplementary academic courses and/or award degrees within their area of competence or specialization.

Outcomes and ways forward

From 1999-2010, 7,240 Filipinos graduated from the ETEEAP program. As of 2010, 96 accredited and deputized HEIs offer the program across all geographical regions in the Philippines. The portfolio of courses offered through the ETEEAP is also varied and involves bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. Some bachelor’s degree courses include BS Computer Science, BS Education, BS Nursing and BS Criminology; master’s degree courses include MA in Business Administration, MA in Religious Education and MA in Developmental Management; and doctoral courses include Doctor of Philosophy, Doctor of Education and Doctor of Organizational Development.


Commission on Higher Education (CHED). Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency and Accreditation (ETEEAP). Available on CHED website projects and programs (http://www.ched.gov.ph/index.php/projects-programs/programs/expanded-tertiary-education-equivalency-and-accreditation-eteeap (Accessed 21 May 2015).


Alternative Learning Systems (ALS) as a community-based grassroots form of access to basic education


In the Philippines, access to basic education remains a challenge. One in every four Filipinos aged 6-24 years old is considered out-of-school. To reach these marginalized learners, the Philippines government, by means of the Republic Act 9155 or the Governance Act of Basic Education, has improved education access through non-formal and informal education by establishing the Alternative Learning Systems (ALS). These programmes are implemented chiefly by the Department of Education’s (DepEd) Bureau of Alternative Learning System (BALS) and is specifically intended for ‘out-of-school children, youth and adults’ and those who are not able to finish their formal schooling (school leavers) and need basic and functional literacy skills.

The ALS has two components: (1) the Basic Literacy Program (BLP) which teaches basic literacy skills for reading, writing and numeracy; and (2) the Continuing Education Program – Accreditation and Equivalency (CEP A&E) which is a paper pencil test that assesses learner’s competences; successful candidates will receive a certificate from DepEd which is equivalent to that received by pupils graduating from the formal education system. Both programs have their own curriculum which is both modular and flexible so learning sessions can take place anytime and anywhere, depending on the convenience and availability of the learner.

Providers of the programme are of three types: (1) DepEd-Delivered; (2) DepEd-procured (implemented by a contracted service provider such as non-government organizations (NGOs) and literacy volunteers); and (3) DepEd-partners delivered (implemented by non-DepEd contracted organizations). DepEd Delivered ALS programs are implemented by ALS Mobile Teachers (MT) –specialized teachers in the community who teach the BLP – and the District ALS Coordinators (DAC) that harmonizes all ALS activities in the district.

Procedures and processes

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), in the context of ALS begins with the Functional Literacy Test (FLT) which all learners must take to gauge prior knowledge and literacy level. Specific to literacy, the FLT emphasizes the following core competences: communication skills, problem-solving and critical thinking, sustainable use of resources/productivity, personal development and raising a sense of community, expanding one’s world vision. The team (composed of the MT, DAC and the learning facilitator) then goes to a specific barangay[1], brings all the learning materials and conducts learning sessions.

Ideally, the ALS team does not leave the barangay until the learners have become literate according to certain guidelines. However, depending on the need, the team may re-engage in the community for follow-up and visitation. After finishing the basic literacy program, learners may proceed to taking the CPE A&E where they will have the chance to gain a basic education diploma equivalent to that received after formal education.

Outcomes and ways forward

In 2014, the Department of Education Secretary Armin Luistro explained that the department had mapped out 1.2 million Out-of-School Youth (OSYs) in their database and that 76,000 of them had already been enrolled in ALS and other similar government programs. In 2013, 6,135 passed the elementary-level A&E test, while 72,076 passed the secondary school examinations.


Department of Education (DepEd). Alternative Learning System.http://www.deped.gov.ph/als (Accessed 20 May 2015).

DepEd. 2014. DepEd releases 2013 ALS A&E test results.http://www.deped.gov.ph/press-releases/deped-releases-2013-als-ae-test-results. (Accessed 20 May 2015).

