ACQF Level Descriptors: reflections, development methods, principles.

The story: developing the ACQF Level Descriptors

Level descriptors – developing the technical-conceptual framework of the African Continental Qualifications Framework (ACQF)

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The African Continental Qualifications Framework (ACQF) is a ten-level Regional Qualifications Meta-Framework and serves as a reference and translation tool that may be used to compare and interpret qualification levels on the continent. The learning outcomes based ACQF level descriptors describe learning at a specific ACQF level, regardless of how or where this learning was obtained. The descriptors serve as a transparent basis for referencing levels of National Qualifications Frameworks (NQFs) or systems to the ACQF. They further provide an orientation for countries/ regions to develop qualifications frameworks or systems and orientate towards common minimum benchmarks for learning outcomes on the continent. The ACQF descriptors are 'meta-descriptors' that serve a continental agenda and will not capture the same level of detail as national level descriptors.   

The African Continental Qualifications Framework (ACQF) is intended as a common translation instrument that may be used to understand and interpret the various qualification levels on the African continent. At the very core of the ACQF is its level descriptors that provide transparent descriptions of the complexities of learning at a specific level of the ACQF, irrespective of how or where this learning was obtained.

ACQF level descriptors are expressed as learning outcomes structured on ten cumulative levels defined by three domains of learning: knowledge, skills and autonomy and responsibility. The development of the meta-descriptors is grounded in research and consultation, building on ACQF reports and other Regional Qualifications Frameworks (RQFs). The methodological approach to shaping the meta-descriptors involved the creation of a builder matrix, as a living working tool showing its horizontal and vertical evolution coupled with complementary content including a detailed glossary. Consultations and technical meetings took place between September and December 2021 to present, design, discuss and refine the descriptors and a first draft was presented to the ACQF Advisory Group (AG) in January 2022.

The development of the ACQF descriptors is grounded in research and consultation and builds on ACQF reports and other regional qualifications frameworks (RQFs). A literature survey took into account key analyses of African level descriptors presented in various ACQF reports (ACQF, 2021a, 2021b, 2021c); as well as an orientation paper (European Training Foundation [ETF], 2021b) that focused on key learnings from other national qualifications frameworks (NQFs) and RQFs.  Key findings from the literature and a specific survey conducted with ACQF stakeholders and other experts provided useful inputs for options for domains of learning and level structure, and a set of key principles for engineering the ACQF meta-descriptors. These were presented at an ACQF peer learning webinar (PLW) in September 2021.