Qualification requirements in VET are developed in a customer-oriented manner
The development of VET is conducted in close cooperation with working life representatives, education providers, students and different stakeholders.
The Finnish National Agency for Education is currently considering the processes related to the development of qualification requirements with regard to how they can be further developed to increase and improve the opportunities for customers and stakeholders to influence them even better. The aim is to ensure that education providers, working life representatives, teachers and students have diverse opportunities to give feedback on the contents of the qualification requirements and participate in their development at the different stages of the development work. When the operating methods are smooth, the qualification requirements drawn up for VET will be of an even higher quality.
As part of this work, the Finnish National Agency for Education participated for the first time in a peer review conducted by the international EQAVET network in December 2022. The European VET experts in the network evaluated the way in which the Finnish National Agency for Education currently collects and utilises customer feedback in the development of the qualification requirements. We went through the evaluation feedback during spring 2023 and have launched development measures based on it.
Transparency and participatory nature of processes is a strength
The foreign peer reviewers considered the operating culture based on solid trust to be Finland’s strength. VET is developed in cooperation between the Finnish National Agency for Education, other authorities and education providers by disseminating information transparently and engaging different parties in the development work at its different stages. The same operating principles also apply to cooperation with working life representatives.
“In Finland, the willingness of different actors to participate in the development of education is strong. It is wonderful that this is also conveyed to your international colleagues,” says Jarkko Niiranen, Director of the main function Education, training and competence.
Benefits and risks of field-specific competence
Knowledge of working life is required in drawing up the qualification requirements so that they will meet the real needs of working life and lay a good basis for acquiring competence and assessing it. The peer reviewers considered the operating practices specific to vocational fields and the competences gained through them to be a key strength of the Finnish National Agency for Education. The planning of the qualification requirements relies on the field-specific expertise of our own specialists and business and industry committees.
During the peer review, the students and working life representatives that were interviewed confirmed that the identified field-specific competence needs and the current contents of the qualifications are mainly well in line with the needs of working life.
The emphasis on field-specific competence also involves identified risks, such as the embodiment of competence and activities in persons.
Information must be used more systematically and communication must be improved
The Finnish National Agency for Education already has a wealth of information at its disposal as it is. Based on the reviewers’ observations, the collection of information related to the development of the qualification requirements and the analysis and use of the information available should be developed and made even more systematic.
The Finnish National Agency for Education was also encouraged to communicate better about the decisions related to the different stages in the development of the requirements and about the grounds for these decisions. The opportunities for students to participate in the development work should also be increased.
What will improve as a result of the review?
“The peer review has given us a lot of valuable information that we will use as a basis for developing our activities. We will improve the systematic processing of information as part of the development of the qualification requirements and introduce a student panel in more extensive reforms of the requirements,” Niiranen summarises.
We will also invest even more in communication at the different stages of the development process of the qualification requirements: when we make decisions on launching development work, when requirements are drawn up and when they are introduced into use.
We intend to modify the language of the qualification requirements to make it more comprehensible. This will improve their use in the planning of the studies and in learning, guidance and evaluation. In addition, we are currently introducing a tool that will be used to collect information on the functioning and up-to-dateness of the qualification requirements more systematically.
The quality of the qualification requirements plays a crucial role in ensuring that there are competent employees equipped with up-to-date skills and knowledge in working life. Correspondingly, it is important for everyone studying in VET that the education provides capabilities for professional development, employment and continuous learning.
The peer review strengthened the view that it is important to develop VET in broad cooperation and with shared goals. A participatory approach is our key strength that we want to maintain and strengthen also in the future. At the same time, it should be noted that time is required for implementing the changes and assuring quality.
- The EQAVET (European Quality Assurance Reference Framework for Vocational Education and Training) is a European quality assurance network for VET. Its national reference point (NRP) in Finland is the Finnish National Agency for Education.
- The network consists of representatives of the EU Member States, candidate countries and the European Economic Area, social partners, scientific advisers and the European Commission. The national reference point for quality management in VET from each Member State also belongs to the network as well as the ministry or ministries responsible for VET.
- A national level peer review is implemented in 21 countries belonging to the network between 2022–2023. In a peer review, external reviewers evaluate the quality management of the organisation's activities, its strengths and development areas.
- The peer review of the Finnish National Agency for Education was conducted between 7 and 8 December 2022. The area reviewed was quality assurance of the Agency’s process for developing the qualification requirements on the basis of customer feedback: how feedback data is collected, analysed and used in the development of the qualification requirements.
- The review was based on a self-evaluation report and other material submitted to the reviewers. In addition, the reviewers interviewed 22 people, including specialists from the Finnish National Agency for Education, education providers, students, working life representatives and representatives of the business and industry committees.
- The Finnish National Agency for Education received the feedback report at the beginning of 2023, after which decisions have been made on the development measures that will be launched.
Riikka Vacker, Senior Advisor, riikka.vacker [at] oph.fi, tel. +358 29 533 1215