DepEd. 2014. DepEd, NYC launch Abot-Alam program nationwide, target Zero OSY Philippines. http://www.deped.gov.ph/press-releases/deped-nyc-launch-abot-alam-program-nationwide-target-zero-osy-philippines. (Accessed 20 May 2015).

Republic Act 9155: Governance Act of Basic Education. 2001. http://www.gov.ph/2001/08/11/republic-act-no-9155/. (Accessed 20 May 2015).


The APEL.Q pathway to skills certification


In the context of Pakistan’s National Vocational Qualifications Framework (NVQF), a learner may achieve any of the following qualifications: (1) one of the national vocational certificates at levels one to four; or a diploma at level five.

There are three pathways for any citizen to receive these qualifications: (1) training in an institution of the formal system; (2) on-the-job workplace and non-formal training including apprenticeship training; and (3) Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and/or Recognition of Current Competencies (RCC). An assessment using competency-based standards is conducted to determine the type of certification one can receive following any one of the three pathways.

The assessment and recognition processes through RPL/RCC pathways is a viable choice for individuals who have already acquired skills through previous formal, non-formal or informal learning including work experience and apprenticeship training. In many cases, this pathway is chosen by individuals who are seeking recognition of a limited range of knowledge, skills and competencies related to a certain job or employment opportunity. The assessment process is conducted by certified assessors and is managed by appropriate assessment and certification bodies.

Procedures and processes

The certification process of those who take the RPL/RCC pathway includes the following steps:

  • Candidates apply to the assessment and certification body through an accredited training provider and/or assessment centre;
  • Candidates present evidence that they have the skills that meet the competencies being sought within a specific qualification for the NVQF. This evidence includes:
    • Evidence of an earlier training and/or;
    • Record of employment and use of the skills and/or;
    • Reference from an employer or other reliable person, knowledgeable in the skills, attesting that the individual has the skills.
  • Candidates attend an interview with an assessor to explain the skills he/she possesses in relation to the competencies which they wish to be certified;
  • Candidates may be asked to take a challenge test – in the form of a practical demonstration, a written or oral test, or an assignment – if the assessor needs to confirm the truth of the evidence from other sources;
  • Assessors record the assessment results in the NVQF information system and a corresponding Certificate of Qualification or Record of Achievement is issued;
  • The candidate who receives the certificate or record may then (a) enter an advanced study program; (b) receive some credit towards an advanced program; or (c) identify a need for additional skills requiring credits from a non-formal training program (also called a “bridge program”). This allows the individual to enter further training at the appropriate level without having to start at the lowest level and work his/her way up. It may also assist the individual in gaining better paid employment.

Outcomes and ways forward

In general, currently, there are 1,647 TVET institutes and 132,487 trainees since 2006. Unfortunately, no data is available as to the number of individuals who sought certification through the RPL/RCC pathway.

The NVQF will be implemented progressively. Existing qualification and equivalence arrangements will continue and gradually replaced by new qualifications. Transition arrangements will be put in place as part of the implementation of each new qualification.


National Vocational & Technical Training Commission [NAVTTC]. 2015. Pakistan National Vocational Qualifications Framework (NVQF). NAVTTC, Islamabad.

NAVTTC. 2013. Insights into Pakistan. http://www.navttc.org (Accessed 11 June 2015).

UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning. 2013. Global Inventory of National Qualifications Framework: Country case studies compiled by the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning. Hamburg, UIL.


Validation of prior learning in upper secondary and higher education


At the upper secondary school level, Validation of Prior Learning (VPL) is related to the requirements of the national curricula (academic and vocational subjects) and results in a certificate called certificate of competence. The assessment process may result in an exemption from parts of the study programme or a shorter training period in preparation for a full examination.

In higher education, applicants seeking admission as well as exemption based on VPL are assessed by the individual university or college. This implies that the higher education institution accepts the applicant’s competence from prior learning as similar to or of equal worth as the learning outcomes of the course or parts of the programme in question. Skills Norway (former Vox, the Norwegian Agency for Lifelong Learning), has prepared guidelines for professional and administrative staff who are involved in granting exemptions through VPL.

