Inform policy briefing - national qualifications frameworks


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Inform policy briefing - national qualifications frameworks

  1. 1. nal Natio ations lific Qua eworks Fram sue is ISSUE 13 January 2013 NEWS AND VIEWS TO KEEP YOU IN THE KNOW FROM THE ETF COMMUNITYNational Qualifications Frameworks –contributing to better qualificationsWHAT ARE NATIONALQUALIFICATIONS FRAMEWORKS? Content In the EU and the ƒƒ The ETF approach to nationalNational qualifications frameworks or NQFs classify ETFs partner qualifications frameworks inqualifications according to a hierarchy of levels in a grid countries, much its 31 partner countries.structure. Each level is defined by a set of descriptors of the impetus has come from ƒƒ How NQFs are implementedindicating the learning outcomes relevant to qualifications at already or how they could be the Europeanthat level, which vary in number according to national needs. Qualifications implemented in future.Currently NQFs have 5, 7, 8, 10 and 12 levels. Framework (EQF)Qualifications in an NQF can be compared by individuals, and the ƒƒ How NQFs can help to makeemployers and institutions. When different countries’ NQFs Qualifications qualifications more relevantare linked internationally, qualifications can be compared, Framework for the and support wider educationwhich in turn supports mobility. But the implications of European Higher and training reform. Education Area.establishing and using an NQF go well beyond simply For countriesclassifying and comparing qualifications. wanting to join theCountries develop NQFs for many reasons. While many EU EU, NQFs are a Learning outcomesMember States use NQFs to coordinate their existing practical way toqualifications systems more efficiently, ETF partner countries manage their Countries are moving at differentuse them to support wider national education and training qualifications and speeds to redefine curricula andreforms. These include bringing education and training closer link them to the qualifications by learning outcomes. EQF. Indeed, Learning outcomes say what ato the labour market, developing relevant qualifications, most ETF partner learner is expectedcreating progression routes linking vocational education and countries havetraining (VET) with higher education, and working towards a to know, understand opted for an and be able to do atgreater recognition of qualifications within the country and 8-level NQF,abroad. the end of a learning modelled on the EQF. process. LearningNQFs are not new, but the recent surge in the number of outcomes facilitatecountries developing them is remarkable for its speed and diverse learning routesgeographical coverage. Before 2000, only a handful of – formal or informal -countries had NQFs. Now 142 countries worldwide have that recognise andembarked on developing NQFs, including 27 of the ETF’s 31 encourage lifelongpartner countries. NQFs are part of a wider search for learning, by defining ainternational solutions in education and training. They are also qualification by whatan attempt to support mobility at a time when economies are the learner needs toincreasingly integrated and interdependent, where technical achieve rather than by traditional inputsspecifications of products or services are becoming more such as the duration of a programme.unified and where labour migrates across borders. They also make it easier to compare qualifications nationally and internationally because of their neutral pathway, duration and location.INFORM
  2. 2. ETF partner countries a qualifications framework as a commonThe worldwide surge in NQFs is not referencesomething that the ETF is observing The ETF is coordinating a regional project to support international cooperation inwithout concern as they require qualifications development and recognition. Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisiaconsiderable resources, capacity, are developing qualifications in two economic sectors - construction and tourism.expertise and time for development and Two occupations were selected for each sector: bricklayer and site supervisor,implementation. The ETF does not and waiter and hotel receptionist, respectively.advocate establishing NQFs To compare qualifications, the EQF is used as a common reference. Expertsindiscriminately; rather its position is to from each country were asked to (re)describe the qualifications for theassist countries in finding fit-for-purpose occupations in terms of knowledge, skills and competences against the EQFsolutions. Partner countries and regions descriptors, resulting in common profiles. The project demonstrates that adiffer in their socio-economic and common reference tool (in this case the EQF) can support the development ofdemographic characteristics and in the relevant national qualifications.types of qualifications needed. The project also shows that no single institution can do all the work required.For example, some former Soviet states Reliable information on national qualifications and the necessary expertise tohave retained large industrial develop occupational standards requires a range of stakeholders, includingconglomerates with highly specialised ministries, sectors, qualification authorities and the social, but younger people are now lessinclined to train in narrow industrialoccupations. In the southern Developing relevant qualificationsMediterranean, governments struggle to The Turkish NQF provides a platform for cooperation between the governmentfind decent jobs for a growing young and sectors to develop outcomes-based occupational standards followed byworkforce. Many people end up in sectoral