Higher education, including institutions for social advancement, are required to monitor and manage the quality of all their activities and to take all measures for effective internal self-evaluation and its follow-up. (Decree of 7 November 2013 « Landscape decree »).
The academy of research and higher education
The Academy of research and higher education (ARES) is the body that brings together higher education institutions in the French Community (Universities, University Colleges (Hautes écoles), Arts Colleges and Higher Education Institutions for Social Advancement) and is composed, among other things, of three thematic chambers for subjects specific to each form of education and permanent commissions in charge of particular missions, including the Commission for the Quality of Teaching and Research (CoQER).
The essential missions of the ARES are: to guarantee the mission of public service of general interest of higher education; to encourage the development of collaboration between institutions while respecting their autonomy; to support the institutions and ensure their overall coordination in their missions of teaching, research and service to the community; to ensure international representation; to contribute to statistics and steering of the higher education system.
The CoQER is a platform for discussion and exchange between higher education institutions in the French Community on aspects relating to the quality of higher education and research, particularly in terms of support for strengthening the internal quality of institutions and the implementation of external evaluations carried out by the AEQES, as well as contributing to quality developments in the French Community and beyond.
The agency for the evaluation of quality in higher education
The decree of 14 November 2002 (amended by the decree of 22 February 2008) created the Agency for the Evaluation of Quality in Higher Education (AEQES) organised or subsidised by the French Community. Its field of action is the external evaluation of higher education programmes - initial training - (and soon of institutions, with a pilot phase running from 2019 to 2022) provided by universities, university colleges (Hautes écoles), Arts Colleges and social advancement education establishments.
The missions of the AEQES are :
- to ensure that the programmes organised by the institutions are regularly evaluated, highlighting good practices, shortcomings and problems to be solved ;
- ensure the implementation of evaluation procedures ;
- to promote, through co-operation between all parts of higher education, the implementation of practices which improve the quality of education provided in each institution ;
- to inform the government, the stakeholders and the beneficiaries of higher education of the quality of higher education provided in the French community ;
- to make suggestions to political leaders with a view to improving the overall quality of higher education ;
- to make any proposal it deems useful in the accomplishment of its missions, on its own initiative or at the request of the government ;
- to represent the French Community with national and international bodies in matters of quality assessment of higher education, which includes institutions for social advancement.
The higher council for social advancement education
The Higher Council for Social Advancement Education was created by the decree of 16 April 1991 organising social advancement education. This council has for mission to give its opinion to the Government, either at its request or on its own initiative, on all issues relating to the steering, improving, developing and promoting of social advancement education, in relation to its purpose. More specifically, it is responsible for drawing up the pedagogical references of any training (teaching unit), the drafting of which is governed by a decree (15 May 2014) and submitted to the Government for approval.
The social advancement education steering unit
The Social Advancement education Steering Unit, established by the decree of 16 April 1991 organizing social advancement education, has the following tasks :
- to propose indicators relating to any measures taken or to be taken in favour of Social Advancement education ;
- to analyse statistical data relating to Social Advancement education ;
- to monitor Social Advancement education and adult education in general, as well as the evolution of training needs and demands from enterprises, administrations, education and, in general, socio-economic and cultural circles ;
- to serve as a source of information for the bodies responsible for steering the various forms and levels of education.
The inspection services for social advancement education and part-time secondary arts education
The inspection services for Social Advancement Education and Part-time secondary arts education are responsible for the following tasks, among others :
- the evaluation and control of the level of studies, the respect of the curricula fixed or approved by the Government, the adequacy of teaching materials and school equipment to the pedagogical needs as well as the coherence of pedagogical practices including evaluation practices ;
- the detection within schools of possible segregation mechanisms and support for the removal of such mechanisms ;
- the formulation of opinions and proposals, either on their own initiative or at the request of the Government, on anything within their competence.
Inspectors have their own status, which guarantees them total independence from schools and organizing authorities.
They are recruited on the basis of a selection test followed by a two-year training course.
The council for the improvement of part-time secondary arts education
The Council for the Improvement of Part-Time Secondary Arts Education, subsidized by the French Community, was established by the decree of 2 June 1998. This form of education is intended for pupils of various ages, including adults. The approach to a variety of branches of arts training is regulated in a manner which takes account of the specific situation of the adult learner.
