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Experience Networking in the TVET System to Improve Occupational Competencies


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This paper aims at considering the development and strengthening of networks in (T)VET systems as a means of improving employability and mobility of workers, through a system where occupational competences, required by the Labour Market, described in terms of Learning Outcomes that can be assessed and validated in all different contexts (formal, non formal and informal) developed following quality standards, will be abreast with changes and innovations of the global context requirements, in order to respond to those shortcomings that limit the potential growth of countries with serious implications for the participation in global markets, job growth, economical and social stability.

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Experience Networking in the TVET System to Improve Occupational Competencies

  1. 1. In-depth Experience Networking in the TVET System to Improve Occupational CompetenciesAuthor This paper aims at considering the development and strengthening of networks in (T) VET systems as a means of improving employability and mobility of workers, throughManuela Bonacci a system where occupational competences, required by the Labour Market, describedInstitute for theDevelopment of Vocational in terms of Learning Outcomes that can be assessed and validated in all different con-Training of Workers – ISFOL, texts (formal, non formal and informal) developed following quality standards, will beItaly abreast with changes and innovations of the global context requirements, in order respond to those shortcomings that limit the potential growth of countries with serious implications for the participation in global markets, job growth, economical and social stability.Tagsvocational education andtraining, networking, 1. Introductionlearning outcomes,validation, quality In order to photograph the reality of training systems and read the dynamics and potential evolutions, it is essential to enable an activity of “emerging” and exploitation of various ac- tions and experiences realised in different contexts, to provide the cognitive devices to de- velop more effective policies and incisiveness on a social and territorial level. To be prepared for the challenges of a knowledge-based society, some emerging require- ments, regarding the implementation of technical mechanism within Vocational Education and Training (VET) and Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) systems, are: • to base training provision and qualifications descriptions on learning outcomes (shift from input to output) • to steer training provision on occupational competences, required by the Labour Market, towards employability • to consolidate assessment and validation processes of competences acquired in all different contexts (formal, non-formal, informal) • to develop quality and accreditation within (Technical) Vocational Education and Training Systems • to strengthen technical networks to extend participation of stakeholders (representatives of Education, Technical and Vocational Training systems, universities, training centres, social partners, trade unions representatives and enterprises) in the learning process. These demanding features may possibly turn into shortcomings that could limit the potential growth of countries with serious implications for the participation in global markets, job growth, economical and social stability if they will not be implemented. In fact the last decade has witnessed an increasing focus, both in research and in the policy debate on VET and TVET, as an instrument for enhancing productivity, competitiveness, and economic growth in a knowledge-based society. Although the increasing interest in these issues, challenges have only, to a limited extent, been followed by deeper changes in existing practices concerning training and other forms ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • www.elearningpapers.eueL ers 31 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 31 • November 2012Pap 1
  2. 2. In-depthof competence development in workplaces, but not pursued by 2. Sharing common concepts: Learningstructural forms of significant modifications. Outcomes (LO)This paper proposes a conceptual framework that might be used In order to promote a common understanding and thus com-as a point of departure for theoretical and empirical analyses of mon modelling, it is important to analyse some key concepts,the role of (T)VET systems in order to provide the opportunity of such as qualification, learning outcomes, competence and skills,identifying the factors which contribute to the social, economic, to make them operative and, from a technical point of view,political and cultural change. recognize and identify uncertainties and difficulties in their un- derstanding and implementation in the national contexts of theIn this framework several practices are encouraged such as: the Education, VET and TVET systems.sharing of key concepts (i.e. learning outcomes, qualification,employability, occupational competences) in order to imple- Learning Outcomes have become prominent and central ele-ment a common modelling; the support of core processes such ments for defining and guiding education, training and lifelongas assessment, validation and recognition in order to guarantee learning strategies.mobility; the development of a quality assurance approach toimplement high training standards; the building of network- In fact, conceptual, political and practical developments (notoriented structures in order to effectively exploit the potential only in Europe) are increasingly referring to Learning Outcomesof sharing knowledge and facilitate assessment and validation (LO) when setting overall objectives for their education andprocesses. training systems and when defining and describing qualifica- tions.The flexibility of this framework aims at improving employabil-ity and mobility of workers through a system where occupation- Learning Outcomes are defined in terms of the knowledge, skillsal competences, required by the Labour market, described in and competences of what is achieved and assessed in a learningterms of Learning outcomes that can be assessed and validated context (formal, non formal and informal).in all different contexts (formal, non formal and informal) devel- The idea has features in common with the move from instruc-oped following quality standards, will be abreast with changes tional objectives to what the learner will achieve at the end of aand innovations of the global context requirements. learning pathway. This involves a shift from the more traditionalThe structure of this frame is a technical learning network made approach where instruction is determined primarily in terms ofup of stakeholders that have the characteristics of being able what content is taught (mainly in formal contexts) to a more in-to guarantee the link with the Labour market requirements. All novative approach focused on the results of a learning situationthe participants in the network should work together from the (in all contexts).beginning (from the identification of needs) to the end of the In fact, the adoption of the Learning Outcomes concept reflectsprocess (the issuing a qualification). an important and innovative approach of describing, assessingA best practice of Experiencing Networking in the (T)VET System and validating learning. The attention is no longer on learningto improve occupational competencies in Italy are the so called inputs typical of the teaching process (contents, length of theIFTS (Istruzione e Formazione Tecnica Superiore) – Higher Tech- learning experience, type of institution), but on learning out-nical Education and Training pathways. comes, typical of learning processes.In this system Technical Education Networks are created in or- The concept of the Learning Outcomes and outcome-basedder to integrate Higher Education and Training Systems with the education is high on today’s Education and Training Systemsobjective of developing learning pathways (respond-ing to quality principles) based on minimal standardsof competences and relative processes of recognitionand validation of working experiences and transfer ofcredit (or units). Figure 1: Shift from learning input to outcome ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 31 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 31 • November 2012 Pap 2
