In the event that schools approve the idea of the Ministry of education, people who have work experience could join secondary school without a certificate of Basic education, Master’s programme without Bachelor’s degree, and enter university – why not – without a certificate of secondary education.
The system called VÕTA (recognition of prior learning and work experience) has been in use in the high schools for many years, however, today one can only use it to prove knowledge of certain subjects in the relevant field within one curriculum. Until today the system has been fairly little used in vocational and general education.
The Ministry specialist in the education code Sille Uusna explained that the initial aim of this idea is to support the life-long learning, especially in cases when person started to work before finishing the educational level, and would like to continue studies after a break. „To force adults who have experience to complete their basic education along with teenage students who have duty to study at school...” Obviously, they won’t come. The idea is that everybody who has work and life experience could directly complete their secondary education.“
Similarly, this approach can be tried in higher education if people did not get bachelor degree as they had not passed some exam or not written a final paper. „We have specific examples when people become top specialists without having bachelor degree. Obviously they will not turn back to the Bachelor’s programme, but if they had an opportunity to prove that they are able to study the Master’s programme, we think that they could principally get the chance,“ – says Uusna.
According to Uusna, an opportunity to enter the university without the complete secondary education is the most complicated and incredible way. „The pre-condition is that a person has the relevant knowledge and skills. If someone goes to a secondary school, they won’t leave it halfway. But I can’t exclude a case when a person goes to work as a volunteer, spends some time abroad, does a refresher course or something similar. In my mind, it’s the least possible thing that one can get skills analogical to secondary education through other ways.“
Uusna mentioned that application of VÕTA can be accompanied by the certain quality risks as the school accepts responsibility for the skills that a student acquires before the graduation.
Uusna rejected an idea that VÕTA could become the easiest way to become the university student. „A student’s burden of proving is heavy. In order to avoid a risk of ’phishing’, some countries impose on students financial obligations as the assessment is a long and expensive process, a part of which is incurred by students themselves so that people wouldn’t come just to make a try.“ No decision has been made yet as for who could assess such ’phishers’ in future, though, there are several possibilities: it can be either the school, a specially established agency, or some division expanded within the existing structures.
So far high schools in the feedback objected a scheme under which it could become a duty of the schools themselves, and opted for establishment of a separate agency. Agencies operate in many European countries – e.g. France, Norway and Netherlands.
Anyway such thorough assessment system costs, and the Ministry of education plans for the purpose additional funds though no financial calculations have been provided on the current stage.
At the moment the education act draft is being discussed and we are waiting for the feedback to understand whether the Estonian education is basically ready to adopt such principle. According to Uusna, this year the draft is going to be handed over to Riigikogu.
The initial plan is to implement the principle starting from the summer of 2019, though the timeframe may shift depending on the law making proceedings.
Opinions of the universities:
Generally, the university considers expanding of earlier studies and work experience rather positive, though we think that the application term – since June 1, 2019 – looks problematic.
Based on VÕTA assessment practice that has been used so far, we may state that this is a long and detailed process, which requires additional resources from the university to ensure the successful student achievements in studies or be sure in reaching the study outputs provided in the curriculum. Giving assessment to the entire education level requires significantly bigger resources – development of the suitable conditions of implementation and the support system. Taking into account the fact that a big number of high school institutions are small and have the limited resources, we do not consider as reasonable the obligation to be imposed on every high school to implement the assessment system within such a scale.
Tallinn University of Technology
The idea /--/ itself is good, though its implementation is premature, and, based on the draft, implementation of the idea has been totally delegated to high schools, which entails unreasonably high load for the educational institutions.
Since VÕTA implementation with the aim of starting studies seems to be insufficiently developed, the law draft should be amended /--/ in a way, which shall not stipulate unequivocally VÕTA implementation with the aim of starting studies as the obligation of the educational institution to assess candidate’s education, but shall leave an opportunity to regulate it by legal acts based on the education act (in case of higher education – the standard of higher education).
To evaluate establishment of a central agency for assessment of education required to start studies using VÕTA, to consolidate necessary resources and competencies in Estonia analogically to the experience of numerous foreign countries (France, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Portugal), where personal competences are assessed and a relevant certificate is issued centrally, regardless of the fact where or which studies (educational institution) the person would like to apply. It could also expand the personal opportunities for continuing the educational path. The university and agency could cooperate analogically to the existing cooperation with ENIC/NARIC, i.e. VÕTA applications would lodge in high schools, where it might be possible to request for assessment from the agency if necessary. In case where the higher education is involved, the agency could assess knowledge and skills of a person according to the first level of higher education, preferably when applying for each level. The university might assess knowledge and skills, first of all, when candidates apply for the second and the third levels.
The requirement of the secondary education should be left as a pre-condition for accessing the higher education. /--/
Rectors' Council of High Schools of Applied Sciences (RKRN)
RKRN does not agree with the imposed on the educational institution obligation to assess the earlier studies and working experience. /--/ We believe that educational institution is capable to assess the possibilities of taking into account the earlier studies and working experience during the study process, but they are not capable to assess the ‘suitability’ of education at another level.
Proposal: to establish a specialised institution for assessment of the corresponding level in admission, or, at least, to organise assessment on a basis of the institution providing education at the corresponding level (e.g., in admission to high school the required level of secondary education shall be assessed by the secondary school). The high school might assess the conformity of the applicant in admission to the Master’s programme if such high school provides both Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes.