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Procedure : 2006/2002(INI)
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PV 25/09/2006 - 19
CRE 25/09/2006 - 19

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PV 26/09/2006 - 7.6
CRE 26/09/2006 - 7.6
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Tuesday, 26 September 2006 - Strasbourg Final edition
A European Qualifications Framework

European Parliament resolution on the creation of a European Qualifications Framework (2006/2002(INI))

The European Parliament ,

–   having regard to the Commission staff working document entitled "Towards a European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning" (SEC(2005)0957),

–   having regard to the Commission proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing an integrated action programme in the field of lifelong learning (COM(2004)0474),

–   having regard to the Commission proposal for a recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council on key competences for lifelong learning (COM(2005)0548),

–   having regard to the Commission communication entitled "Modernising education and training: a vital contribution to prosperity and social cohesion in Europe - Draft 2006 joint progress report of the Council and the Commission on the implementation of the 'Education and Training 2010 work programme'" (COM(2005)0549),

–   having regard to the Decision No 2241/2004/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 December 2004 on a single Community framework for the transparency of qualifications and competences (Europass)(1) ,

–   having regard to Directive 2005/36/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 September 2005 on the recognition of professional qualifications(2) ,

–   having regard to the Joint declaration of the European Ministers of Education, adopted on their meeting in Bologna on 19 June 1999, which set the objective of creating a European area of higher education by 2010, in order to promote European citizens employability and mobility and the international competitiveness of the European higher education system,

–   having regard to the Presidency conclusions of the Lisbon European Council of 23 and 24 March 2000, which set the strategic objective for the European Union to become the world's most dynamic knowledge-based economy, and in particular to the reference on "Education and training for living and working in the knowledge society",

–   having regard to the Commission communication entitled "Making a European Area of Lifelong Learning a Reality" (COM(2001)0678),

–   having regard to the Council resolution of 27 June 2002 on lifelong learning(3) ,

–   having regard to the Presidency conclusions of the Barcelona European Council of 15 and 16 March 2002, especially to the agreed goal of making education and training systems in Europe a world-wide quality reference by 2010, and to the call for further action to introduce instruments to ensure the transparency of diplomas and qualifications, including by promoting action similar to the Bologna process in the area of vocational education and training,

–   having regard to the declaration of the European Ministers of Vocational Education and training, and the Commission, who met in Copenhagen on 29 and 30 November 2002, on enhanced European cooperation in vocational education and training - "The Copenhagen Declaration" - aiming to increase voluntary cooperation in vocational education and training, in order to promote mutual trust, transparency and recognition of competences and qualifications, and thereby establishing a basis for increasing mobility and facilitating access to lifelong learning,

–   having regard to the Council resolution of 19 December 2002 on the promotion of enhanced European cooperation in vocational education and training(4) ,

–   having regard to the Commission communication entitled "Commission's Action Plan for skills and mobility" (COM(2002)0072),

–   having regard to the Joint Interim Report of the Council and the Commission of 26 February 2004 on the implementation of the Lisbon Strategy, entitled "Education and Training 2010: the success of Lisbon hinges on urgent reforms", which called for the development of a European framework as an essential contribution towards the Lisbon Strategy, to stand as a common reference enabling and promoting transparency, transfer and recognition of qualifications and competences,

–   having regard to the Maastricht Communiqué of 14 December 2004 on the Future Priorities of Enhanced European Cooperation in Vocational Education and Training (VET), in which the Ministers responsible for vocational education and training of 32 European countries, the European Social Partners and the European Commission agreed to give priority to the development of an open and flexible European Qualifications framework, founded on transparency and mutual trust and providing a common reference to facilitate the recognition and transferability of qualifications covering both VET and general (secondary and higher) education,

–   having regard to the Conclusions of the Council and of the representatives of the governments of the Member States meeting within the Council, who met in Brussels on 27 and 28 May 2004, on Common European Principles for the identification and validation of non-formal and informal learning,

–   having regard to the Commission staff working paper entitled "Progress towards the Lisbon Strategy in education and training - 2005 report" (SEC(2005)0419),

