Opportunities and challenges for ECVET, the vocational credit transfer system

The European credit system for vocational education and training (ECVET) is one of the European instruments designed to make VET systems more transparent. It aims to make it easier for vocational students to move between learning institutions, whether in the same country or abroad. ECVET, which concerns qualifications at all levels of the European qualifications framework (EQF):

  • allows transfer of units of learning outcomes;
  • operates through institutions; and
  • eliminates the need for a second assessment of students moving between these institutions.

Qualifications can be defined as a combination of units of learning outcomes. Where the national vocational system allows it, units of learning outcomes can be recognized regardless of where and how they have been acquired. They may be used on the labor market and towards acquisition of a full  qualification.

Countries have developed ECVET following a recommendation of the European Parliament and Council in accordance with their policy priorities and development of their qualifications systems. Cedefop analyses developments and publishes an annual monitoring report, which includes a country-by-country analysis.

Activities and perceptions

The latest monitoring report shows that most countries see ECVET as an instrument to enable cross-border mobility of vocational students. As a result of this orientation, the system is currently being tested in hundreds of transnational pilot projects, largely funded by the EU, with the intention of gradually extending its application to a wider range of vocational qualifications.

Challenges

ECVET is complex, involving a plethora of bodies/organisations operating in vocational education and training in all sectors. Its specific role within and contribution to national lifelong learning policies and mobility is not as clear as would be necessary for more ambitious policies.

Compatibility

There is discussion on award and use of credit points in ECVET. While agreeing to base ECVET on units of learning outcomes, countries find it difficult to assign credit points to these outcomes. Moreover, credit points are seen as incompatible with national systems allocating credits on the basis of notional learning time, i.e. namely on learning inputs, as well as outcomes. Primarily learning outcome-oriented, existing vocational credit systems, e.g. such as in Denmark, Slovenia, Finland, and the are based on a combination of inputs and learning outcomes.

Governance

ECVET has two levels of governance. Education and learning providers develop ECVET to ease student exchange and transfer learning acquired abroad. On the other hand, the European Commission and national governments through the ECVET network aim to provide the institutional conditions for its full implementation. So far mainly education and training providers are involved in ECVET. However, national systems need to develop standards of assessment based on learning outcomes, and allow recognition and accumulation of credits between countries. This in turn requires involvement of the social partners, some of whom find the present structure of ECVET to lack clarity.

Policy implications

While most countries are now laying down foundations for ECVET, full implementation is unlikely in the near future. Many countries are concentrating on setting up qualifications frameworks and validation procedures. ECVET itself remains still largely limited to transnational partnerships. ECVET is associated with cross-border mobility which is less of a priority for several countries. If ECVET only operates as a transnational transfer system allowing mobility of vocational students, its impact may remain limited. As it should contribute to recognition of learning outcomes and allow accumulation of credits towards qualifications, ECVET should be firmly and fully integrated into national lifelong learning policies and aligned with evolving validation practices.

Here is where the People in WBL comes into play. The project aims to reinforce the cooperation between schools and companies and provide a common model for the whole validation process of learning outcomes acquired in WBL paths in line with the principles of the ECVET framework.

 

SOURCE: Cedefop Europa [https://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/9080_en.pdf, 15.9.2020]

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