Recognizing school leaving diplomas, certificates and standardized tests for inclusive access to higher education
Ensuring students equal access to affordable technical, vocational and higher education (SDG4.3), and promoting the expansion of higher education scholarships for developing countries (SDG4b) contributes to ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education, and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all (SDG4). Both the Asia-Pacific Regional Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications in Higher Education (2011 Tokyo Convention; hereafter ‘Convention’) and the Global Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications Concerning Higher Education (2019 UNESCO General Conference) facilitate international academic mobility and promote individual’s rights to fair, transparent, and non-discriminatory evaluation of higher education qualifications. Cross-border mobility in higher education is fundamental to ensuring equitable access to higher education in the Asia-Pacific and beyond. However, there is currently limited information on secondary school leaving diplomas, certificates and standardized tests that enable access to higher education in the Asia-Pacific.
With the Convention serving as the common normative instrument, Parties to the Convention are now in a better position to boost cross-border student mobility through the recognition of qualifications giving access to higher education. In this regard, it is necessary to develop a better understanding of secondary school leaving diplomas and certificates, and standardized tests, and how they are currently recognized in higher education admission systems among the Parties to the Convention. This is critical for making information-based comparisons leading to cross-border recognition decisions, particularly for secondary school leavers seeking entry to another country’s higher education system.
To address the above-mentioned issues and challenges, on 19 August 2021, the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau for Education, acting as the secretariat of the Asia-Pacific Network of National Information Centres (APNNIC), launched the ‘Regional Study on the Recognition of School Leaving Diplomas, Certificates and Standardized Tests giving access to Higher Education’. Mr. Libing Wang, Chief of the Section for Educational Innovation and Skills Development (EISD), UNESCO Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau for Education, stressed the importance of the project in terms of expanding the information provision of the NICs for enhancing transparency and information-sharing, and for promoting evidence-based recognition decisions among member states in the Asia-Pacific. Mr. Wang highlighted that the project focuses on school leaving diplomas, certificates and standardized tests, and how these qualifications and tests are recognized in higher education admission processes, which have long been ignored but comprise a key provision under the Convention.
The project launch (and 1st expert meeting) involved the participation of the national research teams of six participating APNNIC member countries, namely Armenia, China, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mongolia and Turkey. The event facilitated the introduction of each member of the various participating research teams, the presentation and consensus-building in regard to the research template to be used for the national reports, and the finalizing of collaboration and communication arrangements for the project. The project will produce six national reports and a regional synthesis report covering major topics relevant to the recognition of school leaving diplomas and certificates and standardized tests in higher education. The project is also seen as contributing to the UN education-related Sustainable Development Goals, particularly by enhancing cross-border mobility in higher education.
Main photo credit: ©Shutterstock/Tom Wang