  3. 3. In-depthFigure 2: The shift to all contexts validationprogramming, actually because there is a great direct impact on and political contexts which can make it more challenging tohow learning is assessed. make the transition.In fact, the implementation of Learning Outcomes concept is As a result, the individual dimension becomes the core aspectacquiring more and more value in contributing to modernising to pursue in the learning process.both Education and VET systems, mainly because it is becoming Besides the emphasis on the results of learning rather than in-a bond between formal, non-formal and informal learning vali- put will involve a description of qualifications and their associ-dation and recognition. ated levels using Learning Outcomes descriptors. In this contestSome of the benefits of using the Learning Outcomes approach LO are prominent in developing National Qualification Frame-are as follows: works (NQF). • Learning Outcomes, if set out appropriately, are easy to Within the most recent European documents on EQF1 (The Eu- compare and transfer. They can be used easily in curriculum ropean Qualification Framework) and ECVET2 (The European planning, in teaching and learning and in assessment and validation processes. Credit system for Vocational Education and Training), the impor- • Learning outcomes are statements usually designed round tance given to Learning Outcomes and their component parts of a framework (of standards, qualifications, etc…). knowledge, skills and competences (KSC), requires a completely • The outcomes recognize the authentic interaction and new consideration. integration in practice of knowledge, skills and competences. The implementation of the concept of LO in Europe has had a • Learning outcomes represent what is achieved and assessed great incentive within the process of creating a European Quali- at the end of a learning process and not only the aspirations (objectives) or what is intended to be achieved. fication Framework (EQF) in which a qualification is defined as a: «formal outcome of an assessment and validation processThe fact that the focus has shifted to learning across all contexts which is obtained when a competent body determines that anit can provide the right opportunities, and motivations to in- individual has achieved learning outcomes to given standards».crease awareness of individual in their own learning pathways. The conceptual framework outlined in this definition is struc-Figure 2 illustrates the shift from a traditional approach related tured and complex and can be represented in Figure learning achieved mainly in formal contexts to the validationof learning outcomes achieved in all different contexts. 1 The Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of the 23 April 2008 on the establishment of the European QualificationsThis shift is not as direct or straightforward as expected when Framework for lifelong learning.implemented into national Education and (T)VET systems. This 2 The Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Councilis often either the result of variations in definitions and under- of the 18 June 2009 on the establishment of a European Credit System forstanding of concepts as well as practice embedded in traditional Vocational Education and Training (ECVET). ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 31 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 31 • November 2012 Pap 3
  4. 4. In-depth This innovative feature of qualification induces individuals to be more aware of their learning activities and then to request and obtain validation and recognition of Learning Outcomes ac- quired in non-formal and informal contexts and thus promoting lifelong learning and facilitating the mobility of people within the labour market in a global context. The focal point of this process is naturally on Learning Out- comes, defined (in the same EU Recommendation) as “state- ments of what a learner knows, understands and is able to do on completion of a learning process. Results are defined in terms of knowledge, skills and competences.” In this definition Learning Outcomes refer to proven, observed and documented outcomes, not only expected ones, and are the object of assessment and validation processes. A short analysis of some key concepts related to LO illustrates, from a technical perspective, how these rise up uncertaintiesFigure 3: Key concepts of the definition of Qualification given in the EQF Recommendation and difficulties in their understanding and application across different countries and contexts and therefore poses some questions for the effective implementation of a common under-Traditionally the term “qualification” has always been critic standing and modelling.among countries, as it means either something a qualified per-son has in order to do a certain job, or something that he/she The EU Recommendation divides Learning Outcomes into threehas because he/she holds a certificate, but often it has more different categories: knowledge, skills and competences, andthan one meaning and it refers to different outputs. provides a description of them.The definition provided by the Recommendation is clear enough From a conceptual point of view, there are some uncertaintiesnot to ingenerate confusion. According to the Recommenda- surrounding the use of the three components described in thetion, “qualifications” are statements (formal outcomes) issued definition of Learning Outcomes: knowledge, skills and compe-by public and private institutions, authorized by national or lo- authorities (competent body) to certify that an individualhas achieved specific “results”(learning outcomes) related tospecific standards (given stand-ards) and on the basis of a spe-cific assessment system (assess-ment and validation process).It is important to note that, ac-cording to this definition, thequalification is independentfrom learning pathways, and canbe reached through differenttraining pathways (school, uni-versity, VET and TVET systems,non-formal and informal con-texts). Figure 4: Learning Outcomes definition given in the EQF Recommendation ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 31 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 31 • November 2012 Pap 4
  5. 5. In-depthAmong these three definitions, ‘competence’ seems to be a Labour market in a global context increasingly requires highquite complex concept, not only because it is traditionally a cru- technical/occupational competences, but in the description ofcial concept in many systems and countries, but also because the components of labour, all the aspects related to the naturein the definition given in the EU Recommendation it includes of the individual (competences which have a transversal nature)the previous two categories quoted (knowledge and skills): usually are not taken into account.