The NMQF has reached an early operational stage. The law on the NMQF ( Law on national qualifications framework. Official Gazette of the Republic of Macedonia, No 137/2013 and 30/2016. http://mrk.mk/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/NQF-LAW_MKD-EN_rev-final-1.pdf) was adopted in 2013 and entered into force in September 2015. It defines the principles and goals of the framework, its structure, levels, sublevels and level descriptors, mandatory elements of qualification standards, volume and types of qualifications, as well as quality assurance aspects and institutional roles. Institutional arrangements for implementation are in place and inclusion of qualifications has started. Qualifications that were given priority were those in VET – in particular those in tourism and hospitality, electronics and IT, agriculture and civil engineering, personal service, chemical and technology; post-secondary qualifications (EQF level 5); and vocational qualifications acquired outside formal education (European Commission and Cedefop, 2018). At present, the NMQF includes (ETF, 2018):
- all qualifications from accredited higher education programmes;
- all qualifications from general education;
- reformed three-year VET qualifications, which have been defined in learning outcomes, notably those designed in 2012-13 (within an IPA Twinning project with Slovenia);
- all qualifications from four-year VET programmes and three-year VET programmes not yet reformed are included conditionally, pending their revision in line with Article 6 – 'Standards of qualifications' – of the NQF law;
- qualifications from verified non-formal adult education programmes.
Funding for the functioning and capacity-building of structures concerned with the framework has been shared between national and international sources (ETF, 2018). The ETF supported the referencing of the NMQF to the EQF (2014-15), capacity building for stakeholders, revision and analysis of qualifications, and levelling of a small number of VET qualifications using learning outcomes. NMQF implementation was also supported by the British Council, with emphasis on employer engagement with NMQF development, and the establishment of sectoral qualifications councils (Ministry of Education and Science, 2016). An IPA twinning project – Further improvement of the system for development and implementation of the national qualifications framework – was launched in March 2016, aimed at activities for review of NQF-related legislation; strengthening institutional capacity; and development of qualifications in line with the NQF. Other specific projects aimed to continue reforms of three- and two-year VET qualifications ( IPA project Enhancing lifelong learning through modernising the vocational education and training and adult education systems.) by developing new qualification and occupation standards, reforming curricula and strengthening cooperation between stakeholders and VET teachers. Projects also supported the modernisation of post-secondary education ( IPA project Support to the modernisation of the system for post-secondary education. ); cooperation between higher education institutions and the business community ( IPA project Cooperation between higher education institutions, private sector and relevant public bodies.); and building capacity of the EQF national coordination point (EQF NCP) and other relevant stakeholders ( Erasmus + grant (2016).).
The Roadmap for further development and implementation of the NMQF ( A revised version of the Roadmap for further development and implementation of the MQF highlighting the actions completed by January 2018 is available at: http://mrk.mk/?page_id=918&lang=en) was put forward in 2016. It contains eight work packages designed to tackle specific challenges: further conceptual development; NMQF governance and stakeholder involvement; implementation of learning outcomes; setting up a system for validation of non-formal and informal learning; inclusion of qualifications into the NMQF; quality assurance of qualifications; review and updating of related legislation; and monitoring of NMQF implementation in line with the Roadmap. The activities of the first phase have been implemented with ETF support (ETF, 2018).
A comprehensive inventory of qualifications was created in 2015 in cooperation with the ETF, as a first version of a qualifications register. It covered all formal qualifications from higher education, general education and VET, and the verified non-formal adult education programmes ( The inventory includes 241 qualifications from general education, formal VET, non-formal verified programmes, qualifications in the aviation sector, as well as other qualifications. A small number of higher education qualifications (43) were integrated in the inventory, complementing the 1 147 already listed in the register of higher education qualifications (elaborated with support of a Tempus project) (ETF, 2018).). The qualifications register ( Available in Macedonian at: https://registar.mrk.mk) has been under development since 2016 (ETF, 2018), with 30 qualifications at levels 2, 3 and 5 listed in the register by April 2019.
NQF and EQF levels are indicated in the qualifications register, and on Europass diploma supplements. It has been agreed to include NQF and EQF levels on qualification documents for all qualifications in the NMQF; implementing this decision in all education and training subsystems will, however, take time, as it is technically challenging and requires updating of legislation. A bylaw that stipulates the indication of levels on higher education qualifications was adopted in June 2018 ( National Gazette of the Republic of Macedonia, No 102, 1 June 2018.), and draft laws for primary and secondary general education and VET are currently under debate; their adoption is expected in 2019. For general education and VET, the design of the new learning-outcomes-based education programmes and the levelling of existing ones is still work in progress (European Commission and Cedefop, 2018).
According to the EQF NCP (European Commission and Cedefop, 2018), there is a medium- to high-level of awareness about, and use of, the NMQF among education and training providers. Large companies and recognition bodies are aware of the framework and use it to a medium extent, and guidance and counselling practitioners to a low to medium extent. The NMQF is less visible among pupils, parents, small and medium-size companies and job-seekers. Communication efforts are oriented towards employers, learners, education providers and authorities. The main channels used are the NMQF website ( NMQF website: http://mrk.mk/?lang=en), leaflets, brochures, workshops, information campaigns, and, occasionally, TV and radio channels. The important role of the communication dimension of the NMQF is recognised and a series of protocols for cooperation among stakeholders involved in the qualifications system, adopted by the NQF Board, serve as a basis for a future communication strategy ( Aims and principles of the future communication strategy include: identifying all relevant actors and sectors to be involved, including social partners; interactivity and sustainability; enhancing communication between the different education and training subsystems and between the formal and non-formal sectors (European Commission and Cedefop, 2018).).
As the NMQF is a young framework, no systematic evaluation of its use or impact has yet been carried out. Based on experiences so far, the framework has influenced to a large extent the promotion of the learning outcomes approach; the review, renewal and quality assurance of qualifications; and dialogue and cooperation between stakeholders across education and training sectors and between education and the labour market. The NMQF is used to support the recognition of foreign qualifications and is seen as a catalyst for setting up a system for validation of non-formal and informal learning (European Commission and Cedefop, 2018).
The main challenges so far in implementing the framework included the establishment of NQF-related structures, switching from educational goals to learning-outcomes-based education programmes for existing qualifications, insufficient interest of employers to become more deeply involved in implementing the framework, and the implementation of the European credit system for vocational education and training (ECVET) and the Europass certificate supplement for VET. Direct engagement of employers, the inclusion of international qualifications, and the evaluation of the NMQF have been noted as challenges to be tackled in the future (European Commission and Cedefop, 2018).