Skills and employability

“Explosion” of micro-credential courses proves lifelong learning vital

Conference re-emphasises lifelong learning is key to upskilling, re-skilling and the economic recovery, while recognizing the need for healthy skills ecosystems and quality education.

Press release | 19 May 2021
A man speaks about his learning experience through a video shown at the virtual conference in the Philippines on 17 May 2021. © CHED
BANGKOK (ILO News) - “An explosion” of online and micro-credential programmes during the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the importance of lifelong learning to upskilling, reskilling and the economic recovery. Education experts highlighted this trend as they shared first-hand experiences on lifelong learning through formal and informal pathways at a conference held this week in the Philippines.

Entitled Moving Forward the Philippine Higher Education, Meeting the Emerging Needs of Adult Learners, the online conference was held on Monday, 17 May 2021 by the Philippine Commission of Higher Education (CHED) with support from the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Skills for Prosperity programme in the Philippines (SfP-Philippines), funded by the United Kingdom government, and the British Embassy in Manila.

Pedro Moreno Da Fonseca, ILO Technical Specialist on Lifelong Learning, shared global perspectives on lifelong learning and interesting examples from difference countries around the world.

“We’ve witnessed an explosion of short training and digital learning during this COVID period in many ways”, he said. These learning courses provide specific skills sets or become part of work-based learning, he said, adding they may play an important role during the recovery.

While welcoming the rise of these courses, he stressed that there is still a need to ensure their quality and relevance to certifications and qualifications. Accessibility for all must also be taken into account as many people still lack equipment and Internet access, he said. 

Lifelong learning has been part of the Philippines’ national education plans as the rapidly changing social and economic environment requires society to provide opportunities for people to acquire certifications and qualifications, to upskill and learn to realize own goals. However, there is a need to operationalize the concept.

Jocelyn Agcaoili, Director of Center for Continuing Professional Development at University of Santo Tomas, said her campus has made greater use of online webinars and certificate courses during the pandemic and is currently developing online courses for professionals and graduate students for the next academic year.

“The course pack will be developed for certificate programmes, diploma programmes and later on degree programmes. This will jump-start our programme to offer micro-credentials to learners which later on may be credited to degree acquisition,” she said.

Ayessa Marie N. Velasquez, Director of Academy of Lifelong Learning at Ateneo de Davao University, said the university has offered micro-credentials to accommodate the changing needs of learners, who can now have the flexibility to take as many courses as they wish without a degree’s financial and time commitments.

The goal is to provide sufficient academic courses to adult learners who desire to pursue graduate degrees, she said, adding that they will earn mini-qualifications  that demonstrate skills, knowledge and experience in a given subject area.

David Bungallon, Executive Director of National Institute for Technical Education and Skills Development of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), said his agency provides a guideline for recognizing or putting in place micro-credential courses. During the pandemic, TESDA has provided online micro-credential learning in TVET serving more than 1 million adult learners, he said.

The speakers also shared best practices in lifelong learning and adult education through other formal and non-formal pathways including community-based and enterprise-based learning models.

Daniel Pruce, British Ambassador to the Philippines, said Covid-19 has heightened the importance of skills development to help transition the labour market to new job requirements.

“Adult education and alternative learning systems need to be fit to meet this, and future, challenges, providing the knowledge and skills that people need to attain decent jobs and opportunities to train throughout their lifetime. There should be equal opportunities for all, knowing that the right skills and training is the route to better jobs and livelihood,” he said.

The event celebrates the country’s first National Higher Education Day, which falls on 18 May.

Almost 600 representatives from CHED, TESDA, the Department of Education and other higher education institutions participated in the event.

Lifelong learning is among key goals of the ILO Skills for Prosperity programme in the Philippines to improve skills and TVET systems and support youth, women and those from marginalized groups in becoming more employable and earning higher incomes.

CHED Chairman J. Prospero “Popoy” de Vera emphasised the importance of higher education and adult learning during the fourth industrialization, globalization, internalization and the pandemic.

Adult learning “opens doors for upskilling”, even outside the formal education system, he said.