The ETF has been working with partner countries on the reform of qualifications systems for many years, focusing on occupational and training standards, competence-based assessment, and since 2005, on NQFs and improving vocational qualifications. In particular, the ETF supports partner countries in exploring how they can adapt and apply the EQF to their national circumstances.
The ETF inventory of NQF developments in partner countries shows that most are reforming their qualifications systems to improve the quality of qualifications and their relevance to the labour market and learners. Two trends are evident: a move to reformulate qualifications defined by learning outcomes and the rapid and widespread emergence of NQFs. Most countries are legislating, or have already introduced, NQFs and have initiated the necessary support processes of establishing institutions, engaging stakeholders and developing standards.
The 2012 Torino Process, formal requests and informal contacts all indicate that partner countries will look to the ETF for continued support for the next few years. The EQF provides both a technical model and a reference to which almost all partner countries wish to align their own national systems to, even those which are not candidates for EU accession. Countries in Bologna, but not part of the EQF process, have in most cases started to develop lifelong learning NQFs. A growing number of Neighbourhood countries are entering into Migration and Mobility Dialogues or Mobility Partnerships with the UE and see NQFs and the validation of non-formal and informal learning as instruments to facilitate legal migration and mobility and integrate returning migrants. In Central Asia, NQFs are considered as tools for VET reform.
For all countries the development of relevant vocational qualifications for initial, secondary tertiary VET and for CVT is a priority. Existing qualifications are in many ways inadequate. In order to improve relevance and quality assure the development, maintenance and use of the qualifications, new governance structures are necessary. Many countries plan to develop sectoral councils. Other institutional changes include establishing coordinating bodies such as qualifications authorities and certification and learning processes, engaging different stakeholders. Some countries are conceptualizing their NQFs, others have policies in place, and some have already started implementation. The ETF is developing different tools to support them to the next stage.
Partner countries start from specific national contexts from which new systems are developed. The ETF adds value to partner country reform processes through its expertise, impartiality, and unique position as an EU agency able to share, adapt and support implementation of EU instruments and policies and without the limitations inherent in time-bound project support. The ETF therefore pays particular importance to strengthening the capacities of policy makers, practitioners and institutions in partner countries. Beyond stakeholder dialogue, countries increasingly need to operationalise and institutionalise the role of stakeholders. Exchange of experiences between partner countries and with European and relevant third countries is particularly important