If you are a student progressing onto third level or perhaps you are a mature learner who is thinking of returning to learning to either up-skill or take your training to the next stage; the National Framework of Qualifications is there to assist you – making both education and training easier to understand in terms of qualifications and progression. The National Framework, which is in place since 2003, is also recognised by employers and it assists them in understanding your level of learning and training. In addition, this framework provides a mechanism to compare and contrast qualifications. It has the added benefit in ensuring that whatever course you undertake that quality is guaranteed and that it is recognised both at home and abroad.
At the centre of the NFQ rationale is the learner. It allows you the learner to formally position yourself and your current level of educational attainment onto this frame, whilst indirectly encouraging you to progress further ‘up the framework’. Simply explained; the NFQ is a ‘fan diagram’ and it is made up of ten different levels. Each level stands for certain standards of competencies in terms of skills, training and knowledge acquired. This 10 level structure comprises qualifications gained in the workplace, the school, the community, training centres, colleges and universities, from basic to advanced levels of learning. On completion of any level, a specific award is made at that level of learning. The National Qualifications Authority of Ireland (NQAI) overlook the Framework and its’ development.
Everything from the Junior Cert, The Leaving Certificate, QQI awards, are all included in the Framework. All qualifications in the NFQ are quality assured, ensuring that you ‘the learner’ can have confidence that your course and the institution at which you are studying, are continually monitored. Quality assurance is intended to ensure that all learners have a high quality learning experience regardless of what college or training provider you are studying with – therefore setting a certain standard that has to be met by educators and trainers in the delivery of programmes.
There is also a very important European and International dimension to the NFQ, which is very important from a learner’s perspective. All qualifications in the NFQ are recognised at home and abroad. It is essentially akin to an educational passport with your qualifications on this framework recognised internationally. The NFQ is used to compare Irish qualifications with foreign qualifications. It acts as a mechanism for Irish citizens travelling abroad who wish to use their Irish qualifications in the pursuit of employment, for example. In addition, those travelling to Ireland with qualifications gained abroad can use the NFQ to have these qualifications measured and recognised.
As an employer and/or recruiter, the NFQ is there to assist you in the comprehension of the education and training system in Ireland, so that you can employ and develop a workforce that possess the necessary skills needed for your own business success. In fact the NFQ is a workplace resource, which can help you to;
- Stipulate the level of competencies required for vacancies in the recruitment process
- Evaluate qualifications presented: the NFQ can widen the amount of suitable applicants as individuals with comparable qualifications to those required and those with comparable foreign qualifications can be considered for positions
- Avail of a free of charge service called ‘Qualifications Recognition’, which provides employers with a way of comparing and contrasting foreign qualifications with qualifications within the Irish system. The European and International dimensions of the NFQ, and its connection to the European Higher Education Area & the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) help you make sense of foreign qualifications
The 10 levels of the NFQ are based on specified learning outcomes. Learning outcomes and the clarity provided by the NFQ regarding progression opportunities helps you to plan your educational needs and objectives. With the NFQ overlooking quality assurance along with supporting the development and certification of all learning wherever it takes place including the workplace; the learner is put at ease regarding their course or training that they are undertaking. It is also a welcome to know that even in-company training can lead to nationally and internationally recognised qualifications and therefore employees are rewarded for their participation in continuous professional development programmes.
Returning to education or training can be challenging, but with the National Framework of Qualifications as your starting point, you will be reassured knowing that you are about to undertake a course that is both recognised and quality assured.