Legislation on recognising prior learning in adult education and continuing training
In the future, people in Denmark will enjoy better opportunities to receive an assessment of their non-formal and informal learning - also referred to as prior learning. This assessment may have an impact on which adult education and continuing training programmes they are able to pursue. The new legislation therefore makes it easier for adults to gain access to a relevant education programme on the background of an assessment of their prior learning.
Act no. 556, entitled "Development of the recognition of prior learning in adult education and continuing training" (Udbygning af anerkendelse af realkompetence på voksen- og efteruddannelsesområdet mv), was passed on June 6, 2007. Parts of the new law came into effect on August 1, 2007, while other parts first came into effect on August 1, 2008.
This legislation represents an attempt made by the politicians to set the needs of the individual person at the centre. The focus is for the assessment of prior learning to motivate those with little or no education to participate in life-long learning. This means that the process is to be made as accessible and flexible as possible for the individual to find the exact opportunity in relation to his/her need for continuing and further education and training.
For the adult individual, this means that he/she can have his/her prior learning assessed and recognised, thus rendering it easier for him/her to gain access to relevant opportunity for further education and training.
For the educational institutions within the area, this provides opportunity to carry out specific assessments of prior learning as known from previous practice in Denmark in adult vocational training and vocational colleges. The new actors in relation to the diploma education programmes are the adult education centre (VUC), the academies of professional higher education (erhvervsakademierne) and the centres for higher education (CVU).
A number of common principles have been determined for carrying out prior learning assessments:
Adult Vocational Training
In relation to adult vocational training programmes, the individual is offered an Individual Competence Assessment. It is to form the basis for an individually tailored education plan as well as an education or competencies certificate. This certificate can generally be used when applying for an education programme or together with a job application.
In the past, an individual's skills and competencies were typically clarified on the basis of an Individual Competencies Clarification, the purpose of which exclusively dealt with clarifying the participant's skills and competencies with reference to a relevant educational opportunity in the AMU system (adult vocational training).
The new aspect was that the assessment must also include elementary skills in areas such as e.g. Danish and mathematics.
This part of the act came into effect on August 1, 2007.
As previously, the vocational colleges will offer individual competency assessments as the basis for arranging a basic adult education (GVU) programme and provide opportunity for abbreviating an education programme or be moved ahead on the background of a specific assessment.
In relation to the short-cycle higher education programmes (VVU) and diploma programmes at university colleges, it becomes possible to gain admission exclusively on the basis of one's prior learning. Until now, applicants have had to document a relevant education programme and at least two years relevant work experience in order to gain admission.
This part of the act came into effect as of August 1, 2007.
As previously, VUC is to offer a guidance-counselling interview to applicants, the purpose of which is to clarify which level the individual is to be placed on.
The new law emphasises the obligation to offer an assessment of prior learning in relation to the relevant levels in general adult education and higher preparatory examinations (HF), respectively. This must be offered regardless of whether the individual is interested in gaining admission to VUC or not. As something new, a competencies certificate is to be issued for the recognised skills and competencies.
This law came into effect August 1, 2008.
For the educational institutions, the new law means a number of new challenges; both for those with experience with the assessment of prior learning as well as for those for whom the field is entirely new.
The institutions must develop a practice that ensures a great degree of transparency and quality in the process involving the clarification, documentation, assessment and recognition of prior learning. This raises demands in relation to the instruments, methods and procedures involved. Moreover, it raises demands with reference to the skills and competencies of the persons who are to carry out the assessments.
Comprehensive project and development work is necessary. This experience is to be disseminated both "within the ranks" and across the education reforms and sectors.
Widespread confidence must be established both among the educational institutions and the commercial enterprises; people must be able to count on the results of the prior learning assessments. The target audience must be comfortable with the certification of their competencies and education that are issued on the basis of prior learning assessments.
The old habits must also be shaken up in relation to guidance efforts, and there must be greater cooperation between institutions. For this purpose, local, inter-institutional adult guidance counselling networks, regional adult guidance forums and a national Council for Adult Guidance will be established. These innovations are also supposed to work with prior learning: How can we work with it? What works and what is ineffective? Is there a need for special initiatives?
In the course of the parliamentary year 2010/2011, the current plan calls for an actual evaluation of the efforts to increase the opportunities available to gain recognition of prior learning.
The role of non-formal adult education
The law defines prior learning as the "total knowledge, skills and competencies" possessed by the individual. Nothing specific is formulated about where and how prior learning develops.
However, this is indeed the case in the explanatory memoranda and in the statements made by the Ministry of Education. A number of examples are used that refer to working life and non-formal adult education as significant frameworks for learning and the development of prior learning. That which the individual learns in "non-formal learning activities, including periods in folk high schools and evening school courses" can be included in the overall assessment of prior learning.
The non-formal adult education system will therefore become responsible for supporting the individual who has participated in non-formal adult education activities to document what they have learned. To this end, various methods and models have been developed in the framework of the various school forms.
The Ministry of Education is behind the development of an IT-based questionnaire that forms the foundation for a self-evaluation and qualified individual sparring. This instrument has been adapted to the non-formal adult education, association activities and voluntary social work, respectively.
Across the various non-formal adult education school forms, work is being invested in preparing the non-formal adult education employees to engage in this sparring in a professional and sober manner and to offer this service e.g. to associations and organisations that do not offhand have the opportunity to develop such expertise in clarification. The non-formal adult education system holds a considerable responsibility to ensure that the form of clarification and documentation carried out in our framework is of a character that is credible and recognisable for the formal education system and for the employers who are to assess our participants and their prior learning.