Project

Recognition of prior learning practices at professional colleges

Endless stairs of future
The legal basis for the recognition of prior learning exists in Switzerland. However, there is a lack of transparency as to how to put this into practice, especially at the tertiary level. This study examines how the recognition of prior learning at professional colleges is formally regulated and how it is concretely implemented and justified in practice, deriving information from this for continuing education and training (CET) providers.

In a world of rapid technological and economic change, lifelong learning is increasingly important; both for workers who need to adapt to survive in the labour market as well as for people with upper secondary qualifications looking to improve themselves in order to fill empty positions in skilled labour sectors that lack workers. Since most learning processes take place outside the formal education system, it is important to recognize and, where appropriate, certify skills acquired through either non-formal (continuing education and training) or informal (experience) means.

In Switzerland, the necessary legal foundations for this already exist (VPETA, Art. 9, Para. 2). However, the recognition of prior learning is not yet established in the entire education system. Professional education institutions have a great deal of room for manoeuvring. This contributes to the lack of transparency regarding the recognition of prior learning. So far, there has been little research on what prior learning outcomes are recognised and how, and for what reasons professional colleges take into account prior learning outcomes. These research gaps will be addressed within the framework of this research project.

Goals of the project

The study examines the central question of how professional colleges in Switzerland interpret and implement legal requirements and regulations for the recognition of prior learning. The recognition of prior learning practice is empirically examined based on the current state of research on educational governance, lifelong learning, recognition of prior learning and professional education institutions in Switzerland. In concrete terms, the following questions will be answered:

  1. What is formally regulated with regard to the recognition of prior learning at professional colleges?
  2. How is recognition of prior learning at professional colleges implemented within the defined operational framework?
  3. How is the recognition of prior learning practice justified by professional colleges?
  4. What are the differences between the professional colleges (individual schools, by subject area and language region) and how can they be interpreted?
Method

The study uses a mixed method design that includes document analysis, interview study, questionnaire survey and workshops. The workshops with selected CET providers and persons in charge for training programmes at professional colleges primarily serve to transfer knowledge and develop information for CET providers.

In the first part, the framework curricula and study regulations for professional colleges are analysed with regard to the regulations concerning the prerequisites for admission and the criteria for the recognition of prior learning. Based on the results of the document analysis, the interviews are structured and guidelines for the qualitative part of the study are prepared.

In the second part, qualitative interviews are conducted with directors of professional colleges in order to identify internal school procedures, recognition of prior learning practices and the associated justifications. Based on these findings, interviews will be conducted with persons in charge for selected non-formal continuing education and training programmes at professional colleges, as we assume that recognition of prior learning practices and the associated justifications differ between non-formal continuing education and training programmes.

In order to quantify the results of the interview study in the context of a full survey, in the third part a standardised questionnaire is constructed based on the results of the interview study to record the recognition of prior learning practices at professional education institutions and the associated justifications.

In the fourth part of the study, the results are discussed with selected CET providers and persons in charge for training programmes at professional colleges and conclusions are then drawn for the training providers. It will be discussed how the formal regulations concerning the recognition of prior learning are to be assessed in light of application practices and what application practices mean for the permeability of the education system at professional education institutions.

Practical benefits for CET

The study contributes to the management and further development of CET by creating transparency with regard to recognition of prior learning practices at professional colleges and by promoting permeability in the education system. The results provide CET providers with important information on how they can improve their offers and better focus on formal qualifications. The results of the planned study are an important basis for CET participants to be able to plan their educational and professional careers in the long term.

Project-State: 
In progress
Date: 
1.12.2019 to 28.2.2022
Partner: 
  • Swiss Conference of higher vocational education (K-HF)
  • Swiss Federation for Adult Learning (SVEB/FSEA)
Sponsors: 
Staatssekretariat für Bildung und Forschung (SBFI)