Thursday, April 13, 2006

Storming the formal education fort

Informal learning is at an interesting stage in its development. Attitudes towards it appear to be riddled with inconsistency and hypocrisy. Employers appear to be actively encouraging staff to engage with informal learning as part of their CPD - some have even developed systems for tracking this. However, when it comes to recruiting new staff, there still seems to be a strong leaning towards formal education. If I take the cynical view, this tells me that they don't really place great value on informal learning - it's just a way to avoid the expense of having staff enrolling on formal learning programmes and taking study leave to complete the necessary assignments and pass the exams.

And educational institutions seem married to the view that only formal learning can be accredited towards formal qualifications. I have posted about this before. In the interests of my own marketability, I have been looking to formalise my learning. To add the right letters behind my name and gain the right piece of paper to wave at interviews. I have spent the past 20 years engaged in informal learning of one sort or another, while gaining a wealth of experience in my field, both first hand and vicarious, but it seems I can only prove that I have learnt something by having someone else say so.

Because I will need to study on a part-time/distance basis, any qualification is going to take a long old time to achieve. I don't fancy the idea of putting in 6 or so years towards a bachelor's degree, when I'm confident that my informal learning has taken me beyond that level already. I had a glimmer of hope last week, when I spoke to a counsellor who gave me to understand that I could embark on a master's degree course. I would need to deliver written material and a presentation to some sort of board to convince them that I was, what... smart enough? Well informed enough? Committed enough? To take on post graduate study. That didn't seem to be a problem.

Later in the week, the goal posts moved, and it seemed I would first have to do a crash course bachelor's degree part time over two years. Sigh. Okay. Two years isn't forever. I can manage that.

Then the goal posts moved again, and it seemed I would have to the second year of a Cert. Ed. first. Furthermore, I would need to do a crash course before being allowed onto that, because I completed the first year of my Cert Ed more than three years ago. Deeper sigh. Okay. I can handle that, too.

Then the camel's back quietly broke, with no more sound or fanfare than a popped soap bubble. In order to complete the second year, I would need to teach 120 hours within a formal learning institution. I am an instructional designer for a private sector commercial organisation. Before that, I was classroom based, yes, but still within a commercial organisation. It is several years since I set foot in a formal learning institution.

By this time, my enquiry had been passed along to a few different people. I sent an email to the latest of these to find out if there was any way for someone who is not classroom-based to complete this course. Silence. Up until that moment, the responses had been very quick, even when my enquiry had been passed along the line (again). This time... nothing - not even a "Sorry, but no."

The drawbridge is up. You shall not pass. Deepest sigh.


Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher said...

Don't be frustrated Karyn. I've met with the same problems here as I want to be a certified Computer Science teacher. There are so many rules and legalese that it seems that it is targeted towards uncommitted, non parent, teens and early 20's who can go anywhere, do anything, and make no money.

In this world we live, many educational institutions seem to care less about LEARNING AND TEACHING and more about PRESERVATION AND RESEARCH. It is unfortunate. I've just thrown up my hands and said that when my kids go to college, I'll go back with them!

Sigh. Drawbridge up! You're great! Keep going! Remember, that you have a purpose and a plan.

Your American friend, Vicki (a/k/a CoolCatTeacher)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Vicki. Enjoy your hiatus.