qualifications. National occupational standards ensure the relevance ofinformal subsistence jobs in agriculture qualifications for adult training, which was previously often unrecognised. Theor services. Qualified personnel are Vocational Qualifications Authority coordinates this new system, while sectors aredifficult to find in growth sectors such in charge of developing standards and certification tourism, construction or ICT. Now, in the second stage, a Turkish qualifications framework for lifelong learningTraditional education and training is being developed. It builds on the same principles of quality and relevance andsystems struggle to address these and links higher education developments, sectoral qualifications and general,other problems, such as an oversupply vocational and teacher training qualifications issued under the responsibility of theof qualifications for which there is little Ministry of National Education.demand on the labour market. Weaklinks between VET outcomes and labourmarket requirements leads employers to quality enhancementhave little trust in qualifications. In Georgia, the NQF is an instrument for establishing a new approach to qualityQualifications systems also focus assurance in VET based on learning outcomes. The National Centre forprimarily on young people and offer few Educational Quality Enhancement is in charge of quality-assuring theopportunities to facilitate and recognise development of qualifications and their use in provision and assessment. It workslifelong learning. There are few with sectoral bodies as well as public and private providers. The Centre ensuresnationally-accepted qualifications for that learning outcomes drive provision and accredited providers must useadults. Validation of non-formal or participatory self-assessment methods involving staff, students and externalinformal learning is limited or non- stakeholders to improve their efficiency. The new Georgian system requires theexistent. VET also has a low status and active involvement of the sectors and local companies workingaccordingly students usually prefer with providers. The Centre has also started developinghigher education. recognition of prior learning through VET providers.INFORM
  3. 3. nal Natio ations lific Qua eworks Fram sue iswhat value DO NATIONAL QUALIFICATIONS ADD?An NQF has no value without In most ETF partner countries, a led by an education ministry or higherqualifications inside it. The ETF believes qualification has traditionally been education community and focuses onthat NQFs should lead to better obtainable only by taking a formal education standards.qualifications that are more relevant to training course. But now countries arethe labour market and flexible enough Ministries traditionally dominate using NQFs to develop systems tofor holders to progress between education and training policy and in validate non-formal and informalqualifications or combine them from most ETF partner countries, socialdifferent fields. learning, usually for the first time. NQFs partner engagement in education and apply the same assessment standardsDeveloping and implementing an NQF training is weak. But NQFs can provide a to obtaining a qualification, no matterrequires both technical and social/ platform for social dialogue. They are how the learner acquired the knowledgeinstitutional processes. usually developed by a range of actors, and skills necessary to achieve it. So including ministries, employers, tradesNQFs introduce a common language NQFs can support recognition of skills unions, education authorities, VET– of levels, outcomes, credits, award acquired informally and give a boost totypes and so on – among stakeholders, agencies and individual experts all learning beyond formal education,in particular employers, sectoral working collaboratively on the particularly for adults.representatives and the education world framework, occupational standards and(ministries, qualifications authorities, qualifications, thus supporting labourschools etc.). This leads to a shared market relevance. Indeed, in someunderstanding and acceptance of cases, notably Russia and Ukraine,concepts and implementation, policies employers have initiated the NQFand strategies. process and in Turkey sectors play aThe most important of these is the use strong role in developing and awardingof learning outcomes for level vocational qualifications.descriptors in the framework and thedefinition of individual qualifications in This wider stakeholder engagement isthe different NQF levels. Level beginning to influence the design anddescriptors are usually generic, while content of curricula and qualifications.those for individual qualifications are Traditionally ETF partner countries havemore specific. used subject- or input-based curricula, NQFs are therefore lifelong learningOutcomes tell us what is inside the but increasingly they are developing instruments, linking general education,qualification enhancing comprehension occupational standards to make higher education and VET, definingand transparency. This creates the basis vocational qualifications more relevant. learning pathways for individuals andof trust essential for the recognition and Occupational standards – themselves a encompassing systems and proceduresacceptance of individual qualifications. type of learning outcome – are normallyIn an NQF, the levels typically share a to recognise skills acquired lifewide. developed by sectors or professionalcommon set of descriptors of the Frameworks are also usually associated bodies and involve experts who practiceknowledge, skills and competences to with quality assurance arrangements. To the