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Terminology of European education and training policy
What is the difference between "skill gap", "skill needs" or "skill shortage"? Is "underqualification" a synonym for "undereducation" or "underskilling"? What is the meaning of "green skills"?
This multilingual glossary defines 130 key terms used in European education and training policy. It is an extended and updated version of Terminology of European education and training policy (2008) and Terminology of vocational training policy (2004). It considers new priorities of European union policy, mainly in skills and competence needs analysis.
New definitions have been developed with experts of Cedefop’s "Research and policy analysis" area.
It is our hope that this work will help communication between European education and training stakeholders, especially policy-makers.
access to education and trainingDefinition:
Conditions, circumstances or requirements (such as qualifications, education level, competences or work experience) governing admittance to and participation in educational institutions or programmes.Source:adapted from Unesco, 1995.
accreditation of an education or training programmeDefinition:
A process of quality assurance through which a programme of education or training is officially recognised and approved by the relevant legislative or professional authorities following assessment against predetermined standards.Source:adapted from Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials.
accreditation of an education or training providerDefinition:
A process of quality assurance through which an education or training provider is officially recognised and approved by the relevant legislative or professional authorities following assessment against predetermined standards.Source:adapted from Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials.
Capacity of an organisation or of an individual to adapt to new technologies, new market conditions and new work patterns.Source:Cedefop, 2008.
General or vocational education provided for adults after initial education and training for professional and/or personal purposes, and which aims to:
- provide general education for adults in topics of particular interest to them (e. g. in open universities);
- provide compensatory learning in basic skills which individuals may not have acquired earlier in their initial education or training (such as literacy, numeracy) and thus to;
- give access to qualifications not gained, for various reasons, in the initial education and training system;
- acquire, improve or update knowledge, skills or competences in a specific field: this is continuing education and training.
adult education is close to, but not synonymous with continuing education and training.Source:adapted from European Training Foundation 1997; Cedefop, 2004.
A society characterised by an increasing proportion of older people, usually linked to a declining birth rate.Comments:
in an aging society, education and training provision must prevent:
- skill shortages and gaps;
- early retirement by retraining and upskilling older workers.
Education or training combining periods in an educational institution or training centre and in the workplace. The alternance scheme can take place on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis. Depending on the country and applicable status, participants may be contractually linked to the employer and/or receive a remuneration.Comments:
the German ‘dual system’ is an example of alternance training.Source:Cedefop, 2008.
Systematic, long-term training alternating periods at the workplace and in an educational institution or training centre. The apprentice is contractually linked to the employer and receives remuneration (wage or allowance). The employer assumes responsibility for providing the trainee with training leading to a specific occupation.Comments:
- in French, the term ‘apprentissage’ relates to both apprenticeship and the process of learning (see ‘learning’);
- the German ‘dual system’ is an example of apprenticeship.
assessment of learning outcomesDefinition:
Process of appraising knowledge, know-how, skills and/or competences of an individual against predefined criteria (learning expectations, measurement of learning outcomes). Assessment is typically followed by certification.Comments:
in the literature, ‘assessment’ generally refers to appraisal of individuals whereas ‘evaluation’ is more frequently used to describe appraisal of education and training methods or providers.Source:Cedefop, 2004.
attractiveness of vocational education and trainingDefinition:
Capacity of vocational education and training to:
- encourage individuals to deliberately choose vocational education and training;
- offer quality qualifications that open up career prospects;
- persuade employers to recruit holders of VET certificates.
attractiveness of VET depends on various factors:
- image of VET and parity of esteem with other educational pathways;
- flexibility of pathways allowing mobility between VET and academic education;
- quality of VET offer;
- involvement of stakeholders, including social partners, in VET and in the provision of guidance and counselling.
A body issuing qualifications (certificates, diplomas or titles) formally recognising the learning outcomes (knowledge, skills and/or competences) of an individual, following an assessment procedure.Source:Cedefop, 2008.
basic information and communication technology (ICT) skillsDefinition:
The skills needed to use efficiently the elementary functions of information and communication technologies to retrieve, assess, store, produce, present and exchange information, and to communicate and participate in collaborative networks via the Internet.Comments:
basic ICT skills are now part of key skills/key competences.Source:European Parliament and Council of the European Union (2006); Cedefop, 2012.
The skills needed to live in contemporary society, such as listening, speaking, reading, writing and mathematics.Comments:
together with new basic skills, basic skills form key skills.Source:Cedefop, Bjørnåvold, 2000; Cedefop, Tissot, 2000; Cedefop, 2004.
benefits of education and trainingDefinition:
Socioeconomic added value of education and training.Comments:
- benefits of education and training can be private, namely received by individual persons, enterprises or institutions, or public, benefiting a whole region, economy or society;
- benefits can be monetary (such as wages) or socioeconomic (health, wellbeing, social cohesion, reduced crime, employment, productivity, growth).
certificate / diploma / titleDefinition:
An official document, issued by an awarding body, which records the achievements of an individual following an assessment and validation against a predefined standard.Source:Cedefop, 2008.
certification of learning outcomesDefinition:
Process of issuing a certificate, diploma or title formally attesting that a set of learning outcomes (knowledge, know-how, skills and/or competences) acquired by an individual have been assessed by a competent body against a predefined standard.Comments:
certification may validate the outcome of learning acquired in formal, non-formal or informal settings.Source:Cedefop, 2008.
A ‘third sector’ of society beside the State and the market, embracing institutions, groups and associations (either structured or informal), which may act as mediator between citizens and public authorities.Source:Cedefop, 2001 in European Commission, 2001.
comparability of qualificationsDefinition:
Extent to which it is possible to establish equivalence between the level and content of qualifications (certificates, diplomas or titles) at sectoral, regional, national or international levels.Comments:
comparability of qualifications improves individuals’ employability and mobility. This term must not be confused with ‘equivalence of qualifications’ (which refers to the similarity of value of certificates or diplomas).Source:Cedefop, Bjørnåvold, Tissot, 2000.