–   having regard to the Presidency conclusions of the Brussels European Council of 22 and 23 March 2005 pointing to the importance of adopting a European Qualifications framework (EQF) in 2006,

–   having regard to the "European Qualifications Framework: Consultation to Recommendation Conference", co-hosted by the Commission and the Hungarian Ministry of Education and held in Budapest on 27 and 28 February 2006,

–   having regard to the Final Communiqué on the Outcome of discussions on 17 March 2006 of the IX Conference of European Ministers of Education, "Strengthening Education in Europe", held in Vienna on 16 and 17 March 2006, in which the Ministers reaffirmed the potential of the EQF to significantly contribute to the transparency, transferability and recognition of qualifications at the European level, and its role as an agent of reforms to support lifelong learning in the wider European area of education,

–   having regard to the Presidency conclusions of the Brussels European Council of 23 and 24 March 2006 confirming that education and training are critical factors to developing the EU's long-term potential for competitiveness as well as for social and territorial cohesion, and that, in order to support greater mobility and an efficient labour market, progress on an EQF should also be achieved,

–   having regard to the Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council on transnational mobility within the Community for education and training purposes: European Quality Charter for Mobility(5) ,

–   having regard to Rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and the opinions of the Committee on Culture and Education and the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (A6-0248/2006),

A.   whereas a single learning environment and a single employment market at European level are essential requirements if the objectives of the Lisbon Strategy are to be attained,

B.   whereas it is necessary to establish a European system for the recognition of qualifications and skills while at the same time respecting the rich diversity and special strengths of Europe's constituent territories,

C.   whereas the creation of an EQF based, inter alia, on the existing qualifications structures of the Bologna and Copenhagen processes, should be welcomed as an appropriate instrument by which to support the transparency, transferability, recognition and use of acquired qualifications and competences between different Member States and at different levels, as well as a means to facilitate access to lifelong learning opportunities for all citizens,

D.   whereas a common reference framework, based on skills, levels and learning outcomes, the EQF, could encourage the adoption of instruments to identify skills requirements,

E.   whereas the term 'qualification' should be taken to mean all the titles, qualifications, certificates and professional experience recognised in the European Union,

F.   whereas, taking account of the new challenges of the knowledge society and of demographic change, the development of an EQF would be crucial, notably in terms of both supporting employability and geographical mobility of the labour force in the EU and promoting competitiveness and social cohesion, in accordance with the Lisbon Strategy,

G.   whereas increasing professional mobility (the mobility of employees and undertakings) within the Union implies that certificates obtained in one Member State must be recognised and applicable in other Member States at the appropriate level,

H.   whereas continual updating and expansion of knowledge, skills and personal and professional competence and the EQF should contribute to modernising the education and training system and thus improve people's chances of finding a job and the prospects for mobility within the European area and create a climate of greater security at the workplace, in which the EQF should contribute to greater transparency in the recognition of qualifications gained and the equivalence of qualifications sought, thereby providing incentives for the improvement of the general and occupational training systems, which may also contribute to trainees" chances of employment,

I.   whereas the lack of suitable mechanisms, networks and cooperation between education and training providers and national authorities, the inadequacy of existing statutory provisions and in many cases the budgetary restrictions in Member States, are obstacles to the effective implementation of lifelong learning, the linkage between university education and employment and the more rapid imparting of the most up-to-date scientific and technological knowledge to workers, as well as to the efficient use of acquired knowledge and competences,

J.   whereas there is a lack of transparency in qualifications and a low recognition rate of foreign qualifications,

K.   whereas the common aim of the 32 states participating in the EQF consists in showing students and teachers the main routes to particular qualifications; and whereas it is important to show them how the reference levels match up with each other, to what extent transfers are possible and on what basis decisions are made on recognition of qualifications,

L.   whereas, in principle, the EQF should initially be implemented on a voluntary basis, and it involves no legal obligations, nevertheless it will provide an impetus for change by supporting reforms at the relevant levels, but must serve to promote transparency and equivalence as regards certificates issued at national and sectoral level,

M.   whereas the EQF will not replace but will complement national qualifications frameworks, and whereas the EQF should provide a broader framework to facilitate cooperation between Member States, social partners and other stakeholders at international level,

