Poland’s road to microcredentials. We are examining how to pave it!

Our project conducted at the Institute of Educational Research is a response to global technological and educational trends and the resulting administrative recommendations of the European community. 

Read on and you will find out:

  • What are the recommendations of the Council of the European Union regarding the approach to micro-credentials?
  • How do the projects conducted at the IBE implement these recommendations?
  • What are the project’s goals “Microcredentials – piloting a new solution to support lifelong learning”?

Microcredentials as a response to the needs of lifelong learners

The concept of lifelong learning assumes that any activity we undertake to acquire new knowledge or skills is learning. It can take place at any point in our lives and includes both our schooling and any other activity that leads to development. 

According to the results of the 2022/2021 Human Capital Balance survey. Poles want to develop new skills. Adult educational activity concerned as many as 83% of Poles aged 25-64 surveyed by PARP. They declared that in the last 12 months preceding the survey they had developed their competencies by learning both formally, non-formally, and informally. The largest number of adult Poles (71%) declared that they developed their competencies informally (see BKL 2021), i.e. in courses and training most often for professional development. Participation in these is most motivated by the desire to develop skills needed at work. The importance of this factor as the main motivation for developing professional competencies was indicated by 64% of Poles, while nearly 20% of them declared explicitly that they count on a salary increase.  

One reason for this is the changing conditions for performing professional tasks in many professions. In the 1990s, for example, this was associated with computerization, now with digitization. In addition, computer technology is increasingly entering industries such as agriculture, construction and industry. Regulations are also changing in many industries. All of this requires supplementing competencies,” explains PhD Ziemowit Socha, microcredentials expert in the “Microcredentials – piloting a new solution to support lifelong learning” project.

Microcredentials in IBE projects

Trends related to training, complementing competencies, re-skilling or up-skilling are certainly one of the reasons prompting interest in the issue of microcredentials. Following these trends, IBE experts have addressed the topic of confirming/documenting new achievements and skills in the form of digital microcredentials. The institute created the Odznaka+ application for issuing and collecting digital badges. The tool was developed as part of a project implementing the Integrated Qualifications System. The report “Demand for digital credentials in the open badges standard”, summarizing the project, presented several conclusions. It indicated, among other things, that according to the surveyed learners:

  • digital badges support the flexibility and adaptability of the economy’s workforce,
  • there is a wide spectrum of achievements that can be certified with digital badges,
  • digital attestation of achievements opens up new opportunities and offers a range of benefits to both learners and workers, as well as institutional actors,
  • the key drivers of demand for digital badges are the phasing of learning and the “digital maturity” of learners, workers, and institutional actors.

In this regard, IBE experts recommended:

  • the use of digital badges in supporting learning outside the formal system and certifying elements of formal education within educational institutions,
  • the use of digital badges in supporting business and human resource development in enterprises,
  • use of digital badges in supporting and promoting lifelong learning,
  • supporting the implementation and promotion of digital badges as part of an organization’s digital transformation.

The solution related to the presentation of the Odznaka+ application was met with considerable interest, and many entities (universities, companies, and NGOs) representing both the public and private sectors entered the piloting of the application. Thanks to this, among other things, the IBE has prepared another project that focuses exclusively on micro-credentials. In it, the Odznaka+ application will be adapted to issue digital microcredentials that are even more responsive to the needs of the modern world, including the labor market, comments PhD Ziemowit Socha. 

Micro-certification as an official EU policy

The 2022 Recommendation of the Council of the European Union noted that: “an increasing number of Europeans need to update and improve their knowledge, skills and competencies to close the gap between the outcomes of their formal education and training and the needs of a rapidly changing society and labor market. Recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the green digital transformation have accelerated the pace of change in living, learning and working. (…) One of the main challenges facing European businesses and employers is the insufficient supply of relevant skills in the EU labor market. Employees, in turn, face unprecedented changes in how they organize their work. Task profiles and skill requirements are also fundamentally changing due to the green-digital transformation.” 

The answer to these challenges is to be found in microcredentials, which validate specific skills acquired through a small amount of learning. They make it possible, simultaneously targeted and flexible, to acquire the knowledge needed to respond appropriately to changes in the labor market, among other things. At the same time, they do not replace traditional qualifications, but complement them. 

In the face of technological change, the growing development and training needs of the population and changing EU policies, the IBE has presented a project responding to these challenges to see if a similar approach will be adopted in Poland. And if so, in what shape and scope it should be implemented in public policy.

We are looking for our own way to best combine the needs of the labor market with the capabilities of the education system and the broader education sector, and therefore the lifelong learning environment (i.e., training companies or work-based learning). We want to find out in which areas, industries and with which entities it is worth creating Polish micro-certifications. However, we are not surveying the declarative opinions of respondents, but checking the real readiness of various entities to develop their microcredentials concludes PhD Ziemowit Socha.