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Developing Instruments and Methods for

Accreditation of Vocational Learning

Outcomes in Finland

Paper Presentation for Symposium of Vocational Education and Training

Network, ECER2008
Gothenburg, Sweden
10 - 12 September 2008

Dr. Marja-Leena Stenström

The Finnish Institute for Educational Research, University of

• The accreditation/recognition process is closely

linked to quality assurance and a concept of quality
is behind every accreditation system.
• Accreditation is used in order to shorten study
times and avoid overlapping of studies. In
vocational education and training, the accreditation
is closely linked to student assessment.
• Accreditation system is relatively new phenomen in
most vocational education and training systems.
• Higher education accreditation has already long
tradition though.
Vocational upper secondary
education and training in Finland
(ISCED level 3)

• The aim of vocational education and training (VET) is to improve

the skills of the work force, to respond to skills needs in the
world of work and to support lifelong learning.
• The scope of a vocational qualification is 120 credits and takes
three years to complete. The vocational qualification includes:
– vocational studies 90 credits (at least 20 credits
of on-the-job learning)
– core subjects (units) 20 credits
– free-choice studies (units) 10 credits.
• The duration of studies is some 30 credits shorter for those who
have completed the general upper secondary school syllabus, as
some of their studies are accredited.
• Vocational qualifications can be completed in three ways: 1)
school-based education and training, 2) apprenticeship training,
or as 3) competence-based qualifications.
• A vocational qualification gives general eligibility for higher
education: polytechnic (university of applied sciences) and
university studies.
Process of
Accreditation/recognition of
formal learning

• Accreditation was added to the Act on Vocational

Education in 2005. Accreditation procedures are
based on Act 630/1998 on VET.
• In terms of the accreditation/recognition of formal,
non-formal and informal learning individual
educational institutions are given a great deal of
freedom in applying the framework provided by the
legislation in practice.
• Individual education and training providers,
qualification committees or educational institutions
award qualifications (there is no national body).
• There is some diversity in the content of certificates
awarded, minimum requirements are needed, the
qualifications and titles are the same.
Accreditation/recognition of
formal learning (Contd.)

• Students can be credited for work experience

acquired previously or studies completed elsewhere,
provided that the objectives and main content of
these studies conform with the curriculum.
• Where students transfer from one qualification to
another or from general upper secondary school to
vocational upper secondary education and training,
they can be verified by skills demonstrations.
• Where students have completed whole study
modules, the grade acquired can be transferred.
• Accreditation is also needed for qualifications
acquired in other countries; this is undertaken by
the Finnish National Board of Education.
Recognition of learning
• Recognition is based on learning outcomes, not on learning time.
• The objectives of study units are described as learning outcomes.
• Theory and practice are studied and assessed together within the
same study unit.
• Knowledge, skills and competences are included in the objectives
that are described as learning outcomes.
• The FINECVET (Finnish ECVET) project developed models to
describe entire qualifications or their studies of different scopes
in terms of knowledge, skills and competence.
• In terms of assessment of learning outcomes, the FINECVET
project tested the assessment criteria and documentation forms
developed for Finnish vocational skills demonstrations
(assessment documentation form applied to the ECVET system).
Targets of assessments and learning
outcomes in Finnish VET (FINECVET)

Targets of assessment Learning outcomes

• Command of the knowledge Knowledge

that forms the foundation
for work
• Command of occupational
• Command of tools, working Skills
methods and materials
• Command of occupational
• Command of work processes Competence
• Core skills common to all
• Common emphases
Recognising of non-formal and
informal learning: Competence-
based qualifications
• Finland’s vocational structure is not purely based on
formal education: there is also a system for recognising
non-formal and informal learning.
• Originally, the methods of recognising non-formal and
informal learning have been developed for adult
education and training.
• Adult students may demonstrate their vocational skills in
competence tests regardless of how and where they have
acquired the skills.
• There are three levels of competence-based
qualifications: initial, further (ISCED 3) and specialist
(ISCED 4).
• While not requiring formal preparation, many participants
acquire preparatory training to take the exams offered by
VET providers.
• The duration of study varies with the individual.
qualifications and assessment
• National qualification requirements set the framework for
the individual plans for competence tests.
• The role of the trainer is to individually discuss with each
participant how the competencies will be demonstrated
and how the assessment will be made. As a result, a
written plan for the competence demonstration is made.
• Multiple methods are used such as: demonstration
discussions, project processes and reports, real-life
situations in the working life, written analyses and
• The involvement of each social partner in the tripartite
assessment process ensures that all aspects (employer,
employee and the representative of education) are taken
into an account during the assessment.
• If all the modules of the qualification are judged as
having been satisfactorily completed by the assessment
team the person is awarded the certificate. If the
participant has also taken part in the preparatory
training, she/he receives a separate certificate provided
by the training organisation.

• Finnish vocational qualifications are suitable for the

ECVET system.
• The description of learning outcomes in terms of
knowledge, skills and competences has been tested
aiming to find a common model by the FINECVET
• However, a better clarification of descriptions of
learning outcomes in terms of KSC (knowledge,
skills and competencies) is needed.
• Linking of ECVET to other European tools (EQF,
EUROPASS, EQAF, ECTS) is also important.
• The elements of ECVET (i.e. accumulation, credit
points, KSC, validation) may be taken into account
in the reform of upper secondary VQs by 2010
(Kärki 2007)