Procedures and processes

In upper secondary education:

  • VPL is carried out within the regional education system; Regional centres provide information and guidance. County administration, which is responsible for upper secondary schools, is also responsible for the quality of the validation process and for training assessors. Since VPL is an individual right, funding is delegated to the 19 counties. It is the responsibility of the county authorities to register all adult candidates who have gone through a validation process at upper secondary level in a national digital registration system;
  • Adults can have their experience and prior learning validated in adult learning centers centres. All 19 counties in Norway have adult learning centres. Adult learning centres may be located at upper secondary schools;
  • Recognition is both formative and summative. The VPL process can lead to an upper secondary certificate, unless the candidate wants a trade certificate. To get a trade certificate the candidate has to pass a trade examination. However, if the candidate’s validated prior learning is assessed as sufficient for a certificate of competence only, he or she has the right to access modular courses to achieve a full certificate;
  • Like the adults seeking upper secondary school certificates, job-seekers may also want their competences validated. In this case, VPL is done through co-operation between local educational providers and the labour and welfare offices.

In higher education:

In the case of exemptions for parts of a study in higher education, the stages of VPL include: (a) An applicant receives information and guidance on how to put together an application; (b) The applicant complete the application. The application must include documentary proof of the applicant’s relevant competences. Some institutions may suggest that the applicant write a specific paper or an essay to prove the ability to reflect on their own work experiences. (c) Applications for exemptions are processed according to normal administrative procedures for applications in the institutions.

The Skills Norway Guidelines for exemptions through VPL have recommended that the administration needs to be supportive of the applicant; it should contact the applicant in case of a problem; it should contact the scientific staff to make sure the relevant competences have been adequately documented; The Skills Norway guidelines recommend that institutions need to develop internal guidelines for validating applications for exemptions based on prior learning to support equal and fair procedures in the institutions.

All levels:

The following methods are widely used at all levels of the education and training system (lower and upper secondary education as well as higher education). Assessment methods may vary according to the level and content of the national curricula and the study programme (academic or vocational). It is generally recommended to use a combination of methods necessary to prove the candidate’s different competences.

  • Oral presentations include dialogue-based methods (discussions between an assessor and the learner, interview and presentations).
  • Assessments based on written documentation include portfolio (most often used), written assignments on a given topic and reflection notes.
  • Assessment based on practice combines observations with simulations. One or more assessors may observe the applicant performing practical tasks in a working simulation.

Outcomes and ways forward

At the upper secondary level:

  • VPL is proving an important tool that is giving adults the chance to obtain an upper secondary education and a certificate that is key to employability and greater flexibility in the labour market – given that upper secondary education is almost the minimum requirement for employment in Norway.
  • Numbers from 2008 show that VPL was most used in vocational subjects, including health and social studies. Within vocational studies in 2008, 62 per cent of candidates had undergone validation, and between 89 and 92 per cent (depending on the vocational subject) received formal recognition of their learning, resulting in an exemption from parts of the training schedule.
  • In the years 2000 to 2005, approximately 60,000 people underwent VPL at upper secondary level (80 per cent in vocational subjects). On the whole, candidates found that the assessment of non-formal and informal learning was a positive experience–around 80 per cent found the experience useful or very useful. There has been a decrease in numbers of VPL candidates in adult education since the large cohort of adults with a lot of work experience were given the opportunity to be validated in the period from 2000 to 2008. In the school year 2013/14, 2200 adults underwent VPL at upper secondary level.

In higher education:

Approximately 5 per cent of all new students in higher education are adults admitted on the basis of recognised formal, non-formal and informal learning. In 2013, 41 per cent of adults applying for enrolment on the basis of prior learning were admitted. This proportion varies significantly between different fields of study. However, only a very small number of students apply for exemption. This indicates that many institutions were uncertain as to how the VPL procedure should be performed with high quality; consequently sufficient information was not provided to the target groups. The guidelines developed by Vox for VPL towards exemptions are certainly an important step forward in aiding participation in higher education.