«competence means the proven ability to use knowledge, skills These latter are considered fundamental for each individual inand personal, social and/or methodological abilities, in work or a knowledge-based society and provide added value for the la-study situations and in professional and personal development». bour market, employment, social cohesion and active citizen-But the emphasis in this definition lies on the weight given to ship by offering flexibility and adaptability, satisfaction and mo-the personal and professional sphere, as in all the present Euro- tivation. This group of competences has been differently named,pean process of integration. but they all carry common characteristics such as: adaptability, portability and transferability in the labour market.The fact that the concept of competence has different mean-ings and many definitions, related to traditional approaches and It is therefore necessary to include in training provisions thesystems creates many problems in implementing LO into those development of both aspects: the labour market and the indi-systems that have a long competence-based tradition. vidual components.In this context the interpretation, the understanding and imple-mentation of the LO categories can differ from one country to 3. Employability and occupationalthe other. competences as a must There are challenges that labour markets have to face in theBesides, the central position given to Learning Outcomes in the future and countries have to increase their efforts if they wantEQF stresses the importance of the adoption of common con- to meet these challenges and improve employability.cepts to compare learning on the basis of content and profileand not on methods and paths. This will provide an opportunity The term “employability” relates to portable competencies andto consider the validation of learning achieved in non-formal qualifications that enhance an individual’s capacity to make useand informal contexts at the same level as learning achieved in of the education and training opportunities available in order toa more formal route. secure and retain decent work, to progress within the enterprise and between jobs, and to cope with changing technology andIn fact, apart from different traditions and uses, LOs, from the labour market conditions.3conceptual point of view, are accepted and they are going to beimplemented in many countries, especially in (T)VET systems. Globalisation, economic integration technological progress and the sectorial changes taking place, will have significant implica- It is important to note that there is not a single or better tions for the level of employability of working people and their approach to these key concepts, but many understand- relative occupational competences needed in the future. These ings that can take into account all the differences and the will be reinforced by changes in the way work is organised and experiences among countries. jobs are performed (within sectors).This flexible approach towards LO allows an easier dialogue with Labour markets play a crucial role in realising the potential goalsthe labour market in which labour is described in terms of com- of globalisation. To realise such goals, it is essential to transferpetences required by the labour market without forgetting the from declining sectors or occupations to expanding ones.complete combination of resources (knowledge, skills/compe-tence and other personal resources) in the referring sector. Economies are experiencing continuing shift in employment away from primary sector (especially agriculture) and tradition-In this context it is important to develop a system able to iden- al manufacturing industries. The main growth areas are project-tify, monitor and support these particular elements of compe-tences required by the labour market. 3 ILO Recommendation No. 195 concerning human resources development, 2004 ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 31 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 31 • November 2012 Pap 5
  6. 6. In-depthed to be in services (tertiary sector) and the digital knowledge In recent years European projects and pilot actions (mainlyeconomy in general. within the Leonardo da Vinci Programmes) have promoted transnational exchanges and intense national initiatives on thisGlobalisation requires mobility to ensure that workers will not issue. Through all these actions and despite all the differencesbe trapped in jobs which have no future. Policies are needed that reflect the specific characteristics of different cultural, edu-to ensure sufficient job opportunities as well as employability. cation and training systems, methods of defining and describingUnqualified workers are particularly disadvantaged by globali- labour and labour requirements have been defined with similarsation. Free trade, combined with skill-biased technological contents and modes of representation, in different countries.progress, tends to reduce the demand for unqualified labour. These similarities have facilitated the comparison, translationImproving competences and qualification is strongly needed. and / or dialogue among systems and countries, even in thoseWorkers with competences required by the labour markets are countries where occupational standards4 are not integrated intomore mobile across occupations, industries and regions than a national system.their counterparts. They face a lower risk of layoff and, whenthey lose their job, they have a relative good chance of obtain- Starting from the representation of the labour market, it is pos-ing new employment. sible to loose some elements in general related to the personal dimension of individuals. In fact, the effort to standardize se-This would signify that the growth in demand for many occupa- lected components of labour and describe “occupational stand-tions where high-level competences are required (such as man- ards” usually involve a lost, not all the aspects could be repre-agement, professional and technical jobs), but also for some where lower-level competences are needed, will continue.In contrast, jobs involving competences traditionally linked to But it is a monitored lost that can be recovered in the descrip-agricultural, craft and clerical sectors will decline in number. tion of standards of occupational competences which describeThere will, probably, be significant expansion in the numbers of (at national, regional ... level) measurable outcomes (a group ofjobs for many service workers, also for some elementary occu- competences) an individual is expected to complete in a givenpations requiring little or no formal qualification. occupation.Considering the situation, even those occupations where em- The classification of competences required is of course filledployment levels are projected to fall will remain sources of em- with a variety of differentiations and adaptations to the distinc-ployment and crucial elements of the economy for many years tiveness of different systems, but common and fundamentalto come. But of course the nature and requirements of these categories can be traced. Such components can be distinguishedjobs will not remain unchanged and it is important to under- into two main categories: the ones more related to the labourstand the way in which they are evolving. market requirements (technical work and its area of compe- tency) and components associated to the individual, consideredThese rapid changes in the structure of employment and in the key competences for employability.organisation of work are drastically altering the form and thecontent of jobs. In this sense it is possible to refer to this range of competenc- es as “Occupational Competences” as they help the worker toIn order to meet the demand for qualified labour expressed by cope with the new demands of the labour market and facilitatesectors with high technology and organizational transformation their employability.and to maintain high employability, it is necessary to assumethe concept of competence considered as both: the connect-ing element with the labour market and the heritage of the in-dividual. This should be the basic articulation of the design ofLearning Outcomes in learning/training pathways.In a global perspective this choice fully correspond to the guide- 4 “occupational standards” refers to statements of the activities and tasks related to a specific job and to its practice, while “competence standard” referslines and principles expressed in the innovations and changes to the knowledge, skills and/or competences linked to the practice of a job.involving learning and training systems. Definitions of CEDEFOP Terminology of European education and training policy (2008) ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 31 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 31 • November 2012 Pap 6
