Recognition of prior learning (RPL) among international higher education students in Finland
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The importance of recognition of prior learning (RPL) gained through various learning settings has become a central aspect within the discourse on lifelong learning and knowledge-based society. Accordingly, higher education institutions have developed various practices to recognize students’ prior learning. RPL practices, however, face challenges when it comes to the recognition of learning that happened informally or in another country. This study set out to examine RPL practices in Finnish higher education institutions through the perspectives of international degree students with special attention to the recognition of informally acquired learning. Ten international degree students from the field of logistics and nursing shared their experiences regarding the RPL process. This qualitative study was conducted by using semi-structured interviews and the data was analyzed according to the thematic analysis approach. The findings indicate that assessment procedures predominantly relied on documentation, therefore the prior knowledge that was recognized in the process, was mainly acquired in formal context. Meanwhile skills and knowledge gained through informal learning was poorly recognized. The results have also shown that the study programs after the RPL process sometimes fail to match the actual level of expertise of the RPL student and it results in repetitiveness of studies. It can be concluded that international students with prior learning experience value both informal and formal learning, however the RPL practices do not always manage to recognize the informal learning experience. It has also become evident that students carry out their studies purposefully and it calls for RPL practices that concern the unique background and aspirations of the students. ...
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