N.   convinced that the application of the EQF can be successful only if there is cooperation on a basis of trust and transparency when national qualifications are given an EQF reference level, and if the particularities and needs of the individual Member States are properly assessed, as well as if the EQF is created as an instrument for users and stakeholders, in order to give a picture of qualifications gained and sought to those applying it, while preserving self-sufficiency and autonomy of learning,

1.  Welcomes the Commission's initiative on modernising, continually improving and reinforcing European education and training systems and of opening consultations with a view to laying down a common reference framework for European certification systems;

2.  Welcomes the fact that EQF is built on learning outcomes, reflects the complexity of lifelong learning and stimulates national and sectoral reform processes;

3.  Considers that the EQF is a useful means by which to enhance and consolidate mutual trust in the various systems and fully supports its objectives, namely the achievement at European level of transparency in relation to qualifications, mobility for members of the professions and lifelong learning;

4.  Approves the establishment of a system based on common levels, instruments and principles which is both flexible and, at the same time, rooted in the principle of lifelong learning, but calls on the Commission to clarify the relationship between qualification levels, Directive 2005/36/EC, and the provisions for the certification of formal and informal learning, which already exist or are currently being established at national and regional level;

5.  Points out that one of the main tasks of the EQF must be to facilitate and promote the transfer of qualifications between different education and training systems, in order to make transnational professional mobility possible and better to meet the requirements of supply and demand in the European labour market; also points out that the EQF represents a suitable broader framework to provide an appropriate translation and communication instrument for establishing a common qualifications framework within Europe;

6.  On this basis, notes that the Commission proposal is a correct and necessary approach, even if it does not entirely meet the requirement of a transparent qualifications framework; calls for the eight proposed reference levels of the EQF to be revised and improved; takes the view that their descriptors should be expressed more concisely and comprehensibly and that it is important to distinguish clearly between the various reference levels, so that there can be a clear hierarchy of qualifications;

7.  Stresses that the competences set out in the eight-level descriptors should include knowledge not only of social and ethical, but also of cultural issues;

8.  Considers that the organisation and validation of lifelong learning are a matter for the Member States and cannot easily be brought within the purview of the EQF;

9.  Considers that the three horizontal areas ("knowledge", "skills" and "personal and professional competence") should also be revised to make them clearer and more comprehensible;

10.  Stresses, also, that the different types of learning outcome, taken together, form part of an educational whole that cannot be quantified simply in terms of the level achieved in each individual area;

11.  Regards the third horizontal area, "personal and professional competence", as an interesting way in which directly to incorporate into the EQF the latest findings of modern research on learning; would, however, welcome a review that would make it clear how 'soft skills' and 'personal competence' could be tackled methodologically;

12.  Recalls that the EQF must serve primarily to classify certification procedures based on the outcome of vocational training and to that end, calls for simple, workable descriptors to be used and the number of levels reduced; notes that comparative experiments have shown that the more fragmented the levels and the more numerous the criteria, the more difficult it is to coordinate them;

13.  Takes the view that, as a meta-framework for all forms of learning, the EQF is also relevant to the labour market; welcomes the fact that, as a result of the Lisbon Strategy, greater attention is being devoted to lifelong learning in the workplace and hence to the recognition of qualifications acquired at work; stresses that each of the eight proposed reference levels should emphasise abilities that can be gained via various educational pathways and take account of professional abilities and experience as well as their potential value in terms of professional advancement; therefore calls for the descriptors to be changed, not only taking into account and maintaining the Bologna precepts linked to academic education, but complementing them by also taking greater account of vocational training and further training systems;

14.  Urges a change to the present system of automatically matching reference levels six, seven and eight to the three academic levels of the Bologna qualifications framework (bachelor, master and doctor), so that the individual's actual knowledge, abilities and personal and occupational skills gained are classified irrespective of the place they were acquired;

15.  Calls for the improvement of Table 2, which is intended further to explain the reference levels; considers that it should be clearly subordinated to the outcome-oriented approach, as it focuses on formal education; welcomes, therefore, the recommended cautious approach to Table 2; takes the view that the EQF as a general meta-framework should leave such questions of detail such as the design of Table 2 to actors at local or national level;

