The concept of a National Qualifications Framework has got to the Czech environment mainly in connection with the creation and implementation of the European Qualifications Framework, i.e. since 2008.
The European Qualifications Framework – EQF – is one of the European instruments to support the clarity, transparency, and comparability of educational systems. It is a common European reference framework that helps to understand, compare, and recognise qualifications acquired in the EU. It helps to understand levels of qualifications across Europe, facilitates study and work mobility, and supports lifelong learning. EQF distinguishes eight qualification levels, which basically cover all qualifications in both formal and non-formal education.
The National Qualifications Framework is defined by European documents as an instrument for the classification of qualifications into levels by knowledge, skills, and competence with the aims of:
integrating and co-ordinating national sub-systems of qualifications, and
improving transparency, accessibility, developments, and quality in relation to the labour market and civic society
In this form, it has not been established in Czechia yet, but the referencing process to the EQF has already taken place.
EQF referencing process in Czechia
The referencing process in Europe has been under way since 2008, when the EU member states were invited to put their national qualification systems into a relationship with the levels of the European Qualifications System (EQF).
Most European countries referenced their national qualifications frameworks and systems and described this process in what were termed national referencing reports (Referencing Reports). Czechia went through the referencing process in the years 2009–2011 and prepared a National Referencing Report of the Czech Republic on it (2011).
In accordance with the recommendation Czechia has referenced its education and qualification systems to the EQF, i.e. qualifications awarded:
within the system of initial basic, secondary, and tertiary professional education
within the system of higher education
within the system of recognising further education results according to the Act on the Verification and Recognition of the Results of Further Education (i.e. qualifications in the register of the National Qualifications System – NSK)
This way the qualification levels (or qualifications directly) are referenced to the EQF is rare in Europe. The member states were expected to reference their national qualifications frameworks to the EQF, i.e. qualifications awarded in professional, general, and higher education, as well as qualifications acquired through further education, or qualifications awarded by recognition of prior non-formal and informal learning. In view of the fact that Czechia did not have such a unified framework, it referenced – in accordance with the EQF recommendation – its existing qualifications system (in fact the education system) and the framework/register of the National Qualifications System – NSK.
National Qualifications System
The National Qualifications System (NSK) is a publicly accessible register of all professional qualifications and complete professional qualifications, that are distinguished, verified and recognised in Czechia. It has been built since 2005 as a publicly accessible register of all professional qualifications (formerly complete and partial) recognised in Czechia. It is governed by the Act on the Verification and Recognition of the Results of Further Education. Its basis was built in 2005–2008.
The objective of the NSK was to create an environment to support the comparability of results attained via various educational pathways, which enables to link initial and continuing education. Defining qualifications in the NSK is related, among other things, to the creation of framework education programmes in initial education.
The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports is responsible for the NQS, the main researcher being the National Pedagogical Institute of the Czech Republic, until the end of 2019 the former National Education Institute. The National Pedagogical Institute collaborates with relevant interest and professional associations, professional bodies, employers' representatives, trade unions, schools, and specialists in fields working in the sector councils.
Within the Development and Implementation of the NQS project, implemented by the National Education Institute, a web portal Education and Labour has come into being, to help individuals find a new profession, work, or educational course and employers to find new qualified employees. The portal, now administered by the National Pedagogical Institute, is gradually evolving. (See also Other education in Chapter 8.)
The National Qualifications System (NSK) distinguishes professional qualifications and complete professional qualifications.
Professional qualifications define the ability to perform a relevant work activity or more work activities applicable on the labour market. As a whole, they may allow a certain professional application.
Complete professional qualifications define the ability to perform a certain occupation, i.e. all activities pertaining to a relevant occupation listed in the National Occupations System.
For each qualification a qualification standard, as a structured description of competence, is prepared and also an evaluation standard, as a set of criteria and procedures for verifying this competence.
The qualification and evaluation standards of professional qualifications go through the approval process, which is described by the Act on the Verification and Recognition of the Results of Further Education (followed by the Decree on Details Stipulated to Carry out Act on Verification and Recognition of Further Education Outcomes). The standards are approved by the relevant authorizing body, the approval process is concluded by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports. The authorizing bodies for the relevant area are always the central administrative bodies, i.e. individual ministries, possibly the Czech National Bank. The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is responsible for the National System of Occupations.
In the database, there are currently (May 2023) 1455 professional qualifications and 217 complete professional qualifications, at level 2–7 of the EQF.
Everyone who is at least 18 years of age and has at least the "basics of education" (základy vzdělání), or is participating in retraining, regardless of how he/she gained his/her skills and knowledge, can enrol for the exam. The exams are supervised by what is termed an authorised person. After passing the exam the student gets a certificate stating that they have a professional qualification.
The set of qualification certificates forming complete professional qualifications may in some cases be replaced by previous education (if a relevant field of education exists) and enable the student to sit for the exam at a school where the field is taught. In this way the student acquires education with a VET certificate (střední vzdělání s výučním listem) or education with a Maturita examination (střední vzdělání s maturitní zkouškou).
Connection of NQS with other systems and laws
The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs runs the National Occupations System (NSP) – a database that records requirements for occupations on the labour market in Czechia. The NSP has been in operation since 2008.
Employers' interests in the creation of the NSP and National Qualifications System (NQS) are currently secured by sector councils. These are employers' groups and professional associations. 29 sector councils have been established for the main economic sectors.
The Decree setting out the requirements for application for accreditation of an educational programme, organisation of the retraining process, and the way it can be terminated interconnected the NSK and retraining. If an accredited professional qualification for a given occupation exists, the retraining course is completed by the professional qualification examination taken before an authorised person.
There is also an effort to harmonise the NQS with the Trade Licensing Act. At present, the certificate on obtaining a professional qualification is becoming one of the alternative ways of fulfilling the qualification requirements for carrying out a licensed or regulated profession. An amendment to the Act on the Verification and Recognition of the Results of Further Education made it possible to gain admission to craft trades, among others, upon presenting an appropriate set of certificates certifying the obtaining of professional qualifications, as they are set for a corresponding occupation in the NSK.