The SQF is a comprehensive framework with 10 qualification levels. The descriptor for each level has three categories of learning outcome: knowledge, skills and competences. Each qualification in the framework includes all three categories, although it is not necessarily the case that each category has equal weight within the qualification. Such a selection of categories allows capturing the full diversity of learning outcomes and qualifications that, though acquired in different settings and for different purposes, are broadly comparable in terms of learning outcomes.
The SQF includes three categories of qualification covering all subsystems of formal education and training, as well as further learning:
- educational qualifications are awarded after completion of formal education programmes at all levels of formal education (general, vocational/technical and higher);
- vocational qualifications are awarded by an NVQ certificate, issued in accordance with the national regulations governing NVQs ( The National Professional Qualifications Act, 2000, last amends in 2009: http://www.pisrs.si/Pis.web/pregledPredpisa?id=ZAKO1626), or another document certifying completion of training or continuing education, issued in accordance with the regulations governing technical and higher education;
- supplementary qualifications are acquired in further and supplementary training on the labour market (linked to supplementing abilities and competences) and not nationally regulated; they have strong labour market focus and are awarded by an employer, a group of employers or by the Employment Service of Slovenia.
Input criteria are used additional to learning outcomes for educational qualifications acquired after completion of nationally accredited programmes: these include access requirements, typical programme length, and input in terms of volume of learning activities in VET and higher education (defined also in credit points). For NVQs, only qualifications and assessment standards of learning outcomes are defined, not the programmes or pathways that lead to the NVQ.
The learning-outcomes approach was already embedded in the Slovene education system before the establishment of the SQF and well accepted, following reforms carried out since the 1990s. Education programmes have moved from content-based to an objective-based approach in 1990's. Reforms have supported and broadened assessment of learning outcomes. A balance is sought in emphasising the role played by general knowledge and acquired key competences, sufficiently broad technical knowledge and certain pedagogical processes in defining educational outcomes.
The learning-outcomes approach is seen in VET as a useful way of bringing vocational programmes and schools closer to 'real life' and labour market needs. The basis for all VET qualifications is a system of occupational profiles and standards, identifying knowledge and skills required in the labour market. National VET framework curricula define expected knowledge, skills and attitudes to be acquired by students. The school curriculum developed at provider level was also introduced and is an important innovation in Slovenia. It gives schools increased autonomy in curriculum planning, especially in taking the local environment and employers' needs into account when developing the curriculum. Assessment in VET (at SQF levels 4 and 5) is in the form of project work, testing practical skills and underpinning knowledge; written tests are also used at level 5 to test theoretical professional knowledge and knowledge of general subjects (Slovenian language, foreign languages, mathematics), which are tested externally. An accumulation and transfer credit system, compatible with the principles of the European credit system for VET, is used in vocational education to describe the volume and weight of programmes and units/modules.
New programmes in general education (compulsory and upper secondary) include learning outcomes to be achieved either at the end of the three stages in compulsory education or at the end of upper secondary education, are tested in the external matura examination.
Reform and introduction of study programmes according to the Bologna declaration guidelines has taken place gradually in higher education. Learning outcomes are described in terms of general and professional/subject-specific competences. The European credit transfer and accumulation system (ECTS) has been obligatory in higher education since 2002. In 2017-18, three Slovenian public universities participated in a project on creating innovative learning environments and innovative didactical approaches by integration of ICT into learning processes (European Commission, 2020) ( See for instance http://ikt-projekti.uni-lj.si/GeneralANG.html),
The learning-outcomes approach was central to establishment of the SQF. The analysis of the curriculum documents that was part of the recent SQF evaluation has shown 'a considerable impact with its approach to learning outcomes, which is reflected in two aspects in particular: it has brought a more clearly formulated logic of qualification levels and thus an increase in learning outcomes into the system' (Subic Ermenc, Mikules and Biloslavo, 2020, p. 32). HE stakeholders highlight a positive impact of the SQF on HE qualifications in defining competences, differentiating between levels and improvement in practice of assessing learning outcomes.
Now all qualifications in the SQF qualifications register (educational, vocational and supplementary) are described in learning outcomes ( Available in Slovenian and English here. ).
The Slovenian EQF NCP prepared the Guidelines on the use of learning outcomes in practice. This is a practical tool to support professionals, when describing and updating qualifications and assigning them to the SQF levels ( Available in Slovenian here.).
SQF as a 'gate-keeper' has an important quality assurance function. Each qualification, included into the SQF register, must be quality assured and fulfil a number of requirements: be accredited, be described transparently with legally prescribed parameters, be described in learning outcomes, the learning outcomes must reflect SQF descriptors on appropriate level. In that way, the SQF creates an overall quality assurance environment for designing, providing and awarding qualifications. The Ministry of Education is responsible for overall quality assessment and assurance processes in pre-higher education, and, in part, in higher vocational schools. Quality assurance is based on the principle of internal quality assurance and external quality assessment, including external assessment of learning outcomes (standards of knowledge) in secondary education. The National Institute of the Republic of Slovenia for Vocational Education and Training (CPI) – also the EQAVET national reference point – gathers information about quality assurance in VET schools, monitors 11 quality indicators at the national level and supports VET schools with training, publications and cooperation in international quality assurance projects. Education institutions must carry out self-evaluation every year and report on it to their managing authorities. School inspection is responsible for administrative supervision. The Slovenian Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (NAKVIS) is responsible for the development and operation of the quality assurance system (accreditation of study programmes and institutions) in higher education and evaluation of higher vocational education in line with European standards and guidelines.