Forem and Bruxelles formation
Forem and Bruxelles Formation (parastatal public bodies) are administered by a Management Committee made up of equal numbers of representatives of the workers and of the employers. Moreover, FOREM works in collaboration with the 11 subregional employment and training committees, which are also jointly managed bodies; on these committees, local initiatives, ambitions and characteristics to do with the development of the employment market find expression. In each subregion, the committee is responsible for issuing formal opinions, recommendations and proposals on all subjects relating to employment and training, in particular with regard to the overseeing and assessment of the employment integration scheme. Consultative employment, training and education committees analyse training needs, devise a range of education and training provision and serve as employment observatories. The Economic and Social Council of the Walloon Region (CESRW) regularly issues opinions, either on its own initiative or on request, to the government, in particular on training policies. In Brussels, the Basins of Qualifying Education – Training – Labour play an analogous role. The social partners are also involved in the management of sectoral training funds.
The Basins of Qualifying Education – Training – Labour is a consultation body set up in 2015.
It brings together the stakeholders involved in education, training, employment and the social partners, and has the following missions :
- Consultation between stakeholders to develop partnerships and joint projects ;
- Support for the steering of the training and education offer, so that it best meets the needs of the basin's companies and the needs of the public.
There are 10 basins on the territory of the French Community.
The higher council for further education
The Higher Council for Further Education issues opinions on support to the development of further education in the field of life (decree of 17 July 2003 modified on 14 November 2018).
The "cross-analysis" device
The device “Cross-analysis of education institutions, vocational training and skills validation” (Diagnostics croisés d’établissements d’enseignement, de formation professionnelle et de validation des compétences) is an action of the project supported by the European Social Fund "Partnership in Education and Training". It consists in analysing the process of evaluation and certification of learning outcomes of trades with profiles defined by the Service francophone des métiers et qualifications (SFMQ) in educational institutions (compulsory secondary education and social advancement education), vocational training and skills validation.
The Cross-analysis device has three objectives :
- to develop principles for the continuous improvement of the quality of the processes for assessing learning outcomes that are certified ;
- to make the systems of education, vocational training and validation of competences more transparent and thus increase mutual trust ;
- to facilitate the transferability of the learners’ learning outcomes and to develop permeability between subsystems.
The partners in the device bring together all the stakeholders in education, vocational training and skills validation in the French Community.
The system of governance of the system is made up of three bodies :
- The support committee, made up of representatives of each partner, whose role is to define the orientations of the system and to guide, accompany and support the Cross-Analysis Unit in its implementation. It is also a platform for the exchange of best practices and it promotes synergies between the partners of the system, thus contributing to building the necessary climate of trust between education, vocational training and skills validation operators ;
- The Bureau of the Education-Training Consultation Committee, whose role is to validate the progress of the work and to deal with any sticking points ;
- The Centre for Coordination and Management of European Programmes, which includes the Cross-Analysis Unit.
The Cross-analysis Unit, made up of a coordinator independent of any institution involved in education, vocational training or validation of skills, ensures the coordination of the system with the following main missions :
- Implement the decisions of the Support Committee ;
- Organize the training of analysers and set up the analysis teams ;
- Organize analyses (planning, informing establishments, etc.) ;
- Monitor the improvements implemented following the analyses ;
- Communicate the results of the analyses according to the defined modalities.
Approaches and methods for quality assurance
External quality assurance
In accordance with the legislation in the French Community, the quality assessment of all programmes awarding academic degrees is carried out by the Agency for the Evaluation of the Quality of Higher Education (AEQES). As a public and autonomous service structure listed in the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR), the EAQES carries out evaluations according to a methodology which has the following specificities :
- a formative approach to evaluation ;
- a transversal approach which applies the same methodology to all forms of higher education in the French Community : education in universities, Hautes Ecoles, arts colleges and social advancement education ;
- a programme approach as an external evaluation activity (soon to be supplemented by an institutional approach, with the pilot phase running from 2019 to 2022) ;
- the grouping of the programmes evaluated in the form of clusters : these appropriate groupings of curricula make it possible to encourage the clarification of the offer, profiles and objectives of the training courses in relation to the missions of the institutions, to disseminate good practices and to encourage the establishment of synergies.
