Decision for Development
Since 2007 the Ministry of Education and Science (MES) is taking measures for the development of a National Qualification Framework (NQF) in the context of the Qualification Framework of the European Higher Education Area and the European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning.
The Bulgarian NQF was created to be an integrated qualifications framework. The Deputy Minister of Education and Science responsible for the European Integration issues monitored the work on the elaboration of the NQF.
To this end two task forces were established by orders of the Minister of Education and Science. The first task force was comprised of representatives of the Rectors’ Conference and of higher education institutions. In December 2007, the workgroup prepared a situational analysis, which was presented to Policy for Higher Education Directorate at the MES. In March 2008, the same task force elaborated a draft project of the National Qualification Framework for Higher Education in the context of the Qualification Framework of the European Higher Education Area.
The task force's work was incorporated into the draft project of an integrated National Qualifications Framework in the context of the European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong learning. This draft project was elaborated by a second task force in April 2008. This second task force elaborated the following documents:
- a comparative table for referencing the national qualifications to the European Qualification Framework for Lifelong Learning;
- a plan for further ceveloping and linking national sectoral qualifications to the EQF;
- a proposal for amendments and supplements to existing national legislation.
The Bulgarian government supported the NQF because of its importance for implementing the EQF. The development of an NQF was given high priority in the Programme of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Science (2009–2013). The National Qualification Framework of Republic of Bulgaria was officially adopted by a Council of Ministers’ Decree No.96 from Feb. 2, 2012.
The National Qualifications Framework of the Republic of Bulgaria is legislatively regulated by the Pre-School and School Education Act (promulgated, State Gazette issue 79 dated 13.10.2015, in force since 1.08.2016).
General Goals and Purposes
The main objective of the National Qualifications Framework of the Republic of Bulgaria is to support the mobility of citizens by providing conditions for transparency as well as to facilitate the recognition of non-formal and informal learning. This will improve the extent to which all target groups and stakeholders are informed about the national qualifications. It is also expected to raise trust in the educational and training systems, and support the processes of mobility and recognition of qualifications.
Having a single document which includes all qualifications that can be acquired in formal education and training is expected to facilitate the process of developing sectoral qualifications frameworks.
Process of Development
A broad range of experts and stakeholders were involved in the development of the National Qualifications Framework. There were experts from the Ministry of Education and Science, the National Agency for Vocational Education and Training, the National Information and Documentation centre, representatives of higher education institutions, the Rectors’ Conference, and the Bulgarian representative in the Bologna Follow-up Group.
Representatives of the nationally represented organizations of employers and employees were also present.
The draft project of the NQF was submitted for consultation to Working Group 16 ‘Education, recognition of professional qualifications, and scientific research’.
This working group consists of representatives of the responsible ministries as well as other institutions and stakeholders including social partners. A broad national consultation process was provided to discuss the NQF draft with different stakeholders. More than 60 representatives of stakeholders participated in the consultations.
The process of elaboration and discussion of the National Qualifications Framework also involved four international experts, namely:
- Dr. James Murray, Director of Academic Affairs of IOTI, Ireland;
- Dr. Joachim James Calleja, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education and Employability, Malta;
- Mr. Wilfried Boomgaert, Deputy Head of Horizontal Policy Directorate, Ministry of Education and Training of the Flemish Community of Belgium;
- Dr. Maria Elisabeth Leegwater, coordinator for student issues, Ministry of Education, Culture and Research of the Netherlands (up to 2012), then a private expert.
The above mentioned experts were selected according to the following criteria:
- Expertise and experience in different education and training sectors (general and vocational school education, vocational training and higher education);
- Expertise and experience of leading EU Member States in implementing EQF and QFEHEA, with different education and training systems;
- Expertise and experience of international experts in EQF/QF-EHEA, and the referencing and self-certification criteria, procedures and recommendations;
- Long-lasting membership in the EQF Advisory Group and the Bologna Follow-up Group.
Implementation and Monitoring
The Ministry of Education and Science has a leading role in implementation of the NQF. In accordance with Council of Ministers’ Decree No 96 of Feb. 2, 2012 the Minister of Education and Science was designated as a national authority in this respect.
The National Qualifications Framework of the Republic of Bulgaria covers all education and training degrees and levels in lifelong learning context, including pre-school education, school education (incl. general education and vocational education and training), and higher education.
The NQF contains 9 levels in total, including preparatory (zero) level covering the pre-school education. The zero (preparatory) level comprises the system of pre-school education. The eight levels above correspond to the eight levels of the EQF.
The zero level has no analogue in the EQF levels. It is included for thoroughness, so that the entire education system and all qualifications in it can be included in the NQF.
The levels numbered from 1 to 8 correspond to the EQF levels. The upper three levels of the NQF numbered from 6 to 8 correspond to the three cycles of the Bologna process (the degrees Bachelor, Master and Ph. D.).
The expected learning outcomes described in the NQF are generic knowledge, skills and competences. The learners should acquire these competences upon completion of the training process at the respective NQF level. They are also a pre-requisite for further education or training aimed at acquiring professional qualification. They provide a snapshot of what the learner knows and is able to do after completing the training process.
The learning outcomes in the NQF of Bulgaria are described as:
- Knowledge – theoretical and/or factual;
- Skills − cognitive (involving the use of logical, intuitive and creative thinking) and practical (involving manual dexterity and the use of methods, materials, tools and instruments);
- Competences – personal and professional. The competences are described in terms of responsibility and autonomy and are set in four main groups:
- Responsibility and autonomy;
- Learning competences;
- Communication and social competences;
- Professional competences.
The descriptors of the NQF levels (Table 2) conform both to those of the EQF and to the relevant QF-EHEA descriptors. Their grouping in four groups also complies with the Recommendation № 2006/962/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18th of December 2006 on the key competences for lifelong learning.
The knowledge, skills and competences, which are defined in the Bulgarian Qualifications Framework are based on the State Educational Requirements (standards) within the national school and higher education systems. They correspond to the expected learning outcomes that are defined in those SERs in terms of knowledge, skills and competences.
The learning outcomes in the NQF and in the state educational requirements, are closely linked to the procedures for quality assurance and the use of educational credits awarded for units of learning outcomes (where applicable).
The Ministry of Education and Science is the national authority for quality assurance in school education (general and vocational education).
The National Agency for Vocational Education and Training (NAVET) is the national authority for quality assurance of vocational training.
The National Evaluation and Accreditation Agency is the national authority for external quality assurance and control in higher education. The autonomous higher education institutions should describe expected learning outcomes (knowledge, skills and competences) for each specialty.
Compatiblity with EQF
The Bulgarian NQF is an integrated framework of qualifications and is in full compliance with the Qualifications Framework for the European Higher Education Area and the European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning.
The national report on referencing the National Qualifications Framework of the Republic of Bulgaria was elaborated in performance of item 4 of Decision № 96 of the Council of Ministers of 2 February 2012 adopting the National Qualifications Framework of the Republic of Bulgaria.
The purpose of the national report is to present and explain in a transparent way ahow each level of National Qualifications Framework corresponds to a particular level from the European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning and to a level from the Qualifications Framework for the European Higher Education Area.
Main Problems/Barriers to the Development of the NQF
Experts encountered certain when developing the NQF. These include:
- Up unil that moment he Bulgarian HE system had not been LOs-oriented in sufficient degree
- Issues related to terminology, “customizing” the framework and applying it to specific fields of knowledge;
- Insufficient understanding of the specific differences between the Bachelor and Master degrees, especially among employers.