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Outcome orientation

Learning outcome units & EQF-level-assignment

 The aim of one work package was to lift the European core profiles up to current ECVET/EQF standards.

We sub-divided the profiles into learning outcome units. A skilled worker has the knowledge, skills and competences we noted after his/her years of training. The units are based on the workflow. But as we did that it turned out that this is a difficult task because within VET there is no strict separation between knowledge, skills and competences and we do not “think in units”. The essential fact is that there are countries in the project where current VET standards (used in schools) and the occupational standards (used in adult learning) are described in terms of units of competences and not in term of units of learning outcomes. The process of transforming the standards so as to describe the learning process in units of learning outcomes is long and laborious. On the other hand, sometimes VET standards and occupational standards are developed differently even in the same country. For example, both VET and occupational standards in Romania are currently described in units of competences and while the Ministry of Education currently works to describe qualifications in the VET standards in terms of units of learning outcomes (the new VET standards are not even public yet, by the way, and at least 4 curricula experts have worked for a year to transform them), the occupational standards are still described in terms of units of competences and it is guessed they will still be like that for some time.
In order to award reliable ECVET points, first we would have needed to rewrite the national standards by our own so as to suit the project requirements, which would not have been possible within the time and financial resources of our project.

All countries organize their education in their way – knowledge parts often different from skills parts - but all qualifications belong inseparably together. VET means more than the addition of units, modules or part qualifications. A skilled worker is different from an unskilled worker because he or she has the competence to bring knowledge and skills together, to solve problems, to act independently within the workflow.

ECVETis characterized by:
• tobe usedin connection witha student participating inone or morelearningelements of thevocationaltrainingin another countrythan their own.
Givingcredit forthe part or partsthat matchthe currenttraining,orgivingadditional evidenceto the actual programme.
• Forforeignstudents'participationinvocationalorforeignworkers'participationinlabor market trainingto supplementdescriptionofthesestudents'learning outcomestogive thempoints forparticipation.
For example, inDenmarkit has been decidedthat the use ofpointsintrainingwill only coverpupils fromcountries thatwant the studentsto have pointsofstudent participation. Somecountries useECVETtoaccumulatelifelong learning.Students fromothercountriesmay therefore needto ensure that their student learning outcomesinDenmark are awardedpoints. In theAgreementbetweenmobilitypartners, the marking of pointsmust be partof the documentation of learning outcomes. Danishstudentsshouldnot havepointsfortheirparticipation in a programmeinanother country.
In this work package we found that the countries in the BolsterUp project all had different ways of using ECVET. It was difficult to find a path and a clear idea how to use ECVET. We had to clarify and compare qualifications between each country. And taking that into account we decided to follow the conclusion from the syntheses report and work with the European qualification framework.

“The EQF and ECVET are conceived to be complementary tools. EQF provides transparency of comparison between qualifications, while ECVET provides a means of ensuring portability of part-qualifications from one country to another. Like EQF, ECVET is based on a learning outcomes approach, of the softer sort described above. The aim is to provide credit for prior learning as the means of ensuring portability. However, ECVET has had to proceed cautiously, for two reasons. First of all, the aim to specify credit through a purely outcomes-based approach (eg EU 2006) has been adapted so that it is capable of taking into account amount of time/effort required to reach a certain standard. Thus it is possible to assume a rough equivalence of standards achieved in two qualifications based on an equivalence of study or practice time taken.

Second, and potentially more problematically, the idea of tying credit to quantification through ‘credit points’ has proved to be more difficult and less popular than was originally envisaged (CEDEFOP 2013).  This means that it is possible to develop ways of allocating credit for part-qualifications that do not entail the explicit awarding of credit points. Sectors may wish to develop their own systems of credit award through mutual negotiation and agreement. There is no obstacle to their using a credit point-based system should they choose to do so, but no obligation either. This will have an impact on Work Package 4 of this project, which currently talks of awarding credit, without mentioning credit points. Our suggestion is that further work on explicit and implicit study time would need to be undertaken before credit points could be awarded with any confidence. It may, however, not be necessary to do this if other ways of awarding credit can be devised, for example by establishing notional equivalence between individual part-qualifications.”

Most of the partners do not define part-qualifications yet and ECVET is not really practiced everywhere. The times needed for the units differ a lot between the countries. We discussed the point that time is only one part of credit. How could we measure a qualifications unit such as intercultural competence?

How can we measure the way students works together with others? As far as we could gather information,  it works without credit points: if a student/apprentice does a part of his/her training in another country all partners make sure before the exchange that the qualifications which will be trained there are also qualifications belonging to the regulations/curricula of his own country. This is the basis for cross approval. All partners have that much confidence in their partners in other countries that the students/apprentices can continue their training after returning without losing time and they pass their national exams. The universities have dealt with the ECVET/credit point system for several years and it seems to work quite well. But VET training is different and happens at the same time with different partners such as schools, companies, trainers, co-workers, customers etc. The formal path is fixed and regulated but beside it there are non-formal paths so it is a whole complex network.

The core profiles we defined are based on interviews with skilled workers, VET-Experts, trainers, social partners and on the curricula/regulations used for the education of cabinet makers and upholsterer. So they reflect the actual formal standard of education. Non-formal parts were mentioned as well. They mostly cover qualifications that are not based on the curricula in all countries but are taught during the everyday work such as economic behavior, waste management, environment protection or company structure and responsibility for other departments. Lifelong learning in this sector means that a skilled worker starts with the knowledge, skills and competences trained during VET and, because materials, techniques and products change, he or she goes on learning every day within the work process. Organized further training is not everywhere offered.

Possible pathways to reach the core profiles could be several years training in a company, accompanied by courses, adult education programmes or changing from another wood working or similar occupation.

Because we defined the core profiles this way, there is no need to establish a special certification system. Certification would mean high costs for this relatively small branch and there is no international recognized body at the moment which could do that. The partners of the project agreed that an official document, handed out together with the regular national document that is given in all countries now, which attests that the student/apprentice has during the VET got all qualifications of the core profile would be the best way to force mobility. Of course there are some more political steps necessary, but this could be the beginning!

The HM College, NL, developed an example of such a document.