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Development and implementation of NQF has been a major international trend in the educational reforms since 1990s. To date, more than 130 countries have implemented NQF. In the ASEAN region, Brunei Darussalam, Lao PDR and Vietnam are the only three countries where NQF is not in place. According to the Ministry of Education of Vietnam, the final draft of NQF is being promptly completed to submit to the Prime Minister for approval. In this context, having a good understanding of the impact of NQF on TVET of Vietnam so as to implement it effectively once it is approved is highly important.

The author would like to express her sincere thanks to GIZ (Regional Co-operation Programme to improve the training of TVET personnel - RECOTVET and Programme Reform of TVET in Viet Nam) for their technical support


Development and implementation of NQF has been a major international trend in the educational reforms since 1990s. To date, more than 130 countries have implemented NQF. In the ASEAN region, Brunei Darussalam, Lao PDR and Vietnam are the only three countries where NQF is not in place. According to the Ministry of Education of Vietnam, the final draft of NQF is being promptly completed to submit to the Prime Minister for approval. In this context, having a good understanding of the impact of NQF on TVET of Vietnam so as to implement it effectively once it is approved is highly important.



The training course on NQF in RECOVET-HCD organized

 by GIZ in Vietnam

Overview of NQF

NQF indicates the requirements of knowledge and skills the learners need to acquire (learning outcomes) for a specific qualification level and reflects the permeability between qualifications. NQF is a national policy. More specifically, NQF levels do not belong to any institution but are ‘national assets’. NQF may be comprehensive covering all the training levels and methods including academic and vocational training, or confined to one sector of education and/or industry.

The majority of NQFs cover from 8 to 10 qualification levels. Each country set its own objectives when developing NQF but the following objectives are presented by almost all countries: (i) make the training levels easier to understand and strengthen the coherence of qualification systems and permeability of education (ii) support lifelong learning; (iii) aid recognition and transfer of credit and prior learning (iv) strengthen the link between training and labor market, and (v) facilitate the international recognition of national qualifications.

Referencing NQF towards Regional Qualification Frameworks (RQF)

A RQF covers qualifications in a number of countries in a particular geographical region. RQF is a tool that ensures the referencing between training delivery at a specific level in a NQF and a level in another NQF.  

European Qualifications Framework (EQF)

EU has recognized the importance of mutual recognition of qualifications since 1990s. In March 2005, the EU Member States proposed a Recommendation of Development of EQF and this Recommendation was approved by the EU Council on 23 April 2008.  EQF is organized with 8 levels, each of which is defined in terms of knowledge, skills and competences that need to be acquired to reach each level. Each level can be attainable by a variety of formal or non formal learning pathways. The Recommendation includes the two main goals and recommends the Member States to (i) Relate the qualification levels in their NQFs to 8 levels of the EQF by using 10 referencing criteria (ii) Indicate EQF levels on certificates/diplomas issued once the NQF is referenced. As of April of 2016, 30 countries including 25 Member States and 5 non Member States have completed the referencing process. A majority of countries are expected to complete these two objectives by the end of 2016.

ASEAN Qualifications Reference Framework (AQRF)

AQRF was developed based on the regional agreements including: The ASEAN Framework Arrangement on Services (AFAS) of 1995, Mutual Recognition Arrangements (MRAs) for qualifications in major professional services and ASEAN Economic Blueprint (ASEAN 2007).  The initial draft of the proposal of AQRF was developed in a component of the ASEAN – Australia – New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) Economic Cooperation Work. This draft was considered during the first AANZFTA Joint Committee Meeting in May 2010 in Manila. AQRF was endorsed in September 2014 during the ASEAN Education Ministers Committee held in Laos PDR.

AQRF invites the voluntary engagement from ASEAN countries. Similar to EQF, AQRF was designed with 8 levels, each of which includes the two following domains: (i) knowledge and skills (ii) responsibility and accountability. AQRF has set the foundation for integration in education, labor market and promoting the labor mobility in the region. To ensure the consistency and transparency in referencing NQFs towards AQRF, the ASEAN countries have agreed on 11 criteria for referencing. One noteworthy criterion is No.11 “Following the referencing process, all new qualification certificates, diplomas issued by the national certificates, diplomas issued by the national certification bodies contains a clear reference to the appropriate AQRF level”.

Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia have announced the plan to complete the referencing process from NQFs to AQRF by 2018.

Draft of NQF of Vietnam

The table below demonstrates the great similarity between the draft of NQF of Vietnam and the AQRF as well as the NQFs of some ASEAN. NQF of Vietnam in the draft version is designed with 8 levels, each of which describes the acquired standards required for graduate students including (i) knowledge (ii) skills and (iii) accountability and responsibility. The Government of Vietnam has directed the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) and the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) to develop NQF for Vietnam. MOLISA takes charge of level 1 to level 5 of TVET while the MOET is responsible for level 6, 7, 8 belonging to education at university level.

