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Challenges and Opportunities of Competency Pathways for Adult Learners

conference contribution
posted on 25.03.2022, 08:58 by Brian Teck Kin Heng, Sunny Wei Sun Leong
Degree qualifications are always associated with labor market outcomes in terms of wages (Feng, 2017), and hence it is important for each adult to complete at least one degree programme at a university. Recognition of workers’ skills and competencies has been seen as an approach to provide a shorter pathway for adult learners in their journey towards a formal degree qualification (Andersson, 2013; Harris, 1999). How the public awareness of competency-based education (CBE) can enhance recognition of prior learning (RPL) as a tool to evaluate skills and knowledge acquired at workplace? What are workers’ perspectives on degree qualifications that were obtained via RPL under CBE? What could be the RPL framework suitable for implementation in Singapore? In this project, we focus on workers in one of the growth sectors: Logistics. Two groups of workers in the logistics sector have been recruited for a comparative study on RPL, namely CBE group and Part-Time (PT) undergraduate group, respectively. Specifically, CBE group comprises of staffs working in a logistics organization nominated by their employers, and PT group are working adults who joined a university as part-time undergraduates on a pedagogy-driven classroom-based education. Both group of participants were to assemble their portfolios and assess against the SkillsFuture Framework (SFw) on Logistics sector with identified competencies mapped into the Learning Outcomes (LOs) of selected logistics modules. Participants were given skills assessment in the RPL, and would receive course credit advancement if they passed the skills assessment. A RPL framework was tested, which comprises of 3 phases: (1) Information and Awareness; (2) Guidance and Advisory; and (3) Skills Assessment. In phase 1, our findings indicate that Singapore workforce and employers are not familiar with the concept of RPL, SFw and CBE. Therefore, most people are less susceptible to participate in the RPL opportunities. In phase 2, we observe that a skill assessment academic advisor is required to provide coaching to RPL participants along their portfolio preparation journey, especially for credit advancement. Furthermore, strong support from employers is required for the success of RPL participants, in terms of jargon translation in the workers’ portfolios, especially when terminologies used between employers and academicians differ. In phase 3, we found that a national competency framework for the specific sector will be a useful tool in skill assessment in Singapore. In short, the public awareness of CBE and RPL is low in Singapore. Workers’ perceived value in CBE is limited as some of the RPL participants in this study chose to quit the assessment halfway when the assembly of portfolio evidence was deemed challenging than attending classes. Our findings also suggest the need of a dedicated skill acquisition office overseeing the RPL and/or CBE framework in Singapore, as well as developing strong skill currency of academicians capable of translating between skill terminologies at workplace and academic curricula of programmes in university. Furthermore, until skill-based articulation and CBE gain momentum to become acceptable alternative to mainstream of academic qualification, adult learners, institutions and employers will remain lukewarm to CBE and RPL.
Note: This project is commissioned by SkillsFuture Singapore.


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Applied Learning Conference 2022, 20-21 January 2022, Online

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