In terms of methodology, based on the EAQES reference framework (developed in accordance with the Standards and guidelines for quality assurance in the European higher education area), the evaluation is composed of three phases :
- self-evaluation ;
- the external evaluation carried out with the input of a committee of independent experts selected by the Agency. This phase shall include a site visit and the publication of the reports drawn up by these experts on the EAQES website ;
- the publication of an action plan drawn up by the establishment and implementation of the action plan.
The Agency also publishes a transversal analysis of the quality of the evaluated curricula drafted by the experts, which is transmitted to the Government.
Institutions are evaluated according to a 10-year plan, but new planning now introduces 6-year cycles. In order to support the institutions in their dynamic of continuous improvement, in the pursuit of the actions implemented and in the development of steering tools, the AEQES also conducts mid-cycle follow-up evaluations, the three phases of which are :
- a progress report on continuous improvement actions ;
- a follow-up visit by a committee of independent experts mandated by the Agency, which shall draw up an evaluation report published on the AEQES website ;
- the publication, by the establishment, of an action plan and its implementation.
Experts must attend a training seminar prior to their mission.
AEQES itself is evaluated on a five-yearly basis by ENQA.
The inspection service for social advancement education
The Inspection Service for Social Advancement Education implements an action plan that annually involves all schools with three objectives in order to support, promote and improve the quality and consistency of practices related to the application of the pedagogical references (called "pedagogical files") implemented in social advancement education :
- follow-up of findings : to evaluate the state of progress of practices related to the application of the pedagogical files following the findings previously made in the inspection reports ;
- evaluation and control : to evaluate and control the level of studies and the application of the pedagogical files ;
- dissemination of information and advice related to the findings of the evaluation and control of the level of studies.
These evaluations and controls of the level of studies and of the application of pedagogical files are carried out on the basis of a reference guide, which defines, in particular, indicators of practices that comply with legal and regulatory requirements and of good practices.
Following the evaluation and control of an institution's level of studies, each organising authority and each school leader receives an inspection report that they can comment on.
An overall report on one or more themes related to the evaluation and control of the educational level of the Social Advancement Education establishments can be drawn up on the basis of the findings established in the inspection reports.
The General Inspection Service publishes general reports on the state of the education system in the French Community, following audits of educational establishments.
Cross-analysis of educational, vocational training and skills validation establishments is carried out by teams composed of two analysers, one from the General Service of the Inspection and the other from the training or skills validation department. The partners assign to this task people with in-depth knowledge of the evaluation and certification process in force in their institution and the required evaluation skills (internal audit, inspection, etc.). Wherever possible, the people assigned will also have an affinity with the profession(s) to be analysed. In all cases, they will be required to follow initial training before making their first analysis.
This training aims to ensure a consistent approach among all analysers, whatever their professional and institutional background, in order to enable them to :
- understand the context, structures, operating logics and the process of assessing learning outcomes of each partner institution ;
- project themselves in their new mission, understand what the device aims at, what will be analysed, and what the analyses will focus on ;
- become familiar with the specific tools.
In addition, in order to ensure the continuous improvement of the analysers’ practices, continuous training is also organised.
The References guide is the central tool of the device. It has been designed to report on the quality of the process of assessment and certification of learning outcomes, with regard to the mastery of learning outcomes of training profiles defined by the SFMQ.
It is structured in four criteria: assessment of the mastery of learning outcomes, material resources, monitoring of the quality of the assessment of learning outcomes, and the staff who assesses learning outcomes.
The accessibility and publicity of the analyses reports differ according to whether they are nominal reports, profile summaries or entity summaries.
Internal quality assurance
Higher education, including institutions for social advancement, are required to monitor and manage the quality of all their activities and to take all measures for effective internal self-evaluation and its follow-up. (Decree of 7 Nnovember 2013 « Landscape decree »).
The internal quality assurance system for social advancement education, steered by the General Council, aims to guarantee the quality of the training provided by social advancement institutions and the mastery of the learning outcomes achieved by the students, in accordance with the legislation in force. With respect to the aims of this education, the quality management system brings together the stakeholders around the social advancement education guidelines.
