Albania is currently working to establish a National Qualification Framework in order to harmonize our system with that of the European Union. Below you will find some remarks and suggestions from a EU report on the AQF (Albanian Qualification Framework).
The term ‘qualification’ as it is now used across Europe is an official record (certificate, diploma) of achievement which recognises successful completion of education or training, or satisfactory performance in a test or examination. A qualification confers official recognition of value in the labour market and in further education and training.
While qualifications are associated with curricula, the two must be distinguished. Curricula define what is to be learned (and sometimes also how learning is to take place). Qualifications define standards of performance which must be met. For many countries, including Albania, the concept of a qualification is quite new.
A NQF (National Qualification Network) is an instrument for the development and classification of qualifications according to a set of criteria for levels of learning achieved.
Many countries, in Europe and elsewhere, have introduced – or are considering the introduction of – an NQF.
These countries believe that an NQF can help to ensure that qualifications meet the country’s economic and social needs, are of good quality, provide flexibility and progression for learners, and enjoy international recognition. The NQF has come to be seen as an important instrument serving in promoting lifelong learning and strengthening quality assurance in education.
The Strategy for Vocational Education and Training in Albania contains as one of a number of key objectives the establishment of a National Vocational Qualifications Framework (NVQF) aligned to developments in the European Union, especially the ‘Copenhagen Process’ and the establishment of an EQF (European Qualification Network).
The draft EQF proposes a set of eight reference levels to which National Qualifications Frameworks can align (i.e. establish correspondence with), thus facilitating comparison and recognition of qualifications across countries and personal and professional mobility of individuals. The EQF has been designed to include not only vocational but all types of qualifications. Therefore, the work that must be undertaken to create National Qualifications Framework covering all academic and vocational qualifications at all levels.
National Qualifications Framework covering all academic and vocational qualifications at all levels.
There are also relevant European developments in the fields of credit systems and quality assurance.
Since 1989, there has been – in the higher education sector – a European Credit Accumulation and Transfer System (ECTS). ECTS allows for the transfer of educational credits between institutions and countries. It has been adopted by over 40 countries. A similar initiative has now been launched in the VET (Vocational Education and Training) sector: the European Credit Transfer System for VET (ECVET).
Another relevant development is the European Common Quality Assurance Framework in VET (CQAF). It is a framework model which serves as a reference for the development and reform of quality systems in the VET sector at national level.
The full implementation of an NQF takes years or even decades. However, the initial establishment of an NQF can be achieved relatively quickly. It requires: clarity about purposes and scope; the adoption of a set of framework levels; development of essential quality assurance procedures; and the establishment of the necessary institutional and legal framework.
Purposes and Scope of the National Qualifications Framework
The main purposes of the NQF should be to:
- improve understanding of learning routes and qualifications and how they relate to each other
- improve access to education and training opportunities
- make progression routes easier and clearer so as to improve learner mobility
- improve credit transfer between qualifications and increase the scope for recognition of prior learning
- ensure that qualifications are relevant to social and economic needs
- ensure that education and training standards are defined and applied consistently
- ensure that education and training providers meet certain quality standards
- secure the conditions for international recognition of national qualifications
The Task Force believes that these purposes, especially those that relate to lifelong learning and flexible access and progression can be fully met only through the development of a comprehensive qualifications framework, covering all sectors of education and training. Therefore, it recommends that the Law on the NQF should contain all necessary provisions for the establishment of a comprehensive NQF, even if active implementation is initially concentrated in the VET sector.
It is also important to establish short to medium term objectives for the NQF by stating precisely what current problems it will help to address or current needs it will help to meet. It is also important to recognise that in order to solve certain of these problems, the development of an NQF must be associated with a wider set of education policies and initiatives.
Levels and Credit in the National Qualifications Framework
All NQFs have levels. A level is a measure of the difficulty of learning. Some NQFs also use credits. Credits measure the volume of learning. This section considers the question of levels and credits in the AQF.
In creating the AQF, decisions must be made about the number of levels it should contain and the nature of these levels. The starting point for considering these questions is the current structure of education in Albania.
Deftesa awarded at the end of compulsory education
A certificate stating grades awarded by the school (on a 10-point scale) for each general education subject.
Certificates of Professional Attainment
These awarded at the end of vocational education first level (three years post-compulsory education), vocational education second level (two years after the first level) and at the end of technical education (five years post-compulsory education). The first level of vocational education prepares for entrance to employment, the second level is preparation to become a skilled worker, and technical education to prepare for technical managerial level.
A certificate awarded at the end of general high school education, socio-cultural education, technical education or vocational education second level.
