The seminar was attended by the representatives of Céreq and CNCP (National Commission for Vocational Certifications). Participation of CNCP’s researchers and secretariat members was crucial due to the important role of this body in the French system – it is in charge of the managing and operating the French National Register of Vocational Qualifications. CNCP acts under the ministry responsible for vocational training (the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Vocational Training and Social Dialogue). However, it is not a political body. CNCP advices, express opinions, gives recommendations. It is the Minister who makes the decision on registering qualifications. Additionally, CNCP is responsible for recognition of different types of qualifications. Participation of CNCP representatives was natural also because CNCP was actively cooperating with the Céreq project team during preparation of the national report. Several interviews were carried out with their members in order to provide an accurate description of qualifications inclusion processes in France.
The seminar started from the following presentations given by the members of Céreq team:
- NQF-in project - general information, including objectives and partnership.
- Key concepts and terms used within the project in order to achieve a common understanding of the inclusion of non-formal qualifications in the NQFs.
- Presentation of the designed models, their rational, the selected characteristics and variants, their impact on the NQF properties which are selected for analysis (NQF coherence, incentives, proliferation, absorption, domination of resourceful institutions).
- Presentation on potential use of the models as benchmarking tool for the French system.
The above topics led to a vivid discussion. First of all, creating meta-models as benchmarking instrument for NQF analysis was appreciated. It was said that this kind of models force/motivate national experts to look at well-known topics and issues from different perspective that enable building links between different national contexts.
It was also noted that there is a need to put more efforts to use precise terminology for better common understanding of NQF-related concepts. While discussing the terminological issues, it was highlighted that it is important to distinguish the following terms in the French system:
- “register” - the place where the qualifications are stored; “by-law” and “by-request” registration procedures are very clearly regulated, including the assignment the levels to qualifications,
- “framework” which is built upon the register,
- “system” which refer to the whole national qualification system, including general education.
Another topic of the discussion was related to characteristics from the models proposed within the NQF-in project – especially the concept of “coherence” and “proliferation”. It has been found that they can lead to different interpretations.
Also the topic of “non-formal” qualifications was raised in the discussion. This category is perceived in France as fuzzy – mainly due to the fact that all qualifications having the necessary level of quality and coherency in French system are eligible to enter the registry and by that registration they became formal, irrespectively by their type A, B and C.
Moreover, the importance of the historical factors and the context factors was pointed out during the discussions, especially their importance in explaining the nature of the NQFs (particularly in France where the actual system has been shaped in 4 decades).
It has been also analysed how the French NQF is “labour market-cantered” and not “education-cantered” framework. The main reason of its existence is to tighten the relation between the training standards and the professions. The qualification is considered as a tool for improving citizen employability tackling unemployment. This approach also generates contrasts with the European initiative of establishing the European Qualification Framework which was primarily conceived by the DG EAC for promoting transparency and mobility among different education levels and subsystems.
It has been also discussed that one of the central aspect of the French system is the “holistic nature” of the registered qualifications. Qualification standards describe all aspects of individual abilities to act as a professional. The qualification “certifies” individual capabilities, attitudes, knowledge – in short, the legitimacy to cover a given job post. In this sense a qualification is a complete set of competences corresponding to a level of the national framework. Qualifications not having this holistic character (i.e. partial qualification) cannot be registered and they cannot have level assigned. Since 2014, add-on qualifications, partial qualifications etc. may be recorded in the Inventory and we can call them “non-holistic” qualifications.
Another distinctive issue in France, that was raised during the seminar, is the strong involvement of the social partners in the process of designing qualifications standards but also in their recognition – this is what constitutes a tripartite governance model. It was suggested that it would be worth focusing more on the degree of social partners involvement in order to compare different systems, e.g. in writing the national reports.