The European Qualifications Framework (EQF) has a competitive advantage in the global marketplace because it signals a more balanced approach to qualifications and it addresses what I think is a systemic issue in education and training.
The EQF is a common European reference framework which links countries’ qualifications systems together, acting as a translation device to make qualifications more readable and understandable across different countries and systems in Europe. It has the twin purposes of promote individual mobility between countries and facilitating lifelong learning.
The EQF seeks to balance input qualifications with output qualifications and to focus on vocational qualifications that are considered vital to sustain a competitive advantage. Output qualifications are called learning outcomes which are defined “ as a statement of what a learner knows, understands and is able to do on completion of a learning process. The EQF emphasizes the results of learning rather than focusing on inputs such as length of study.
For example, when one of my children was sick, he was in a teaching hospital with many doctors seeking to obtain additional specialist’s qualifications. I noticed that one doctor from Egypt, who could not speak English very well, was the one who was front and center in any crisis. It turns out his knowledge, skills and competence in emergency surgeries surpassed any of the other doctors. All the doctors had high entry academic qualifications (inputs), but our Egyptian friend had, in my opinion, better learning outcomes (surgery in emergency situations). I chose him and that decision saved my son’s life.
Second, the EQF addresses a systemic barrier in our systems which values academic qualifications over vocational qualifications. I always thought that many people are better able to learn by doing than learn by listening. As a teacher I found that a certain portion of every class did well regardless of teachers, subject or grade level. Another portion of the class struggled regardless of teachers, subject or grade level. Research revealed that learning style was critical. In very simple terms, some people learn by listening and studying while others learn by seeing and doing.
The ones who learned by listening and studying invariably did better on academics and did well in a society that emphasizes academic qualifications. The ones who learn by seeing and doing struggled in academics but did better on vocational pursuits.
The problem is that, in my opinion, the academic qualifications were perceived as better than vocational qualifications. This created a systemic class distinction that in my neighborhood was known as blue collar and white collar jobs and rewards.
The EQF will relate different countries’ national qualifications systems and frameworks together around a common European reference – its eight reference levels. (We will look at these in upcoming posts.)
The EQF has many advantages in helping address these two issues
- It will make it easier for learners to describe their broad level of competence to employers in other countries.
- There will be a common reference point, which will indicate how learning outcomes may be combined from different settings, for example formal study or work, and from different countries, and can thus contribute to reducing barriers between education and training providers.
- The focus on learning outcomes will make it easier to assess whether learning outcomes acquired in work settings are equivalent in content and relevance to formal qualifications.
- The adoption of a common reference framework based on learning outcomes will facilitate the comparison and (potential) linking together of traditional qualifications awarded by national authorities and qualifications awarded by other stakeholders.
The EQF will thus help sectors and individuals take advantage of this growing field of foreign credential recognition.
Douglas Ross is an advocate for integrity as a strategy for performance. He is a consultant with Principle Dynamics Consulting Inc of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada and Augusta, Georgia, USA.
© 2009 All Rights Reserved, Douglas Ross, Principle Dynamics Consulting Inc.