Educational evaluation compares the level of education between two countries. One way to determine levels is to understand educational benchmarks. An educational benchmark can be defined as a credential confirming completion of a level of education and granting access to the next level of education. A US high school diploma is a benchmark credential because it denotes completion of secondary education and grants access to post-secondary education programs. A bachelor’s degree can also be viewed as a benchmark credential because it denotes completion of undergraduate education and grants access to graduate-level programs.
However, not all benchmarks are created equal. There is no international mandate for educational benchmarks to be awarded for a similar amount of education. As such, in addition to educational benchmarks, evaluators typically count the number of full-time years of study it takes to earn said credential and compare it to what a US student would earn in a similar time frame. This is based on the assumption that full time study at the same level, no matter where in the world, will impart an equal amount of academic knowledge in the same time frame. Academic years are the most universal time measure used for evaluation, but the same principle applies if counting semesters, trimesters, quarters, etc., ensuring that they are defined in the same way as they are at the home institution.
The US high school diploma, the benchmark of secondary education, is traditionally earned upon completion of 12 years of primary and secondary education. However, in foreign programs, this benchmark can be achieved after ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, or more years depending on the country and time of issue. While each of these matches the definition of a benchmark, the evaluator must determine if its holder’s academic preparation resulting from earning that credential is sufficient for his/her intended purpose. Similarly, the US bachelor’s degree traditionally requires four years of full time study. When a similarly-named benchmark degree is earned after two, three, four, or more years, is the applicant’s level of academic preparation also different? This question goes beyond determining the equivalence of a credential to the more important function in admissions, which is the determination of applicants’ capabilities to succeed in the program to which they are applying.