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Subject Progress towards a European credit transfer system for VET
> Outine of presentation by Jonathan Winterton
Discussion Hedley Malloch
    Am I right in saying that the whole area of ECVET can't be harmonised per se because it's all handled under the principle of subsidiarity? Unlike higher education, VET is something that is left to the discussion in the member countries. Am I right in saying that?

Jonathan Winterton
    Absolutely, for historical and cultural reasons. We've got market led systems, like the UK and Italy; we've got state led systems, like France and Germany; we've got workplace focused systems, like Germany and the UK; and we've got school based systems, like Italy and France. So we can't have a one-size-for all solution. But we've got to have qualifications that are recognised, because their absence is a major impediment for labour mobility. The whole European project is to create mobility of labour, as we have already the mobility of services and capital.

John P. Wilson
    I think there is a meeting this September or October basically to agree on the European qualifications. It is moving ahead very rapidly, so your timetable of 2006 for implementation would appear absolutely on the board. 
Jonathan Winterton
Except many raise the question whether it's reasonable as a timetable...

John P. Wilson
    From a theoretical perspective - you mentioned Bloom, who did research on the cognitive domain. They have got the hierarchy for the cognitive levels. When they looked into behaviour they had problems, and they admitted in their book, in 1959 or 1960, that they didn't even attempt to go into the attitudinal realms because it was such a nightmare to create a hierarchy, to actually assess behaviour. That's a big issue, and I'm just wandering, in your research, what conclusions did you come to.

Jonathan Winterton
    Well, there are measures of behaviour, there are measures of attitudes, there are measures of social comportment that can be used or applied in a work setting. In a sense, the problem is this synthetic, analytical approach breaks competence into its separate components (cognitive, functional and social) - it has to be broken up in order to find out what is in it, but we then have to put it back together. We have to have a holistic conception of competence. It's no good having the knowledge, the cognitive competence to know how to do the job, if your social comportment is such that nobody wants to work with you. At least at that level some caution has to be added in. It's also the ethical and emotional intelligence issues - really, it's horrendously complicated, but social competence has to be part of the picture.
    The German concept of Beruf is probably the best but most difficult, because it's more than métier, more than occupation, it embodies the whole kind of culture and history of an occupation, and how you should be if you are good, whatever you work as. That's why the German version of Fachkompetenzen, Sachkompetenzen and all the rest of it is very complicated but precise. 

Barry Nyhan
    I'm just speaking for myself, because there are different views about all this. Recently, I was at a meeting of high civil servants of all the member states, who are responsible for vocational training policy. When the ECVET was presented there they were critical about the fragmentation of skills and competences and knowledge. There was a demand by some people, perhaps more than others the Germanophone participants, not to abandon this Beruf concept. There is a need for holistic concept. This was a critique of the fragmentation brought about by dividing everything up into credits and points. 
    There is a need to look at the relationship between vocational living - the real skills and competences people use every day, and academic qualifications. For example a master craftsman, who restores medieval furniture, is at a lower level of qualification than somebody straight from college, who's got a two-year qualification. That absolutely makes no sense. These kinds of abilities are in a different sphere, like apples and oranges. So there is a huge problem about this harmonisation effort.
    The issue as far as I can see is to get people to understand the sort of frameworks used and different ways of looking at reality, so that there is a conceptual basis that would allow for credit transfer.

Jonathan Winterton
    And do not let the ministers of education do it - it's for the occupational experts to do this.

Source Recording of discussion at the HRD conference in Leeds, May 2005 (see proceedings).
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Editor: Sabine Manning  © WIFO