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Strengthening Education in Europe, Conference of the European Ministers of Education

 

16 March, Part 1 – Plenary

The European Qualifications Framework: taking stock of the Consultation

 

In the public consultation process on the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) during the second half of 2005, the Commission received approximately 120 responses from 31 European countries, responses which in many cases reflected extensive national and Europe-wide consultation processes organised by the respondents. The results were recently discussed at a conference held in Budapest on 27/28 February 2006, organised jointly by the European Commission and the Hungarian Ministry of Education.

It is, therefore, timely to take stock of the consultation process before moving on to the next stage – presentation of a draft EQF recommendation by the Commission, planned for the second half of this year.

Areas of broad consensus

The EQF is seen as a constructive initiative which should contribute significantly to the transparency, transferability and recognition of qualifications at European level. It will also stimulate national and sectoral reforms in support of lifelong learning. The replies show broad agreement on the following issues:

  • the EQF is necessary and relevant;
  • its implementation and use should be voluntary;
  • the EQF should remain a common reference or meta-framework, acting as a translation device at the European level;
  • the EQF must be based on learning outcomes;
  • the proposed 8-level structure is broadly acceptable;
  • the EQF must be underpinned by Quality Assurance principles and procedures;
  • implementing the EQF will require substantial commitment by stakeholders at the national level including, for the many countries which have decided to do so, the development of an overarching National Qualifications Framework.

Areas for further development

This broad support for the EQF is conditional on further development and refinement. Many respondents point to the need for clarification, simplification and testing.

  • Reference level descriptors: the descriptors for the different EQF levels will need some further elaboration in order to simplify them and to make them more operational. The Commission will establish a technical working group which will look at this issue in the context of preparing the formal proposal for a recommendation later this year.
  • The link to the Bologna process: the consensus which emerged at the Budapest conference was that the EQF must continue to ensure that top vocational training and professional qualifications can be fully recognised at levels 6, 7 and 8. At the same time, those descriptors should also include a very clear reference to the framework developed in the Bologna context.
  • National Qualification Frameworks: while the establishment of a national qualifications framework will not be a prerequisite for linking a national system to the EQF, a large majority of those countries who do not yet have such a national framework indicate a strong interest in developing one. The responses emphasise that national qualifications frameworks must be based on learning outcomes; that they must be accepted by education and training as well as labour market actors; and that they must be linked to systems for the validation of non-formal and informal learning as well as to quality assurance mechanisms.
  • Sectors: while sectoral representatives argued that rapid changes in markets and technologies require European or international qualifications, national administrations stressed the need for such qualifications to be recognised via national systems. In Budapest, the Commission stressed that it saw the added value of the EQF arising in particular in relation to sectoral initiatives which are not at the moment feeding into the national systems. Accordingly, the EQF could add value by providing a framework for recognising sectoral qualifications emerging at the international level and linking them with national qualifications systems.
  • Testing: the Commission will launch a call for proposals under the Leonardo da Vinci programme this spring, in support of stakeholders who wish to work together on testing and development of the EQF and national qualifications systems. Secondly, the Commission is establishing in March, in the framework of the Education and Training 2010 work programme, a cluster of countries interested in working together on the recognition of learning outcomes, including on non-formal and informal learning. Finally, it should be borne in mind that the EQF recommendation should itself constitute a framework for co-operation which will not be set in stone but which will be open to adaptation in the future.
  • End-users: the need to highlight the EQF’s benefits for end-users (individual citizens, employers, education and training providers etc.) was one of the key conclusions from the Budapest conference. It will be important for the EQF to be taken into account in the further development of Europass and the Ploteus internet portal. The Commission also announced the launch of a public consultation process on the establishment of a credit transfer system for vocational education and training (ECVET) in the second semester of 2006. In the meantime, it was stressed that the main responsibility for implementing the EQF and communicating it to end-users lay with the national authorities, sectoral organisations and the social partners, including through the sectoral social dialogue.

Questions for discussion:

Do you agree that the above conclusions reflect the main issues to be taken into account in the preparation of the Commission’s draft EQF recommendation?

How should national qualifications systems be developed in relation to the EQF, notably concerning learning outcomes and non-formal learning, quality assurance and the needs of end-users?

 

 

Date: 20.03.2006