  7. 7. In-depth come to light because they contribute to performance in a large group of oc- cupations, and are portable from one to another. These competences are defined Key Competences6. There have been many works real- ized on key competences within OECD studies7 and at European level within lifelong learning8 development and also a Recommendation on key com- petences9.Figure 5: Occupational Competences There is no one universal definition of this notion, but there has been manyThe name that better define this group of competencies is conceptual contributions. It is com-“competencies for employability5”, since they are necessary for mon to find references to this concept through the utilisation ofobtaining employment, remaining in it, and for finding new em- attributes such as “generic’, “portable”, “key”, “transversal”, orployment. “essential” . They all carry the idea that these competencies lie at the core of the individual’s capacities, and they enable him toRegarding technical competences related to labour market successfully integrate into labour and social life, which is benefi-technical needs, it is very important to develop and maintain cial not only for the individual but also for society as a whole.strong anchorage to the labour contest as they apply directly to In addition, this set of competencies includes the capacity tojob roles or occupations, they cover the key activities undertak- continually update knowledge and skills in order to keep abreasten within that particular occupation under all the circumstances of constant and rapid changes. They are closely linked to char-the job holder is likely to encounter. acteristics of a personal and social kind, and they have to do, forIn particular, technical competences, from the more general to example, with skills in communication, the capacity to work inthe specific ones, are strictly linked with changes and innovation a team, and understanding systems and methodologies of workof global market needs and can be divided into two types: the that involve information and communication technologies (ITC)more stable and the more flexible ones. or the competencies concerned in knowing a second language.It is important to safeguard both of them and monitor the evo- It is important to underline that these competencies make itlution of those very flexible. Only a strict link with enterprises easier for a worker to adapt to changes in the technologies usedcan guarantee this constant link with the labour market require- and in the organization of work, or to achieve new responsibili-ments. It is important to monitor the evolution of both of them, ties which require the acquisition of specific technical competences remain a key element of defining The OECD Studies on key competencies started in 1997 whenqualifications in order to face rapid changes and update their member countries launched the Programme for Internationalpositions in a global context. Student Assessment (PISA), with the aim of monitoring the ex-An important role in this strict link with the labour market re- 6 The literature about this subject employs different names and conceptualquirements is played by a series of stakeholders representative approximations.of this dimension, i.e. social partners, trade unions, enterprises 7 D.S. Rychen and L.H. Salganik, Defining and selecting key competenciesand enterprises’ representatives, centres for employability. (2001) eds.Regarding the development of the dimension related to the 8 The Commission Communication and the Council Resolution of 27 Juneindividual, in recent years a collection of “competencies” have 2002 on lifelong learning 9 Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 185 Mertens, Leonard, Labour competence: emergence, analytical frameworks December 2006, on key competences for lifelong learning [Official Journal Land institutional models, Montevideo, Cinterfor/ILO, 1999 394 of 30.12.2006]. ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 31 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 31 • November 2012 Pap 7
  8. 8. In-depthtent to which students near the end of compulsory schooling and that a specific attention is paid to disadvantaged learners.have acquired the knowledge and skills essential for full partici- In order to enable all adults to learn, maintain and update theirpation in society. key competences, the Recommendation calls for comprehen- sive infrastructures and coherent strategies, developed in col-PISA assessments began with comparing students’ knowledge laboration with social partners and other stakeholders.and skills in the areas of reading, mathematics, science andproblem solving. The OECD’s Definition and Selection of Compe- The Key Competences Framework, prepared by experts fromtencies (DeSeCo) Project, provides a framework that can guide 31 countries and European level stakeholders, will help policythe longer-term extension of assessments into new competency makers, education and training providers, employers and learn-domains. ers themselves in reforming education and training systems to respond to these challenges.The DeSeCo Project’s conceptual framework for key competen-cies classifies such competencies in three broad categories: The eight Key competences for lifelong learning in Europe are:1 – Using tools interactively 1) communication in the mother tongue; 1.1: The ability to use language, symbols and text interac- 2) communication in foreign languages; tively 3) competences in maths, science and technology; 1.2: The ability to use knowledge and information interac- 4) digital competence; tively 5) learning to learn; 1.3: The ability to use technology interactively 6) interpersonal, intercultural and social competences, and2 – Interacting in Heterogeneous Groups civic competence; 2.1: The ability to relate well to others 7) entrepreneurship; 2.2: The ability to cooperate 8) cultural expression. 2.3: The ability to manage and resolve conflicts In synthesis there are many taxonomies and differences of this competency area and this create some problems in sharing3 – Acting Autonomously common modelling of training provision. 3.1: The ability to act within the big picture 3.2: The ability to form and conduct life plans and personal But whatever these competencies are or are classified, it is be- projects coming increasingly clear that there are certain competencies which are related to the development individuals and easily 3.3: The ability to assert rights, interests, limits and needs adapt to the changing demands of the labour market (“adapt-In this context the European Commission has adopted in 2006 ability”). Other common characteristics of these competencesa Recommendation on key competences for lifelong learning are their strong “portability” (they easily contextualise theirreference tool for the Member States to ensure that these key content) and “transferability” (they can easily be transferredcompetences are fully integrated into their strategies and infra- from one context/system to another).structures, particularly in the context of lifelong learning. In most cases, it is noted that these competencies are acquiredThe Recommendation is one of the concrete outcomes of the in work contexts (non formal) or in personal/social situationsEducation and Training 2010 work programme and aims at en- (informal).couraging and facilitating national reforms by providing, for the In this conception it is important to steer (within VET and TVETfirst time at European level, a reference tool on key competenc- systems) Learning Outcomes (in terms of knowledge, skills andes that all citizens should have for a successful life in a knowl- competences) in relation to the occupational competences foredge society. lifelong learning and to translate the identified learning andThe Recommendation calls for Member States to ensure that all training outputs into practical training and learning pathways.young people are given the possibility to develop the package of At the same time the development of processes of validation8 key competences by the end of initial education and training and recognition of non formal and informal learning play a big ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 31 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 31 • November 2012 Pap 8
