Within NQF-in Project we can collect the experiences of seven European countries that are at different stages of NQF implementation: Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Ireland, Poland and Scotland. The Project has started in 2015. and it is about to be finished, because the preliminary results and draft Report were presented on Final Conference in Warsaw a few days ago. As a Serbian expert for qualifications and policy making in the NQF process, I was privileged to take part in exchanging and peer-reflection sessions within the Conference.
NQF-in project focus
Joint discussions within the NQF-in partnerships put on the table analyses of different solutions, views and approaches for the inclusion of qualifications in the national qualifications frameworks, with a particular focus on qualifications awarded outside the formal education system (non-formal sector qualifications). Reports from seven countries provided us with information about the characteristics of each qualifications framework and its place and actual role in the national qualifications system. Report developers tried to meet what is envisaged to be in the coming years one of the most important topics in discussions on NQF implementation at the EU and national levels. Several questions are raised nowadays in the context of a phenomenon that is usually called “the market of qualifications”:
- How many qualifications should we have in the system?
- How many bodies should be allowed to define qualifications?
- How do we plan a value on each qualification?
- How much are qualifications worth and who pays for them?
- What happens when the same qualification is on different levels across countries?
Inclusion in that sense becomes not just formalization or registration of a qualification, but it is also a question of the actual significance that given qualifications framework has for the functioning of the system, and to what extent it is a non-functioning entity in practice.
Non-formal sector qualifications
Terminology can create a nightmare in every communication, so we should be precise what we are actually talking about. It is precisely defined, not intended to compete with the terminology used within national qualifications systems, to propose three types of qualifications:
- State regulated qualifications awarded in the education system
- State regulated qualifications awarded outside the education system
- Non-state regulated qualifications
Non-formal sector qualifications are the third type and are usually awarded according to the principle of “the freedom of economic activities”. In EU documents this type of qualification is called a “private (market) qualification”. They are usually leading to more international standards (companies, sectors, organizations).
Why model approach?
As the theoretical aspect of NQF-in study was the development of different models of inclusion which can contribute to the understanding of the very complex system and its characteristics in terms of the types of qualifications, ownership of qualifications, scope of regulations, allowable level of similarity of qualifications, degree of centralization, fees for the inclusion of a qualification in NQF, stakeholder’s role.
Four models were defined, and countries reported referring to the characteristics related to specific model(s). Definitely, similarities can be seen, but each country is a unique world.
Differences are OK
Despite model approach, context and the specific characteristics of countries matter. In spite of reaching coherence and transparency of qualifications by each country at her own speed, still we have common challenge how to bring NQF closer to learners, workers and employers. Theoretical constructs cannot be copy-pasted to reality, so this can be just a starting point for further discussions on the organizational and financial models of including qualifications presented in this project.
More info on http://www.nqf-in.eu
Tatijana Glisic is working in The Institute for The Improvement of Education as an expert for qualification development, assessment and examination in Belgrade, Serbia.