The term 'competence' plays a significant role in Flemish education, training and employment policies and is used as an overarching concept. Competence and learning outcomes are used as interchangeable terms in education and training with the exception of higher education.
The FQF is based on an eight-level structure described by the categories of knowledge and skills, and context, autonomy and responsibility. Compared to the EQF, FQF descriptors are more detailed, particularly for lower levels. A main feature of the Flemish framework is the use of 'context' as an explicit element of the descriptors. The context in which an individual is able to function is seen as an important part of any qualification.
The descriptors are used to describe two main categories of qualification; professional and educational. A professional qualification is based on a set of competences allowing an individual to exercise a profession and can be achieved both inside and outside education. An educational qualification is based on a set of competences an individual needs to participate in society, to continue education and/or to exercise professional activities. An educational qualification can only be acquired through participating in an education programme and in education institutions recognised by the Flemish authorities. Depending on the educational level and the form of vocational education, educational qualifications may consist of one or more professional qualifications, final objectives and/or specific final objectives ( http://www.ond.vlaanderen.be/kwalificatiestructuur/links-en-publicaties/bijlagen/Brochure-Developed_Approved_Implemented-(En)-12-2012.pdf ). The distinction between professional and educational qualifications is applied for all eight levels ( There are currently no professional qualifications at levels 1 and 8.) of the framework; allowing professional qualifications to be placed at high levels in parallel to traditional academic qualifications.
Practical implementation of the principles of learning outcomes/competences has progressed in recent years. The VET sector is probably the most experienced in this field. A competence-based approach is well integrated, referring to professional requirements in the labour market. The use of competences in initial VET has been inspired by Dutch developments, particularly the upper secondary vocational education (middelbaar beroepsonderwijs, MBO) reform. Learning outcomes are also present in general education, for example by the setting of learning objectives/the attainment targets in national core curricula.
A public debate ( This debate involved around 40 000 participants, half of which were young learners. The 2006 EU-key-competences framework served as one of the reference documents. More information can be found at: http://www.onsonderwijs.be/) on the attainment targets/learning outcomes for secondary education, including vocationally oriented secondary education (initial VET), took place between February and June 2016. Following the advice of the Council of State, the Flemish Government adopted on 2 February 2018 a decree ( More information can be found at: https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/national-policies/eurydice/content/national-reforms-school-education-3_en#2017_Modernisation_of_secondary_education_legislative_process) on altering the secondary education structure and the renewal of learning outcomes for compulsory education ( Compulsory education lasts for a maximum of twelve school years, up to the age of 18 or as soon as a pupil obtains the diploma of secondary education. ). The decree stipulates 16 'key competences' ( The 16 'key competences' relate to: physical and mental well-being, Dutch, other languages, digital and media literacy, social competences, civic competences, historical awareness, spatial awareness, sustainable development, economic and financial competences, judicial competences, learning and research competences (critical thinking, problem solving, creativity,…), self-consciousness and self-expression, entrepreneurial competences, cultural consciousness and expression.), based on the results of the public debate. All these key competences need to be considered as broad thematic domains, which will be further operationalised in attainment targets. For this reason, development committees have been established, comprising representatives of education networks, teachers and academics.
In the first half of 2018, the new attainment targets for the first grade of secondary education were developed, within the framework of the above key competences. They were validated by the Flemish Parliament on 5 December 2018. Their implementation will start in September 2019. In November 2018, development committees started the development of the attainment targets for the second and third grade of secondary education, though only for those tracks preparing for tertiary education. Although it has been agreed that more attention needs to be given to key competences in the vocationally oriented tracks, it is still subject to debate which of the presently developed attainment targets for the 2nd and 3rd grades will be implemented in the vocational tracks as well.
Developments in higher education have been influenced by the Bologna process, but are mainly dependent on initiatives taken by single institutions or associations of higher education institutes. While reflecting a diverse situation, a clear strengthening of the learning outcomes principle has taken place in Flanders. Learning outcomes that have been acquired previously can (after successful assessment or validation of them) lead to acquisition of the corresponding credits in higher education. Credits are referred to in Flanders as 'study points', while students who successfully complete a course or modules are awarded a credit certificate ( Students get credits for parts of the learning programme for which they were successfully assessed.) (European Commission et al., forthcoming). At levels 6 to 8, the Parliament Act of 2009 ( Flemish Parliament (2009) Decreet betreffende de kwalificatiestructuur [Act on the qualification structure]. Belgisch Staatsblad, 16.7.2009, p. 49597.
http://data-onderwijs.vlaanderen.be/edulex/document.aspx?docid=14111 [accessed 18.3.2019].) states that higher education institutions will jointly describe the subject-specific learning outcomes for higher education courses. The validated descriptions of the subject-specific learning outcomes are automatically recognised as educational qualifications by the Flemish Government and published in the Flemish qualifications database (European Commission and Cedefop, 2018).
In adult education, a working group of representatives of education and representatives of the Flemish public employment service are working together in developing education and training programmes. In this way the content of both types of programme is based on professional qualifications standards and the building blocks that are part of the programmes are the same or compatible. Training programmes outside formal education (for example, the public employment service, the Flemish Agency for Entrepreneurial Training) can be based on professional qualifications (European Commission and Cedefop, 2018).