NQF scope and structure
The NQF in North Macedonia is a comprehensive, lifelong learning framework. It consists of eight levels, of which levels 5 to 7 have two sublevels each to reflect the specificities of the national education and training system and meet the requirements of employers ( Ministry of Education and Science (2016). EQF referencing report of the Macedonian qualifications framework and self-certification to the QF-EHEA., p. 63.).
Level descriptors are defined in terms of expected learning outcomes and follow the EQF domains: knowledge and understanding, skills and competence. They were developed for each level taking into account the EQF level descriptors, the Dublin descriptors for levels 6 to 8, the characteristics of national education and training levels, and strategic national priorities. Different dimensions of the Dublin descriptors have been integrated into the three domains of the NQF.
Levels 5 to 7 have two sublevels each, so that the framework contains levels 5A and 5B, 6A and 6B and 7A and 7B. The learning outcomes are the same in the A and B sublevels: the function of the extra levels is to cater for different types of qualifications (see below).
Types of qualifications
The NQF includes qualifications of two types defined by the NQF law ( Law on national qualifications framework. Official Gazette of the Republic of Macedonia, No 137/2013 and 30/2016. Article 11. http://mrk.mk/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/NQF-LAW_MKD-EN_rev-final-1.pdf): educational qualifications from all formal education sectors (general education, VET, higher education), and vocational (or occupational) qualifications based on occupational standards. General education qualifications are allocated to NQF levels 1 and 4, VET qualifications correspond to the 2-5B NQF levels, and the higher education qualifications are allocated to the 5A-8 NQF levels. Vocational qualifications can be allocated at NQF levels up to 5B according to their level of complexity.
Only educational qualifications enable vertical progression in the formal education system. Vocational qualifications are regarded as partial (CVET) qualifications ( Vocational qualifications are proof that smaller groups of learning outcomes have been achieved or combinations of learning outcomes that do not meet the requirements for achieving the education level (Art. 12 of the NQF law). http://mrk.mk/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/NQF-LAW_MKD-EN_rev-final-1.pdf), which can be acquired by completing a formally recognised training course – either part of a formal education programme (modules, courses) or a verified special programme for adult education – or through validation of non-formal learning.
Quality assurance of qualifications
The NQF law establishes the competent bodies and procedures for the development and quality assurance of qualifications. The institutions responsible for the development of qualifications at levels 1 to 5B are the VET Centre, the Centre for Adult Education and the Bureau for Development of Education. Qualifications at levels 5A to 8 are developed by higher education institutions. The approval and allocation of qualifications are the responsibility of the National Board for the NQF.
Vocational (CVET) and VET qualifications are developed based on occupational standards, and awarded by the verified or accredited providers. Educational and training programmes are verified both in formal VET as well as adult education.
Higher education qualifications are awarded by accredited education institutions. All higher education institutions are obliged to undergo both institutional and programme accreditation by the Agency for Quality of Higher Education.
Use of learning outcomes and standards
All new and reformed qualifications are based on learning outcomes. The law on the NQF stipulates the following mandatory elements of qualification standards: title and type of qualification, level or sublevel, qualification code, credit value, description of qualification (measurable indicators of learning outcomes relating to the acquired knowledge and understanding, skills and competence) and contents (entry requirements, number of mandatory and optional subjects, assessment methods and criteria for assessment of learning outcomes) ( Law on national qualifications framework. Official Gazette of the Republic of Macedonia, No 137/2013 and 30/2016. Article 6. http://mrk.mk/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/NQF-LAW_MKD-EN_rev-final-1.pdf).
Reformed VET programmes are based on the qualifications standards linked with relevant occupational standards. Programmes are modular. In adult education, verified non-formal training programmes are designed in learning outcomes and based on occupational standards.
Since 2010, higher education institutions have designed their programmes in learning outcomes. In accordance with the law on higher education ( Ministry of Education and Science (2018). Law on higher education. Article 140. https://uklo.edu.mk/filemanager/2019/Zakon%20za%20visikoto%20obrazovanie.pdf), higher education programmes should contain learning outcomes according to the national framework for higher education qualifications ( Decree on the national framework for higher education qualifications. Official Gazette of the Republic of Macedonia, No 154, 30.11.2010. http://mrk.mk/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Appendix_1_Decree_for_the_NQF_HE.pdf).
The volume of qualifications is expressed in credits, using three credit systems. The European credit transfer and accumulation system (ECTS) is used for higher education qualifications, the European credit system for vocational education and training (ECVET) for VET qualifications, and the North Macedonian credit system for general education (NMCSGE) for primary and general secondary education. ECTS has been applied to all three cycles of higher education since 2005.