Prior learning assessment and recognition-keys for success in Ontario's Secondary School and adult education programmes
ONTARIO SECONDARY SCHOOL ADULT EDUCATION
Canada over the last decade has been struggling with a transition - a transition from an industrial based economy to a knowledge based global economy. This transition has had its most devastating effect upon Canada's manufacturing heartland - Ontario. In Ontario, some businesses and corporations have permanently closed their doors, others have left or are leaving the country, others have scaled down their operations, while others are restructuring to meet global competition. Their employees have found themselves either out of work, or in danger of losing their positions in the near future. They are desperately looking for answers and solutions.
As a consequence, many of these adults see returning to school to upgrade their education and skills as the answer. Other adults see it as a means to gain a promotion, gain admission to post-secondary education or training, or as an opportunity to upgrade their high school certificate to an Ontario secondary school diploma. This has created an unprecedented demand for adult education programmer. In 1995 over 220,000 adults were enrolled in continuing education and adult secondary school credit courses.
PRIOR LEARNING ASSESSMENT IN ONTARIO SECONDARY SCHOOLS (CURRENTLY EQUIVALENT CREDIT ALLOWANCES FOR MATURE STUDENTS)
An integral component of adult programming and the enhancement of student success is the application of Ontario's Ministry of Education's equivalent credit allowance policy. Introduced in 1974 to facilitate the return of individuals to complete their secondary schooling, it has empowered principals to grant secondary school credits for learning that has taken place outside of the high school classroom (see Appendix 1). The granting of credits is not course specific but by grade and program. Student programming incorporates meeting diploma requirements, student achievements, and a student's educational and career goals.
QUESTIONS POSED BY THE NEW APPROACHES
TO LIFELONG LEARNING PROJECT (NALL)
The responses to the above questions are based upon the surveys and conversations I have had with adults throughout this period and discussions with many of their teachers and counselors.
What are the principal advantages of PLAR for adult students and adult education secondary school programmes?
Not all adults have the same PLAR opportunities. There are clearly many variations in both philosophy and practice. There are distinct differences amongst boards of education, as to how and when an adult learner's prior experience is assessed, the resources used in assessment, the acceptance of PLAR credits, and the participation of the learner in the process.
An inherent risk to PLAR in Ontario's secondary schools is that in attempting to address inconsistencies the revised policies and procedures will build barriers rather than bridge barriers to adult education. Another significant risk PLAR faces, as in other areas of public education is that with continued budget cuts, the monies needed to implement delivery and support will be dramatically reduced, thereby marginalizing PLAR. The ultimate danger is that PLAR would in practice be provided only by a few school boards, or only be available to those adults who had the financial resources to access the process.
What do you see as the preferred or likely future for enhancing PLAR in secondary schools in Canada?
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