The National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) has stood Ireland well and has worked its way into the national lexicon over the last 20 years.
Achievements to date
The iconic NFQ fan diagram is apposite, depicting a rainbow that can be traversed rather than a ladder that must be scaled. A lifelong learning path through the Framework can and should involve going across and back down the Framework as well as going up.
In 2015, the pre-existence of the framework and its associated levels allowed for the Framework for Junior Cycle to make explicit reference to the NFQ and its ready accommodation of NFQ Level 1 and Level 2 learning programmes. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) and Quality and Qualifications Ireland are committed to working collaboratively to determine the appropriate inclusion of the various elements of senior cycle reform within the NFQ.
Another strength of the Framework has been its facilitation of the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and particularly the concept of RPL for Award. Last year, the first graduates of the Level 6 Hairdressing apprenticeship offered by Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board received their awards solely through the formal recognition of their prior learning.
One of the main benefits of the NFQ was that it allowed Irish education and training to respond quickly to the Covid-19 pandemic and the sudden pivot from face-to-face teaching and assessment to an online environment.
We have revamped Qualifax – with the new tagline ‘every course explained.’ The new site was launched in September and has a new, vibrant look and uses responsive technology so that learners, as its primary users, can access it on mobile devices.
We have also further developed the Irish Register of Qualifications (IRQ.ie), as the authoritative guide to quality-assured qualifications in the NFQ. This site contains all the awards made by the universities and QQI (therefore including most of FET and private HE).
Challenges for the future
- Resolving the issue of two major awards at Level 6 and the associated different credit systems used in further and higher education;
- ensuring consistency and clarity regarding non major awards, including micro-credentials, at levels 6-9 in terms of credit volume, titling, information, and quality assurance; and
- considering if the two awards available at Level 9 are sufficient and being appropriately used for increasing levels of qualifications.
QQI has been given the statutory responsibility to keep and maintain the Framework, to review the policies and criteria on which it is based, to review its operation and to amend it from time to time.
We believe it is timely to confront some of the challenges highlighted above – and we look forward to working with our stakeholders in the task of further developing the NFQ over the years ahead.