The FQF is a comprehensive framework with all types of qualifications from all parts of education (from primary to doctoral degrees), including professional qualifications. It provides a clear commitment to focus on the learning outcomes approach at policy level and programme and qualifications design. The FQF is based on an eight-level structure described by the categories of knowledge/skills and context/autonomy/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 term 'competence' also 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.
An explicit distinction is made between educational and professional qualifications; all eight levels are open to both ( Professional qualifications are placed at levels 2 to 7; there are currently no professional qualifications at levels 1 and 8.). 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 ( Professional qualifications are approved by the social partners: a professional qualification has to reflect the competences of the profile and no single professional qualification description can be approved without social partner input and approval. While time-consuming and challenging, the inclusion of professional qualifications into the FQF can be deemed a success as it demonstrates that stakeholders are fully involved and responsible for implementing the framework.). 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 education programmes and in education institutions recognised by the Flemish authorities. Depending on the educational level and the form of education, such qualifications may consist of one or more professional qualifications, final objectives and/or specific final objectives ( https://vlaamsekwalificatiestructuur.be/wat-is-vks/meer-info-en-downloads/files/Brochure-Developed_Approved_Implemented-(En)-12-2012.pdf ).
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. The implementation has been accelerated by the new secondary education reform, starting in 2019. Special attention is given to the interplay between professional qualifications and final attainment levels so that learners from upper secondary vocational education (BSO), and upper secondary technical education (TSO) are well prepared for the labour market, with a good balance between basic skills and general knowledge and professional competences.
Learning outcomes are also present in general education, for example by the setting of learning objectives/the attainment targets in national core curricula. Following the adoption on 2 February 2018 of 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. ), new attainment targets began to be developed in stages ( Implementation of new attainment targets for the first grade started in 2019, the second stage will start in 2021, the third in 2023 and the fourth in 2025 (European Commission and Cedefop, 2020).). The content and profile of all educational qualifications at levels 1-4 were approved at the end of August 2020 and will be gradually implemented in the context of modernisation of secondary education. In dual learning, most of the existing courses in the second and third grade have already been modernised.
At post-secondary level, one-year specialisation programmes are offered as follow-up technical programmes. Developments also occurred at EQF level 5 and, in particular, in graduate courses leading to short cycle graduate degrees, which have been updated so as to be based on at least one professional qualification. The professional qualification (s) are translated into domain-specific learning outcomes per educational qualification ( There are 29 level 5 educational qualifications based on 60 level 5 professional qualifications (European Commission and Cedefop, 2020).). By 2024, all graduate degree programmes should be based on a professional qualification (European Commission and Cedefop, 2020). In this way, labour market needs are taken up in VET programmes, including higher VET at EQF level 5 ( For further information, please see the Policy note 2019-24 Work and social economy – Beleidsnota 2019-2024, Werk en sociale economie – at: https://www.vlaanderen.be/publicaties/beleidsnota-2019-2024-werk-en-sociale-economie).
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) 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 (De Rick, K., 2019).). At levels 6-8, 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) states that higher education institutions 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).
There are various providers of further education for adults. The adult education centres are modularising their training offer and bringing it in line with the content of professional qualifications. Due to the decree on the communal quality framework, it is also possible, for example for VDAB (public employment services) but also for other public/private partners, to have training programmes recognised that lead to recognised partial or full professional qualifications. These organisations, when they meet the quality standards laid out in the communal quality framework, can also provide RPL – assessment trajectories that also lead to full or partial professional qualifications.
These regulations came into force in 2020 and only a limited number of courses and RPL trajectories have been accredited. There is also dialogue between the public employment service (PES) and adult education institutions. The PES aims to lead jobseekers to the labour market as quickly as possible (through short training courses, which are not necessarily based on a full professional qualification).