Learning intended to fill the gaps accumulated by individuals during education or training, mainly to enable them to take part in training.Source:Cedefop, 2004.
Ability to apply learning outcomes adequately in a defined context (education, work, personal or professional development).
Ability to use knowledge, skills and personal, social and/or methodological abilities, in work or study situations and in professional and personal development.Comments:
competence is not limited to cognitive elements (involving the use of theory, concepts or tacit knowledge); it also encompasses functional aspects (including technical skills) as well as interpersonal attributes (e.g. social or organisational skills) and ethical values.Source:Cedefop; European Parliament and Council of the European Union, 2008.
Minimal legal standards and duration of obligatory schooling.Source:ILO, 1998.
continuing education and trainingDefinition:
Education or training after initial education and training – or after entry into working life aimed at helping individuals to:
- improve or update their knowledge and/or skills;
- acquire new skills for a career move or retraining;
- continue their personal or professional development.
continuing education and training is part of lifelong learning and may encompass any kind of education (general, specialised or vocational, formal or non-formal, etc.). It is crucial for employability of individuals.Source:Cedefop, 2004.
An instrument designed to enable accumulation of learning outcomes gained in formal, non-formal and/or informal settings, and ease their transfer from one setting to another for validation. A credit system can be designed by describing:
- an education or training programme and attaching points (credits) to its components (modules, courses, placements, dissertation work, etc.); or
- a qualification using units of learning outcomes and attaching credit points to every unit.
Inventory of activities related to the design, organisation and planning of an education or training action, including definition of learning objectives, content, methods (including assessment) and material, as well as arrangements for training teachers and trainers.Comments:
the term curriculum refers to the design, organisation and planning of learning activities while the term programme refers to the implementation of these activities.Source:Cedefop, 2008; Landsheere, 1979.
digital competence / digital literacyDefinition:
Ability to use information and communication technology (ICT).Comments:
digital competence is underpinned by basic skills in ICT: use of computers to retrieve, assess, store, produce, present and exchange information, and to communicate and participate in collaborative networks via the Internet.Source:Cedefop, 2008; European Parliament and Council of the European Union, 2006.
digital divide / digital gapDefinition:
Within populations, the gap between those who can access and use information and communication technologies (ICT) effectively, and those who cannot.Source:Cedefop, 2008.
distance education and trainingDefinition:
Education and training imparted at a distance through communication media: books, radio, TV, telephone, correspondence, computer or video.Source:based on ILO, 1979.
Withdrawal from an education or training programme before its completion.Comments:
Source:based on Ohlsson, 1994.
- this term designates both the process (early school-leaving) and the persons who fail to complete a course (early school-leavers);
- besides early school-leavers, dropouts may also include learners who have completed education or training but failed the final examinations.
Learning supported by information and communication technologies (ICT).Comments:
- e-learning is not limited to ’digital literacy’ (acquiring ICT skills). It may encompass multiple formats and hybrid methods: using software, Internet, CD-ROM, online learning or any other electronic or interactive media;
- e-learning can be used as a tool for distance education and training but also to support face-to-face learning.
education or training pathDefinition:
Sum of learning sequences followed by an individual to acquire knowledge, skills or competences.Comments:
a learning path may combine formal and non-formal learning sequences.Source:Cedefop, 2008.
education or training pathwayDefinition:
Set of related education or training programmes provided by schools, training centres, higher education institutions or VET providers, which eases the progression of individuals within or between activity sectors.Source:Cedefop, 2008.
education or training providerDefinition:
Any organisation or individual providing education or training services.Comments:
education and training providers may be organisations specifically set up for this purpose, or they may be other bodies, such as employers who provide training as part of their business activities. Training providers also include independent individuals who offer services.Source:Cedefop, 2008.
Highest level of education or training completed by an individual.Comments:
Source:Cedefop; Unesco, 2011.
- is measured according to the highest educational programme successfully completed, which is typically certified by a qualification;
- can be measured against ISCED or EQF levels.
emerging / new skillsDefinition:
Abilities for which demand is increasing in existing or new occupations.Comments:
identification of new/emerging skills needs is crucial to prevent skill gaps and shortages, foster employability of citizens and meet needs of the economy.Source:Cedefop.
Combination of factors which enable individuals to progress towards or get into employment, to stay in employment and to progress during their careers.Comments:
employability of individuals depends on:
Source:Cedefop, 2008, based on Scottish Executive, 2007; The Institute for Employment Studies, 2007.
- personal attributes (including adequacy of knowledge and skills);
- how these personal attributes are presented on the labour market;
- environmental and social contexts (incentives and opportunities offered to update and validate their knowledge and skills); and
- the economic context.
Portfolio of five documents helping citizens to better communicate their skills and qualifications when applying for job or study in Europe.
- the Europass CV and the Language Passport are completed by citizens themselves;
- the other three documents can be issued to citizens who achieve a mobility experience in another European country (Europass Mobility) or who complete a formal programme of vocational education or training (Certificate supplement) or of higher education (Diploma supplement).
Europass promotes an adequate appreciation of learning outcomes acquired in formal, non-formal or informal settings.Source:Cedefop.
European credit system for vocational education and training (ECVET)Definition:
Technical framework for transfer, validation and, where appropriate, accumulation of learning outcomes by individuals, to achieve a qualification. ECVET tools and methodology comprise a description of qualifications in units of learning outcomes with associated points, a transfer and accumulation process and complementary documents such as learning agreements, transcripts of records and ECVET users’ guides.Comments:
This framework aims to promote:
- mobility of people undertaking training;
- accumulation, transfer and validation of learning outcomes (either formal, non-formal or informal) acquired in different countries;
- implementation of lifelong learning;
- transparency of qualifications;
- common trust and cooperation between providers of vocational training and education in Europe.
