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The potential and pitfalls of combining EQAVET and ECVET principles

30/09/2015
by Andrew McCoshan
Language: EN
Document available also in: DE NL

/en/file/combiningresizedjpgECVET and EQAVET

ECVET and EQAVET

At European level, there have been increasing calls to make sure that the tools that have been developed to support the development of better quality education and training based on learning outcomes are used in complementary ways.

This has been the driver behind the recently published report from the joint working group for EQAVET and ECVET, “Using ECVET and EQAVET principles: some early experiences at national level". Although the report focuses on VET, its findings will be of general interest in the adult learning community.

Based on the work of 18 countries, the report looks at how the principles of ECVET and EQAVET have been brought together in a variety of contexts. It analyses the types of activities undertaken and the barriers encountered, and produces a variety of findings and conclusions.

A number of points emerge particularly strongly:

  • The need for shared ownership of the processes developed and implemented throughout education and training systems, and especially with regard to providers. It is important that a shared vision for education and training is developed that incorporates a collective understanding of how to apply EQAVET and ECVET tools at system, provider and learner levels, and only once this is in place to move on to more detailed technical issues.
  • The detailed technical issues will take time and patience to resolve. Many issues will arise, e.g. around timetabling, workloads and how to give students greater autonomy in their learning. As the report states: “when you create a new way to quality assure a learning outcomes approach there are expected and unexpected implications for many aspects of… provision and organisation–these need to be thought about and planned for. If the ‘knock-on’ effects are not considered carefully… implementation… is likely to be compromised". The report also provides a salutary reminder that the changes involved in implementing quality assurance can be expensive and recommends focusing on areas of greatest impact through risk analysis.
  • Not everyone will be convinced easily of the changes required. Pilot projects can therefore have value in demonstrating how things can be changed successfully. Equally, there is a need for communication strategies that not only clearly explain the benefits for learners and employers but also take on board the concerns of providers.
  • Many of the changes involve giving more power and autonomy to providers but it is important to be careful not to increase the burden on them. In this context, it is interesting that the report highlights that self-assessment is becoming the preferred approach in quality systems. Not surprisingly, the report also highlights the importance of continuing training for staff.
  • There are two areas where potentially there are gaps in the application of EQAVET to support ECVET principles: the use of the indicators and descriptors of EQAVET to support ECVET-aligned systems; and the use of EQAVET principles to support the development of transfer and accumulation processes that are part of ECVET.

 

The report concludes by recommending, inter alia, that there should be stronger references to learning outcomes and certification in the EQAVET Recommendation, and also to ECVET and EQAVET in documentation relating to the European Social Fund.

In all, the report provides a very useful summary of the current position, showing clearly the types of things that can be achieved and also what remains to be done. It also provides some detailed examples that will provide readers with concrete ideas and inspiration for how to better integrate these two important European tools.

Andrew McCoshan has worked in education and training for over 20 years. For the last 10 years he has specialised in policy development studies and evaluations for the EU, and before that was a consultant in the UK. Andrew is currently a freelance consultant, an Associate with the UK Higher Education Academy, an ECVET Expert for the UK, and a Member of the UK Education & Employers Taskforce Research Group.

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