August 19, 2016

Recognition of Prior Learning

Recognition of prior learning is the process of recognizing knowledge and skills acquired  no matter how and when they were acquired, whether through formal learning in an educational school/institution or non-formal learning outside  the  “school system”, or learning “on-the-job” through experience or through “in-formal learning”. It involves the ‘comparison of the previous learning and experience of a learner howsoever obtained against the standards required for a specified qualification (certificate)’.
The ILO Human Resources Development Recommendation, advocates Recognition of Prior Learning for the benefit of workers who did not have an opportunity to learn a trade or occupation in the formal school system prior to being employed.
In Myanmar, as is learnt from  surveys undertaken by some Myanmar researchers over the years, a large proportion of workers in long term employment, especially in the SMEs of the private sector, acquired skills of their jobs through ‘learning-on-the job’. Though ‘skilled’, they lack recognition or certification of their professional competencies. Many of such workers are in wage employment and many are self-employed (after leaving employment) and earning their living by their “acquired” knowledge and skills. Many such skilled workers providing service to the general public are not ‘certified’ as well. With the enactment of the Employment and Skills Development Law of 2013, workers may now seek recognition of their competencies through the National Occupational Competency Assessment and Certification System established under the ESD Law.
The system is based on Occupational Competency Standards drawn up for assessment and certification of skilled workers at four levels namely; Semi-skilled (National Certificate Level1), Skilled (National Certificate Level 2), Advance Skilled (National Certificate Level 3) and Supervisors-cum-Technicians (National Certificate Level 4). The system has been designed based on the levels of skilled worker certification among the majority of the ASEAN States and also aligned to the four lower levels of the ASEAN Qualifications Reference Framework.
The Ministry of Labour in 2007 had formed the National Skills Standards Authority with the approval of the Cabinet. The NSSA had drawn up Occupational Competency Standards for some 170 priority Occupations among which about 60 had been approved by the Cabinet.
The Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security (MOLES) of the new Government which administers the ESD Law (2013) and the NSSA, with the support of the  Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and Swisscontact, has been implementing the ‘Pilot Fast-track Skills Assessment and Certification Program’ since  2014 giving priority to  assessment of  the skills and knowledge of the existing skilled workers who have no formal recognition of their skills, based on  reviewed Occupational Competency Standards  of priority occupations.
The ‘Pilot Fast-track Skills Assessment and Certification Program’ aims to establish sound procedures and  organizational structure, capacity development of the personnel and training of assessors so as to be able to replicate the Assessment and Certification Process at all the levels for the occupations for which Occupational Skills Standards have been  drawn up or recognized by the NSSA.
The program of assessment and certification of existing skilled workers starting with National Certificate Level 1 began in 2014. The co-operation of private and public training/testing centres as well as actual workplaces were sought for the practical assessment and the suitable ones accredited by the NSSA to conduct the assessments based on the Occupational Competency Standards of the NSSA. The assessors, both from the public and private sectors, were trained and certified by local and foreign experts. To start with, the Occupations of Arc Welding, Electrician (buildings), Air-Con Installers, Carpenters (Construction), Cabinet Makers (Furniture Carpenters) and Waiters (Food and Beverage) were prioritized and assessments conducted of workers from private and public sector enterprises. The responsible personnel of the Ministries concerned as well as the Employers’ Associations participated and assisted in implementingthe Pilot Fast-track Skills Assessment and Certification Program.
The assessments were conducted under the supervision of the Assessment and Certification Committee of the NSSA and National Certificates Level 1 were awarded to (34) Welders, (43) Electricians, (28) Air-Con Installers, (132) Carpenters), (30) Cabinet Makers and (48) Waiters after assessment of their competencies. The program will continue with assessment and certification at Level 1 in (19) other ‘priority occupations’ earmarked for the Pilot Fast Track Skills Assessment Program.
From the experience of the program thus far, it is found that quite a number of experienced skilled workers performed well in the ‘Underpinning Skills’ areas in the practical skills assessment, but some were rather weak in the ‘Underpinning Knowledge’ area so that they were judged ‘Not-Yet-Competent’. This  in-spite of the fact that ‘refresher courses’ of 2 to 3 days regarding the ‘knowledge assessment’ in the various occupations, were conducted prior to the assessment as well as the fact that  marks given during assessment for practical skills to knowledge was in the ratio on the average of 3:1.
The knowledge area of course, cannot be downplayed if the workers aspire to move up in the qualifications levels. Hence it would be helpful if various vocational training centres/schools, all over the country in both the private and public sectors, could offer short (modular) courses on related knowledge of the concerned occupation required at the level to be assessed (initially Level 1) on a fulltime or part time basis, so that the experienced skilled workers contemplating to submit to assessment and certification may attend such courses. That way, the certification at various levels of skills of the existing workers may be much facilitated.
The majority of employers, fully realize that systematic training and certification of their existing skilled workers will enhance their productivity in the long run. However many of the employers of the private sector are reluctant to send their skilled workers for assessment and certification for fear of losing them to higher paying competitors-both at home and abroad. With increasing numbers of skilled workers seeking recognition of their skills, perhaps a change in attitude by the employers concerned will evolve in favour of assessment and certification of the competencies of the workforce. *****


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