What can we learn from cross-national comparisons of education and training?

What can we learn from cross-national comparisons of education and training?

"A qualifications framework is an instrument for the development and classification of qualifications according to a set of criteria for levels of learning achieved. All qualifications frameworks, establish a basis for improving the quality, accessibility, linkages and public or labour market recognition of qualifications within a country and internationally." (OECD 2007)

Speaking at a recent seminar hosted by the Cambridge Assessment Network, Professor David Raffe, Centre for Educational Sociology, University of Edinburgh, Professor Raffe explained how many qualifications frameworks reflect the culture and society of a particular country. He advised the audience that caution and care should be taken in order to draw robust conclusions from international comparisons about different national education systems.

Professor Raffe shared with the audience his theory that when introducing an effective National Qualifications Framework (NQF), there should be an incremental process of change starting from the existing education and training system. Raffe highlighted the following requirements to be considered when introducing a new NQF:

  • Time (e.g. for cultural change)
  • Stakeholder involvement and partnership
  • Effective mechanisms for coordination
  • Loose but variable design (typically using sub-frameworks to resolve tension between tightness and scope)
  • A process of iterative alignment (of NQF and practice, intrinsic and institutional logics)
  • Balance of development within sub-frameworks and integration across them
  • Policy breadth (complementary policies/drivers to change institutional logics)

Raffe concluded that policy makers should learn from other countries’ experiences, rather than take an approach as an “ideal type”. He suggested that policy makers should adopt a mixture of the following four strategies: Policy borrowing i.e. identifying transferable best practice; Keeping it in the family i.e. focus on ‘similar’ countries; Identifying generic conditions of success; and Seeing comparisons as heuristic (informing policy learning within a country).

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