occupation. Basing qualifications onbe acquired by the learner. The same be included in an NQF and associated occupational standards and labourdescriptors are used across general qualifications registers, qualifications market demand, and linking them toeducation, academic education, VETand adult learning qualifications, must be validated against criteria and higher-level qualifications and allowingunderscoring the relationship between providers often have to be accredited to for progression, raises their “marketthem and allowing individuals, award the qualification. Assessments value”.employers, qualifications authorities and also have to be quality assured, or Developing an NQF also deepenstraining providers to compare and link verified. In many ETF partner countries institutional capacity, especially inqualifications offered by different these are wholly new requirements,institutions. transition or developing countries. Some which should increase employer trust in states establish new bodies such asIn this way, NQFs help to illustrate qualifications. qualifications authorities to design,potential learning pathways, enabling In most cases, NQFs are established by construct and coordinate the framework.learners to choose and transfer laws before real implementation begins. Others are starting to build differentbetween different types ofqualifications at the same level (for Where ministries lead, the ETF forms of sectoral organisations, whileexample, between general, vocational observes two general approaches. One new quality assurance bodies are alsoand academic qualifications). They can is driven by a labour ministry with an emerging.also enable learners to progress to employability agenda, involving sectors The added value of NQFs is therefore inhigher-level qualifications in the same and social partners and focussing on driving greater quality in qualificationsfield. Thus, NQFs can be a tool to help occupational standards. The second is and qualifications systems.people manage their own careers.INFORM
  4. 4. THE ETF’s findingsOn the surface, most NQFs share It appears that NQFs drive quality. Theycommon elements: reference levels, are usually linked to quality assurancestructure and purpose. In practice systems. To be placed in an NQF, REFERENCEShowever, their specific arrangements qualifications must meet specific criteria Developing Qualifications Frameworks in EUsuch as quality assurance systems, in terms of their design, basis on Partner Countries, ETF 2011 ,governance and use vary from country occupational or other standards, and Qualifications Frameworks: from conceptsto country. This is as it should be – demand on the labour market. to implementation, ETF 2012 ,NQFs must fit national institutions, Assessment and certification processes Qualifications that count: Strengthening themeet national needs and keep evolving. must be robust to ensure that only recognition of qualifications in theNQFs cannot be copied or transplanted individuals meeting the necessary Mediterranean region, ETF 2009 ,from other countries. requirements receive a qualification. Recommendation of the European Providers often have to be accredited to Parliament and of the Council on theImplementing an NQF is more difficult award an NQF-levelled qualification. establishment of the Europeanthan designing its structures. It implies a Qualifications Framework for lifelongmajor reform of qualifications and the Institutionally, it is clear that no single learning, April 2008surrounding education and training body can implement an NQF alone. The Transnational Qualifications Frameworks,system. As most NQFs are based on ministry or authority charged with ETF 2010 ,learning outcomes, this means adopting leading NQF development needs tolearning outcomes approaches not only collaborate closely with other actors andfor qualifications, but also for curricula, the framework needs to be owned byteaching and learning and assessment. its stakeholders. Nominating a singleIn practice, the shift to learning responsible agency or authority foroutcomes is not a linear process solely qualifications can acceleratedetermined by the implementation of implementation and lead change in thethe NQF. It is a more variable process of national qualifications system. Capacityoutcomes approaches being introduced development, both of institutions andgradually and integrating them in varying professionals engaged in NQFdegrees into descriptors and development and implementation, isqualifications, and assessment and also crucial.learning processes. Furthermore,approaches or types of learning NQFs also evolve over time. They undergo reviews and adjustments in line JOIN THE NETWORK!outcome used differ, for example, with changing national needs. In that The ETF has established an onlinebetween VET and higher education. sense implementation is never community for people working onNQFs don’t remove the need for quality complete. Therefore, countries should qualifications.inputs. As an organisation concerned not delay implementation in a quest for Join the Qualifications Platform bywith capacity building, the ETF fully the perfect design. registering at:acknowledges the necessity of qualifiedteachers and quality schools and other to support the development of pages/qualification_frameworksprofessional skills.For information on our activities, For other enquiries, please contact: Michael Graham, ETF expertjob and tendering opportunities, ETF Communication Department © European Training Foundation, 2013please visit our website, E Reproduction is authorised, except for T +39 011 6302222 purposes, provided the source is acknowledged F +39 011 6302200INFORM