Validation of prior learning (VPL) in prison education (2007-2009)



The project was set up in response to a 2005 White Paper from the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, which suggested VPL could be of particular use to this group of learners (see PDF-file).

The project objectives were to: 
- Trial and establish VPL (including vocational testing) as a tool for competence mapping and adapted training within prison education; 
- Establish cooperation forums involving school authorities, the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration, the Prison and Probation 
Services and user organisations;
- Using VPL as a starting point, launch and develop models that safeguard individualised/adapted training;
- Develop and implement measures to increase competences in VPL among project employees/teachers and others; 

What are the achievements / results so far?
- Information materials have been prepared which are available in the schools / prisons and have been disseminated to relevant target audiences;
- Formal procedures for VPL have been established in the project schools;
- the employees involved in the project have increased their knowledge of VPL and as a result are able to inform offenders about how to access VPL opportunities;
- the schools involved have introduced systems for cooperation between the main school, county administration, job training personnel in prison, Norwegian Labour and Welfare Service; 
- in total, 186 prisoners were assessed during the project period, mainly in vocational study programmes, with the result that they were able to achieve a journeyman’s / trade certificate or to shorten their study periods by 1.5 – 2 years.

What are the main learning points of the project? 
Validation of prior learning in itself constitutes an element of motivation for students in correctional facilities, which appears to assist in forward-looking orientation of student upon completion of prison terms.Validation of prior learning for this group of students appears to function most favourably when paired with personal follow-up and guidance.

What experience could be transferable? How could the project experience inspire other organizations / countries?
• Information: Teachers and workshop instructors in prison, including all new employees, should be informed about validation and its potential to motivate prisoners for further education and later employment. New inmates should also be given information about validation, as well as other prison personnel, so that they can inform other employees and inmates.
• Training: Personnel that work in prison education or with work training could be trained as evaluators
• Procedures: Prisons should establish internal routines for the validation procedure (information/guidance, competence mapping/validation, assessment, documentation, tailored training/adapted education), which should start as soon as possible. 
• Collaboration: Prisons should establish a network of partners/collaborators who can contribute to the validation work (e.g. Labour and Welfare Service)

See also: Nordic Network for Prison Education