Why compare qualifications?
Cedefop has supported the exchange of information on VET in Europe since its establishment in 1975; yet detailed comparisons of the content of VET qualifications have only been carried out to a limited extent. The ‘Comparing VET qualifications project’ addresses this weakness. We believe that systematically demonstrating similarities and differences between qualifications allows stakeholders to reflect on their choices and priorities. For example, are significant differences in skills requirements the result of differing national settings or are they caused by a mere lack of information and oversight?
The context of the project
- Between 2015 and 2017, Cedefop carried out a pilot study comparing 10 VET qualifications in 10 European countries. The purpose of this study was to gain insight into the similarities and differences between countries regarding the content and profile of their qualifications.
- The methodology developed for this study was further tested in cooperation with the ETF and UNESCO where four of the original 10 qualifications were compared in 26 countries worldwide.
The increasing use of learning outcomes to define and describe qualifications (Cedefop 2009, 2016, 2017) allowing for systematic comparison of what countries expect their VET candidates to know, be able to do and understand after having successfully completed a VET programme, is the key principle behind the comparative approach used in these two studies. The studies demonstrate the overall feasibility of international comparison of VET qualifications, but also the challenges related to scaling up the approach, as well as questions regarding the reliability and validity of the findings.
Aim of the ‘Comparing VET qualifications’ project
While Cedefop has invested heavily in supporting the exchange of information on vocational education and training in Europe, in-depth comparisons of the profile and content of VET programmes and their resulting qualifications have only been carried out in few cases, and not in a comprehensive way. The project aims to close this gap and support mutual learning between countries to allow national policy-makers and stakeholders to evaluate their own priorities and solutions systematically.
The project work is divided into four separate but interlinked themes:
Events promoting the comparison of VET qualifications
Events are being planned to reflect on different aspects of comparison of VET qualifications. The findings of these activities and Cedefop studies will inform directly ongoing policy developments and reforms at European, national and sectoral levels.
- A seminar was organised in Brussels (autumn 2017) where the topic of comparing qualifications was first presented and discussed.
- Cedefop's first workshop on comparing VET qualifications built on and explored the interim findings of the project and looked into the conceptual challenges of such a methodology, as well as the technology opportunities emerging in this area;
- Cedefop’s second workshop on comparing VET qualifications will present the final findings of the project and a series of use-cases illustrating how systematic analysis and comparison of learning outcomes can support different purposes and users at international as well as national levels.
Pointing to the future
Building on previous work carried out by Cedefop, the project has prepared the conceptual and technical foundation for robust and scalable methodologies allowing for the analysis and comparison of the content (learning outcomes) of qualifications.