Under the Bologna Process, Albania has been redesigning its university qualifications to create a three cycle system of Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral degrees, as well as Certificates and Diplomas at sub-degree level. Bachelors degrees may be of three years duration, followed by a two-year Masters degree (‘3+2’) or four years followed by one year (‘4+1’).
The EQF has eight levels ranging from very basic skills to doctoral degrees. It is difficult to assign all current Albanian qualifications to EQF levels with complete confidence as it is not entirely clear what level of attainment each represents.Credit
Credit is a way of measuring the volume of learning. It has nothing to do with the difficulty of learning; this is measured by level (see above). Thus, an introductory course may have more credit than an advanced course. It is therefore essential always to refer to credit at a particular level.
Credit is expressed in credit points, which are based on notional learning time, i.e. the time taken to complete the programme by the average learner with the appropriate entry qualifications.
The basis for most credit systems, including ECTS and ECVET, is an allocation of a fixed number of credit points (e.g. 60) for one year of full time study. Each unit in the qualification is then allocated points depending on what proportion of the full time programme it represents.
A credit system allows and encourages
- everyone to create and follow individual learning pathways
- individual geographic and professional mobility
- inter-institutional and international trust and co-operation
A credit system requires transparency of
- qualifications (clear outcomes or competences)
- procedures (assessment and recognition/accreditation)
- learning processes (formal, non-formal and informal)
- structures (system organisation and institutional responsibilities
The Task Force believes that it would be beneficial for the NQF to include a credit system and that proposals should be developed for a credit points system consistent with ECTS and ECVET.
Institutional Structure for the NQF
The institutional structure for the NQF in Albania should be designed to ensure that all necessary functions are assigned to responsible agencies. The starting point for the design of the institutional structure, therefore, is an analysis of NQF functions.
There are four broad functions associated with NQFs
General Management of NQF
- General Management of NQF
- Quality assurance of education and training institutions
- Development and validation of qualifications
- Assessment and certification of candidates
This function includes:
Quality Assurance of Education and Training Institutions
- developing, implementing and reviewing NQF procedures
- consulting with stakeholders on NQF development and implementation
- registering qualifications on the NQF
- disseminating public information and advice on the NQF
- advising the Ministry on policy and resource implications
This function has two principal purposes:
- To ensure that the programmes leading to the award of NQF qualifications are delivered to an acceptable level of quality
- To assist the institution to develop and mature by encouraging it to focus on quality improvement
Different approaches tend to be adopted to the exercise of this function in the different sectors of education. In secondary schools, the European trend is a system of school self evaluation with a complementary system of external inspection by a National Inspectorate or similar national agency. Such systems are designed with much wider purposes than NQF quality assurance but, if properly designed, include all that is necessary for NQF purposes, thus removing any need to create new procedures specifically for the NQF.
In the university sector, the norm is a system of institutional review or audit. The management of the system of institutional review is normally the responsibility of a national quality assurance agency, independent of the government, and the operation of the system is usually based on the principle of peer review.
In the VET sector, it is common to have a system of institutional accreditation.
Accreditation criteria for VET provides normally include:
Development and Validation of Qualifications
- the adequacy of resources and equipment
- the qualifications and experience of staff
- arrangements for staff development
- quality of programme design
- effectiveness of liaison with employers
- guidance and support for students
- arrangements for students with special needs
- effectiveness of recording and administration systems
- quality of institutional management
Validation of qualifications is a process of approving the design of a qualification as being fit for its purpose. Validation should be undertaken by people other than those who have developed the qualification.
As with quality assurance of institutions, procedures for development and validation of qualifications tend to differ across the three main sectors of education and training. In the secondary school sector, it is normal for the Ministry of Education to wish to maintain fairly close control over the curriculum (especially in respect of general education) and its associated qualifications. While separate bodies may be established with responsibility for the national curriculum or school qualifications or both, the Ministry will normally retain powers of direction or veto. There may or may not be an explicit process of validation.
In the university sector, curriculum and qualifications development is an integrated process and each university takes responsibility for the development and validation of its own programmes and qualifications. The validation process is normally explicit and often involves peers from other institutions.
In the VET sector, the growing trend is for qualifications to be based on occupational standards
. In some countries, this has meant the establishment of formal structures for the development of national occupational standards, with representatives of the employment sector(s) in question playing the leading role. In other countries, there has simply been a more effort to involve stakeholders in the design of vocational qualifications to ensure that the standards match current employment needs. There is as yet no strong evidence to suggest that either approach has particular advantages over the other.