Alfsen, C. 2014. Experiences with validation of prior learning in higher education in Norway. In: R. Duvekot, B. Halba, K. Aagaard, S. Gabršček and J. Murray. eds. 2014. The Power of VPL – validation of prior learning as a multi-targeted approach for access to learning opportunities for all. Inholland University AS & European Centre Valuation Prior Learning.


Assessment and recognition of workplace learning


The New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF) promotes the recognition and assessment of learning in the workplace. The NZQF is responsible for maintaining the mechanisms for the recognition of the outcomes of formal, non-formal and informal learning. The NZQF integrates:

  • Formal learning, which is deliberate and assessed through recognised tertiary education and training courses;
  • non-formal learning experiences, which occur on-the-job or through structured programmes but do not lead to qualifications;
  • informal learning, which is incidental and occurs through life experience.

The formal learning that is assessed on the job leads to recognised qualificaitons. If assessment can occur for non-formal and informal learning, they can also lead towards a qualification.

Procedures and processes

Validation occurs through expert practitioners following the process of profiling, facilitation and assessment and awarding of credit.

  • Within profiling, candidates have an interview to discuss their experiences, understandings, and goals. This is to ensure that the candidate is suitable for the RPL process and to help the candidate to consciously match their learning from experience to the components of qualifications.
  • Facilitation is the step where each candidate is supported to prepare for the assessment. Expert facilitators enable each candidate to express their understandings of their knowledge, skills and competences appropriately and to understand the requirements of the components of the qualification. The facilitators take a holistic approach to ensure all of a candidate’s knowledge, skills and competences are valued, explored and expressed. Facilitation can be on an individual basis or including group work.
  • Assessment occurs when assessors use outcomes of qualifications listed on the NZQF and learning outcomes of standards on the Directory of Assessment Standards to measure and validate the informal learning by expert facilitators.
  • Credit is awarded for recorded success, whether or not it forms part or all of a complete qualification. Learners should be able to be carry the credit and transfer it across sectors.

A key element of RPL is the ability to make consistent judgements about qualification outcomes. The NZQF focuses on three approaches to consistency: establishing expected outcomes of qualifications, then assessing the achievement against criteria, and then moderating the assessment.

Recognition practices are inherent in the NZQF through the qualification outcome statements, which provide learners and prospective employers with an idea of what the qualification holder should have achieved. The outcome statements describe what skills a learner can demonstrate, their understanding of the subject and how they can apply the knowledge gained upon completion of a qualification.

Providers can determine specific recognition practices in collaboration with the learner as long as they comply with the overall Credit recognition and transfer policy and meet assessment and qualification requirements.

Outcomes and ways forward

RPL procedures have benefited employers for purposes of validation of employment skills. They have also helped groups to enter further education and training. In the case of policy changes in professional qualifications, for example, when the qualification requirements for early childhood education teachers changes, those without a tertiary qualification are able to be assessed against existing teaching competences and experience.

The costs of these activities are dependent on the level of assessment required and are met both by the individual and the Tertiary Education Organisations/education providers involved.

Some of the challenges to be addressed in future relate to the lack of awareness and understanding of the recognition of prior learning (RPL) process by individuals, employers, and training providers, the costs associated with RPL, and the time taken to collect and collate evidence.


Validation of Prior Learning (VPL) as a career-guidance tool


One of the aims of Validation of Prior Learning (VPL) is to promote personal development of individuals and to strengthen human capital management within private and public institutions. VPL has also been an important means for realising labour market suitability or employability.

For people already employed, VPL can help to further their competences. VPL can also help to identify the overall stock of competences and qualifications in an organisation, thus making it easier for employers to invest in the training of its employees. The training becomes more profitable to invest in for the organisation when it is expressed in terms of national qualifications or industry sector standards, which employers and employees regard as relevant in the changing world of work. Also, in the case of people who become redundant, VPL can help to find jobs that are suited to their current competences.

In the Netherlands, both private and public sector organisations may offer VPL if they are registered as a VPL provider with the Kenniscentrum EVC (Knowledge Centre) and adhere to the Quality Code agreed to by the government and social partners. Currently, there are 69 organisations providing VPL (Register EVC, 2013).

