My first exposure to qualifications frameworks was the Australian model.
I was asked to develop a workshop for the Canadian Industrial Adjustment Service that explained how the basic structure of the Red Seal apprentice program in Canada could be used to work with non-regulated trades within industry sectors.
I was very impressed. Since then much has happened. This information article outlines the Australian framework while drawing attention to the upcoming improvements.
The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) is a national policy framework developed to create a comprehensive national system of cross sectoral educational qualifications capable of supporting the increasingly diverse needs of students in education and training.
The AQF is the principal quality assurance mechanism for Australia’s education and training qualifications. It is the foundation upon which other quality assurance arrangements (such as accreditation of qualifications and the registration of education providers) are built.
Importantly it provides the fundamental architecture necessary for creating pathways between educational sectors and between work and study through credit arrangements (articulation, credit transfer, and recognition of prior learning).
The AQF also provides a government guarantee of authenticity and quality. It has underpinned the export growth of Australian education and the high international standing of Australian qualifications.
- describes the nomenclature and key characteristics of each and all nationally recognized and accredited educational qualifications
- provides guideline information on the linkages between different qualification types
- specifies the authority for accrediting Australian qualifications and the requirements issuance of qualifications in order to protect the reputation and authenticity of the qualifications and the issuing institutions
- describes potential cross-sector qualification linkages and pathways and recognition of prior learning
- facilitates international recognition and comparability of Australian qualifications.
The AQF objectives are to:
- provide nationally consistent recognition of outcomes achieved in post-compulsory education;
- help with developing flexible pathways which assist people to move more easily between education and training sectors and between those sectors and the labour market by providing the basis for recognition of prior learning including credit transfer and work and life experience;
- integrate and streamline the requirements of participating providers, employers and employees, individuals and interested organizations;
- offer flexibility to suit the diversity of purposes of education and training;
- encourage individuals to progress through the levels of education and training by improving access to qualifications, clearly defining avenues for achievement, and generally contributing to lifelong learning;
- encourage the provision of more and higher quality vocational education and training through qualifications that normally meet workplace requirements and vocational needs, thus contributing to national economic performance; and promote national and international recognition of qualifications offered in Australia
Qualifications certify the knowledge and skills a person has achieved through study, training, work and life experience. They are a measure of our ‘intellectual capital’ and increasingly important in a society where unskilled jobs have disappeared and continuous up skilling is required in all forms of work and in day-to-day life.
The AQF helps all learners, employers and education and training providers to participate and navigate the qualifications system. Under the AQF, you can start at the level that suits you and then build up as your needs and interests develop and change over time. The Framework assists learners to plan their career progression at whatever stage they are within their lives and when they are moving interstate and overseas.
In this way, the AQF supports national standards in education and training and encourages lifelong learning.
Work-based qualifications and academic qualifications are now part of a single system, allowing maximum flexibility in career planning and continuous learning (remember, you are likely to make at least five major career and lifestyle changes in your lifetime).
The following changes in vocational education and training have most affected the system of qualifications:
- Vocational qualifications are now industry-based, with specified combinations of units of competency required by each industry for each qualification;
- These qualifications are designed in a sequence, allowing you to move steadily from one qualification to the next. Sometimes you will want to mix and match units of competency : whatever you chose, the units will accumulate on your record of achievement and help towards retaining your job, promotion, a change of career or further learning;
- To be assessed as competent for one of the vocational qualifications, you have to show you can use your skills and knowledge under workplace conditions, so a lot of your training will be in the workplace. Also, you can be assessed for the skills and knowledge you may already have gained informally in previous work.
- Registered Training Organizations (RTOs) are accredited to provide training and issue qualifications according to the requirements of the AQF.
The Australian Qualifications Framework Council is now proposing to strengthen this framework by enhancing the objectives of the AQF and create a more contemporary AQF architecture including:
- A common taxonomy of learning outcomes to describe the breadth and depth of each qualification;
- A hierarchy of qualifications based on explicit reference levels;
- A measurement of the volume of learning for each qualification type at each level.
The proposed enhancements are now under consideration. Stay tuned.
Douglas Ross is an advocate for the promotion of integrity as a strategy for performance.
© 2009 All Rights Reserved, Douglas Ross, Principle Dynamics Consulting Inc.