16.  Calls for stronger support and promotion of common European principles on providing and validating non-formal and informal learning processes on lifelong learning particularly regarding the acquisition of technological and scientific knowledge and skills and taking account of the particularities of the various professional disciplines and of the different regions and countries; takes the view that it is essential to pay particular attention to methods and systems of evaluating learning outcomes achieved by non-formal or informal methods, as the development of skills in the context of lifelong learning takes place in a wide range of everyday work situations;

17.  Maintains that the development of an EQF will lead to the introduction of common reference indicators, facilitating career planning by those in training and employment in the context of lifelong learning;

18.  Calls for every country to have its own national or regional qualifications frameworks, organised in cooperation with the responsible organisations and bodies as appropriate, ensuring compatibility with the EQF; takes the view that in countries which do not yet have a national qualifications framework and in which informal and non-formal qualifications are neglected, it makes sense for the EQF to be introduced;

19.  Calls on the Commission to launch the process of harmonising conceptual approaches and terms;

20.  Calls on the Commission to clarify the relationship between the framework of qualifications envisaged under the Bologna process and the EQF, and to specify whether the indicators proposed under the EQF will constitute the sole point of reference for a common European area of lifelong learning;

21.  Rejects the setting of prescriptive criteria for learning pathways or for the duration and location of education and training courses;

22.  Takes the view that further instruments to support the EQF should be fostered in order to facilitate public access to the EQF, with the main focus on the Copenhagen and Bologna conclusions, to which the EQF should form a logically structured starting point; takes the view that special attention should also be given to the contribution of international organisations and European centres such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training in the field of learning and the acquisition of qualifications and skills; calls on the Commission to progress the development of the European Credit of Vocational Education and Training (ECVET) system to further develop and promote the Europass and to develop the "Ploteus" data bank and to promote further innovative approaches to the recognition of informal and non-formal learning;

23.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to enhance the role and structure of the National Europass Centre (NEC) and to make it easier for the NEC to fulfil its core tasks and to achieve the objectives laid down by the European Union, with particular reference to the wider dissemination of the instruments directly managed by the NEC (European Curriculum Vitae, Mobility Europass) and the progressive adoption of the Europass system;

24.  Underlines that the implementation of EQF on a voluntary basis requires the support and commitment of national and sectoral stakeholders;

25.  Recognises that EQF, as a translation tool among different qualification systems, requires consistency and mutual trust; recommends that principles of transparent and trustworthy quality assurance mechanisms be drawn up so that comparisons may be made allowing for the mutual recognition of the qualifications of EU citizens;

26.  Emphasises that the EQF can make a significant contribution to the mobility of the European labour market if the decision of a Member State to match individual national qualifications to a particular EQF level is accepted by others; takes the view that, in the context of quality assurance, the Commission's proposal to oblige Member States to observe a number of common principles is an important element in the successful cooperation between stakeholders at various levels; notes, however, that this will only be the case if it does not duplicate existing quality assurances systems, such as the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance;

27.  Takes the view that mutual trust should be a result of increased cooperation between the Member States in the context of the EQF and also a precondition for the efficient functioning of the EQF an appropriate trial period, an impact assessment and a supporting evaluation are essential for the continual improvement and adaptation of the EQF; calls on the Commission to develop and propose appropriate methods and strategies to make this possible;

28.  Urges that EQF is further developed reflecting stakeholders' requests for clarification presented in the consultations process;

29.  Calls on the Commission to revise its proposal on the basis of Parliament's observations;

30.  Points to the importance of a wide and well-structured communication and dissemination strategy to raise awareness and interest in EQF's benefits;

31.  Takes the view that it is essential for the success of the EQF to provide something of practical use for end users, thus for citizens, employees and employers as well as for educational institutions;

32.  Calls on the Commission to brief Parliament on the outcome of the national consultations and to hold further exchanges of views before drawing up its final proposal;

33.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

(1) OJ L 390, 31.12.2004, p. 6.
(2) OJ L 255, 30.9.2005, p. 22.
(3) OJ C 163, 9.7.2002, p. 1.
(4) OJ C 13, 18.1.2003, p. 2.
(5) Not yet published in OJ.

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