  9. 9. In-depthrole in developing these competencies, thus facilitate mobility Currently, at EU level, the lifelong learning approach studies ifand employability of people. the relationship between various types of learning would help in the implementation of lifelong learning policies. The issue is4. Improve mobility through Assessment that as long as learning, skills and competences acquired out- side formal education and training remain invisible and poorly and Validation processes transparency valued, the ambition of lifelong learning cannot be achieved.The importance of the processes of assessment and validationof Learning Outcomes has assumed particular importance when Validation of non-formal and informal learning aims at makinglearning policies shifted their focus from the systems to the in- visible knowledge and experience, held by an individual, with-dividual. out considering the context where the learning originally took place.In fact, the concept of validation is closely related to both: theconcepts of lifelong learning (in all aspects of life) and the tri- Gradually, validation of non-formal and informal learning is be-partite division of learning in formal and non formal and infor- coming a key aspect of lifelong learning policies. Lifelong learn-mal. Validation will be specifically related to the processes of ing, it is asserted, requires that Learning Outcomes from differ-recognition of the value of non-formal and informal learning, ent settings and contexts can be linked together.while the certification process i.e. the process of issuing certifi- In Europe the debate on validation has grown up with the defi-cates or diplomas, which formally recognise the achievements nition elaborated in 2002 by the Commission of the concept ofof an individual, following an assessment procedure (definition lifelong learning10, defined as all learning activity undertakengiven in the Communication of the European Commission 2001) throughout life, with the aim of improving knowledge, skillsremains strictly linked to formal learning.In past years, learn-ing processes corre-sponded to explicitlypromoted pathways ineducation and training“official” situations. Butthe new prospective haschanged the focus fromtraining activities to in-dividual activities thatwill be realized, duringthe entire life, in othercontexts less formalizedand institutionalized, Figure 6: Validation and learning contextsbut equally importantand crucial for the growth and qualification of citizens. The con- and competences within a personal, civic, social and/or employ-cept of lifelong learning is traditionally and originally identified ment-related continuous educational opportunities implemented within The Communication of the European Commission (2001) onEducation, (T)VET systems and aimed at training adults (em- Lifelong Learning defines validation11 as the process of identify-ployed or unemployed) and it is now acquiring a broader and ing, assessing and recognising a wider range of skills and com-complex connotation with the evolution of this issue. petences which people develop through their lives and in differ-In fact, lifelong learning does not occur only in the Education, 10 Council Resolution of 27 June 2002 on lifelong learningVET and TVET systems or in its identifiable networks, but it ex- 11 Colardyn Danielle, Bjornavold Jens, Validation of Formal, Non-Formal andtends its influence to other systems which become sources and informal Learning: policy and practices in EU Member States, European Journalenvironments of learning. of Education, Vol. 39, No.1, 2004 ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 31 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 31 • November 2012 Pap 9
  10. 10. In-depthent contexts, e.g. through education, work and leisure activities. The practical implementation of policies on validation of non-In lifelong and life-wide learning, ‘validation’ is a crucial element formal and informal learning involves very different competentto ensure the visibility and to indicate the appropriate value of bodies; the relevant range of actors in fact is broader than inthe learning that took place anywhere and at any time in the life the certification process which is more standardized. Stakehold-of the individual. ers concerned are numerous and diverse: ministries and pub- lic agencies, education and training providers, social partners,The Cedefop glossary (2008)12, gives the following definition of Trade Unions, councils and experts.formal, non-formal and informal learning: Usually involved in formal education and training, social part-Formal learning consists of learning that occurs in an organised ners are also involved in the validation process of non-formaland structured environment (e.g. in an education or training in- and informal learning.stitution or on the job), and is explicitly designed as learning(in terms of objectives, time or resources). Formal learning is Today the issue of validation is a stable component of the Eu-intentional from the learner’s point of view. It typically leads to ropean strategy and above all is an integral part of the “EQFvalidation and certification. Recommendation”13. This document reaffirms the validity of the results of this long process that has been sustained in 2004 withNon-formal learning consists of learning embedded in planned the paper on “Common European Principles for the identifica-activities that are not explicitly designated as learning, (in terms tion and validation of non-formal and informal learning”14. Thisof learning objectives, learning time or learning support). Non- document also provides some key criteria that Member Statesformal learning is intentional from the learner’s point of view. are invited to consider on a voluntary basis to enable the pro-Non-formal learning outcomes may be validated and lead to cesses of recognition and validation, thereby facilitating thecertification. Non-formal learning is sometimes described as transferability of learning and mobility of workers.semi-structured learning Besides, it is important to note that the validation process ofInformal learning is defined as learning resulting from daily non-formal and informal learning suits more with the existingactivities related to work, family, or leisure. It is not organized descriptions of learning (output-oriented) used for T(VET) sys-or structured in terms of objectives, time or learning support. tems than those used for general and higher education (input-Informal learning may is in most cases, unintentional from the oriented), so more related to the description of labour in de-learner’s perspective. fined occupational standards (written as competences).Informal learning outcomes do not usually lead to certification, In fact, a successful introduction of validation across Europe verybut may be validated and certified in the framework of recogni- much depends on how standards develop and to which extenttion of prior learning schemes. Informal learning is also referred they are defined and described through learning outcomes andto as experiential or incidental/random learning competences (Cedefop 2007).Note that the definitions of Formal, Non Formal and Informal It is on the basis of common principles, shared languages andlearning insist on the intention to learn and the structure in transparent and legible frameworks that EU intends to promotewhich learning takes place. The intention to learn explains the and facilitate the mobility of individuals who may see recog-centrality of the learner in the learning process and the struc- nized in different contexts/systems/countries:ture refers to the context in which learning takes place. • their qualifications (even partially);A further feature to be considered in the validation process isthe participation and involvement of different bodies in the pro- 13 A qualification is the formal outcome of an assessment and validationcess (competent bodies and stakeholders). process obtained when a competent body determines that an individual has achieved learning outcomes to given standards 14 The Conclusions of the Council and of the representatives of the12 CEDEFOP (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) Governments of the Member States meeting within the Council on CommonTerminology of European education and training policy - Luxemburg – Official European Principles for the identification and validation of non-formal andPublications of the European Communities, 2008 informal learning (May 2004) ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 31 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 31 • November 2012 Pap 10
