Report, Tools & Tips

National Qualifications Frameworks (NQFs) – A toolkit

Most of the ETF’s 29 partner countries have national qualifications frameworks (NQFs) but these mainly exist only on paper or are only partially implemented. This toolkit examines why countries are blocked and proposes solutions to speed up implementation. We go wider than the NQFs themselves. It is not about NQFs per se, but about qualification systems. To tackle problems in implementing an NQF requires us to address the four key elements in a qualification system: laws, stakeholders, institutions and quality assurance. So our focus is on the qualification system reform and making it work.



• Communicate, coordinate, and quality assure continuously. • Accept your share of responsibility for action, and act!
• Build a culture of quality – don’t rely on quality control
mechanisms only!


Act timely
• Act now or systemic changes will not happen. This is urgent business.
• Don’t delay any necessary legislative process.
• Consider creating new institutions to accelerate reform.
• Don’t stop at developing a national quali cations
framework – they are a necessary but not su cient condition for systemic reform.
Benchmark and evaluate the reform
• Learn from others, look at the commonalities rather
than the di erences. Systems need to be t for purpose, that’s why they are di erent.
• Consider combining functions and roles under a single institution.
• Review institutional mandates regularly to avoid rigidity in processes, and to adapt to changing circumstances.
• Identify appropriate progress indicators and monitor them.
• Build a systemic quality assurance approach.
Review the institutional arrangements
• Locate all functions in speci c institutions for implementing a systemic change.
• Designate a coordinating institution, for instance through the creation of a new institution.
• Review existing institutions’ capacities and identify gaps and overlaps.
• Reorganise and restructure whenever needed based on an agreed rationale.
Legislate well
• Ensure new legislation is based on an agreed strategy for reform.
• Map existing legislation to identify what needs to be done.
• Use primary legislation to establish principles, and
secondary legislation for operational functions.
• Ensure legislation covers the key functions identi ed
for a modern quali cation system.
• Involve stakeholders when drafting legislation.
• Regulate stakeholders’ involvement in policy, design,
and implementation, and remove any legislative
obstacles to that.
• Make sure new and existing education and labour
market legislation is aligned.
• Don’t design laws that cannot be implemented.


Allocate and manage resources
• Plan and implement accordingly, using de ned and agreed timeframes and deadlines.
• Ensure a clear division of mandates and tasks between institutions, avoiding con icts of interest. Don’t work
in silos!
• Look for a ordable, t-for-purpose solutions
• Allocate the needed resources (technical and nancial)
to the di erent institutional actors for getting sustainable
(mid-term) solutions implemented.
• Formalise dialogue and support it with appropriate
• Manage competing remits between di erent ministries. • Adopt a service or customer-oriented approach in public
services (e ciency gains).
• Clearly integrate certi cation in VET policies and in
quality assurance systems.
Promote and maintain partnerships
• Map all types of stakeholders, identify current and future/ potential roles, and support their involvement.
• Recognise the inter-dependencies between actors in the system. No single actor can achieve change alone.
• Involve diverse stakeholders, in particular the ones from the world of work, as a prerequisite for systemic change.
• Establish regulations that empowers actors, rather than seeking to control them.
• Remember that providers and end users of quali cations are also stakeholders, and in most cases, they are the most important ones. They need to benefit from the reform!
• Professionalise at every level, because voluntary processes alone will not provide sustainable results.
Inform and communicate
• Focus on organisational issues to implement concepts such as a national quali cations framework.
• Develop a shared communication strategy specifically about quali cations for the audiences represented by stakeholders, and tailor messages for the di erent groups.
• Bear in mind that dialogue is to be productive and ensure that quali cations are understood, used and trusted by all.
• Be speci c in dialogue – don’t waste each other’s time. Policy dialogue is doing business!
• Explain how people can obtain qualifications and what kind of career and progression opportunities they offer.


Classify and register qualifications
• Promote a common understanding of quali cations- related concepts and terminology.
• Classify qualifications by levels and types, considering their descriptions and learning outcomes.
• Ensure that the NQF includes qualifications for lifelong learning.
• Make all quali cations available publicly through an online database.
Produce and quality assure quali cations
• Review existing quali cations before you develop new ones.
• Quality assure the standards behind quali cations, the assessment processes, the certification, and include an independent validation check at every step.
• Use appropriate and reliable mechanisms and standards.
• Anticipate the future – how changing occupations will
affect qualifications needs.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at ETF – Getting organised for better qualifications: A toolkit



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