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Micro-certification to provide alternative to formal schooling

UNSPLASH

Micro-certification of soft skills and digital skills will boost the employability of Filipinos who may not have gone through the formal education system, according to learning experts.  

“In the assessment of 21st century skills — of which digital competency is a part of — the micro-certification created for ALS [Alternative Learning System] will eventually expand to include some of these digital skills,” said Pam Robertson, Australian deputy director at the Assessment, Curriculum & Technology Research Centre (ACTRC), an Australian Aid initiative that seeks to advise and inform the Philippine education system through curriculum, teaching, and assessment research. 

ACTRC, which celebrated its tenth anniversary, is conducting a feasibility study on incorporating the ALS’ life skills modules to determine how micro-certification can “provide an alternate pathway to existing formal education” and meet the needs of both learners and employers.

Micro-certification is the credentialing of the attainment of small units of learning that gives learners the potential to receive credit for components of a program. 

These provide prospective employers with more information on a learner’s competency as compared to a certificate indicating a passing score. The ALS Law defines micro-certification as “a flexible means of verifying attainment of specific elements of ALS K-to-12 minimum competencies.”  

Both hard skills (such as front-end web development) and soft skills (such as critical thinking) can be micro-certified.  

Ms. Robertson noted that any credentialing process should be grounded on assessment, and that micro-certifications are only useful if the assessment process is trusted.  

“You have to set a rigorous framework to see that real competence is being captured,” she said at the June 29 event.   

ACTRC Philippine deputy director Nona Marlene B. Ferido recommended the reporting of student proficiency not through scores but through “a learner’s demonstration of a given skill described in a profile of increasing competence called learning progressions.”  

This enables teachers to give effective feedback to learners and adjust instruction according to their development level, she said.   

A sample ALS micro-certification of learner capabilities could be: “Learner A is a responsible collaborator (performs teamwork without needing guidance and contributes harmony to a group), but Learner B is a value-adding collaborator (performs to a higher than the required standard, and takes initiative to improve the work of the group),” Ms. Ferido told BusinessWorld in an email.  

Employers are now also pushing for assessment information to tailor to their needs, she said: “Employers are more interested in what someone can do, and less interested in what someone knows.”  

Ms. Robertson pointed out that the K-to-12 curriculum is “much stronger” than its previous version, adding it takes at least a decade to see the impacts of change within a country. 

“These changes take a long time to work through … we need to make sure we keep the direction.” — Patricia B. Mirasol

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