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Home » The conference “Qualifications into the new framework?!”, 19 November 2009

The conference «Qualifications into the new framework?!», 19 November 2009

The information conference "Qualifications into a new frame?!" provided a comprehensive overview of the development of the Estonian Qualifications Framework.

On 19 November 2009 the information conference "Qualifications into a new frame?!" was held within the programme "Development of the professional qualifications system" of the European Social Fund. About 200 representatives of awarding bodies, professional councils, ministries and other partner organisations of Kutsekoda gathered in the auditorium of the Art Museum of Estonia. The conference looked at the European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning and the current situation of the development of the Estonian Qualifications Framework.

Secretary General of the Ministry of Education and Research Mr Janar Holm remarked in his opening address that Estonia is not facing the issue of whether qualifications would fit in the new frame today, since the new national qualifications framework has been established and placing the qualifications in it had also begun. Issues may arise within processes and how to place the qualifications in the framework. He emphasised that the framework could only be implemented and filled with the qualifications through a collaborative effort.

The process commenced on 23 April 2008 when the European Parliament and Commission adopted a recommendation for the implementation of the 8-level European Qualifications Framework (EQF). The EQF aims to improve comparability of qualifications between European countries. Most countries in Europe have set a target of the end of 2010 to reference their national qualifications or qualifications frameworks to the EQF.

Mike Coles from the UK Qualifications and Curriculum Authority said in his opening presentation that the EQF is like a mirror showing other national qualifications systems and enabling their comparison. The EQF as a framework for lifelong learning supports the development of systems for the recognition of formal, non-formal and informal learning through its level descriptions. The EQF is like a ladder where people are able to see how they can move higher as a result of their learning. This ladder offers clarity in terms of which route and through which qualifications one should take to reach the top in their chosen field. The EQF levels inform us about learning but not in which form the learning should be, and it is a tool for those people who believe in learning and mobility.

The first step for the implementation of the EQF is relating national qualifications frameworks to EQF levels. Current practices show that before relating the qualifications to the EQF it is preferable to develop national qualifications first and to set up a national qualifications framework.

Olav Aarna, member of the management board of Kutsekoda presented an overview of the Estonian Qualifications Framework and described how the 8-level Estonian Qualifications Framework (EstQF) was implemented after the Professions Act, which stipulated it, entered into force on 1 September 2008. Level descriptions of the EQF and EstQF are identical and therefore it should be borne in mind that when the latter is referenced to the EQF, the most critical issue is relating various types of qualifications and single qualifications to the EstQF levels. Qualifications, which are placed in the framework, must be learning outcome based although the EstQF does not currently include any qualifications or professions within formal education. The EstQF is related to 4 types of higher education qualifications and 3 types of vocational education qualifications. The five-level qualifications framework and its relation to EQF is not formalised yet.

Aune Valk, expert on the Bologna process spoke about placing higher education qualifications at the three highest levels of the EstQF and described contradictions between the Higher Education Standard and descriptors of the EstQF. She suggested that different stakeholders should work together and review descriptors of the EstQF in Annex 1 of the Professions Act and coordinate them with those of higher education. Reviewing and coordination of the EstQF descriptors and learning outcomes of different levels and types of higher, vocational and general education and competence descriptors of the levels of the qualifications system had also been proposed in the workshop, conducted a day before the conference, which discussed principles of quality assurance in the EstQF.

Külli All from the Ministry of Education and Research presented the process of placing vocational education qualifications in the EstQF. The development of the learning outcome based approach is increasing links between national curricula of vocational education and competence descriptors of professional standards. She highlighted once again that the aim of the EstQF is for any school leaver or a person with some qualifications to understand where their qualifications are placed within the framework, to be informed about how further education can help them progress and which route to take to the labour market.

Katrin Kerem, member of the management board of Kutsekoda and head of the ESF programme "Development of the professional qualifications system", presented an overview of key improvements and changes in the professional system arising from the new Professions Act, 8-level qualifications framework and internal needs for change in the professional system. The transfer from the 5-level framework to the 8-level qualifications framework will be gradual. In the course of the process a new basis for the qualifications classification will be introduced along with a catalogue of nationally recognised qualifications, the form and methodology of the professional standard will be amended and improved and professional standards revised or compiled accordingly, principles for the assessment of competences will be improved and enhanced, and opportunities for obtaining a qualification upon graduating from an educational institution created.

Another foreign presenter Slava Pevec Grm from CEDEFOP talked about the survey "Development of national qualifications frameworks in Europe", carried out in September 2009. All EU member states (plus Iceland, Norway, Croatia, Turkey) are developing qualifications frameworks. In common with Estonia these other nations have targeted the creation of a comprehensive framework embracing higher, vocational and general education and qualifications, i.e. all sectoral qualifications. This survey will facilitate an assessment of the development of the EstQF in relation to other European countries. Participants agreed that progress on the development of the Estonian qualifications framework has been at a satisfactory level.

Cooperation and inclusion of all stakeholders in the implementation of the EstQF are the most important key words which the conference highlighted. Tiia Randma, representative of the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, also underlined consideration of expectations of interest groups when summing up the conference. Agreements take time to be forged and it is essential to prepare solid foundations for our framework.

For more information please see the programme of the conference and the conference presentations.

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