The Irish National Framework of Qualifications: A blueprint for change Edwin Mernagh
Summary: A reform of the qualifications system in Ireland, undertaken in the early years of this century, introduced the concept of a qualifications framework as the system’s central organising structure. The key driver for this radical change was the perceived need for a qualifications system that would be in tune with the development of a society that embraced lifelong learning. The resulting National Framework of Qualifications incorporates a methodology for describing qualifications, based on the use of “learning outcomes” as a “language”. The Irish framework is designed to accommodate every kind of qualification, including those associated with all sectors of education and training, thus ensuring that the system can provide appropriate recognition for learning achievements in formal, non-formal and informal learning modes. The Irish approach to framework development was practical and progressive, involving a combination of legislation and consultation; as a result, all relevant stakeholders were able to participate in the development process, while neverthless ensuring that rapid conclusions were reached about the way forward on any issue. The National Framework of Qualifications was introduced in 2003 and its implementation is ongoing. It is now a central feature in the world of education and training in Ireland.