ETF position on ILO national qualification frameworks study
The ETF believes the study goes too far in generalising its findings, suggesting that NQFs in general do not work. It is too early in most cases to be able to identify firm evidence pointing in one direction or another when considering impacts on, say, labour markets. The lack of evidence that was described by the researchers is partially due to the approach used to conduct the research. The quantity of evidence gathered was not extensive and the study devotes more attention to cases where impacts of NQFs are apparently more limited, while more successful cases are understated in the study. Important cases - such as the established French framework – were not included and there was a strong bias in coverage towards English-speaking countries. However, the study raises a valid point that more systematic research is needed to study the impact of NQFs. Moreover, the study points to a degree of policy-copying between countries, which can result in systems which may not be fit for purpose for a particular national context, especially in developing countries.
The International Labour Office’s Skills and Employability Department, recently published study 'The implementation and impact of National Qualifications Frameworks: Report of a study in 16 countries' looks at national qualifications frameworks (NQFs) and examines their impact on education and training systems and labour markets. Countries covered in the study include Australia, Bangladesh, Botswana, Chile, Lithuania, Mexico, Malaysia, Mauritius, the UK (England and Scotland), New Zealand, South Africa, and Sri Lanka.
Experience from developing countries complements studies done in the EU and through the ETF’s participation in the study these experiences can be used to help the partner countries. Case studies on three ETF partner countries are featured in the report, although the ETF not a co-author and nor does it share the conclusions of the ILO which claim that NQFs have had little positive impact on education systems.
It is the ETF’s opinion that the study gives a misleading picture of NQFs and their impacts. In particular, two key potential benefits are overlooked. The first is the process of development and bringing together the diverse actors and institutions in an education system in a process of social dialogue. In the ETF’s experience in the partner countries the process has helped to widen the involvement of business representatives and social partners in the reform of education systems, beyond the NQF. Moreover, the integration of different parts of a country’s education system through the NQF has strengthened policies promoting lifelong learning. These reform objectives explain why NQFs are a priority for so many diverse countries.
Put simply, lifelong learning means that people can – and should have the opportunity to – learn throughout their lives.
Increased labour mobility across borders brings the skills issue onto the international agenda so the ETF also focuses on policy actions related to skills and employment of both emigrants and returnees.
The ETF aims to develop the capacity of partner country institutions and other stakeholders in developing, monitoring and reviewing policies in the areas of entrepreneurial learning and enterprise skills.
“Employment”: promoting better functioning and inclusive labour markets and vocational education and training systems in ETF partner countries.
The ETF's role in qualifications is to provide expertise for the reform of qualifications systems in partner countries, in their various stages of planning and implementation.
Teachers are a critical factor in education reforms. The ETF takes therefore the role of schools and teachers seriously throughout its work.
Quality assurance is provided through the development of methodological instruments to facilitate a structured policy learning process, integrating quality assurance principles, and reinforcing the quality assurance dimension in the Torino Process.
Governance modes and models have a high correlation with the overall performance of education and training policies, influencing their strategic formulation and implementation.