Basic language of ECVET

Article provided by:

Catalina Constantin - EDUFOR

The intention of this article is to provide some basic knowledge about what ECVET is and it support regarding transfer, recognition and validation of occupations and competencies.  So:

ECVET is a tool that can assist lifelong learning by improving transfer, recognition and accumulation of what has been learnt in the past. It can ease the development of individualised lifelong learning paths which enable people to gain knowledge, skills and competence and ultimately also a qualification progressively and building on what they learnt previously.


European Credit System for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET) has the following purposes:

  • make it easier for people to get validation and recognition of work-related skills and knowledge acquired in different systems and countries – so that they can count towards vocational qualifications
  • make it more attractive to move between different countries and learning environments
  • increase the compatibility between the different vocational education and training (VET) systems in place across Europe, and the qualifications they offer
  • increase the employability of VET graduates and the confidence of employers that each VET qualification requires specific skills and knowledge.


Taking into account all those recommendations training centers and VET practitioners must create curricula and validate learning taking into account the terminology used by ECVET framework. For that we’ll define the most used terms. We create groups of terms which are close linked.

Group 1:

  • ‘competence’ means the proven ability to use knowledge, skills and personal, social and/or methodological abilities, in work or study situations and in professional and personal development;
  • ‘knowledge’ means the outcome of the assimilation of information through learning. Knowledge is the body of facts, principles, theories and practices that is related to a field of work or study. In the context of the EQF, knowledge is described as theoretical and/or factual;
  • ‘skills’ means the ability to apply knowledge and use know-how to complete tasks and solve problems. In the context of the EQF, skills are described as cognitive (involving the use of logical, intuitive and creative thinking) or practical (involving manual dexterity and the use of methods, materials, tools and instruments);

Group 2

  • ‘learning outcomes’ means statements regarding 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 responsibility and autonomy;
  • ‘unit of learning outcomes’ (unit) means a component of a qualification, consisting of a coherent set of knowledge, skills and competence, that can be assessed and validated;
  • ‘qualification’ means a formal outcome of an assessment and validation process which is obtained when a competent authority determines that an individual has achieved learning outcomes to given standards.
  • ‘national qualifications framework’ – NQF - means an instrument for the classification of qualifications according to a set of criteria for specified levels of learning achieved, which aims at integrating and coordinating national qualifications subsystems and improve the transparency, access, progression and quality of qualifications in relation to the labour market and civil society;

Group 3:

  • credit’ means confirmation that a part of a qualification, consisting of a coherent set of learning outcomes has been assessed and validated by a competent authority, according to an agreed standard; credit is awarded by competent authorities when the individual has achieved the defined learning outcomes, evidenced by appropriate assessments and can be expressed in a quantitative value (credit points) demonstrating the estimated workload an individual typically needs for achieving related learning outcomes;
  • ‘credit systems’ means a transparency tool for facilitating the recognition of credit(s). These systems can comprise, inter alia equivalences, exemptions, units/modules that can be accumulated and transferred, the autonomy of providers who can individualize pathways, and the validation of non-formal and informal learning;
  • ‘credit transfer’ means the process of allowing individuals who have accumulated credit in one context to have it valued and recognized in another context.

Example: transfer credit between occupations: such transfer credits from mountain leader to mountain guide or from touristic guide to mountain guide (and inverse).

Group 4:

  • formal learning means learning which takes place in an organized and structured environment, specifically dedicated to learning, and typically leads to the award of a qualification, usually in the form of a certificate or a diploma; it includes systems of general education, initial vocational training and higher education;
  • non-formal learning means learning which takes place through planned activities (in terms of learning objectives, learning time) where some form of learning support is present (e.g. student-teacher relationships); it may cover programs to impart work skills, adult literacy and basic education for early school leavers; very common cases of non-formal learning include in-company training, through which companies update and improve the skills of their workers such as ICT skills, structured on-line learning (e.g. by making use of open educational resources), and courses organized by civil society organizations for their members, their target group or the general public;
  • informal learning means learning resulting from daily activities related to work, family or leisure and is not organized or structured in terms of objectives, time or learning support; it may be unintentional from the learner's perspective; examples of learning outcomes acquired through informal learning are skills acquired through life and work experiences, project management skills or ICT skills acquired at work, languages learned and intercultural skills acquired during a stay in another country, ICT skills acquired outside work, skills acquired through volunteering, cultural activities, sports, youth work and through activities at home.

We advices VET practitioners to up-date their information reading the main European recommendations regarding VET framework:

1) 18 June 2009, RECOMMENDATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on the establishment of a European Credit System for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET)

2) COUNCIL RECOMMENDATION of 22 May 2017on the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning and repealing the recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2008 on the establishment of the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning

3) RECOMMENDATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 18 June 2009 on the establishment of a European Quality Assurance Reference Framework for Vocational Education and Training – EQAVET

4) COUNCIL RECOMMENDATION of 20 December 2012 on the validation of non-formal and informal learning

In the next articles we go in depts in understanding the terminology and give some examples on using the terms in practice.

Keep on watching the next articles!


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