  11. 11. In-depth • their learning and training pathways (more or less ships with low basic competences, the provision of quality and formalized); appropriate learning opportunities in the (T)VET system become • their mobility paths. an essential aspect of a knowledge-based economy.In this sense learning and training environments become broad Traditionally the selectivity of general education has been seenand sharable; working opportunities increase; employability as a sign of quality, while vocational paths are a synonymousimproves and there is less misunderstanding between different of low-quality second-choice prospective, often linked to aca-systems and countries as they communicate with shared lan- demic failure.guages of similar items which are readable, recognizable andthus transferable to different frameworks and contexts. It is recognized that the interest in quality grew in the education and training world firstly among providers of continuing educa-Moreover, in the new European and global context, it is ex- tion and training (because the awareness was high) as well as,tremely important to overcome some common beliefs typical of to a lesser extent, in vocationally oriented school, and second-education and training systems. One of them regards validation. ly in general schools and higher education institutions even ifThis latter is only regarded as a formal and necessary duty and stakeholders and competent bodies policy makers have alwaysnot as a real added value for the individual who has completed been concerned with quality.a learning path (or part of it). It is undervalued the importanceof learning outcomes in the validation process and it is under- This suggests the need for a significant shift of (T)VET systems,estimate the weight of a “validated” qualification through an from its current emphasis on lower quality learning opportuni-effective and controlled process for people mobility in different ties, to a contributing role for the development of competenc-working and learning contexts, both European and global. es necessary for the employability of citizens in a continuous changing labour market. This approach should be taken into account when programming and designing learning provision.5. Develop quality and accreditation within Vocational Education and Besides, the development of Quality Assurance (QA) principles Training Systems may help to ensure:The current education and training systems have been shaped 0 Relevance to the policy and priorities on Educational and (T)by many and different social, cultural pedagogical, economical VET systems;end employment factors. The external demand (from govern- 0 Transparency in the learning and training processes;ments, learners, labour market…) is increasing. This suggests 0 Accountability towards competent bodies, stakeholders andthat the education and training world has lost much of its participants in learning/training actions;special status and it is more and more considered like an ordi- 0 Reproducibility of good practices.nary economic sector. It also implies that schools, universities A system based on quality principles and criteria is an instru-and training providers are increasingly expected to perform at ment of organization and continuous improvement of the sys-high level, behave professionally and provide quality services tem itself in terms of innovation and competitiveness.throughout. In the current global competitive environment anyinefficiency and lack of flexibility will be penalized by lower eco- It can be argued that Quality Assurance principles applied tonomic growth. learning and training activities can:In this context the need to qualify training provision is spreading • facilitate the innovation of the system through its precisein all areas, in schools and universities, enterprises and public orientation on quality standards which facilitate the delivery of harmonized outputs, transferable and decontextualized;administration. The purpose is to ensure that the education andtraining activities can benefit from the best conditions possible • intervene in the educational process as the heart of the difficulty and not just the final output, which means giving aand are developed according to the most efficient and effective new emphasis on mechanisms and methods of the system,usage of educational, financial and technical resources. seen as a process where objectives and characteristics of learning processes are defined and achieved;Especially in countries where a large number of school-age chil- • adopt a global and systemic vision of the variables, whichdren leave schools and enter the labour force and apprentice- means in particular to operate at a global level in the ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 31 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 31 • November 2012 Pap 11
  12. 12. In-depth reference system, but also take into account correlations In this respect, one of the central aims of the European agenda and coherence necessary in relation to other reference is to make European education and training systems a “world systems; quality reference” by 2010. Pursuing this policy, quality assur- • involve in the process of implementation and Quality ance is a key element to make European education more com- Assurance all the stakeholders of the process itself petitive and more attractive for European citizens and citizens (competent bodies, policy makers, learners, teachers). Note that quality is, by definition, a system of shared rules and as from other countries alike. Beyond that, quality assurance is such it involves the participation of all actors. an instrument to establish synergies between vocational and higher education and to link the Copenhagen and the BolognaQuality in training and education is about minimum standards process.and definitions related to the essence or type of activities. Itrefers to what should be in certain activities and also relates to Regarding the higher education sector, substantial progress hashow they are prepared, delivered and evaluated. been made in developing quality assurance since 1999. The communiqués of the ministerial summits in Berlin (2003) andMoreover it is necessary to consider that adopting quality pro- Bergen (2005) were setting landmarks, such as the Europeancedures implies operative and monitoring activities related to Standards and Guidelines and the European Register. The de-all key variables of the process. This means essentially a theo- velopment of quality assurance in higher education has beenretical and procedural guide able to operate an in-depth review essentially based on the work of the different networks co-of the system. All this to ensure the absence of non-conformity operating in this field (ENQA, EUA, EURASHE, and ESIB amongat all stages through the understanding, implementation and others), and these networks will also play a