ECVET is based on the description of qualifications in terms of learning outcomes (knowledge, skills and/or competences), organised into transferable and accumulable learning units to which credit points are attached and registered in a personal transcript of learning outcomes.Source:Cedefop; European Parliament and Council of the European Union, 2009a.
European credit transfer and accumulation system (ECTS)Definition:
A systematic way of describing a higher education programme by attaching credits to its components (modules, courses, placements, dissertation work, etc.), to:
- make study programmes easy to read and compare for all students, local and foreign;
- encourage mobility of students and validation of learning outcomes;
- help universities to organise and revise their study programmes.
ECTS is based on the student workload required to achieve a programme’s objectives, specified in terms of learning outcomes to be acquired. The student workload of a full-time study programme in Europe amounts in most cases to around 1500 to 1800 hours per year and in these cases one credit stands for around 25 to 30 hours. Individuals who can demonstrate similar learning outcomes acquired in other learning settings may obtain recognition and credits (waivers) from degree awarding bodies.Source:Cedefop, 2008, based on European Commission, 2004.
Rules, processes and behaviour implemented for exercising power at European level.Comments:
Source:based on Eurovoc thesaurus, 2005.
- governance must ensure that public resources and problems are managed effectively, efficiently and in response to critical needs of society;
- effective governance relies on public participation, accountability, transparency, effectiveness and coherence.
European qualifications framework for lifelong learning (EQF)Definition:
Reference tool for describing and comparing qualification levels in qualifications systems developed at national, international or sectoral levels.Comments:
Source:based on European Parliament and Council of the European Union, 2008.
- the EQF’s main components are a set of eight reference levels described in terms of learning outcomes (a combination of knowledge, skills and/or competences) and mechanisms and principles for voluntary cooperation;
- the eight levels cover the entire span of qualifications from those recognising basic knowledge, skills and competences to those awarded at the highest level of academic, professional and vocational education and training;
- EQF is a translation device for qualification systems.
European quality assurance in vocational education and training (EQAVET)Definition:
Reference framework to help EU Member States and participating countries develop, improve, guide and assess the quality of their own vocational education and training systems.Comments:
the methodology proposed by the framework is based on:,
Source:Cedefop, based on European Parliament and Council of the European Union, 2009(b).
- a cycle consisting of four phases (planning, implementation, assessment and review) described for VET providers/systems;
- quality criteria and indicative descriptors for each phase of the cycle;
- common indicators for assessing targets, methods, procedures and training results – some indicators are based on statistical data, others are of a qualitative nature.
evaluation of education and trainingDefinition:
Judgment on the value of an intervention, training programme or policy with reference to criteria and standards (such as its relevance or efficiency).Source:Cedefop, 2011.
Learning that occurs in an organised and structured environment (such as in an education or training institution or on the job) and is explicitly designated as learning (in terms of objectives, time or resources). Formal learning is intentional from the learner’s point of view. It typically leads to certification.Source:Cedefop, 2008.
Abilities needed to live in, develop and support a society which aims to reduce the negative impact of human activity on the environment.Comments:
- generic green skills help develop awareness-raising or implementation of resource-efficient activities, ecocitizenship, etc.;
- specific green skills are required to implement standards and processes to protect ecosystems and biodiversity, and to reduce energy, materials and water consumption;
- highly-specialised green skills are required to develop and implement green technologies such as renewable energies, sewage treatment or recycling.
guidance and counselling / information, advice and guidance (IAG)Definition:
Range of activities designed to help individuals to take educational, vocational or personal decisions and to carry them out before and after they enter the labour market.Comments:
- guidance and counselling may include:
- counselling (personal or career development, educational guidance),
- assessment (psychological or competence/performance-related),
- information on learning and labour market opportunities and career management,
- consultation with peers, relatives or educators,
- vocational preparation (pinpointing skills/competences and experience for job-seeking),
- referrals (to learning and career specialists);
- guidance and counselling can be provided at schools, training centres, job centres, the workplace, the community or in other settings.
- guidance and counselling may include:
Knowledge, skills, competences and attributes embodied in individuals that promote personal, social and economic wellbeing.Source:OECD, 2001.
individual learning accountDefinition:
System of public incentive to encourage access of adults to learning – for example those not already benefiting from publicly-funded education or training.Comments:
individual learning accounts aim to widen participation in professional and personal development by providing support, expressed in either money or time that learners can spend in the institutions of their choice.Source:Cedefop, 2008.
Learning resulting from daily activities related to work, family or leisure. It is not organised or structured in terms of objectives, time or learning support. Informal learning is in most cases unintentional from the learner’s perspective.Comments:
- informal learning outcomes may be validated and certified;
- informal learning is also referred to as experiential or incidental/random learning.
information and communication technology (ICT)Definition:
Technology which provides for electronic input, storage, retrieval, processing, transmission and dissemination of information.Source:Cedefop, 2004.
information and communication technology (ICT) skillsDefinition:
Skills needed for efficient use of information and communication technologies (ICT).Comments:
in a report on ICT skills and employment, OECD proposes a simple classification:
Source:Cedefop, 2004; OECD, Lopez-Bassols, 2002.
- professional ICT skills: ability to use advanced ICT tools, and/or to develop, repair and create such tools;
- applied ICT skills: ability to use simple ICT tools in general workplace settings (in non-IT jobs);
- basic ICT skills or ‘ICT literacy‘: ability to use ICT for basic tasks and as a tool for learning.
initial education and trainingDefinition:
General or vocational education and training carried out in the initial education system, usually before entering working life.Comments:
- some training undertaken after entry into working life may be considered as initial training (such as retraining);
- initial education and training can be carried out at any level in general or vocational education (full-time school-based or alternance training) or apprenticeship pathways.
