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Strengthening qualification frameworks and recognition of qualifications: Sri Lanka's path to global integration

Feature | Colombo, Sri Lanka | 17 July 2023
Sri Lanka (ILO News) - The International Conference on "Qualifications Frameworks and the Recognition of Qualifications and Credentials" was held on the 28th and 29th of June 2023, marking a significant milestone for Sri Lanka's journey towards strengthening the qualification frameworks and recognition of its education qualifications. This international conference brought together key technical and academic institutions from Sri Lanka and other participating countries to open a wider discussion on qualification frameworks and recognition of qualifications to facilitate and improve outcomes of labour and student mobility.

Participants at the International Conference on "Qualification frameworks and the recognition of qualification and credentials" event
Through collaborations with the Ministry of Education, the Government of Sri Lanka, and the RecoAsia project, which is co-funded by the European Union’s Erasmus+ programme, the International Labour Organization (ILO) aims to enhance the comparability and recognition of Sri Lankan qualifications globally.

In his opening remarks, the Chief Guest of the event, State Minister of Higher Education Hon. (Dr.) Suren Raghavan, reflected on the need for an effective quality assurance (QA) and qualification framework (QF) in the education system, stating, "Currently, QA and QF are regarded as strong policy tools by almost all governments in achieving specific educational goals or ensuring the quality of education in direct or indirect manners. In this attempt, it is commendable that the EU and North American Academic Technocrats have taken the lead first to internalise and then, of course, to internationalise the standards on QA and QF. This International workshop, I believe, is one step in that direction."

Ms Simrin Singh, Director, ILO Country Office for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, stressed that having a standardised qualification framework will help individuals enjoy better employment outcomes through skill enhancement, both in Sri Lanka and internationally. "We have to ensure no one is left behind so that everyone is able to be accredited, and everyone who has gained work experience is recognized. Overall, better qualification frameworks will facilitate the recognition of qualifications across the country, region, and globally, promoting labour and student mobility, and fostering nationally and internationally consistent standards.". Over the past few years, ILO has been supporting to the government in the development of frameworks and the recognition of qualifications, and the Skills Passport established together with TVEC and the Employers’ Federation of Sri Lanka (EFC) is one of the great products, Simrin reminded. She appreciated the contribution of ILO strategic donors and partners such as Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the Government of Japan, the International Organization for Migration, and ILO Regional GOALS Project.

Secretary to the Ministry of Education,  Mr. Nihal Ranasinghe, said, "We are now discussing how to reshape and redefine the education sector, including education policies, to align with the demands of the future decades. In this context, our focus is on relevance - being relevant in the present and remaining relevant in the future. That is why we emphasize the importance of qualification frameworks and refer them to compare the requirements and frameworks of different countries."

The two-day conference was held under two different themes, with the first day focusing on "Qualification Frameworks" (QF) and the second day centered on "Recognition of Qualifications and Credentials." The conference provided a platform for a comprehensive analysis and evaluation of these frameworks, emphasizing their relevance and applicability in different educational contexts.

ILO Consultant Ms. Andrea Bateman highlighted that the key aims of a regional quality assurance framework are to develop a common understanding among states, seek commonalities, and clarify differences. Therefore, regional frameworks act as an instrument to promote and monitor the improvement of qualification systems, reference instruments, and self-assessment instruments.

Mr. Gabriel Bordado, Skills and Employability Specialist of the ILO Decent Work Team for South Asia called attention to some Key messages for Mutual Recognition of Skills. One of them is that migrant workers face challenges in accessing decent jobs due to the underutilisation of their skills, a lack of employment opportunities, and exploitation of low-skilled workers. Therefore, countries should strengthen skills anticipation systems, increase access to training, and establish bilaterral and multilateral recognition of qualifications and skills. Skills partnerships among tripartite partners between and within regions facilitate peer learning and contribute to fair migration for all, he added.    
Distinguished delegates from UNESCO, all participating countries, and associate participatory countries of RecoAsia presented their experiences, success stories, and challenges faced in implementing recognition mechanisms. Thought-provoking discussions explored strategies for streamlining and enhancing the recognition of education qualifications, ultimately fostering greater mobility for students and professionals across borders.

Speaking on the final day of the conference, Prof. Nilanthi De Silva, Vice Chancellor of the University of Kelaniya said, "We must explore the possibility of merging ‘Sri Lanka Qualification Framework' and the 'National Vocational Qualification Framework,' or at least find ways to align them within the context of the South Asian Qualifications Reference Framework. The Ministry of Education, particularly the Higher Education Section, will work towards establishing a committee or task force to set up a Sri Lankan national information center, enabling us to become a signatory to UNESCO's Tokyo Convention and partners in the network. Moving forward, we need to focus on two major components: setting goals and targets to support our learners and workforce, both domestically and internationally. Moreover, this conference has facilitated networking and raised awareness about important aspects that will shape our future collaborations and partnerships, ultimately benefiting our institutions and our country."

ILO stands ready and committed to providing all the necessary support to strengthen qualification frameworks and recognition of qualifications going forward.

Supported by the Government of Switzerland, this programme aims at ensuring an effective implementation of the Sri Lanka National Labour Migration Policy- Phase IV while promoting decent work through good governance, protection and empowerment of migrant workers.