To grasp the development of ECVET in Europe, it is important to initially consider the broader context. For example, many countries are in the process of modernising their VET systems, tackling issues such as the introduction of learning outcomes and the development of a unit-based approach. National Qualifications Frameworks (NQFs) are also being developed, or developed further, with many countries reflecting on the value (and need for) credit systems and ECVET as a part of this.
Where are we now?
The preparatory phase of ECVET has now ended with the subsequent Report on Evaluation of the Implementation of ECVET bringing forth a number of recommendations for continuing development and improvement. Whilst not always accompanied by a formal decision on ECVET implementation, all participating countries have dedicated working groups, are undergoing feasibility analysis, or have launched projects to test and implement one or more ECVET principles. The intensity of activities has gained pace and there is much information and communication on the subject of ECVET, involving a broad range of stakeholders.
Peer review and peer learning continues to take place at European, national and regional levels as well as within specific industrial sectors. ECVET National Coordination Points (NCPs) have been set up in many European countries, with some NCPs aligned with EQF national coordination points and EQAVET national reference points, confirming an attempt to establish synergy between different European tools and instruments.
In 2011, Cedefop confirmed, as a part of initial ECVET monitoring activity, that in some countries (for example, the Czech Republic and Sweden) strategy papers had been presented to ministers, whereas in other countries (for example, Estonia and Greece), legislation referred to preparation for ECVET and, in one or two cases (for example, Finland), a timetable for full ECVET implementation had been agreed. In Monitoring ECVET Implementation Strategies in Europe (2013), Cedefop considered that many countries had progressed in creating the required conditions to accommodate ECVET, albeit with additional action yet required if full-scale implementation was to be achieved. More recently, in Monitoring ECVET Implementation Strategies in Europe (2015), Cedefoped talked of notable progress and of the fact that ECVET achievement was often very much aligned with the development of National Qualifications Frameworks and with steps being taken towards the recognition and validation of non-formal and informal learning.
What is being targeted?
In a report on The Development of ECVET in Europe (2011), Cedefop confirms that the objectives of ECVET are numerous but that those most often cited include developing European mobility, and improving recognition, validation and permeability within European education and training systems, each wholly in line with the goals for ECVET implementation. The range of ECVET activities is also confirmed as being highly varied across Europe, with some countries opting for an observational approach (for example, Denmark, Liechtenstein and Norway), some specifically targeting wider ECVET promotion (for example, Cyprus and Portugal) and others undertaking a much broader range of activities such as impact analyses, updating regulations and adapting existing qualifications systems (for example, Finland, Malta and Slovakia). In the majority of countries (75%), among those consulted, European projects were recognised as a valid mechanism for the testing of ECVET.
The same report additionally confirms that national stakeholders are conscious of the fact that the European Recommendation on ECVET (2009) relied on an initial testing and development period and that, in some countries (for example, France), the preferred focus has been on “conditions for ECVET implementation”, and “the potential impact of ECVET”, rather than on any formal implementation strategy. In other countries (for example, Cyprus and Poland), the development of a National Qualifications Framework, or NQF, has taken priority over ECVET implementation although it is felt, by many, that in establishing full learning outcomes-based qualifications, NQFs will more easily support future ECVET implementation.