NQF development in Slovakia has been a lengthy process that involved a range of different stakeholders and was carried out within wider reforms aimed at the creation of a national system of qualifications. This system consists of two pillars, the SKKR and the national qualifications register (NQR) ( National qualifications system can be found at: www.kvalifikacie.sk); development of the two was closely related. In addition, a national occupations register (NOR) ( Available at: http://sustavapovolani.sk/o_portali) has been under development in parallel. The framework has been designed to be comprehensive, with clearly defined objectives. It has now reached an early operational stage.
Development of the SKKR grid of level descriptors was completed by the end of 2014, and a methodology for linking qualifications to SKKR levels ( Available at https://www.kvalifikacie.sk/na-stiahnutie) was tested on a first set of qualifications, then revised and approved by the National Council for Education and Qualifications in 2015. Qualifications were levelled to SKKR based on the 'best fit' principle, following analysis of learning outcomes defined in qualification standards and their comparison with national descriptors. This methodology was also used by the sector council members and their sectoral working groups as a tool for defining learning outcomes and better understanding of the whole process. By November 2015, one thousand qualifications aligned to the SKKR were described and included in the NQR ( The number of qualifications distributed by levels of SKKR is: SKKR Level 2, 34 qualifications; SKKR Level 3, 310 qualifications; SKKR Level 4, 262 qualifications; SKKR Level 5, 72 qualifications; SKKR Level 6, 139 qualifications; SKKR Level 7, 181 qualifications; SKKR Level 8, 2 qualifications. ). Further work on expansion of the register and refinement of the standards in place is expected to be achieved through the new ESF-funded project System of verifying qualifications (SOK).
As the SKKR consists of four different sub-frameworks (for general education, vocational, higher education, and occupational qualifications), the key challenge so far in implementing the NQF has been in setting adequate links and communication between these sub-frameworks. A national database of qualifications has been set up ( Available at: www.kvalifikacie.sk), organised following the logic of the four sub-frameworks. So far, it contains qualifications from general education, VET and higher education. The system for the occupational qualifications sub-framework has been prepared and will include international, non-formal and private qualifications. Inclusion in the SKKR of qualifications from non-formal education is the current priority.
With the referencing of the SKKR to the EQF now completed, all qualification documents that have been assigned to SKKR levels, from all education and training subsystems, as well as the Europass certificate and diploma supplements, are expected to indicate the corresponding NQF and EQF level by 2019. NQF and EQF levels are stated on secondary school leaving certificates beginning with the 2018/19 school year. The lengthy process of changing the national legislation that relates to this (the School Act, the Higher Education Act, and the Act on lifelong learning) has been a challenge.
Other key future challenges include a strengthening of the learning outcomes approach across all levels of the education and training system, further discussion among experts and end-users on the use of the SKKR, and specification of its functions and promotion of the SKKR to the main target groups: learners, teachers/trainers and employers (European Commission and Cedefop, 2018).
Evaluation of the functionality of the SKKR, the national qualifications database, and of the levelling process started at the end of 2015, conducted by an EQF NCP working group. A comprehensive analysis of the methodology for levelling qualifications (horizontal and vertical check) was elaborated ( State Vocational Education Institute (2016). Comparative analysis of levelling qualifications to SKKR levels and national qualifications frameworks in selected EU countries [unpublished].). This analysed 586 qualifications from the SKKR and compared the Slovak system of levelling with the systems in Denmark, Estonia, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia and UK-Scotland. Results were presented by the NCP working group in November 2016. They included various recommendations: to redefine terminology; to abandon the distinction between 'partial' and 'full qualification'; to set clear rules for levelling qualifications in the SKKR and differentiating in levelling occupational qualifications and those from formal education; to apply international standards strictly in tertiary education, mainly for consistent use of learning outcomes; and to fulfil consistently the communication function of SKKR. An analysis of existing measures in validation of prior learning and an overview of existing sectoral and international sectoral qualifications in Slovakia were also carried out. These recommendations, along with national level expert discussions, have been taken into account in the preparation of new legislation on lifelong learning and validation.
The EQF NCP has been disseminating information about the framework to increase its visibility. The main communication channels include sector councils, seminars and conferences for stakeholders, training courses for teachers, other national and international events, information materials, the SKKR webpage ( www.kvalifikacie.sk) and social media. Employers and education staff are the main target groups. The NCP has established cooperation with the Euroguidance centre, mainly in relation to the System of verifying qualifications (SOK) project. Education and training institutions, and providers and recognition authorities and bodies, are already fully aware of the framework; so are labour market stakeholders related to sector councils, professional associations, and other organisations that have been engaged in its development. The SKKR is only partly known to other labour market stakeholders and to guidance and counselling practitioners. The next step to make the framework better known among students, parents, and other target groups will be the indication of NQF and EQF levels on certificates and diplomas.