ISCED level 0 – Early childhood educationDefinition:
Programmes designed with a holistic approach to support children’s early cognitive, physical, social and emotional development and introduce young children to organized instruction outside of the family context.Comments:
programmes classified at ISCED level 0 are referred to in many ways across the world, for example early childhood education and development, play school, reception, pre-primary or pre-school or educación inicial.Source:based on Unesco, 2011.
ISCED level 1 – Primary educationDefinition:
Programmes designed to provide learners with fundamental skills in reading, writing and mathematics (i.e. literacy and numeracy), and to establish a sound foundation for learning and understanding core areas of knowledge, personal and social development, preparing for lower secondary education.Comments:
programmes classified at ISCED level 1 are referred to in many ways across the world, e.g. primary education, elementary education or basic education (stage 1 / lower grades if an education system has one programme that spans ISCED levels 1 and 2).Source:based on Unesco, 2011.
ISCED level 2 – Lower secondary educationDefinition:
Programmes designed to build upon the learning outcomes from ISCED level 1. Usually, the educational aim is to lay the foundation for lifelong learning and human development on which education systems may systematically expand further educational opportunities. Some education systems may already offer vocational education programmes at ISCED level 2 to provide individuals with skills relevant to employment.Comments:
programmes classified at ISCED level 2 are referred to in many ways across the world, for example secondary school (stage one / lower grades if there is nationally one programme that spans ISCED levels 2 and 3), junior secondary school, middle school or junior high school.Source:based on Unesco, 2011.
ISCED level 3 – Upper secondary educationDefinition:
Programmes designed to complete secondary education in preparation for tertiary education, or to provide skills relevant to employment, or both.Comments:
programmes classified at ISCED level 3 are referred to in many ways across the world, e.g. secondary school (stage two / upper grades), senior secondary school or (senior) high school.Source:based on Unesco, 2011.
ISCED level 4 – Post-secondary non-tertiary educationDefinition:
Programmes designed to provide individuals who completed ISCED level 3 with non-tertiary qualifications that they require for progression to tertiary education or for employment when their ISCED level 3 qualification does not grant such access.Comments:
programmes to be classified at ISCED level 4 are referred to in many ways across the world, e.g. technician diploma, primary professional education, préparation aux carrières administratives.Source:based on Unesco, 2011.
ISCED level 5 – Short-cycle tertiary educationDefinition:
Programmes designed to provide participants with professional knowledge, skills and competences. Typically, they are practically based, occupationally specific and prepare students to enter the labour market. However, programmes may also provide a pathway to other tertiary education programmes.Comments:
programmes to be classified at ISCED level 5 are referred to in many ways across the world, e.g. master craftsman programme, (higher) technical education, community college education, technician or advanced/higher vocational training, associate degree or bac + 2 programmes.Source:based on Unesco, 2011.
ISCED level 6 – Bachelor’s or equivalent levelDefinition:Comments:
los países emplean distintas denominaciones para los programas clasificados en el nivel CINE 6, tales como, bachelor, licence o primer ciclo universitario.Source:adaptado de Unesco, 2011.
ISCED level 7 – Master or equivalent levelDefinition:
Programmes designed to provide advanced academic and/or professional knowledge, skills and competences, leading to a second degree or equivalent qualification. Programmes at this level may have a substantial research component, but do not yet lead to the award of a doctoral qualification.Comments:
programmes to be classified at ISCED level 7 are referred to in many ways across the world such as Master’s programmes or magister.Source:based on Unesco, 2011.
ISCED level 8 – Doctoral or equivalentDefinition:
Programmes designed primarily to lead to an advanced research qualification. Programmes at this ISCED level are devoted to advanced study and original research and typically offered only by research-oriented tertiary educational institutions such as universities. Doctoral programmes exist in both academic and professional fields.Comments:
programmes to be classified at ISCED level 8 are referred to in many ways across the world such as PhD, DPhil, D.Lit, D.Sc, LL.D, Doctorate or similar terms.Source:based on Unesco, 2011.
Set of tasks and duties performed, or meant to be performed, by one person, including for an employer or in self-employment.Source:ILO, 2008.
Process of supporting individuals to find jobs matching their skills.Comments:
- job placement can be carried out by (public or private) employment services or educational institutions;
- job placement encompasses activities such as drafting a CV, preparation for interviews, skills audit, guidance and counselling.
key skills / key competencesDefinition:
Sum of skills (basic and new basic skills) needed to live in contemporary knowledge society.Comments:
in its recommendation on key competences for lifelong learning, the European Commission sets out eight key competences:
Source:Cedefop, 2004; European Parliament and Council of the European Union, 2006.
- communication in the mother tongue;
- communication in foreign languages;
- competences in maths, science and technology;
- digital competence;
- learning to learn;
- interpersonal, intercultural and social competences, and civic competence;
- cultural expression.
Practical knowledge or expertise.Source:based on New Oxford Dictionary of English, 2001.
Outcome of assimilation of information through learning. Knowledge is the body of facts, principles, theories and practices related to a field of study or work.Comments:
there are numerous definitions of knowledge. Nevertheless, modern conceptions of knowledge rest broadly on several basic distinctions:
- Aristotle distinguished between theoretical and practical logic. In line with this distinction, modern theoreticians (Alexander et al., 1991) distinguish declarative (theoretical) knowledge from procedural (practical) knowledge.
- Declarative knowledge includes assertions on specific events, facts and empirical generalisations, as well as deeper principles on the nature of reality.
- Procedural knowledge includes heuristics, methods, plans, practices, procedures, routines, strategies, tactics, techniques and tricks (Ohlsson, 1994);
- it is possible to differentiate between forms of knowledge which represent different ways of learning about the world. Various attempts have been made to compile such lists, the following categories seem to be frequently represented:
- objective (natural/scientific) knowledge, judged on the basis of certainty;
- subjective (literary/aesthetic) knowledge judged on the basis of authenticity;
- moral (human/normative) knowledge judged on the basis of collective acceptance (right/wrong);
- religious/divine knowledge judged by reference to a divine authority (God).
