National Qualification Framework (NQFS)

Ka boljoj zapošljivosti znanja – Nacionalni okvir kvalifikacija u Srbiji kao zajednički jezik obrazovanja i rada (NQFS)

Mixed migrations and development

National Qualification Framework (NQFS)

Towards Employability of Knowledge – Development of NQF in Serbia as a Common Language between Education and Labour (NQFS)

The Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence, in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia, Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia,  National Council of Higher Education of the Republic of Serbia and Council for Vocational Education and and Adult Education and Training of the Republic of Serbia is implementing a one-year project aimed at further support to efforts towards development of the national qualifications framework in the country. The project is being supported by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union and the Erste Bank Serbia.

Read our discussion paper:

Why is Serbia in Need of NQF

The overall objective of the project is to push forward the development of an all-encompassing national qualifications system in Serbia through coordination and partnership of all key stakeholders. We aim to reinforce and solidify the institutional commitment of key decision-makers, with an understanding that a well-designed, fit-for-purpose qualifications system is vital to human capital development, enhancing employment and overall economic growth.

The existing qualifications system in Serbia is a vestige of an extremely rigid and static system from the Yugoslav era. The first efforts at informing relevant representatives of education and employment institutions on NQF started in 2003-04. During 2005-06 the EU generously supported two projects through the CARDS program, but without sustainable results due to lack of political will. A number of further internationally supported projects met with a similar fate, although NQF has been declared one of the national priorities within: Adult Education Development Strategy in Serbia, 2006; Strategy for the development of vocational education and training in Serbia (2007-2015); National Employment Strategy 2011-2020; Science and Technological Development Strategy 2010-2015; Industrial development strategy and policy 2011-2020; Career Guidance and Counseling Strategy, 2011; Competitive and Innovative SME’s Development Strategy 2008-2013; The First National Report on Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction, 2011; National EU Accession Strategy, 2005; and finally the recently adopted Education strategy 2020.

In practice, many NQF initiatives were very limited in scope, focusing on a single economic or education sector. Others aimed at encompassing all qualifications and building a single system but failed to produce tangible results due to poor coordination among stakeholders, or overlooking the role of some, particularly economy stakeholders, or because of a lack of capacity of decision makers. The various projects within educational reform efforts produced a number of potentially useful analyses and recommendations; however, the absence of systemic approach and above all the lack of political interest led to a abandoning the process almost entirely in 2006.

At the same time, during the past ten years while unemployment has been growing between 20-30,000 jobs remained unfulfilled yearly, with the primary underlying cause being discrepancies between supply and demand in the labour market. Employers lack the capacities and tools to define workplace requirements in terms of skills, knowledge and competences of employees, while approximately 65% of vocational education students are still trained with curricula over 20 years old.

This lack of an adequate qualifications system puts the society in a situation where it does not have a mechanism in place that can translate the ever changing needs of the labour market into effective economic and education/training policies, which practically hinders every existing attempt at restructuring and developing Serbian economy into a knowledge-based economy. This issue also poses a significant barrier in the context of Serbia’s accession to the EU internal market given that NQFs and EQF are used as reference tools for comparing professional qualifications necessary for mobility of labour. On the other hand, it is to be expected that the EU approximation requirements would result in a more serious engagement of decision-makers in the period to come.

While the new impetus arrived in 2009 with the adoption of a new Law on the Foundations of the Education System, which set the legal preconditions for the development of NQF, the process still preserves two separate tracks of qualifications, those related to higher education and those related to vocational education and training, without proper coordination of the different institutions and approaches or any notion towards eventual integration.

The absence of an integrated approach and shortages in coordination indicate a low understanding of decision-makers of the importance of the issue. A comprehensive effort in raising awareness and advocating for urgent action is required, particularly targeting policymakers in education, labour, and economic development. At present, the institutions charged with NQF development as well as the relevant expert public lack the necessary support and advocacy skills for effectively engaging with higher-level decision-makers and mobilizing public interest. The Ministry of Education in particular, as currently the ultimate authority on NQF processes, needs to be systematically addressed and motivated for a more informed and thoughtful approach.

All members of the consortium particularly feel that the European dimension of the process needs to be highlighted and that momentum should be built around the expected beginning of accession negotiations in 2014. Citizen perceptions of the benefits of EU integration typically centre on the opportunities provided by labour mobility, while this important aspect is still missing from policymakers’ agenda.

Project objectives

O1. Raising awareness and improving understanding of the role of NQF in generating economic growth and increasing employability, with an emphasis on preparing for the EU internal market

The media activities are set to explain the practical benefits that the NQS brings to the labour market and to the link between education and jobs. While the mismatch between the current education system and the needs of the labour market is glaringly obvious and present in public discourse, any debate beyond surface-level reveals that the underlying causes and potential systemic responses to the problem are deeply misunderstood. There is a fundamental lack of information on the drivers of employability and economic growth in contemporary Europe, and journalists are unfamiliar with issues on the EU agenda in this domain. The project makes a solid effort at engaging public opinion-makers and media to ensure that this topic of fundamental public interest does not remain relegated to narrow and fragmented technical circles, but that it spills over to the political level in the form of sustained interest and pressure.

O2. Generating political will and long-term institutional commitment of political decision-makers

The project targets high-impact decision- and policy-makers aiming to enhance understanding of the benefits of having a quality NQS in place, and gathering them in a cross-sector dialogue that will establish a lasting understanding of the NQS as a national priority. Activities are structured to ensure recognition of the need to establish consensus on NQF as a developmental and EU integration-related priority, and to develop a political commitment to a coordinated process on the technical level. The project underscores that while the development of the NQF is a crucial first step, it needs to be done in a way that anticipated the need to continuously revisit and revise the framework to suit the unpredictable future.

O3. Developing advocacy capacities and coordination mechanisms of institutions involved in NQF development and implementation

The representatives of all relevant public administration bodies and other stakeholder organisations are becoming equipped with the knowledge and skills for a more comprehensive approach to introducing the NQF in Serbia. Through one seminar and one training and supported by additional expertise of partners and two trainers, 15-20 persons who are, or should be, directly engaged in NQF development, are becoming networked and equipped with all necessary skills stronger advocating before national decision-makers with BFPE support. In the final stage of the project, through the joint work of project participants a draft action plan with necessary tasks, roles and timetable will be developed.

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.

This communication reflects the views only of the author, and Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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ERSTE Bank has been continuously supporting BFPE activities aimed at improving the educational system in Serbia.

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