Prior learning includes the knowledge and skills that students have acquired, in both formal and informal ways, outside Ontario secondary school classrooms. Through a formal evaluation and accreditation process known as Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR), students enrolled in Ontario secondary schools, including the Independent Learning Centre and inspected private schools that choose to implement PLAR, may have their skills and knowledge evaluated against the overall expectations outlined in provincial curriculum policy documents in order to earn credits towards the secondary school diploma. PLAR procedures are carried out under the direction of the school principal, who grants the credits.
The PLAR process developed by a school board in compliance with ministry policy involves two components: challenge and equivalency. The challenge process is the process whereby students' prior learning is assessed for the purpose of granting credit for a course developed from a provincial curriculum policy document. The equivalency process involves the assessment of credentials from other jurisdictions.
PLAR for Regular Day School Students
Because young people benefit in many ways from the learning experiences offered in secondary school, PLAR has a specific, limited function in the Ontario secondary school program. For regular day school students, a maximum of 4 credits may be granted through the challenge process for Grade 10, 11, and 12 courses; or for Levels 1, 2, and 3 in classical languages courses; for Levels 2, 3, and 4 in international languages courses; and for Levels 3, 4, and 5 in Native languages courses. No more than 2 of these credits may be granted in one discipline.
For students who are transferring from home schooling, a non-inspected private school, or a school outside Ontario, principals will grant equivalency credits for placement purposes based on their evaluation of the student's previous learning (see section 4.3.2 and Appendix 2 in OS).
PLAR procedures must also be available to exceptional students. Assessment strategies must be adapted for this group in keeping with their special needs; for example, extra time might be allowed for the completion of work, or a quiet environment might be provided for activities. While PLAR may be of benefit to some gifted students, it is not intended to be used as a replacement for or alternative to enriched or other special programs for gifted students.
PPM No. 129 outlines in detail the PLAR policy and requirements that apply to regular day school students.
PLAR for Mature Students
A mature student is a student who is at least eighteen years of age on or before December 31 of the school year in which he or she registers in an Ontario secondary school program; who was not enrolled as a regular day school student for a period of at least one school year immediately preceding his or her registration in a secondary school program (for mature students, a school year is a period of no less than ten consecutive months immediately preceding the student's return to school); and who is enrolled in a secondary program for the purpose of obtaining an OSSD.
Because of the broader life experience of mature students, the requirements concerning the application of PLAR procedures are different for them than for regular day school students. Principals will determine the number of credits, including compulsory credits, that a mature student needs in order to meet the credit requirements for the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD). At the discretion of the principal, up to 16 Grade 9 and 10 equivalency credits may be granted to a mature student following an individual assessment.
Mature students may earn 10 of the 14 remaining Grade 11 and 12 credits needed to meet diploma requirements in three ways:
It should be noted that Levels 2 and 3 in classical languages are equivalent to Grades 11 and 12, respectively; that Levels 3 and 4 in international languages are equivalent to Grades 11 and 12, respectively; and that Levels 4 and 5 in Native languages are equivalent to Grades 11 and 12, respectively.
Mature students must earn a minimum of 4 Grade 11 and 12 credits by taking the course at a secondary school (or through any of the options outlined in section 10). Mature students who have previously accumulated 26 or more credits towards the diploma must successfully complete the required number of courses to bring their total number of credits up to 30 before they will be eligible to receive the OSSD. Mature students working towards the OSSD under OS/OSS must also satisfy the diploma requirements with regard to the provincial secondary school literacy requirement. Principals will determine the number of hours of community involvement activities that a mature student will have to complete.
PPM No. 132 outlines in detail the PLAR policy and requirements that apply to mature students.
Regular day school students who transfer to an Ontario secondary school from a school outside Ontario or from a non-inspected private school may be granted equivalent credits through the PLAR equivalency process for regular day school students based on the principal's evaluation of their previous learning. The total number of equivalent credits and the corresponding number of compulsory credits are recorded on the OST. The equivalent credits should be entered as a total, and the required items of information should appear as follows: "Equivalent Credits" should be entered in the "Course Title" column; "PLE" in the "Course Code" column; "EQV" in the "Percentage Grade" column; the total number of credits in the "Credit" column; and the total number of compulsory credits in the "Compulsory" column. - The Ontario Student Transcript (OST): Manual, 2010, p.13-14