This basic understanding of knowledge underpins the questions we ask, the methods we use and the answers we give in our search for knowledge;
Source:Cedefop, 2008; European Parliament and Council of the European Union, 2008.
- knowledge encompasses tacit and explicit knowledge.
- Tacit knowledge (Polanyi, 1967) is knowledge learners possess which influences cognitive processing. However, they may not necessarily express it or be aware of it.
- Explicit knowledge is knowledge a learner is conscious of, including tacit knowledge that converts into an explicit form by becoming an ‘object of thought’ (Prawat, 1989).
- Aristotle distinguished between theoretical and practical logic. In line with this distinction, modern theoreticians (Alexander et al., 1991) distinguish declarative (theoretical) knowledge from procedural (practical) knowledge.
knowledge society / knowledge-based societyDefinition:
Society whose processes and practices are based on production, distribution and use of knowledge.Source:Cedefop, 2001 in European Commission, 2001.
Process by which an individual assimilates information, ideas and values and thus acquires knowledge, know-how, skills and/or competences.Comments:
- learning occurs through personal reflection, reconstruction and social interaction;
- it may take place in formal, non-formal or informal settings.
learning by doingDefinition:
Learning acquired by repeated practice of a task, with or without prior instruction.
Learning acquired by transforming one’s mental assets through confrontation with reality, resulting in new knowledge and skills.Comments:
learning by doing is also referred to as experiential learning.Source:Cedefop.
learning by usingDefinition:
Learning acquired by repeated use of tools or facilities, with or without prior instruction.Source:Cedefop, 2008.
Community that promotes a culture of learning by developing effective local partnerships between all sectors of the community, and supports and motivates individuals and organisations to learn.Source:Cedefop, 2004.
Topics and activities which make up what is learned by an individual or group of learners during a learning process.Source:adapted from European Training Foundation, 1997.
Anyone who promotes acquisition of knowledge and skills by establishing a favourable learning environment, including anyone exercising a teaching, training, supervision or guidance function. The facilitator helps the learner develop knowledge and skills by providing guidelines, feedback and advice throughout the learning process.Source:Cedefop, 2004.
Organisation which promotes learning, and where individuals learn and develop through the work context, for the benefit of themselves, one another and the whole organisation, with such efforts being publicised and recognised.Source:Cedefop, 2004.
learning outcomes / learning attainmentsDefinition:
Set of knowledge, skills and/or competences an individual has acquired and/or is able to demonstrate after completion of a learning process, either formal, non-formal or informal.
Statements of what a learner knows, understands and is able to do on completion of a learning process, which are defined in terms of knowledge, skills and competence.Source:Cedefop, 2008; European Parliament and Council of the European Union, 2008.
Region in which stakeholders cooperate to meet local learning needs and share resources to devise joint solutions.Source:based on Cedefop, 2004.
level of qualificationDefinition:
The term covers two aspects:
Level of attainment in formal education and training, recognised in a qualification system or in a qualification framework.
Level of proficiency acquired through education and training, work experience or in non-formal/informal/ settings.Comments:
- level of qualification is often determined by what is expected in qualification systems or by level descriptors of qualifications frameworks;
- it can also be determined by an occupational profile (for example, description of the learning outcomes required to perform the tasks attached to a job at a specific level of responsibility and autonomy).
All learning activity undertaken throughout life, which results in improving knowledge, know-how, skills, competences and/or qualifications for personal, social and/or professional reasons.Source:Cedefop, 2008.
Learning, either formal, non-formal or informal, that takes place across the full range of life activities (personal, social or professional) and at any stage of life.Comments:
lifewide learning is a dimension of lifelong learning.Source:Cedefop, 2008.
Individual whose level of educational attainment is lower than a predetermined standard.Comments:
- standard level below which an individual is considered as low-skilled depends, for example, on general level of education in a society, or on level of qualifications within an occupation;
- actual level of qualification of an individual includes non-formal learning outcomes acquired through continuing (re)training/upskilling, work experience, or personal development;
- in the European Union, an individual is considered as low-skilled when educational attainment is below the upper secondary educational level defined in ISCED.
Guidance and support provided in various ways to a young person or novice (someone joining a new learning community or organisation) by an experienced person who acts as a role model, guide, tutor, coach or confidante.Source:based on Bolton, 1980.
Ability of an individual to move and adapt to a new occupational or educational environment.Comments:
- mobility can be geographical or ‘functional’ (a move to a new post in a company or to a new occupation, a move between employment and education);
- mobility enables individuals to acquire new skills and thus increase their employability.
mutual recognition of qualificationsDefinition:
Recognition by one or more countries or organisations of qualifications (certificates, diplomas or titles) awarded in (or by) one or more other countries or organisations.Comments:
mutual recognition can be bilateral (between two countries or organisations) or multilateral (within the European Union or between companies belonging to the same sector).Source:Cedefop, 2008.
new basic skillsDefinition:
The skills such as information and communication technology (ICT) skills, foreign languages, social, organisational and communication skills, technological culture, entrepreneurship.Comments:
together with basic skills, new basic skills form the key skills needed to develop in the contemporary knowledge society.Source:Council of the European Union, 2000.
Learning embedded in planned activities not explicitly designated as learning (in terms of learning objectives, learning time or learning support). Non-formal learning is intentional from the learner’s point of view.Comments:
- non-formal learning outcomes may be validated and may lead to certification;
- non-formal learning is sometimes described as semi-structured learning.
Set of jobs whose main tasks and duties are characterised by a high degree of similarity.Source:ILO, 2008.
Vocational training undertaken away from the normal work situation. It is usually only part of a whole training programme, in which it is combined with on-the-job training.Source:based on Unesco, 1979.