key role in furthersupport of the principles and objectives established. implementing the Bergen goals.In this context, training bodies play a major role in the improve- European co-operation on quality assurance in vocational edu-ment of (T)VET system. It is therefore necessary that they give cation and training through the Copenhagen Process was ini-the maximum to guarantee their capacity to provide services tiated in 2002. A set of common principles and references forwith consistent level of high quality standard. quality assurance has been developed and agreed at the Eu- ropean level, e.g. the Common Quality Assurance Framework.Through the accreditation process, in which quality standards, Its implementation seems broadly to be reflected as a nationalbased on objective parameters, are introduced for those in- priority in many of the Member States. Currently, the qualityvolved in the vocational and training system, competent bodies process in vocational education and training has reached a new(often funding bodies) are guaranteed for the quality of training developmental stage: the European Network on Quality Assur-provision. ance in Vocational Education and Training (ENQA-VET) was es-The accreditation of training centres, carried out by competent tablished by the Commission in June 2005 and was inauguratedbodies (Regions in Italy), sets minimum criteria of premises at the Dublin Quality Conference in October 2005.based on logistics and management features, economic status, In the European Qualifications Framework Recommendationavailability of competences (in active management, administra- “common quality assurance framework for the vocational edu-tion, teaching, coordination, analysis and design, training needs cation and training” (follow-up to the Copenhagen Declaration)assessment, guidance), levels of effectiveness and efficiency in and the “development of an agreed set of standards, proce-previous activities, relations with the social system and local dures and guidelines for quality assurance” (conjunction withproduction. the Bologna process) are considered top priorities for Europe.The literature regarding practices where quality principles are At this point most Member States are involved, in varying de-implemented in educational and training activities is now ex- grees in bilateral, multilateral, European and global co-operationtensive. The constant that characterizes all these experiences on QA and accreditation. These transnational initiatives haveis the awareness of the innovative potential that this approach similar objectives: identifying comparable criteria and method-can provide to learning processes in terms of the overall effec- ologies and fostering the well-functioning of quality agencies intiveness of the system and in adapting to European or global order to achieve more transparency and, ultimately, the mutualstandards. recognition of QA systems and assessments. ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 31 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 31 • November 2012 Pap 12
  13. 13. In-depthIn the field of VET, Member States were called on in 2002, in Complex systems are usually characterized by structures thataddition to achieving the key objective of “supporting the devel- are interdependent and linked in a reticular line in which it is noopment of compatible QA systems respecting diversity across more important the single element, but the whole organization.Europe” (cf. Official Journal of the EU 2002), to implement QA Specific structural features of complex networks also includes:systems based primarily on “learning outcomes that will enable community structure, reciprocity, power-law degree distribu-qualifications and competencies achieved in vocational educa- tions and high clustering. The effectiveness and efficiency of dif-tion and training to be compared and that could form the basis ferent interrelated systems (between and within), their innova-of a European currency in Vocational Education and Training tion, productivity and satisfaction, hinge on the strength of thequalifications” (cf. European Commission 2003, 24). relationships of its components.In this contest it is important to underline the effective use of Considering these peculiarities, in order to build a network sys-quality principles. In fact as stated before, common mecha- tem, you must have a policy based on networks It is possible tonisms and shared concepts make a common modelling easier if achieve changes only if they go along with the relative changebased on common given standards, thus encouraging processes of policy. You can not search for cooperation and networkingof mobility through the adaptability and transfer of qualifica- between different actors, in the absence of a policy based itselftions, Learning Outcomes, or even part of them (units). on a similar logic.Moreover, the implementation of quality assurance principles The basic idea is to build policies based on networks where it isand standards in education and training activities managed by not only important to give professional and competent answersnetwork frames should serve as an assurance to all partners in- to technical problems, but it is more essential to reach participa-volved (competent bodies, stakeholders, authorized/certified tion and shared knowledge.bodies …), that the stated aims and objectives of a given activityare adequately defined and will be fully achieved. The development of policies based on networks involves the development of an inter-organizational system based on coop-It should be noted that the notion of quality is socially, institu- eration agreements closely interrelated which is the result of ationally and culturally marked and, therefore, not always under- strategic path.stood by all partners in the same way, thus a minimum commonunderstanding of what it entails has to be secured. The reference is on networks in which the composing organiza- tions maintain, from a legal point of view, their own autonomy,The issue of quality is a fundamental element for any economic but at the same time they create a new actor to which they del-sector, but it is even more important for activities such as train- egate that is characterized as “service of intangible nature”, forwhich it will contribute to deepening and widening the trans- The development of this type of network provides the designparency, reproducibility, transferability and innovation of activi- and development of:ties. 0 a cognitive component: where the exchange of information, knowledge, shared languages and cultures are shared;6. Technical Learning Networks as a 0 an organizational element: through the co-shared work and response the definition of multipartnerships and projects; 0 a political aspect: through the development of decision-Networks are emerging as an important mechanism for sustain- making, deliberations and agreements among competentable development in complex systems such as, for example, the bodies;system of Vocational Education and Training. 0 a technical component: to be a referring actor of theirComplexity is a characteristic of those systems (human, social, specialization for learning issues.economic, cultural, etc ....) that are not referable to simple com- In this context, Politics should match with Technics in the senseponents. Networking is a method that could facilitate connec- that the paths of policy development (on training, social andtions and could be a response to complex needs that distinguish labour fields) should be co-made (instead of being only part ofcomplex systems. a joint consultation), as policy makers are not able to determine ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 31 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 31 • November 2012 Pap 13
