Dr. Jim Murray (NQAI): How the NFQ contributes to realising lifelong learning objectives

Speaking on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ), Jim remarked that the designation of the NFQ as a national framework is a real concept. The ownership of the framework does not lie with the National Qualifications Authority or with any other bodies. It is an instrument designed to help all learners map out their individual learning pathways throughout their lives, and to aid education providers in designing programmes that are accessible and allow for progression amongst a diverse learner community. The topic of life-long learning is broad, and higher education institutions are in a position to set out their own visions for lifelong learning in the context of their particular missions.

There is an opportunity for higher education institutions to engage creatively with the topics of life-long learning, but there will also be a number of stumbling blocks to overcome, particularly in relation to developing progression routes and using the different award-types of the NFQ. In doing this the major challenge will be to look beyond narrow institutional concerns, and to seek to contribute to national lifelong learning needs in a collaborative manner.

The NFQ can play a very significant role assisting in this work. The Framework maps our existing education and training awards system. The concept of minor, special purpose or supplemental awards can be further developed and interpreted as a mechanism to offer a wide range of learning opportunities, whether these relate to professional development or adult education. The NFQ envisages a system of automatic progression routes, which are not all in place at the moment. The different sectors of the education and training system, including the university sector, will need to challenge each other to resolve why progression routes are not operating fully, and work specifically to create a common currency of learning outcomes which can facilitate these routes. Traditionally, curriculum has been the driving force behind teaching and learning: to engage with learning outcomes, we need to also engage with curriculum, linking both of these concepts. The necessary move to learning outcomes, will also require a broader community of academics to engage with the topic of learning outcomes at a national level, but also across and within disciplines.


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