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close this bookAPPEAL - Training Materials for Continuing Education Personnel (ATLP-CE) - Volume 3: Equivalency Programmes (APEID - UNESCO, 1993, 69 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentForeword
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentChapter 1: Definition, Roles and Characteristics of Equivalency Programmes
View the documentChapter 2: Structural Models for Secondary Education Equivalency
View the documentChapter 3: Organizational Infrastructure
View the documentChapter 4: Clientele, Delivery Systems, and Learning Resources
View the documentChapter 5: Curriculum Framework and Materials Design
View the documentChapter 6: Evaluation, Accreditation, and Certification
View the documentChapter 7: A Training Curriculum for Equivalency Programmes Personnel
View the documentChapter 8: Equivalency Programmes and their specific Relationships with Continuing Education
View the documentAnnex: List of Participants
View the documentBack cover

Chapter 2: Structural Models for Secondary Education Equivalency


Because Secondary Equivalency Programmes cater for more mature people than the traditional formal educational system in terms of both age and life experience, the structure of equivalency programmes can be more open and flexible than the strictly graded structure of most formal systems.

This flexibility is usually reflected in the following ways:

a) Progression from level to level is usually more relaxed with less emphasis on formal levels or grades.

b) The rate of progress from level to level can be accelerated so that the time needed to attain any award or to reach a particular grade level equivalent to the formal system can be reduced.

c) Because most of the learning is self-directed and self-paced it is easier to provide alternative programmes to cater for special interests (e.g. vocational education vis-is general education).

With these features in mind it is possible to develop a general structural model to represent the relationships between alternative equivalency programmes and a formal system of secondary school education. Such a model is presented below. Later sections of the chapter show some variants of the general model to cater for different patterns of formal education in some Member States.


A general model presented here makes several assumptions about the structure of formal secondary schooling. These assumptions are based on an analysis of the most common practice in the Region. The assumptions are as follows:

a) Students enter secondary school after successfully completing six years of primary schooling.

b) There are six years of secondary schooling comprising school years (grades) 7 to 12.

c) Secondary schooling is divided into two sub-levels level I (sometimes termed Junior Secondary) for school years 7 to 9 and level 2 (sometimes termed Senior Secondary) for school years 10 to 12.

d) In Member States which have attained Universal Secondary Education (e.g. Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Russia) secondary schooling is compulsory at least to school year 9. (In some countries to year 10).

e) Levels I and II of the secondary school system each leads to awards namely a Junior Secondary Certificate and a Senior Secondary Certificate.

f) Secondary schools provide at least two alternative strands, (i) Strand I: General Education, and (ii) Strand II: Vocational Education.

g) Both strands of secondary schooling lead to further study, employment or both.

h) Progression from level 1 (junior secondary) to level 2 (senior secondary) is usually based on merit and in most Member States is conditional on meeting defined standards assessed by an examination.

i) Promotion to post-secondary education is determined by merit and is assessed by a Certificate Examination conducted at the end of year 12.

Any alternative system of education, if to be deemed equivalent to the formal system, needs to take these features into account.

It is stressed, however, that this pattern represents the most common practice and that there are variations from Member State to Member State. Two variants of the structural model will be presented later in the chapter to accommodate these differences.

Given these assumptions a general structural model for two equivalent alternative secondary educational programmes has been developed and is presented below (figure 2.1)

The general model (Figure 2.1) has the following features:

a) It shows the «grades» or levels of formal secondary education in the vertical columns of boxes numbered 7 to 12 at the left and right margins of the figure.

b) Two alternatives strands of secondary education are shown (i) General Education (to the left of the figure) and (ii) Vocational Education (to the right).

c) An equivalent structure for both general and vocational education is shown represented by two ovals to the left (for general education) and two ovals to the right (for vocational education)

Figure 2.1: General model for equivalency programmes

d) In both the general and vocational educational alternatives the bottom ovals represent the equivalent of the formal junior secondary grades (7-9) and the top ovals represent the equivalent of the formal senior secondary grades (10-12). The ovals are intended to indicate that progression from grade to grade is not as rigid as for the formal system within the junior and senior secondary programmes.

