Presentation of the Polish Referencing Report

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On July 3, 2013, the Educational Research Institute held an international conference in Warsaw, entitled "The Polish Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning from the European perspective". During this event, the Polish Referencing Report was presented, which references the Polish Qualifications Framework to the European Qualifications Framework (EQF). Conference guests included representatives of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, foreign experts from Hungary, Austria, Germany and Scotland who reviewed the Report, as well as a representative of the European Commission’s EQF Advisory Group and the head of CEDEFOP (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training).


That day, the Warsaw Marriott Hotel’s conference room was filled to capacity. The event was attended by over 200 representatives of key ministries, the Central Examination Board, directors and representatives of district education commissions, regional superintendents, the Education Development Centre, the National Centre for Supporting Vocational and Continuing Education, higher education institutions, the National Team of Bologna Experts, employers' organisations and trade unions, industry organisations and associations, regional examination boards, employment offices, NGOs, training institutes, the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development, regional labour offices, as well as Polish experts who have been working on frameworks since 2006.

The many guests were welcomed by Dr. Michał Sitek, Deputy Director of the Educational Research Institute. Afterwards, Prof. Daria Lipińska-Nałęcz, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, spoke. She stressed the great success of the Polish Referencing Report, which was accepted with much applause by the EQF Advisory Group in Brussels. “This confirms the high quality of the product,” highlighted Professor Lipińska-Nałęcz, “and the high quality is, among other things, due to the fact that it is one of the few reports that describes what actually has been done,” she explained, adding that the report summarises the achievements and the results put into practice in Poland.

Next, Małgorzata Marcińska, Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, pointed out the importance of implementing the qualifications system in Poland from the point of view of the labour market. “Developing national qualifications frameworks is not a process that is occurring only in European Union countries. Similar systems are being developed around the world, as there is no doubt that this is an effective tool to improve the functioning of the labour market,” Ms. Marcińska said, emphasising that one of the major benefits provided by the Polish Qualifications Framework is improved transparency and the recognition of qualifications in the labour market. “It must be remembered, however, that for the framework to be a success, it should be a simple, accessible and useful tool,” she noted.

Then Prof. Zbigniew Marciniak of Warsaw University, former Deputy Minister of Education and former Deputy Minister of Science and Higher Education, recalled the history of the conceptual work on the National Qualifications Framework. The idea of qualifications frameworks emerged in 2004. Two years later, the concept was drafted by the European Commission and adopted by the European Parliament in 2008. Its aim was to facilitate the comparison of qualifications acquired in different times, places and forms. This is why the countries participating in the Bologna Process began implementing the European Qualifications Framework for the Higher Education Area. “The Framework was needed. It wasn’t that an idea emerged somewhere in the world, to which we had to adapt. We had our own reason for developing this framework. The reason is the massification of higher education,” explained Prof. Marciniak. Currently, higher education is more accessible than ever before, with more and more persons holding higher education degrees, with some graduates even having several degrees – resulting in greater competition in the labour market. Therefore, to clarify this issue, among others, the Polish Qualifications Framework project was developed, as described in the Referencing Report.

And what is the Referencing Report? It is a document, which references the Polish Qualifications Framework (PQF) to European frameworks and describes how it meets the ten criteria developed by the EQF Advisory Group. Dr. Agnieszka Chłoń-Domińczak, PQF project leader, presented the Polish Qualifications Framework project and the significance of the Referencing Report for Poland. “Actually, there are two reports: the Self-certification Report of the National Qualifications Framework for Higher Education and also the Referencing Report. Referencing the Polish Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning to the European Qualifications Framework," explained the representative of the Educational Research Institute. “It is worth noting that these two reports provide an integrated whole. They are not two separate documents - they complement each other and show how, by combining various subsystems, and we strive to integrate them.”

In addition to referencing the PQF to the EQF, the Report also contains information on the progress of work to integrate the national qualifications system, sets of learning outcomes required for selected qualifications, a detailed description of the Polish education system and the reviews of foreign experts. “The report shows the actual state of the Polish qualifications system and indicates the direction to be taken to modernise the system, taking into account the very important area of non-formal education,” explained Dr. Chłoń-Domińczak.

Work on the Polish Referencing Report began in 2011. The course of work was overseen by the Steering Committee of the National Qualifications Framework for learning and the Inter-ministerial Taskforce for lifelong learning including the National Qualifications Framework. At the same time, foreign experts were invited to participate from the beginning of the process of developing the Report. The completed document was adopted by the Committee for European Affairs in May 2013 and presented at the meeting of the EQF Advisory Group of the European Commission in Brussels on May 29.

During the conference, the foreign experts who participated in developing the referencing process from its inception presented their opinions of the report. Aileen Ponton, Director General of the organization responsible for implementing the Scottish Qualifications Framework, was first to speak. “Developing the report was a very ambitious undertaking, especially as the process of referencing the Polish Qualifications Framework to the EQF occurred in parallel with the creation of the Polish Qualifications Framework. This work was clearly beneficial, but it should be noted that some tasks still need to be completed,” said the representative of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework Partnership.

Another expert, Michael Schopf of the Steering Committee of the German Qualifications Framework, drew attention to the relevant and innovative way qualifications are distinguished in the Polish framework: “A new feature is the introduction of two types of qualifications: full and partial. But partial qualifications are not part of, or additions to qualifications. And although many questions still need to be answered before implementing this concept, its aim is positive: the inclusion of the greatest number of qualifications into the integrated qualifications register.

The remarks of Eduard Staudecker from the Austrian Ministry of Education, Culture and Art referred to the overall changes taking place in the context of developing the National Qualifications Framework in Poland: “At all levels and in all sectors of education, the use of learning outcomes is promoted, as evidenced by the development of new curricula based on learning outcomes. As a result, positive results can be anticipated in improving the quality of education and training,” emphasised Staudecker.

The final expert reviewer of the Polish Report to present her remarks was Erzsebet Szlamek, a member of the team working on implementing the Hungarian Qualifications Framework. In discussing the Polish Report, she referred to the Hungarian framework, because Hungary, as Poland, is challenged by the need to resolve problems associated with the traditional division of education and the low numbers of adults participating in lifelong learning: “I believe that all the referencing criteria have been fulfilled. The Report is clear, understandable and a sound document on the complex process during which foreign experts had the opportunity to not only advise, but also to participate in discussions, learn from each other, and thus also contribute positively to the referencing process in Hungary,” summarised Ms. Szlamek.

Finally, Jens Bjornavold of the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP) talked about the implementation and development of qualifications frameworks in other European countries. He stressed that the EQF assumes value and importance as a tool to communicate among European systems that are to support the development of a coherent and integrated education system in the European Union: “This is why it is so important that the Polish Qualifications Framework, its structure, is consistent with the European Framework,” explained Mr. Bjornavold. “The Polish referencing process has so far been carried out very well, but the hard work and challenges are only starting,” he finished with a smile.

In concluding the meeting, Dr. Agnieszka Chłoń-Domińczak confirmed the words of Jens Bjornavold: “We have always perceived the framework as a very broad tool that is able to integrate European education systems, connect them and show them as a coherent whole,” she stated, adding: “In reality, work on the framework has only just begun, and although the Report is ready, we must keep up the pace of our work.

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