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The European Qualifications Framework: a new way to understand qualifications across Europe

The Commission adopted today a proposal for a Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the establishment of the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning (EQF). The EQF will provide a common language to describe qualifications which will help Member States, employers and individuals compare qualifications across the EU’s diverse education and training systems.

Ján Figel’, European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Multilingualism, said: “People in Europe too often face obstacles when they try to move from one country to another to learn or work, or when they want to build upon previous education or training. The EQF will help to solve that problem: it will make different national qualifications more understandable across Europe, and so promote access to education and training. Once adopted, it will increase mobility for learning or working. We believe the EQF is a key initiative in creating more jobs and growth, helping people in Europe to face the challenges of a globalising, knowledge-based world economy.”

The proposal is one of the concrete outcomes of the “Education and Training 2010” work programme established after the Lisbon European Council in 2000, and was specifically called for by the 2005 and 2006 Spring European Councils. It was developed following an extensive consultation with Member States, the social partners and other stakeholders. It forms part of the Community Lisbon Programme, actions put forward by the Commission in support of the Member States’ efforts to secure the objectives for social and economic development agreed in March 2000.

The core element of the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) is a set of eight reference levels describing what a learner knows, understands and is able to do — their ‘learning outcomes’ — regardless of the system where a particular qualification was acquired. The EQF reference levels therefore shift the focus away from the traditional approach, which emphasises learning inputs (length of a learning experience, type of institution). Shifting the focus to learning outcomes —

* supports a better match between the needs of the labour market (for knowledge, skills and competences) and education and training provisions;
* facilitates the validation of non-formal and informal learning;
* facilitates the transfer and use of qualifications across different countries and education and training systems.

As an instrument for the promotion of lifelong learning, the EQF encompasses general and adult education, vocational education and training, as well as higher education. The eight levels cover the entire span of qualifications from those achieved at the end of compulsory education to those awarded at the highest level of academic and professional or vocational education and training.

The draft recommendation foresees that Member States relate their national qualifications systems to the EQF (by 2009). It will therefore enable individuals and employers to use the EQF as a reference tool to compare the qualifications levels of different countries and different education and training systems, for example vocational training and higher education. The EQF will function as a type of translation device to make relationships between qualifications and different systems clearer.

The EQF will therefore help European education and training systems become more transparent and accessible to the general public.

The EQF proposal will now be examined by the Council and the European Parliament. Adoption is expected before the end of 2007.

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