Vocational training given in the normal work situation. It may constitute the whole training or be combined with off-the-job training.Source:based on Unesco, 1979.
Learning which gives the learner a degree of flexibility in choice of topics, place, pace and/or method.Source:Cedefop, 2008.
Situation where an individual has a higher qualification than the current job requires.Comments:
- overqualification is close to – but not synonymous with:
- overeducation: situation where an individual has more education than the current job requires (measured in years);
- overskilling: situation where an individual is not able to utilise fully their abilities and skills in the current job;
- overqualification can be temporary (e.g. when an overqualified young person accepts a low-level position until they find more appropriate employment) or can have a more permanent character.
- overqualification is close to – but not synonymous with:
permeability of education and training systemsDefinition:
Capacity of education and training systems to enable learners to:
access and move among different pathways (programmes, levels) and systems;
validate learning outcomes acquired in another system or in non-formal/informal settings.
- permeability of systems can be improved by:
- modularising pathways and defining units of learning outcomes;
- establishing qualification frameworks which create links between various qualifications, improving readability of qualifications within and between countries;
- setting credit systems;
- permeability is characterised by direction (vertical/horizontal), criteria for access (individual or collective), admission or exemption, level of formalisation (at institution or system levels).
Education followed by an individual after compulsory education (the minimum legal standards and duration of schooling).Source:based on European Training Foundation, 1997.
Any action undertaken to improve professional performance.Comments:
Source:Cedefop; Wikipedia, 2012.
- encompasses specific skills and generic skills (team or time management, negotiation skills, conflict management, communication, etc.);
- may take the form of self-learning, formal training, consultation, conferences, coaching or mentoring, communities of practice and technical assistance.
programme of education or trainingDefinition:
Inventory of activities, content and/or methods implemented to achieve education or training objectives (acquiring knowledge, skills and/or competences), organised in a logical sequence over a specified period of time.Comments:
the term programme of education of training refers to the implementation of learning activities whereas curriculum refers to the design, organisation and planning of these activities.Source:Cedefop, 2008.
Qualification covers different aspects:
Source:Cedefop, 2008, based on Eurydice, 2006; European Training Foundation, 1997; OECD, 2007; ILO, 1998.
Formal qualification: the formal outcome (certificate, diploma or title) of an assessment process which is obtained when a competent body determines that an individual has achieved learning outcomes to given standards and/or possesses the necessary competence to do a job in a specific area of work. A qualification confers official recognition of the value of learning outcomes in the labour market and in education and training. A qualification can be a legal entitlement to practise a trade (OECD);
Job requirements: knowledge, aptitudes and skills required to perform specific tasks attached to a particular work position (ILO).
All activities related to the recognition of learning outcomes and other mechanisms that link education and training to the labour market and civil society. These activities include:
definition of qualification policy, training design and implementation, institutional arrangements, funding, quality assurance;
assessment and certification of learning outcomes.
a national qualifications system may be composed of several subsystems and may include a national qualifications framework.Source:Cedefop, 2008; European Parliament and Council of the European Union, 2008.
Instrument for development and classification of qualifications (at national or sectoral levels) according to a set of criteria (using descriptors) applicable to specified levels of learning outcomes;
Instrument for classification of qualifications according to a set of criteria for specified levels of learning achieved, which aims to integrate and coordinate qualifications subsystems and improve transparency, access, progression and quality of qualifications in relation to the labour market and civil society.Comments:
A qualification framework can be used to:
Source:Cedefop, 2008; European Parliament and Council of the European Union, 2008; OECD, 2007.
- establish national standards of knowledge, skills and competences;
- promote quality of education;
- provide a system of coordination and/or integration of qualifications and enable comparison of qualifications by relating qualifications to one another;
- promote access to learning, transfer of learning outcomes and progression in learning.
recognition of learning outcomesDefinition:
Formal recognition: process of granting official status to knowledge, skills and competences either through:
validation of non-formal and informal learning;
grant of equivalence, credit units or waivers;
award of qualifications (certificates, diploma or titles).
Social recognition: acknowledgement of value of knowledge, skills and/or competences by economic and social stakeholders.Source:Cedefop, 2008.
Professional activity or group of professional activities, access to which, pursuit of which, or one of the modes of pursuit of which is subject, directly or indirectly, by virtue of legislative, regulatory or administrative provisions, to possession of specific professional qualifications.Source:European Parliament and Council of the European Union, 2005.
Training enabling individuals to acquire new skills giving access either to a new occupation or to new professional activities.Source:Cedefop, 2008.
secondary school leaving certificate / baccalaureateDefinition:
Examination administered at the end of upper secondary education to certify learning outcomes of learners following an assessment procedure.Comments:
- not all secondary school leaving certificates guarantee systematic access to higher education;
- at national level, school leaving certificates bear different names, for example:
- Reifeprüfungszeugnis (general upper secondary, general access to higher education) or Reife- und Diplomprüfungszeugnis (vocational upper secondary, double qualification: general access to higher education and vocational qualifications)
- Berufsreifeprüfungszeugnis (general access to higher education, includes validation of knowledge, skills and competences acquired on the job)
- Leaving certificates
- baccalauréat général (general education)
- baccalauréat technologique (general and technical education)
- baccalauréat professionnel (vocational training leading to a specific occupation)
- diploma do ensino secundário (general education)
- diploma de qualificação (general and vocational education / double certification)
Source:Cedefop, 2004; Ministère de l’éducation nationale.
- Academic levels
- GCE A level (advanced general certificate of education)
- GCE AS level (advanced subsidiary general certificate of education)
- NQ advanced higher (national qualifications advanced higher level)
- NQ higher (national qualifications higher level)
- Scottish baccalaureate
- Welsh baccalaureate
- Vocational levels
- GCE A levels in applied subjects (advanced general certificate of education in applied subjects)
- GCE AS levels in applied subjects (advanced subsidiary general certificate of education in applied subjects)
Group of companies with the same main economic activity (such as chemicals);
Grouping of professional activities based on their main economic function, product, service or technology.Source:Cedefop, 2008; European Parliament and Council of the European Union, 2008.
