“It will be hard for non-formal education to get a place in the German national qualifications framework without losing our own ideas and values. But we can learn a lot about that from other countries,” says Winfried Ellwanger.
Winfried Ellwanger has been directly involved in the process of establishing a national qualifications framework in Germany. Ellwanger is the head of folk high school in Bavaria and president of the regional association of folk high schools.
He was invited to be part of the working group commissioned to place the health sector in the national qualifications framework. Since his own folk high school offers both formal and non-formal education in health, he was able to see the process from both sides.
“We have finished know after one year of hard work. It was interesting but not easy. Germany has a very formalized educational system, and it is been hard to accommodate this to a framework based on learning outcomes,” Winfried Ellwanger explains.
“Very many stakeholders were involved with each their own approach. For example, when we placed a certain type of education at a certain level, the labour unions was very focused on the consequences for wages.”
Risk of losing identity
The work group was not asked to look at the non-formal sector. But Winfried Ellwanger expects problems when this work begins:
“The companies don’t know very much about how to validate non-formal learning. I think there is a lot of marketing to do.
But the main problem is the government. To them it is just a minor addition. What they really told the folk high schools and other forms of non-formal education was this: If you want to be incorporated into the national qualifications framework, you must change into formal education.
But then we would have to abandon our ideas of competences and learning,” he says.
There is another way, though, according to Winfried Ellwanger:
“From this conference I learned that other countries like Ireland and even Austria, just a few kilometers away from my region, have come a long way in solving the problem of recognizing the outcome of non-formal learning and incorporating it into the national qualifications framework.”