On the 34th Session of the EQF Advisory Group, which was held 3-4 February 2016 in the Van Maerland building in Brussels, Macedonia successfully presented and defended the Report referencing the Macedonian Qualifications Framework to the European Qualifications Framework. The Delegation of the Ministry of Education and Science consisted of Ms. Natasha Janevska, State Advisor; Mr. Borcho Aleksov, Assistant Head of Higher Education; Ms. Nada Stoimenova and Ms. Aspasija Hadzisce, advisors in the Ministry of Education and Science.
The EQF Advisory Group was established by the European Commission to support the implementation of the recommendations of the European Parliament and the Council of Europe to establish a European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning, starting from 23 April 2008. The EQF Advisory Group is responsible for providing overall coherence and promoting transparency of the process of referencing qualifications systems to the European Qualifications Framework. The Advisory Group consists of representatives of the Member States of the European Union, the candidate countries, social partners, youth organizations and other relevant organizations and associations.
In line with the implementation of the recommendations for EQF, the Advisory Group needs to ensure that the methodologies applied by countries referencing national levels of qualifications to the European Qualifications Framework are coherent and provide consistent results; they follow clear procedures and criteria to display available information on the application of methodology for referencing national qualifications in accordance with the adopted criteria and procedures for referencing to the European Qualifications Framework. Within its mandate, the EQF Advisory Group takes care of the further development of the European Qualifications Framework, the cooperation with the European Higher Education Area, with the European Skills, Competences and Occupations (ESCO) as well as with other European initiatives.
The duration of the process of referencing the Macedonian Qualifications Framework with the European Qualifications Framework took nearly two years and as part of the activities to mark the occasion numerous seminars and public debates were held, involving all relevant stakeholders, authorities, students, educational institutions, associations, institutions and employers, as a result of which the report was prepared.
The Report for the referencing the Macedonian Qualifications Framework to the European Qualifications Framework addresses the national education system, the system of quality assurance in acquiring qualifications and as well as the response to the ten criteria for referencing to the European Qualifications Framework. In addition, the Report of Republic of Macedonia contains answers to the criteria and procedures for self-certification of the National Framework for Higher Education Qualifications, which is the responsibility of the European Area of Higher Education (the Bologna process).
The criteria for the process of referencing requires the involvement of international experts. In the case of the Macedonian Qualifications Framework, the international experts included were: Mrs. Eduarda Castel Branco from the European Training Foundation and Mr. Mile Dzelalija from Croatia, who with their experience and recommendations gave a significant contribution to the quality and clarity of the Report.
The presentation of the Report for the referencing of the Macedonian Qualifications Framework to the European Qualifications Framework was announced by Ms. Ana Carla Pereira, Chairwoman of the Advisory Group, who welcomed the Delegation of the Republic of Macedonia. Additionally, she informed members of the activities and efforts of the Republic of Macedonia related to the establishment of a National Qualifications Framework and its referencing to the European Qualifications Framework and the active participation of the country through its representative in the Advisory Group.
During the session when the Report for referencing the Macedonian Qualifications Framework to the European Qualifications Framework was presented, the members of the Advisory Group were greeted by State Advisor Natasha Janevska, the coordinator of the referencing process, on behalf of the Minister of Education and Science. In her address, she stressed that the process of referencing the Macedonian Qualifications Framework was in a way a national movement to which all stakeholders gave their generous contributions and it was warmly accepted because of the importance of the benefits it has for the citizens of Macedonia. She also emphasized the importance of the international dimension by involving numerous international experts from various fields and organizations and how necessary this was, especially now that the Government is making enormous efforts to attract as many foreign investors and open new jobs places; both processes should recognize the quality of Macedonian qualifications and contribute to their development and continuous improvement for the benefit of the whole society.
The Report for the referencing of the Macedonian Qualifications Framework to the European Qualifications Framework was presented by the Assistant Head of Higher Education and a member of the EQF Advisory, Mr. Borcho Aleksov. In his presentation he referred to the strategic priorities of the Work Programme of the Government relating to improving the quality of qualifications and policies for building a knowledge-based society and within this context the importance that the referencing of the National Qualifications Framework to the European Qualifications Framework for citizens of Macedonia. Apart from its fundamental role, to be a tool for transparency and comparability of Macedonian qualifications to the European qualifications, Mr. Aleksov emphasized to the members of the EQF Advisory Group that for the Republic of Macedonia the process of establishing a National Qualifications Framework will have the additional role of reforming the national education system, providing qualifications based on learning outcomes which will include the participation of competent authorities, employers, associations, educational institutions, students i.e. all stakeholders.
After his presentation, according to the adopted procedures for referencing the national qualifications frameworks to the European Qualifications Framework, the following persons shared their opinions, comments and questions:
- Slava Pevec on behalf of CEDEFOP (European Centre for the Development of vocational training);
- Jean-Philippe Restoueix on behalf of the Council of Europe;
- Eduarda Castel Branco from the European Training Foundation;
- Mile Dzelalija from Croatia;
- John O’Connor from Ireland, QQI (Quality and Qualifications Ireland) and;
- Miss Tijana Isoski from the European Students’ Union’
As mentioned in their shared opinions and comments, all of the speakers unanimously stated that the report for referencing the Macedonian Qualifications Framework to the European Qualifications Framework is clear and easy to follow. In addition, they stated that the Report is relevant to its purpose, in accordance with the criteria and methodology, and shows in an transparent manner the acquisition of qualifications in Macedonia and their comparability with the European Qualifications Framework.
Regarding the remarks given, the member of the Advisory Group who offered responses was Mr. Borcho Aleksov, who promised that all comments will be included in the finalisation of the Report before its publishing.
Finally, after topic was exhausted, the Co-chair of the Advisory Group to the European Qualifications Framework, Mr. Koen Nomden officially announced that the Macedonian Qualifications Framework is referenced to the European Qualifications Framework.
Referencing the Macedonian Qualifications Framework to the European Qualifications Framework represents a very important step forward and will have numerous benefits for the citizens of Macedonia. In the future, as a result of the acceptance of the Report, diplomas issued in the country will be allowed to carry the European designations which would testify that the qualification to which they refer is comparable to the European Qualifications Framework. Furthermore, this would facilitate the recognition of national qualifications abroad and vice versa, which would further improve the mobility of the labor market, but also for students, pupils and their teachers. The qualifications framework is most effective focal point for all stakeholders to provide qualifications that will contribute to the continuous advancement of society in all areas, but more importantly will also contribute for the satisfaction of each individual. With its set up, the qualifications framework will be a tool for the ongoing tuning of qualifications according to the social needs, the needs of the labor market, the needs for personal development in the context of lifelong learning for each individual and for the evaluation of their achievements in a systematic, orderly and sustainable manner.
Aside from the recognition of the EQF Advisory Group for the fulfillment of the criteria for referencing the Macedonian Qualifications Framework to the European Qualifications Framework being a great honor for the Republic of Macedonia, this step also represents an additional motivation and responsibility for further development and improvement of qualifications and their quality and monitoring of all modern trends in the field of knowledge, skills and competences that citizens need to possess in order to be able to give an appropriate and timely response to contemporary and future social challenges.