Steps are being taken to move Barbados closer towards the development of a National Qualifications Framework (NQF) that will transform the education system.

The move will allow the island to take further account of the significance and certification of technical and vocational education and training to our economy.

This was underscored recently as Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Ronald Jones, Ministry officials and representatives of the Barbados Accreditation Council (BAC) met at the Elsie Payne Complex, with consultant Armand Hughes d???Aeth, contracted to audit the work of the BAC and assess the environment for designing and implementing NQFs.

Minister Jones, in welcoming the consultancy, said: ???The bottom line is that the need for NQFs is first to satisfy regional and global demands, but in this instance, these are the dictates which come from our leaders within CARICOM and a desire to create a seamless movement and recognition across the region just like that call for Accreditation Councils [years ago]. Member states have all been mandated to work on the development of these qualifications frameworks.???

He added that the presence of a Regional Qualifications Framework (RQF) provided a ???good basis??? for our own design and the few nuances in individual territories were not an issue as ???we all do a lot of similar qualifications??? from secondary to tertiary level and beyond.

Questions he said, which might lend a sense of coherence to what is being achieved regionally and should be considered here included: ???How they fit???? and ???what is the relevant weight placed on different qualifications????

Consultant D???Aeth, in acknowledging that the Terms of Reference though ambitious were attainable, stressed: ???The thing about NQF is the buy-in, [and] the acceptance of it by stakeholders. It is a mistake to think that because we have an NQF in line that it would actually be implemented and used.???

Noting that he had started by engaging staff of the BAC via a workshop, the consultant added that he was currently working on the situational analysis where emphasis was on the political, social and economic environments. While acknowledging that the RQF was overarching, Mr. D??? Aeth pointed out that Barbados??? NQF could not be ???subsidiary to the region???s???.

???We, therefore, have to see what the needs of the NQF are and how it relates. I am sure there is a great deal of alignment and time constancy,??? he proffered.

Discussion also centred around management of the NQF and the possibility of establishing a National Qualifications Assurance Authority and whether this should be left to the BAC itself, a separate entity or subsumed under BAC.

The development, implementation and effective utilisation of an NQF is one of the key planks of Barbados??? Human Resource Development Strategy (2011-2016).

The NQF is a framework on which standards and qualifications agreed to by educational stakeholders throughout the country are registered.

By design it should consolidate the delivery of education and training under a single framework; make it easier for learners to enter the educational system, move and progress both horizontally and vertically within it; improve the quality of education; expand access to learning and work opportunities for all and enable learners to develop to their full potential.

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