The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) is an informal meeting between states in the two continents. Cedefop, ETF, UNESCO and UNESCO’s Institute for Lifelong learning co-drafted the 4th edition of the global Inventory of national and regional qualifications framework and presented findings at the 7th ASEM education ministers' meeting, in Bucharest on 14 May.

The global inventory captures, records and analyses global trends in qualifications frameworks and includes six thematic chapters, 102 individual country descriptions and seven regional qualifications frameworks, including the European qualifications framework.

ASEM’s education ministers and senior officials gathered for the first time in Berlin in 2008. Since then they meet every two years to address topics of common interest, initiate projects and strengthen strategic cooperation.

For the latest meeting a stocktaking report was prepared, summarising collaboration results in four areas:

  • quality assurance and recognition;
  • engaging business and industry in education;
  • balanced mobility;
  • and lifelong learning, including technical and vocational education and training (TVET).

However, while the four priority areas remain relevant, it was discussed and agreed that changing contexts require adjustments of themes. New tasks and recommendations for future cooperation were presented to make the process sustainable, more effective and visible. For example:

  • Recommendation 6 refers to the inclusion of two transversal themes within the priority areas of the ASEM education process: the UN’s 2030 sustainable development agenda and goals, and digitalisation;
  • Recommendation 7 proposes to make TVET more prominent by promoting initiatives and wider networking opportunities among ASEM partners and stakeholders.

The inventory’s value was highlighted in the meeting’s chair’s conclusions where the joint efforts of Cedefop, ETF, UNESCO and UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning were acknowledged: ‘The inventory is an important reference document for regional qualification frameworks (RQFs) and national qualification frameworks (NQFs), which supports global monitoring by interested actors, provides policy analysis, identifies the latest issues and contributes to peer-learning.’

Ministers underlined that ‘qualifications frameworks as an established instrument in many countries around the world are significant in recognising all forms of learning, formal or informal, in facilitating lifelong learning across education sectors, in linking qualifications and education systems to labour market needs, and enabling comparison of qualifications between countries and world regions.’

Ministers also called upon all ASEM partners ‘to make use of this inventory and to enhance, develop or implement fully their existing RQFs and NQFs.’

The chair’s conclusions also acknowledged Cedefop’s work on learning outcomes. Ministers noted that Cedefop’s and UNESCO’s joint development of an international handbook on defining, writing and applying learning outcomes, builds on the European handbook on the same topic.

Cedefop expert Slava Pevec Grm emphasised that, given the growing importance of learning outcomes in international education and training policies, the process involved in preparing the international handbook (2019-20) allows for closer dialogue and cooperation between international experts in this field. The final product (due end 2020) will support a more consistent use of learning outcomes, a necessary condition for increased international transparency of qualifications.

The chair’s conclusions invite the four agencies to share with ASEM countries and partners their respective studies, toolkits and event reports in the field of lifelong learning, including vocational education and training, skills and qualifications, which support the development of qualification frameworks, engage actors and ensure benefits for people.