To achieve this objective, specific human resources have also been devolved to networks and institutions by the legislator (network quality agents; quality coordinators within institutions, pedagogical advisors).
The social advancement education quality management system is formalized in a Quality Guide common to all institutions, and by associated tools. The guide is devised as a means of initiating dialogue between the various stakeholders with regard to evaluation and the continuous improvement of teaching and training activities in institutions and their organisational aspects. Its aim is to provide an underpinning for a quality approach which integrates a reflective practice with respect to the strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities facing the institution, in the light of its goals.
This guide is the subject of an ongoing process of development and evaluation, supervised by the General Council.
The quality management system is supported by a working group (Quality WG) whose aim is to establish a shared quality culture and processes in social advancement education, in particular through the development of tools, training, exchanges, etc.
The evaluation of further education associations is based, depending on the type of recognition they have received, on a general report regarding the execution of the programme contract under which they have operated, and which includes quantitative and qualitative criteria prescribed by the government, or on an annual activity report and balance sheet.
The Higher Council for Further Education issues opinions on the recognition to organisations in the non-profit sector whose project and training action plan correspond to certain criteria defined by the decree of 17 July 2003, modified on 14 November 2018. Recognised organisations must submit an annual report and balance sheet relating to the previous calendar year by 30 June every year.
The Education and Training Council has published a guide to quality management in qualifying education, from which some of the information given below is taken.
With regard to training for workers and job-seekers, the rise in the drop-out rate is one of the factors that is causing most concern to training providers and the authorities. In a context of tight budgets, the concern for quality is also resulting in the introduction of new operating rules which are intended to improve the transparency of training provision, the development of pathways and partnerships between providers. Providers are also required to improve their equality of treatment with respect to employment and professional training.
Forem aspires to gain and retain ISO 9001 certification for the training courses it runs. The certificate precisely defines the field covered by certification: ‘The devising and implementation of guidance and training in Forem’s training centres and centres open to the public’. Essentially, certification relates to the procedures (training guidelines, the monitoring of trainees, etc.) which apply when partner organisations or external trainers operate at Forem.
Forem’s various roles are carried out in accordance with a management contract whose execution is the subject of annual evaluation reports drawn up by the management committee and government commissioners. Forem may enter into partnership agreements under certain conditions, including an evaluation clause: ‘The agreement must stipulate that no renewal will take place without an evaluation of the actions that have been performed, and set out the criteria according to which this evaluation will be conducted’. Likewise, the role of the consultative committee for the integrated integration scheme is to devise proposals intended to organise the coordination of the integration scheme, including evaluation criteria for assignments per category of operator. The operators listed in connection with the Walloon training cheques scheme are authorised for a period of three years. The decree on training incentives is evaluated every year by the Economic and Social Council of the Walloon Region.
IFAPME’s work is organised on the basis of a management contract signed by that body and supervisory authorities. The 2012-2017 contract has been evaluated, and the results of the evaluation contributed to the definition of the key elements of the next contract. Following the signing of the management contract, an enterprise plan and action plans for individual departments and services were devised. Bilateral agreements were entered into with each training centre working with IFAPME. A management contract execution report accompanied by the annual dashboard of management contract monitoring indicators has to be written. The results of the evaluations are analysed and may generate suggestions for improvements.
On the other hand, IFAPME has obtained the ISO 9001 certification since 2014 for the company manager trainings and since 2017 for the apprenticeship trainings.
In the Brussels-Capital Region, the main focus is on discrimination on the grounds of gender, handicap and ethnic origin. The system for validating skills acquired in training has developed considerably over the last two years and has exceeded the targets set by the Regional Government to reach 20,000 qualifications by 2020. Sectoral and professional certificates may be acquired at the end of qualifying training. The management contract of Bruxelles Formation, for the period 2017-2022, sets out the commitments of the French-speaking Government of Brussels in terms of subsidies and other non-financial commitments on the one hand, and those of Bruxelles Formation (French-speaking public service) responsible for the organisation, governance and management of vocational training in Brussels on the other. A dashboard brings together indicators in summary documents. An internal quality service is made up of two people and supports the quality approach of Bruxelles Formation. Bruxelles Formation is certified ISO 9001.