EU experts on qualifications

"Peer Learning Activity (PLA)" seminar organised within the framework of the Advisory Group for European Qualifications Framework (EQF), was held in Warsaw on 16-17 March 2015. The two-day meeting was attended by the representatives of the Advisory Group for European Qualifications Framework, members of the PLA discussion group, Polish experts and representatives of institutions working on qualifications frameworks as well as experts of the Educational Research Institute (IBE, Warsaw).


The main theme of the two-day seminar was the process of adaptation and relating national qualifications framework to the European Qualifications Framework (EQF), as well as the methodology for assigning levels of qualifications. Another issue discussed during the plenary sessions was summing up of the current reference process and considering its extension in the future.

The seminar was opened by the Deputy Minister of Education, Ewa Dudek: "Development of on the national qualifications framework is giving support to learning throughout life. In Poland, the work on the framework has been carried out in close cooperation with our stakeholders. An important element for us was keeping up the international dialogue and drawing on international experience in the process of relating national qualifications framework to the European Qualifications Framework.

After acquainting the guests with the seminar agenda, the first person to speak was Jens Bjornavold, representative of the European Center for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP) who presented various methods of assigning levels to qualifications and summed up the first wave of the process of reference: "From September 2009 to January 2015, the majority of European countries (except Italy) decided to include in their own qualifications frameworks the goals and guidelines of the European Qualifications Framework. It was a very serious step, which allowed individual countries to adjust the national qualifications frameworks to EU requirements, giving them, at the same time, the opportunity to extend the paths leading to qualifications within the non-formal education and informal learning."

Several of the countries, in their reference reports, were able to develop a coherent description of qualifications at all levels. The cooperation has shown how much European countries can benefit from working together and becoming an inspiration to each other. We are well on the way to realizing the full potential of the European Qualifications Framework.

During the first plenary session, Brigitte Bouquet, representative of the French Commission Nationale de la Certification Professionnelle (CNCP), discussed the threats and opportunities afforded by the implementation of qualification levels in national qualifications systems. "Establishing top-down levels of qualification is always accompanied by some risk, but it does include a number of benefits. The real life experience of France, suggested that too many requirements leading to a qualification were set out. She noted that even in a situation where a person was able to get it, it did not necessarily mean that the expectations of employers and/or the economic sector were met. Therefore, in France, the process was more focused on recognizing what qualifications are actually required in a particular sector - the priority was the general skills and the whole system was reordered and unified.

An important element of the seminar discussion was also Mike Coles', an expert of the European Commission for the European Qualifications Framework, statement and notably its conclusion when he noted: "The inclusion of qualifications and national qualifications systems to the specific levels of national qualifications framework and referencing them to the European Qualifications Framework is essential for the transparency and comparability of qualifications in Europe."

The participants of the seminar were divided into three workshop groups to analyze the best practices in each country and to develop methods for the process of assigning levels to qualifications.

The first group's task was to determine the role the social partners should play in the process of assigning levels to qualifications based on an analysis of best practices from Scotland, France and Italy. The second group's task was develop a method for determining levels of qualifications based on the experience of Poland, Hungary and the European Training Foundation (ETF). The last workshop group was to analyze the elements which should be taken into account and which should be given up when assigning levels to qualifications, based on the practices developed in Germany and Switzerland.

During the opening session of the second day of the seminar discussion the outcomes of the three workshops were presented and summarized. The first speaker was Gabor Bay from Hungarian Education Authority. "The involvement of the social partners varies from country to country. To a large extent this is the result of a different approach to implementing qualification frameworks, the perception of the subject by individual supporting institutions and a different way of measuring learning outcomes. The process of allocation of qualifications is complex and multi-stage, at different stages different target groups should be more involved in its development.

Tomasz Saryusz-Wolski from the Educational Research Institute presented the outocomes of the second group discussion. In his summary he listed the operators which should be more involved in the work on a method for determining qualification levels: "The analysis of the experience of six countries - Poland, Hungary, Albania, Serbia, Morocco and Macedonia, let us note that in the process of determining the qualification levels not only educational institutions from individual countries should be involved, but also the qualification system stakeholders and decision-makers.

The summary of the work of the third workshop group was presented by Agata Poczmańska form the Educational Research Institute: "After analyzing the experiences of Germany and Switzerland, a number of important factors were listed that may be relevant in the process of assigning levels to qualifications. It is important to specify the learning outcomes and to gather information on other qualifications, but similar to the one being described. Attention should be paid to the amount of time needed to obtain a particular level of qualification, and also to refer to the international labour market and to clarify the content-related requirements.

Apart from the experts from the European Union, Yee Wah Cheng, an expert from the Bureau for Qualifications Framework in Hong Kong, was invited to take part in the discussion. She described the methods and benefits of referring national qualifications frameworks to the European Qualifications Framework. "The work on the EQF in Hong Kong was launched in November 2014 and it will continue until the end of the first quarter of 2016. The premise of the project is to achieve greater understanding of how to present and analyze qualifications in Hong Kong and the EU. With this knowledge, it will be easier for students in the European Union to start work in Hong Kong," she concluded.

The organizers of the seminar were: The Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EMPL) of the European Commission, the EQF AG Expert, Hungarian Education Authority and the Educational Research Institute.

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