  14. 14. In-depthby themselves the outcome of a political and technical choice, 7. The Italian IFTS as an example offailing the necessary technical expertise. Thus it is necessary experiencing networking in the TVETto develop dynamic governance actions towards the crea- System to improve occupationaltion, maintenance and innovation of technical networks with a competenciesstrong emphasis on their capacity to be operative in the specifictechnical field. The focus is not in its more technical or political A best practice of experiencing networking in the TVET Systemnature, or inherent its construction, but in its shared and par- to improve occupational competencies in Italy is the so calledticipated character. IFTS (Istruzione e Formazione Tecnica Superiore) - Higher Tech- nical Education and Training pathways.Learning networks are composed by different entities in termsof legal, institutional and organizational mission but, despite The system of IFTS was founded in 1999 to meet the demand fortheir diversity of intents, they are characterized by a potential qualified labour expressed by the sectors with high technologi-sharing of common objectives and are concretely oriented to be cal and organizational transformation with the aim of integrat-a referring actor of their specialization for learning issues. ing higher education and training systems.As a synthesis, the structure of this frame is a technical learning The characteristics of this peculiar type of Technical Vocationalnetwork made up of stakeholders and competent bodies which training pathway are:should work together from the beginning (from the identifica- • integration of Higher Education, Education, Training Systemstion of needs) to the end of the process of issuing a qualifica- and Labour Market through the development of Technicaltion. Learning Networks; • integration of quality principles and standards amongObjectives of these networks in the Education and (Technical) systems;Vocational Training field are: • definition of minimal standards of competences described • assist the dissemination of trust, information and knowledge, in terms of basic transversal and technical competences otherwise locked in the logic of specific organizations; (anticipating the concept of Learning Outcomes); • guarantee the link with the Labour market requirements; • testing processes of assessment, recognition and validation of experience and of (unit of) credit transfer. • increase the multiplier effect of shared quality principles; • facilitate processes of validation (of formal, non formal and The innovative approach focuses on the need to provide a sound informal learning) within and between systems; basic education, consistent with the requirements of qualifica- • foster the adoption of common principles and practices tion of Higher figures in the (Technical) Education and Vocation- (learning outcome approach, qualification description, al Training system, and based on modular and flexible standards occupational standards, …); of competences in a system where there is not a frame of na- • disseminate a common language which means the tional occupational standards. “translation” of shared concepts into specific contexts. Regarding IFTS Networks it is important to note that it is manda-For collaboration to be successful in networks, participants in tory to have a minimum of four actors for each pathway: a Pub-the process have to adopt a shared language, a joint vision and lic Secondary School Institution; a University; a Training centrecommon goals. A systemic approach to use common concepts and enterprises (or enterprises representatives).requires the active participation and genuine collaboration of allstakeholders and there must be congruence between key objec-tives and interventions.Within VET systems Europe is making an effort in this directionby creating networks of specific matter, for instance on Qualifi-cation (EQF Coordination Points) on ECVET (project networks),on quality assurance (ENQA-VET) and their cooperation is basedon common shared principles (qualification descriptors, learn-ing outcomes, …). Figure 7: IFTS Network ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 31 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 31 • November 2012 Pap 14
  15. 15. In-depthThe system is intended to put into strict relation all the compo-nents and involve all of them from the beginning (the identifi-cation of needs) to the end of the process (the qualification) inorder to bring to an end the traditional confinement that eachsystem has towards the activities of the others.The labour market presence through the participation of enter-prises (or their representatives) assure the right and necessarylink with the labour market requirements in terms of qualifica-tions and competences to be taken into account in the develop-ment of learning pathways. Figure 8: Sectorial Training Poles NetworkThis network is intended to guarantee on one hand high qualitystandards (assimilated from the more formal systems such as In the IFTS system the conception of “standards”, especiallyschools and university), on the other the link with the Labour standards relating to basic and key competences fully respondmarket requirements through enterprises, their representatives to the need to promote integration between the subsystems, toand training centres involved in (Technical) Vocational Training. facilitate the dialogue between training and labour, to promote transparency and recognition of certification and qualifications,In this kind of networks high quality standards are guarantee to promote the flexibility of training paths and their personaliza-from Schools, Universities and from the accreditation of Train- tion with a clear attention to individual centres. The minimum standards of competences identify the commonIn this context learners can profit from the competences ex- minimal basis of competences to be acquired as a result of apressed by all the participants in the Network and training learning process that an individual must demonstrate. It consti-provisions can be planned following criteria coming from the tutes the meeting point between the demand of qualificationacademic system, from the system of schools, from vocational of the labour system and the construction of a coherent cur-training experts and the experience of enterprises. riculum, ensuring wider “employability” of individuals as well asThe system has then evolved from “temporary” networks cre- its cultural and professional development, also in relation withated for the purpose of single projects/pathways (spontaneous previous and / or subsequent cycles of learning.and spot aggregations) to the stabilization of those networks, It was therefore decided to classify the standards of compe-with the creation of more articulated networks, called Training tence into three groups:Poles15 (Poli Fomativi).Training Poles are stable networks regarding Occupational competenciesa specific sector defined regionally and inter- the fundamental resources necessary Basic competences to a person for access training andregionally; they represent the referring point workfor that specific sector, for that definite system, Transversal Competences or Key (communicative, relational, problemin a particular Italian Region, at national level. Competences solving, ...) related to the tasks required by theThese networks are more complex and are operative work activities required byparticipated permanently with stakeholders Technical / Vocational competences working processes referred in theof each specific sector in a particular Italian specific professional fieldsRegion. In fact there are further organizationsinvolved such as research institutions, sectorial associations, It has subsequently adopted a standard of representationtrade unions and other public/private bodies. through the unit, which consists of a group of competences with an autonomous meaning, self-consistent, recognizable from the workplace as part of specific professional competenc-15 For furter information regarding “Poli Formativi” visit the INDIRE’s Web site( ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 31 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 31 • November 2012 Pap 15