Procedures and processes

The VPL procedure in the Netherlands normally entails the following stages:

  • Information, advice and guidance for candidates, employers or organisations;
  • Candidates decide on the qualification or sector standard against which their competences are assessed;
  • Documentation of competences through the portfolio method is supported by a facilitator;
  • Validation of competences/assessment by the assessors;
  • The VPL report includes a description of results and accreditation by the assessor, together with advice on the further personal development of individuals in relation to their defined career goals.

Assessment includes a formative recognition and a summative recognition:

  • The ‘Ervaringsprofiel’ (Competence Profile) is a formative procedure that sets up a personal portfolio. It aims at validation of a candidate’s generic competences. It advises on steps towards accreditation or personal development. It also points to procedures for obtaining a specific qualification or diploma.
  • In the case of summative recognition, candidates who want to reflect their prior learning outcomes in relation to a qualification have to fill in a portfolio in which they can demonstrate how their learning experiences match with the competences in the qualification they have chosen. In an assessment they are judged and given a report called the Ervaringscertificaat (Certificate of Experience) stating all the learning outcomes that match with the learning outcomes in a qualification. With this Certificate of Experience, they can approach an awarding body (examination committee) of a school or university. Only the awarding body is allowed to convert the Certificate of Experience into an official exemption and on the basis of this advice it is possible to achieve a partial or full qualification.

A mix of assessment methods is used depending on the situation. This mix includes portfolio-assessment, interviews, observations and other forms of testing.

Generally, VPL practitioners are recruited from different professional groups (teachers, trainers, counsellors or personnel managers):

  • VPL practitioners fulfil various functions such as assessors, portfolio-advisers, developers of VPL procedures based on national standards, or trainers of assessors and advisers;
  • According to the Quality Code for VPL, only trained professionals can be VPL assessors/advisors and their competences must be documented;
  • Guidance is a responsibility of any VPL provider in helping candidates to fill in their portfolios once a specific standard has been chosen. VPL providers receive training on how to guide candidates in a professional way through the VPL procedure and give candidates advice on the opportunities open to them;
  • The CH-Q System of Managing Competences (a Swiss vocational qualifications programme that has developed tools to document skills) is used to address issues in career management. This system contains the competences for portfolio development, the formal and non-formal evidences needed for qualifications, the application forms, as well as the special instruments to prepare validation and accreditation procedures (Schuur, 2011; ww.ch-q.nl). The CH-Q System has helped several candidates to find jobs or start a study programme at a VET school or a university;
  • A regional system for the dissemination of information, career guidance and training has been set up with 35 local career guidance offices (Leer Werk Loketten) across the country. These offices apply VPL as a career-guidance tool by actively linking training providers to employees and employers;
  • Information and guidance practitioners work independently of the educational sector and the world of work. They focus not only on employability or gaining a qualification, but also on the benefits VPL has for the employer or organisation as well as for the individual.

Private sector stakeholders play an important role in the implementation of VPL by customising work-based learning, providing guidance in the workplace, and by valuing the workplace as a learning environment.

Outcomes and ways forward

With regard to the next steps to be taken, the following issues need to be highlighted:

  • There is growing awareness in private and public institutions alike that learning on-the-job or via other non-formal learning situations can deliver as significant competences as learning within formal (classroom-based) situations.
  • VPL provides valuable feedback to educational providers on the content and methods of both formal and non-formal/informal learning.
  • More and more flexible and customised training courses are being offered by private and public sector institutions by using VPL to gauge the existing skills levels of individuals.
  • By using VPL, private and public sector organisations are increasingly formulating existing and required demand for competences in a more effective way. It is also enabling educational institutions to integrate VPL in their teaching and learning processes.
  • VPL has encouraged employees in taking the initiative to independently shape their own paths for career and personal development.


Schuur, C.C. M. 2011. Life and work demand for a meaningful self-management of competences.

Stoel, D., and Wentzel, E. 2011. Beloften, feiten en ongekende mogelijkheden.Amsterdam, Profitwise.

Wageningen, Foundation Competentie Management CH-Q NL/B.


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