Author(s):Marianne Teräs (presenting), Ali Osman (presenting), Johanna Lasonen

Conference:ECER 2017

Network:02. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)


Session Information

02 SES 08 B, Recognition, Validation and Acquisition of VET qualifications

Paper Session



Chair:Petri Nokelainen


VET and newly arrived immigrants: Challenges of recognition and validation

Vocational education and training (VET) is often seen as an instrument to facilitate inclusion of newcomers to labor markets. However, several research (cf. Andersson and Ali 2008, Lasonen & Teräs, 2015) show that newcomers face several obstacles when seeking jobs in their new host societies.  The explanation that is often given for the weak position of immigrants (newcomers) in the labor market is that: they lack language skills to compete in the labour market, their education is not attuned to the needs of labour market, and that they lack relevant network, and often are subjected to discrimination. These deficits are used to explain residential segregation of immigrants and their descendants, school segregation, poor educational performance, ethnification of certain niches of the labour market etc and inform policies in the area. Research in this area has paid some attention to concrete institutional processes and practices of recognition of newcomers’ vocational skills and competences (cf. Andersson & Fejes, 2005; Andersson. & Fejes, 2010).This paper examines the policies of RPL (recognition of prior learning) in Finland and in Sweden. The aim is to compare policies in the field in the two countries and thus to enhance understanding of this complex question. Furthermore, there is a need to critically examine the studies focusing on practice of RPL targeting newcomers.

The question the paper focuses on is: To what extent migrants' prior learning is organized and implemented by the different actors? What are the challenges different actors faced in this process in Finland and in Sweden. What are the contextual specific factors that impact the practice?

In this paper we use critical social theory to make sense of the issues addressed in this paper. In this framework concept of recognition is seen broadly. For example, Taylor and Honneth emphasize that individuals require membership in social groups with recognition to their distinctiveness, rights and resources. According to Taylor (1994), human life has a dialogical nature, and it is bound up with public recognition for the ethnic, religious and national groups. Identities are revised, affirmed and developed. Honneth (1992) indicates that recognition requires a measure of “social acceptance for a person’s method of self-realization within the horizon of cultural traditions of a given society” (p. 191).


Data comes from policy documents regulating validation and recognition of competences and prior learning in Finland and in Sweden. Furthermore, the data and methods include a variety of studies that have been done in the last decade on the practice of RPL (cf, Sandberg, 2013; Sandberg & Kubiak, 2013; Andersson & Fejes, 2005)

Expected Outcomes

The expected result of the study is to delineate how the process and practice of RPL is organized in Finland and in Sweden. In addition, there seems to be a gap between policies of recognition and practices of recognition. For example, even though one has received official recognition of the education, one still has difficulties in finding a job. Furthermore, national education is valued more than education and training acquired from other countries.


Andersson, P. & Fejes, A. (2005). Recognition of prior learning as a technique for fabricating the adult learner: a genealogical analysis on Swedish adult education policy. Journal of Education Policy, 20(5), 595–613.
Andersson, P. & Fejes, A. (2010). Mobility of knowledge as a recognition challenge: experiences from Sweden. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 29(2), 201–218.
Andersson, P. and Osman, A. (2008). Recognition of prior learning as a practice for differential inclusion and exclusion of immigrants in Sweden. Adult Education Quarterly, 20 (42), 42-60.
Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77-101.
Honneth, A. (1992). Integrity and disrespect: Principles of a conception of morality based on the theory of recognition. Political Theory, 20(2), 187-201.
Lasonen, J., and Teräs, M. (2015). Challenges to recognizing foreign competence for employment in Finland: Avoiding immigrant economic stratification. In E.L. Brown, P.C. Gorski and G. Lazaridis (Eds) Intersection of Poverty, Class and Schooling: Creating Global Economic Opportunity and Class Equity (129-145). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing Inc.
Sandberg, F. (2010). Recognising health care assistants’ prior learning through a caring ideology. Vocations and Learning: Studies in Vocational and Professional Education, 3(2), 99–115.
Sandberg, F. & Kubiak, C. (2013). Recognition of prior learning, selfrealisation and identity within Axel Honneth’s theory of recognition. Studies in Continuing Education, 35(3), 351–365.
Taylor, C. (1994.) The politics of recognition. In A. Gutmann (Ed.), Multiculturalism and the politics of recognition, (pp.25-76). Princeton, NJ. Princeton University Press.

Author Information

Marianne Teräs (presenting)
University of Stockholm, Sweden
Ali Osman (presenting)
Stockholm University
Department of education
Johanna Lasonen
University of South Florida, USA and University of Jyväskylä, Finland