e) The separation of the lower (junior) and the upper (senior) secondary level ovals is intended to stress that progression from junior to senior levels depends on gaining a Junior Secondary Certificate.

f) An important feature of the model is the assumption it makes that horizontal transfer can occur between general and vocational education and between the formal system and its alternative and that this can occur at any grade of the formal system or its equivalent.

g) A further assumption is that the so-called formal system should be administered by a Department of Formal Education and that the alternative equivalent should be administered by a Department of Non-Formal Education. The justification for this assumption is in terms of the relative inflexibility of formal education in many Member States to deal with the constraints on the system as education strives to achieve universal secondary education.


The model can be certification-based or competency-based. For example, in the general secondary non-formal education stream, completion of Level 1 entitles that learner to a junior secondary certificate which is equivalent to finishing grade 9 in the secondary general/vocational stream. This means that the learner has obtained the competencies required for the level. The learners could then opt to enter the formal channel at grade 10 with this certification from the non-formal channel. Learners may go from one stream to the other as indicated by the arrows.

The dotted lines of the model indicate the possibility of transfer through an accreditation test, while the solid lines indicate the free movement to another stream of an educational programme without a test. In this case (solid lines) the certification of each level is sufficient to be qualified rather than taking a special accreditation test.

These alternative equivalent secondary education programmes can provide a second chance educational opportunity to learners in various ways.

After completing a certain educational programme package, the learners get the appropriate certificate and also achieve the appropriate level of competencies. Specifically, in the general secondary non-formal education stream, they can get a Level 1 General Secondary Education certificate through the completion of the Level 1 general non-formal education programmes. Likewise, they can gain the semi-skilled competencies through the completion of the Level 1, and the skilled competencies of Level 2 through the completion of vocational secondary non-formal educational programmes.

Each stream also consists of two hierarchical courses organized as Level 1 and Level 2. In the general secondary non-formal education, the Level 1 courses provide the lower level equivalency programmes for the learners to enter the world of work and to prepare for further study or to transfer to the formal education channel. These Level I courses are equivalent to the lower secondary general education, grades 7 to 9.

When they complete the Level 1 programmes, learners can proceed to the Level 2 secondary general non-formal education certificate. At the same time, they can achieve the mid-level general learning competencies. Like Level 1, Level 2 courses prepare students of the upper-level equivalency programmes for the world of work, or for further study, or to transfer to the formal education.

These Level 2 alternative courses are equivalent to the upper-general secondary education, grades 10 to 12. Also, learners can get the Level 2 general secondary non-formal education certificate and achieve the higher-level general learning competencies.

The secondary vocational non-formal education programmes are equivalent to the secondary vocational formal education. In this second stream, there are two levels of vocational equivalency programmes. Level I is the lower-level vocational equivalency programme for the learners preparing for the world of work while Level 2 is equivalent to the upper-secondary vocational education.

The Level I courses are equivalent to the vocational secondary formal education, grades 7 to 9. When the learners complete Level 1 courses, they can get the Level 1 vocational secondary non-formal education certificate equivalent to the lower-secondary vocational education certificate. At the same time, they can achieve semi-skilled level competencies. The Level 2 courses provide the upper-level secondary non-formal vocational education equivalent to the secondary vocational formal education. These courses are equivalent to the 10th-12th grades curriculum in the secondary formal vocational education. When learners complete the Level 2 courses, they can get the Level 2 secondary non-formal vocational education certificate equivalent to the upper-secondary formal vocational education certificate. And also, they can achieve skilled-level vocational competencies.

All these equivalent programmes provide alternative and second chance educational opportunities for the learners who want to prepare for further study and/or to prepare for the world of work at the secondary education level.

There should be a free movement of learners from non-formal education to the formal education channel and vice-versa within similar areas of the educational programmes.