Whatever the model for VET qualifications development, there will normally be a formal procedure whereby the draft qualification is validated, for example by a sector committee operating under the jurisdiction of a national agency.
To be registered on an NQF, a qualification should normally meet the following criteria:
- There is a need for the qualification
Are the purposes of the qualification clear?
Has there been consultation with stakeholders (e.g. the learners and the users of the qualification)?
Or is there other evidence of a need for the qualification?
- The qualification has been designed so as be fit for purpose
Do the content and outcomes of the qualification match its purposes?
Is the content up to date?
Is there evidence that those who gain the qualification achieve the purposes, e.g. entry to a particular field of employment or to a higher level of education?
- The required standards of attainment are appropriate and are consistently applied
Are the standards required for the award of the qualification appropriate to its purposes and the expectations of stakeholders?
Are there systems to ensure that these standards are applied in a reasonably consistent manner?Assessment and Certification of Candidates
Procedures for assessment and certification of candidates vary across the three main sectors of education and training. Where there is a national school examinations system, Ministries of Education traditionally administered these examinations directly. The growing trend, however, particularly given the expansion in the numbers of candidates and subjects being examined, is to create an independent examinations body. This body will conduct the national examinations and issue certificates to successful candidates.
In the university sector, assessment is conducted by the institutions themselves, although there will normally be arrangement for quality assurance through the role of external examiners.
In the VET sector, assessment and certification may be the responsibility of a national awarding body or bodies. Assessment may take the form of national examinations or may be conducted by the VET provider, subject to a moderation or verification by the national agency. Alternatively, the institution may have accredited powers to take full responsibility for assessment and certification. An individual country may use a combination of these approaches.
However, across the three sectors, the general principles are the same. Assessment of candidates for NQF qualifications must be:
- Valid (measure what it is supposed to measure)
- Reliable (applied consistently by different assessors and in different contexts)
- Practicable (not too onerous for institutions or learners)
Functions and Structure
- Clear outcomes and criteria
- Training for teachers/assessors
- System of external assessment or internal assessment with external moderation
Albania has allocated the functions of quality assurance of institutions, development and validation of qualifications, and assessment and certification of candidates to various bodies, in ways that are very much in line with European practice (even if implementation of these functions is still in most respects at a very early stage).
The Task Force has identified the following problems or needs, which an NQF might contribute to addressing.No updated list of occupations based on current labour market needs
There is no up-to-date list of the existing occupations in the Albanian economy and therefore no way of ensuring that the VET system includes all the training programmes and qualifications that the labour market requires.Lack of national qualification standards based on occupational analysis
VET curricula are out-of-date and do not reflect current employment practices and the needs of the social partners. Even less do they equip learners with the key competences and skills that are essential for individual success and national competitiveness in a global economy.
Assessment methods are inadequate and fail to ensure that learners have acquired the necessary knowledge and skills to be competent employees.
All qualifications should be based on standards derived from an analysis of employment needs. These should then be used as the basis for development of modern curricula and for the specification of valid and reliable assessment procedures.Lack of involvement of social partners and other stakeholders
There is little involvement of the social partners and other stakeholders in the development and delivery of VET in Albania. In a modern VET system, there should be an effective partnership between government, social partners and VET providers to ensure that the curricula, qualifications and modes of delivery meet the needs of the labour market and of learners.Lack of flexibility in VET system
The current VET system in Albania is inflexible. Legal age restrictions hinder adult access to vocational high schools. Public training centres and private training centres do not offer programmes leading to nationally-recognised qualifications.
The absence to date of a modular system has prevented the development of effective part time learning routes for adults.
It is difficult for learners to progress between levels or institutions, for example in progressing from certain two-year programmes to the Matura. There is also a progression gap for young people who complete high school but are unable to progress to university; it is not easy for them to access vocational qualifications.Differences and inconsistencies across VET institutions
The quality of education and training provided by institutions varies considerably. The standards applied by these institutions when assessing learners are inconsistent and therefore it is difficult for stakeholders to know what knowledge and skills students should have acquired.Lack of appropriate infrastructure for VET system
VET institutions do not have the necessary resources, equipment and staff training to implement modern curricula tailored to employment needs.Lack of basic vocational qualifications
The first level of vocational qualification is the Qualified Worker Certificate. There is a need also to have a lower level of qualification, for those who complete two years of vocational training.
Non-recognition of Albanian qualifications internationally
The lack of a clear framework of qualifications and of a transparent quality assurance system makes it difficult to attain recognition of Albanian qualifications in other countries.Source: http://www.albaniacardsvet.com