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Qualifications Developments in Ireland

National Framework of Qualifications for Ireland

Since the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland was established in 2001, its main tasks were to develop the National Framework of Qualifications, which was launched in October 2003, and since then to facilitate its implementation. There are many changes currently taking place in education and training in Ireland. The National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) is itself a key element in this changing landscape. It signals significant progress in the creation of a single, coherent, more easily understood and transparent qualifications system for all levels of education and training in the State. It also accords with European and international developments to enhance learner mobility within and between national systems.

The Framework does not espouse a particular philosophy of education and training, but embodies a vision for the recognition of learning. This is a vision based on an understanding of learning as a lifelong process. This vision requires the recognition of all learning activity throughout life, with the aim of acquiring knowledge, skills and competences within a personal, civic, social or employment related perspective. The introduction of the Framework is the end result of a long and detailed process - a process which drew on significant national and international research, undertaken in close consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, whose interests and views were fully taken into consideration at all stages.

Having launched the Framework, the Qualifications Authority is now engaged in the long-term process of implementation with stakeholders. The Framework together with associated policies on access, transfer and progression, provides a new and highly flexible vision for the recognition of learning that encourages learners to achieve awards for learning on a lifelong basis. At the same time, this innovative development allows important benefits to accrue to course providers, employers and other interested parties.

The NFQ is a system of 10 Levels, with the 10 Levels capturing all learning, from the very initial stages to the most advanced. A fan diagram has been produced that illustrates the 10 levels and the 'Major Award types' that are included in it. The information set out in the diagram primarily relates to the major award-types being made at present and to be made in the future at each of the levels. In addition to these, there are a range of smaller awards (referred to as minor, special purpose and supplemental awards) being made and to be made at many of the levels. Furthermore, there are many awards which were previously made and have now ceased to be made and that are also in the Framework.