This model is suggesting a free movement and possibility of transferability between formal (in-school) and non-formal (out-of-school) education channels at all grades. When the learners finish Level 1 of general secondary non-formal education programme, they should be able to transfer to the general secondary formal education without any kind of accreditation or examination, just through the completion of Level 1. If the learners want to move or to transfer to formal education programmes in the process of studying Level 1 and Level 2 courses without completing these courses, they should also be able to transfer. But in this case, they should take the placement test as a sort of accreditation system and then they can be placed in the appropriate grade level of the formal education system.


Because of differences between the formal school systems of Member States, and because some Member States have already introduced non-formal alternatives equivalent to their formal systems, the general model presented above may not be appropriate for all Member States and two variants are given below. The general model or its variants are presented only as exemplars and should be regarded only as suggestions for Member States to adopt or adapt according to their needs and circumstances.

a) VARIANT I: in which the formal education system offers only a General Education Programme but where its non-formal alternative provides an integrated general and vocational programme (Figure 2.2).

Figure 2.2 Variant Model for equivalency programmes with general and vocational secondary education integrated

This variant stresses the importance of including vocational elements in alternative programmes which are components of continuing (adult) education. In this variant the nonformal equivalent programme accommodates both general and vocational elements rather than separating them as in the General Model (Figure 2.1) Level l of the general-vocational secondary non-formal education programme is equivalent to grades 7 to 9 in the general secondary formal education programme while Level 2 is equivalent to grades 10 to 12.

Dotted arrows indicate possible entries to and from one alternative to the other at particular grade levels. Solid lines indicate completion of the level. For instance, completion of Level 1 in the non-formal programme is equivalent to completion of grade 9 of the formal system and level 2, to grade 12. Completion of Level 1 (non-formal) should entitle the learner to a junior secondary certificate with semi-skilled competencies while Level 2 should entitle the learner to a senior secondary certificate with skilled competencies. This is because as mentioned earlier, general and vocational education are integrated in this variant model.

b) VARIANT II: in which the formal educational system and the non-formal equivalent both offer general and vocational alternatives (as in the general model) but in which the nonformal alternative offers two types of programme: (i) type 1 graded as the formal system, (ii) type 2 with ungraded accelerated progress in both the junior and senior secondary systems. This variant could be termed a formal and non-formal approach with the non-formal alternative offering a semi-formal option (Figure 2.3).

Figure 2.3 Variant Model of equivalency programmes with semi-formal secondary general and vocational education elements

From the Figure, it can be seen that in this variant the secondary non-formal education stream is of two types. Type 1: the lower-level secondary non-formal education is equivalent to grades 7 to 9 of the secondary formal education stream, while the upper-level secondary nonformal education is equivalent to grades 10 to 12 of the secondary formal education grade for grade. The second type consists of Level I (1-2 years courses) and Level 2 (1-2 years courses) and indicates that learners in this strand can proceed more flexibly and at a faster rate.


Continuing education equivalency programmes are very much needed at this moment, because there are too many people who are left-out of secondary formal education, namely: (a) those with no chance of going for further study after graduation from the primary school, or its equivalency, and (b) drop-outs from secondary formal education.

If in the future, all out-of-school youth and adults have already utilised the learning opportunities provided through the equivalency programmes, and all children and youth have gone successfully through compulsory primary and secondary education, and we assume that there are no drop-outs, then there is no further need to emphasise equivalency programmes.

What is then needed would be the clear formulation of goals of education to be attained by the learners through varieties of educational programmes (short-term, long-term) and varieties of courses to serve individual interests and needs including tertiary educational programmes, and the present so-called equivalency programmes (but not called equivalency programmes any longer!). These future programmes would serve the learners, both for making them alert to the changing conditions due to scientific and technological developments, and for helping them to be more productive citizens. Probably they would learn more on a part-time basis fulfilling the goals of a learning society.

In such a future many alternatives would be available to cater for a wider variety of interests and needs and each alternative would be equivalent to all other alternative. The general model and its variants as presented in this chapter would be no longer appropriate.