NQF Midterm Conference

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The Educational Research Institute held a conference in Warsaw on November 6-7, 2013 entitled „The Qualifications System – A Development Tool for Poland and Europe”.

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The conference was an opportunity to discuss how to take advantage of the national qualifications system to further develop general, vocational and higher education, as well as the significance of implementing the Polish Qualifications Framework for the labour market, economic development and the improvement of life for each one of us.


Jan Truszczyński, the General Director for Education and Culture of the European Commission, emphasized that Poland is a leader in terms of the quality, direction and tempo of work on the Polish Qualifications Framework. “The European Qualifications Framework Advisory Group of the European Commission acknowledged,” he said, “that the Referencing Report prepared by Poland, which references the Polish Qualifications Framework to the European Qualifications Framework, is a model document, and for this reason, EU countries implementing their own frameworks should use it as an example.”

The conference was attended by representatives of government ministries, higher education, the European Commission, international experts from countries that either already have implemented qualifications frameworks or are in the process of doing so: Scotland, Germany, France, Russia, and Croatia. Participants also included representatives of institutions coordinating the implementation of frameworks in Europe and persons involved in the public debate: representatives of industry and sectoral organisations, trade unions and employers’ organisations.

The first day of the conference was divided into five plenary sessions: „The Education of Future Generations”, “Higher Education in Poland - Our Place in Europe”, “Education for the Labour Market”, “Sustainable Growth – the Importance of Regional Development”, and “Lifelong Learning – An Individual’s Perspective”.

During his opening speech, Maciej Jakubowski, Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of National Education, spoke about the reforms of the Polish education system and the tangible benefits of implementing the Polish Qualifications Framework (PQF). He noted that implementing the PQF will encourage Poles to take advantage of different forms of learning, and also force educational institutions to work more closely together with entrepreneurs and labour market institutions. He reminded us that implementing the national qualifications system is one of the aims of the strategic document “Perspectives for lifelong learning”, which the government accepted in September 2013.

Director Truszczyński, who spoke in the first session, praised Poland, not only for its progress in the work on an integrated qualifications system, but also for its leadership position in the European Union in terms of the proportion of 30-34 year olds with higher education degrees. He stated that we also rank favourably in relation to the European average in the number of persons who complete their education more quickly. “It is obvious”, he stated, “that in the age of globalization and a knowledge-based society, the future of our children depends on education. This is why educational development is such an integral part of restoring Europe’s economic equilibrium”, he said. “The challenge for all of Europe today is to improve the competencies of adults, decrease the number of unqualified workers in the European labour market, undertake activities to better utilise open educational resources in the Internet and increase the quality of such resources. Quality assurance systems are needed, along with their constant oversight and updating.” He stated that a report will soon be released on the implementation of the European Qualifications Framework.
The moderator of this session, Dr. Hab. Michał Federowicz, IBE’s director, pointed out that one of the most important challenges facing Poland in the period of 2015-2020 is to support innovation and creativity, and in education – for schools and higher education institutions to become more open towards different forms of learning outside of the formal education system. Higher education institutions also need to work better with business.

During the second session – “Higher Education in Poland - Our Place in Europe”, Dr. Tomasz Saryusz-Wolski of IBE stated that in order to meet demographic and economic challenges, Polish higher education institutions will have to change diametrically. “They should become places of useful learning, ensuring the provision of competencies adapted to labour market needs, and not places that teach. The student should attain learning outcomes and an academic teacher should help with this,” he added.

The moderator of the session “Education for the Labour Market”, Dr. Agnieszka Chłoń-Domińczak of IBE, presented the results of the PIAAC survey of the competencies of adults. This survey shows that the Polish labour market was genuinely revolutionised in the last 12 years in terms of the education level of employees – the proportion of workers with higher education degrees grew by 130%. This shows how people’s aspirations have grown, together with the needs of employers. She believes that it is very important to support the labour market by developing sectoral qualifications frameworks and incorporating the perspectives of the sectors in the PQF. Also emphasised was the key role of stakeholders, who have been extensively involved from the beginning in the work on the PQF undertaken by IBE. “There is no vocational education system in Europe that is able to keep up with the changes happening in the labour market. This is why lifelong learning is so significant”, noted Jacek Męcina, Secretary of State in the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, during the session.

The Ministry of Labour, concentrating on continuing education, has prepared instruments for employers in its amendments to the law on employment, such as the National Training Fund, which is to be used to train workers that have the greatest competency deficits. The Fund is to be managed by the social partners – employers and trade unions.

Anthony O’Reilly, from the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework, spoke on how important a tool the Scottish Qualifications Framework has become for the labour market. “Our framework links vocational and higher education”, he stated, “which makes it easier for employees to take advantage of formal and non-formal education to improve competencies.” Over 2,000 training programmes are provided, which comply with the Scottish framework (including 700 non-formal programmes developed by NGOs, institutions and sectors, such as, for example, the police and banking sector). Thanks to such a modern partnership for education, Scotland currently has the highest employment rate among United Kingdom countries.

During the session on lifelong learning and its impact on regional development, Paweł Orłowski, Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Regional Development, spoke about using EU funds to improve the competencies of adults. Andrzej Martyniuk, Director of the Voivodeship Labour Office in Kraków, described a partnership to activate the regional labour market and support employers in their search for workers. This initiative was developed by the Labour Offices, local municipalities and townships, university career offices, trade unions, associations of employers and entrepreneurs from the Małopolskie Voivodeship.

„Jobs offer the ideal conditions to improve competencies through non-formal education. People are generally interested in opportunities to validate competencies attained in this manner. Unfortunately, there are not very many opportunities to do so today”, noted Bogdan Grzybowiak of OPZZ during the fifth session.

Jolanta Jaworska of IBM Poland spoke about the many opportunities to improve qualifications at the workplace during her presentation of the educational programmes for IBM employees, such as the „Think 40” programme, which consists of 40 hours of training for the workers of this firm.

The second day of the conference was devoted to three panel sessions addressing the issues of developing and implementing the National Qualifications Framework in higher education, developing social competencies and validating learning outcomes attained through lifelong learning. A discussion ensued on the importance of partnership and the role of stakeholders in developing a qualifications system and the need to appropriately describe qualifications so that they comprise an objective system of defining learning outcomes.


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