Anchored by decree on the qualification structure in 2009, the Flemish qualifications framework (FQF) was formally referenced in 2011 to the European qualifications framework (EQF) and celebrates this year its 10th implementation anniversary. Like the EQF, it consists of eight levels. Unique to Flanders is the distinction between professional and educational qualifications.
From 10 to 520 professional qualifications
The first 10 professional qualifications, describing the knowledge and skills an individual needs to exercise a profession, were developed in a pilot project establishing the formal procedure for the recognition of professional qualifications by the Flemish Government. Central principles in this procedure:
- the initiative to define and develop professional qualifications lies with labour market actors;
- many stakeholders are involved in the process, both in the validation and in the classification committees.
An FQF level (from 2 to 7) is assigned to every professional qualification according to an objective and consistent method. AHOVOKS (the Flemish Agency for Higher Education, Adult Education, Qualifications and Study Grants) acts as process supervisor and quality monitor throughout the entire process. Over the past 10 years, 520 professional qualifications have been developed and assigned to an FQF level, with special focus on qualifications of levels 3 and 4, but with an increase at the higher levels in recent years.
These professional qualifications form the basis for recognised vocational education and training pathways, as well as for the recognition of acquired competence (RAC) processes. By the end of 2020, they resulted in a widely supported and unambiguous frame of reference for lifelong learning:
- 267 secondary and post-secondary education programmes (preparation for dual learning and entering the labour market);
- 92 vocational courses in special secondary education (BuSO OV3);
- 262 standard programmes for work-based learning for mainstream and special secondary education;
- 23 associate degree courses developed domain-specific learning outcomes based on professional qualifications;
- 89 training profiles (adult education);
- 10 RAC standards, providing the basis for 35 RAC processes;
- 10 training pathways within the procedure of the qualifying training pathways recognised through the WSE (Department Work and Social Economy) policy domain.
A qualification framework in constant evolution
Over the past decade, the FQF was fine-tuned several times through:
- an adjustment to the description of the competences;
- the possibility to renew or update professional qualifications and to define partial qualifications;
- the development of qualifications for social roles;
- the registration of all certificates (of professional qualification, of partial qualification, of competences) within the Learning and evidence of experience database (LED).
The next steps
A strategy is expected to be developed to update professional qualifications more systematically. These updates will be translated into professionally oriented education and RAC processes. Special attention will be paid to linking recognised qualifications with European systems, such as Europass. The focus will be on covering the needs of the labour market, including by involving various providers in the various policy areas (e.g. sports, culture).
Flemish qualifications framework examples