Estonian qualifications framework
Estonian qualifications have been arranged and can be compared in the Estonian Qualifications Framework (EstQF).
The Estonian Qualifications Framework consists of eight levels and covers both formal education as well as professional qualifications.
Creation of the Estonian Qualifications Framework (EstQF) started in 2005, when the Minister of Education and Research established a broad-based working group with an assignment to analyse the first draft proposal of the European Qualification Framework for Lifelong Learning (EQF), the possibilities to link Estonian 5-levels occupational qualifications framework to the EQF, and formulate suggestions about the development of the EstQF.
The working group put forward the proposal of creating an 8-levels comprehensive national qualifications framework. The proposal was supported by the employers’ and employees’ organisations, by the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, by the Ministry of Social Affairs, and by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications.
An eight-level EstQF was established in 2008, with the Occupational Qualifications Act The learning outcomes of each of these have been described in terms of levels:
- the learning outcomes of general education qualifications are described in national curricula for basic schools and upper secondary schools;
- the learning outcomes of vocational education are described in the vocational education standard;
- the learning outcomes of levels of higher education (professional higher education, Bachelor’s study, Master’s study and Doctoral study) are described in the higher education standard;
- competence requirements for professional qualifications, i.e. professions, are described in professional standards.
The descriptions of levels of the Qualifications Framework determine general requirements for learning outcomes of the education system and for professional levels of the professional qualifications system.
Referencing national qualifications to the European Qualifications Framework
When studying in a general education school, vocational school, institution of professional higher education or university in Estonia, one may think that the content of studies and the level of education are also understood well in other European countries – however, in reality this is not necessarily the case. In different countries vocational education alone comprises so many different types of study that it is very complicated to obtain an overview on them.
To make qualifications of different countries mutually more understandable and comparable, it is important that the Member States of the European Union create their own qualification frameworks. Although this is not obligatory, most of the EU Member States, incl. Estonia, have chosen such a way.
Referencing national qualifications and qualifications frameworks to the EQF is based on the best fit principle. This means reliable decision on what EQF level a particular qualification or NQF level fits best.
Because of the structure of the EQF level descriptors the application of this principle has two dimensions:
- the best fit with the EQF level description for a national qualification or a NQF level;
- the best fit with a particular EQF level descriptor (knowledge, skills and competence).
Implementation of the EQF is a voluntary undertaking based on mutual trust between the member states. The EQF Advisory Group has proposed 10 criteria and procedures for referencing the NQF levels to the EQF levels. These criteria and procedures serve as guidelines for the member states implementing the EQF. Following the criteria and procedures enables to do this in a transparent and coherent way.
Referencing of the EstQF to the EQF took place from December 2008 to August 2011. The creation and implementation of the EstQF is based on the principles for accountability and quality assurance of qualifications laid down by the European Parliament and Council recommendation on establishment of the EQF.
Since 2011 Estonian qualifications have been connected with levels of the European Qualifications Framework
As the descriptions of the levels of the Estonian Qualifications Framework (EstQF) are identical with the descriptions of the levels of the European Qualifications Framework (EQF), a level of the EstQF is always equal to the same level of the EQF.
The National Coordination Point (NCP) for the application of the Qualification Framework in Estonia is the Estonian Qualifications Authority