Ability to apply knowledge and use know-how to complete tasks and solve problems.Source:Cedefop; European Parliament and Council of the European Union, 2008.
Situation where an individual does not have the level of skills required to perform his or her job adequately.Comments:
- skill gaps can be analysed at individual level (using a skills audit), at company/sector level, or at regional, national or international levels;
- skill gaps can be linked to an insufficient level of qualification; they may also refer to situations where the workforce has the right level of qualification but lacks specific types of skills (such as management skills) or experience required to perform a task or a job adequately.
Situation of imbalance in which the level or type of skills available does not correspond to labour market needs.Comments:
- skills mismatch can be a surplus or a lack of knowledge, abilities and competences;
- skill mismatch can be analysed at different levels (individual, enterprise, sectoral, economy);
- experts distinguish between vertical mismatch (the level of education/skills is higher or lower than required) and horizontal mismatch (the level of education/skills matches job requirements, but the type of education/skills is inappropriate for the current job).
Demand for particular types of knowledge and skills on the labour market (total demand within a country or region, economic sector, etc.).Comments:
- skills needs analysis (also referred to as identification of skills needs) aims at identifying skills gaps and shortages, anticipating skills needs, and assessing the capacity of qualification systems (education and training provision, funding schemes, etc.) to meet the needs of the economy;
- anticipation of skills needs is the process of identifying skills the economy will require in a short, medium or longer term;
- skills forecasting estimates the skill demand (jobs) and/or skill supply (labour force) that will be available on a short, medium or long term.
Situation in which knowledge and skills of individuals are out of date or out of use.Comments:
this term is also used in the literature to describe situations where physical or mental abilities and skills deteriorate due to atrophy or wear and tear.Source:Cedefop; De Grip, A., van Loo, J. (2007).
Situation where skills supply (type of abilities and number of people available on the labour market) is not sufficient to meet labour market demand.Comments:
a skill shortage applies to all levels of qualification; it may result from factors such as:
- insufficient education and training supply;
- geographical imbalance in supply;
- developments impacting the structure of the economy;
- lack of attractiveness of specific occupations (difficult working conditions, low remuneration, insufficient social recognition).
Analysis of knowledge, skills and competences of individuals, including their aptitudes and motivations to define a career project and/or plan professional reorientation or a training project.Comments:
a skills audit aims to help individuals:
Source:Cedefop, 2008, based on Code du travail français, 2003.
- analyse their career backgrounds;
- self-assess their position in the labour environment;
- prepare themselves for validation of non-formal or informal learning outcomes;
- plan career pathways.
Degree to which different groups in a society can live together and share common values.Comments:
Source:Cedefop, 2008; Jenson, 1998.
- social cohesion requires low degrees of social exclusion, intra-community cooperation and solidarity across communities and social groups;
- social cohesion goes beyond the level of economic homogeneity (rate of employment, salary scale, access to health and education, housing); it is also linked to the level of social inclusion;
- Jenson (1998) identified five dimensions to social cohesion:
- belonging – isolation: that means shared values, identity, feelings of commitment;
- inclusion – exclusion (access to welfare);
- participation – non-involvement (in civil society);
- recognition – rejection of differences (in a pluralistic society);
- legitimacy – illegitimacy (trust and respect to institutions).
Process of exchange between social partners to promote consultation and collective bargaining.Comments:
- social dialogue can be bipartite (involving representatives of workers and employers) or tripartite (also involving public authorities and / or representatives of civil society, NGOs, etc.);
- social dialogue can take place at various levels (company, sectoral / cross-sectoral and local/regional / national / transnational);
- at international level, social dialogue can be bilateral, trilateral or multilateral, according to number of countries involved.
Integration of individuals – or groups of individuals – into society as citizens or as members of various public social networks. Social inclusion is fundamentally rooted in economic or labour market inclusion.Source:Cedefop, 2004.
Employers’ associations and trade unions forming the two sides of social dialogue.Comments:
- the concept of ‘social partner’ originates in France and Germany and was subsequently taken up in EU circles;
- tripartite social dialogue also involves public authorities and/or representatives of civil society, NGOs, etc.
special needs educationDefinition:
Educational activity and support designed to address specific needs of disabled children or children failing school for reasons known to impede optimal progress.Comments:
the term ‘special needs education’ is now preferred to the term ‘special education’. The older term was mainly understood to refer to education of children with disabilities, taking place in special schools or institutions distinct from, and outside the regular school and university system. In many countries today a large proportion of disabled children are in fact educated in institutions of the regular system.Source:based on Unesco, 1997.
Series of elements whose content is defined by concerned actors.Comments:
One can distinguish between several types of standards:
- competence standard refers to knowledge, skills and/or competences linked to the practice of a job;
- educational standard refers to statements of learning objectives, content of curricula, entry requirements as well as resources required to meet learning objectives;
- occupational standard refers to the statements of the activities and tasks related to a specific job and to its practice;
- assessment standard refers to statements of the learning outcomes to be assessed and the methodology used;
- validation standard refers to statements of level of achievement to be reached by the person assessed, and the methodology used;
- certification standard refers to statements of the rules applicable for obtaining a certificate or diploma as well as the rights conferred.
According to the system, these standards can be defined separately or be part of one document.Source:Cedefop, 2008.
Person whose function is to impart knowledge, know-how or skills to learners in an education or training institution.Comments:
a teacher may fulfil several tasks such as organising and carrying out training programmes/courses and transmitting knowledge, whether generic or specific, theoretical or practical. A teacher in a vocationally-oriented institution may be referred to as a ‘trainer’.Source:Cedefop, 2004; AFPA 1992.
