Resettled refugees often face several barriers to formal recognition of their credentials, preventing them from reaching their full career potential. This is especially problematic for refugees arriving without official documentation such as a completed transcript, diploma or other proof. A World Education Services (WES) pilot in Canada has tested an “alternative assessment” methodology using available evidence of educational attainment and professional achievements when these official documents cannot be obtained. WES is a non-profit organization that evaluates and advocates for the recognition of international education qualifications.
As Canada has resettled more Syrian refugees, local institutions and employers voiced concern that these refugees, many of whom are highly-educated, would not have access to recognized credential documents for pursuing higher education or regulated professions in the future.
“Because Syria had a highly-literate population and a well-functioning education system before the war, we knew many of these refugees would be highly educated, proficient in English or French and determined to resume professional careers or pursue further study. Recognition of previous education in Syria, therefore, would become a priority for these individuals, since it is critical to this goal,” shared Denise Jillions, Associate Director of WES Global Talent Bridge, during a recent webinar about the pilot project.
WES started exploring the degree of support among academic institutions and regulatory bodies for an alternative assessment model allowing for use of non-verifiable or incomplete documents, in contrast to their standard strict document policy. They decided to move forward in testing a new service delivery model among Syrian refugees in Canada to determine the validity and potential utility of alternative assessments. WES received 337 applications for the pilot program between July 2016 and May 2017, and they were able to prepare Alternative Credential Assessments for applicants who submitted at least one piece of documentary evidence.
78% of refugee participants surveyed after the project indicated that the Alternative Credential Assessment will be useful in taking next steps toward their education and/or career goals. About 20% of those surveyed who already have plans for using the assessment indicated they would like to pursue a new profession, with the majority of respondents reporting they would like to use their assessment to pursue higher education, return to their original profession or find a similar position suited to their level of experience and education.
About 73% of end-users, including academic institutions and employers, reported confidence in the alternative methodology for assessing credentials. Some institutions reported that they are already accepting the assessment for admission to colleges, universities and regulated professions, while other institutions are still reaching a decision on how to use it.
WES hopes to expand this pilot program to the U.S. in the future, and will report their final findings and plans when the project analysis is complete. In the meantime, check out their 2016 report, Providing Pathways for Refugees: Practical Tips for Credential Assessment, which includes six steps for credential assessment for refugees and displaced people.
Written by Carrie Thiele.