Anyone who fulfills one or more activities linked to the (theoretical or practical) training function, either in an institution for education or training, or at the workplace.Comments:
Source:Cedefop, 2004; AFPA, 1992.
- two categories of trainer can be distinguished:
- professional trainers are training specialists whose job may coincide with that of the teacher in a vocational training establishment;
- part-time or occasional trainers are professionals in various fields who take on, in their normal duties, part-time training activity, either in-company (as mentors and tutors of recruits and apprentices or as training providers) or externally (by occasionally offering their services at a training establishment);
- trainers may carry out various tasks:
- design training activities;
- organise and implement these activities;
- provide the actual training (transfer knowledge, know-how and skills);
- help apprentices develop their skills by providing advice, instructions and comments throughout the apprenticeship.
- two categories of trainer can be distinguished:
training course planning and designDefinition:
Set of consistent methodological activities employed in designing and planning training initiatives and schemes against objectives set.Comments:
training course planning and design includes analysis of training demand and needs, project design, coordination and implementation monitoring as well as assessment of training impact.Source:based on Le Préau, 2002.
training needs analysisDefinition:
Systematic evaluation of present and future skills needs against the skills available to implement an efficient training strategy.Comments:
- training needs analysis rests on: (a) identification of skills needs; (b) assessment of skills available in the workforce, and; (c) appraisal of skills gaps and shortages;
- training needs analysis can be conducted at individual, organisational, sectoral, national or international levels; it may focus on quantitative or qualitative aspects (such as level and type of training) and should ensure that training is delivered effectively and cost-efficiently.
training of trainersDefinition:
Theoretical or practical training for teachers and trainers.Comments:
training of trainers:
- is for teaching/training personnel, either practising as professional teachers or trainers or as professionals in a given field who accompany trainees in their work environment (occasional teachers or trainers);
- covers a wide range of skills: knowledge specific to the field in question (general, technical or scientific); educational, psychological and sociological skills; management skills; familiarity with the world of work; and knowledge of training schemes and target audience;
- also covers training related to course design, organisation and implementation, as well as content of training activities (imparting knowledge, know-how and skills).
transferability of learning outcomesDefinition:
Degree to which knowledge, skills and competences can be used in a new occupational or educational environment, and/or be validated and certified.Source:Cedefop, 2008.
transition from school or training to workDefinition:
Move from education or training to employment, covering the period between leaving education and entering the labour market.Comments:
transition between school and employment (integration path, type of employment – with regard to level and status – and duration) is complex. Integration depends on many factors (gender, age, qualification, employment policy, guidance and counselling provision, etc.).Source:Cedefop, 2004.
transparency of qualificationsDefinition:
Degree of visibility and legibility of qualifications, their content and value on the (sectoral, regional, national or international) labour market and in education and training systems.Source:Cedefop, 2008.
Any activity offering a learner guidance, counselling or supervision by an experienced and competent professional. The tutor supports the learner throughout the learning process (at school, in training centres or on the job).Comments:
tutoring covers various activities:
- academic subjects (to improve educational achievement);
- career guidance (to ease transition from school to work);
- personal development (to encourage learners to make wise choices).
Situation where an individual has a lower qualification than the current job requires.Comments:
- underqualification may be assessed against the level of education or the degree of work experience;
- underqualification can be temporary (such as employers hire underqualified staff for a high-level position until they find a more appropriate person) or have a more permanent character;
- underqualification may refer to undereducation (a situation where an individual has a level of education inferior to that required for a job) or underskilling (a situation where an individual lacks the skills and competences necessary to perform a job to acceptable standards).
unit of learning outcomes (ECVET)Definition:
Component of a qualification, consisting of a coherent set of knowledge, skills and competences, that can be assessed and validated;
Set of knowledge, skills, and/or competences which constitute a coherent part of a qualification. A unit can be the smallest part of a qualification that can be assessed, transferred and, possibly, certified. It can be specific to a single qualification or common to several qualifications.Comments:
the characteristics of units (content, size, total number of units composing a qualification, etc.) are defined by the competent body responsible for the qualification at the appropriate level. The definition and description of units can vary according to the qualifications system and procedures of the competent body. However, the ECVET system proposes to provide for every unit:
Source:European Parliament and Council of the European Union, 2009a; Cedefop, 2008.
- its generic title;
- the knowledge, skills and competences contained in it;
- the criteria for assessment of the corresponding learning outcomes.
Short-term targeted training typically provided following initial education or training, and aimed at supplementing, improving or updating knowledge, skills and/or competences acquired during previous training.Comments:
Cedefop, 2004.Source:Cedefop, 2004.
validation of learning outcomesDefinition:
Confirmation by a competent body that learning outcomes (knowledge, skills and/or competences) acquired by an individual in a formal, non-formal or informal setting have been assessed against predefined criteria and are compliant with the requirements of a validation standard. Validation typically leads to certification.
Process of confirmation by an authorised body that an individual has acquired learning outcomes measured against a relevant standard. Validation consists of four distinct phases:
Source:Cedefop, 2008; Council of the European Union, 2012.
identification through dialogue of particular experiences of an individual;
documentation to make visible the individual's experiences;
formal assessment of these experiences; and
certification of the results of the assessment which may lead to a partial or full qualification.
Process of promoting participation in and outcomes of (formal or non-formal) learning, to raise awareness of its intrinsic worth and to reward learning.Source:Cedefop, 2001 in European Commission, 2001.
vocational education and training (VET)Definition:
Education and training which aims to equip people with knowledge, know-how, skills and/or competences required in particular occupations or more broadly on the labour market.Source:adapted from European Training Foundation, 1997.
Acquisition of knowledge and skills through carrying out – and reflecting on – tasks in a vocational context, either at the workplace (such as alternance training) or in a VET institution.Source:Cedefop, 2011.