Table 1. AQRF and NQFs of some ASEAN countries  



(8 levels)

NQF of Malaysia

(8 levels)

NQF of Indonesia

(9 levels)

NQF of Philippines

(8 levels)

Draft of NQF of Vietnam

(as of July 2016) (8 levels)


Doctorate degree (8)

Specialist/Doctor (9)

Doctoral &

Post Doctoral (8)

Doctorate (8)

(90 credits)


Master/Postgraduate Certificate & Diploma (7)


Master (8)



Post Baccalaureate (7)

Master (7)

 (30-60 credits)



Professional (7)




Baccalaureate/Graduate Certificate & Diploma (6)

Baccalaureate/DIV (6)


Baccalaureate (6)

Graduate (6)

(120 - 180 credits)


Advanced  Diploma (5)

DIII (5)


Diploma (5)

Diploma (5)

(60 credits)


Diploma (4)

DII (4)

NC4 (4)

Intermediate (4)

(40-60 credits)


Skills Certificate 3 (3)

DI (3)


NC3 (3)

Certificate 3 (3)  (30 credits)



Skills Certificate 2 (2)

HS (2)

NC2/Grade 12 (2)

Certificate 2 (2)

(20 credits)


Skills Certificate 1 (1)

Elementary (1)

NC1/Grade10 (1)

Certificate 1 (1)

(10 credits)

NQF - Opportunities and challenges for TVET of Vietnam


(i) NQF increases the attractiveness of TVET of Vietnam

NQF in the draft version was designed in accordance with the new TVET Law of Vietnam. The TVET training delivery at elementary, intermediate and diploma levels as stipulated in the TVET Law respectively relates to level 3 (certificate 3), level 4 (Intermediate Degree) and level 5 (Diploma) of the NQF. Such design of NQF not only makes TVET qualification levels easier to understand but also helps decrease the overlapping of certificates and/or degrees of TVET. This thus contributes to enhance the image of TVET.

That the acquired learning outcomes are identified for each qualification level of the NQF also makes TVET learners believe in TVET certificates and degrees regardless of which TVET institution they choose to study. Furthermore, TVET will become more attractive since the NQF indicates the open and clear pathway routes from TVET to education at university level. It is noteworthy that though the permeability from vocational training at college level to education at university level has been stipulated in the legal documents since 2010, in reality, a variety of barriers have arisen because of the perceptions that vocational training involves a big volume of practical training hours and does not require entrance examination. Such barriers are expected to be addressed once the NQF is approved. As mentioned earlier, one of the goals of any NQF is to meet the learning needs and promote life-long learning.

(ii) NQF acts as a catalyst and sets foundation for the renew of TVET curriculum, examination as well as the recognition and issuance of TVET certificates and degrees

Vietnam is reforming TVET from available curriculum-based training to learning outcome-based training. NQF supports this process since each qualification level of NQF is defined in terms of the learning outcomes that student graduates need to acquire. According to the TVET Law, the Government no longer approves and issues the curriculum framework but allows the TVET institutions to be autonomous and self-responsible for developing and implementing the training programmes. More specifically, the TVET institutions are permitted to develop their own curriculum based on the learning outcomes defined for each level of NQF, the national occupation skills standards and the number of credits for each qualification level. Besides, according to the TVET Law, the learners accumulating sufficient number of modules or credits as regulated in the training programme are recognized for having completed the training program without having to participating in any final examination. Therefore, the regulatin of the number of credits for each qualification level will facilitate learners to accumulate credits and transfer credits easily among different training programmes (in an institution or among institutions) as well as aid the innovation in terms of recognition of graduation.

(iii) NQF promotes the international recognition of TVET certificates and degrees of Vietnam.

One of the most important conditions for Vietnamese employees to be accepted in the international labor market is the international recognition towards TVET certificates and degrees of Vietnam. To acquire this objective, TVET of Vietnam must be delivered based on the relevant international standards. The fact that the NQF of Vietnam share many similarities with AQRF, EQF and the NQFs of ASEAN countries will make this process easier. Especially, once Vietnam completes the referencing process towards AQRF, the mutual recognition of ASEAN countries towards Vietnamese degrees and certificates will be promoted so as to take advantage of labor mobility opportunities provided by the AEC. Furthermore, the regulation of the number of credits for each qualification level in the NQF of Vietnam will also make it easier to reference between the NQF of Vietnam to the NQFs of other countries.

(iv) NQF contributes to enhance the quality of TVET:

NQF impacts on the issue of learning outcomes standards for each qualification level and requires the review and revision of other sets of current standards in TVET such as standards for TVET teachers and management staff, the standards in accreditation or the standards for high quality TVET institutes. The sets of standards in TVET to be revised and updated will leverage the quality enhancement of TVET.

Some challenges

(i) Implementation of NQF takes time and consumes lots of resources

Developing NQF may be a quick process but to implement it effectively takes time and consumes lots of resources. This is a big challenge for TVET of Vietnam especially in the context of limited national budget for TVET (the average national budget for TVET in the last 10 years accounted for only 6.6% of total national budget for education). In the time to come, the Government has to focus on developing the legal documents under the new TVET Law as well as restructuring the TVET system. This may affect the implementation of the NQF.

(ii) TVET quality assurance system must be strengthened

NQF is effectively implemented only when the society believes in the NQF. Meanwhile, this belief depends on the quality of TVET. It should be acknowledged that though the quality of TVET of Vietnam has significantly improved in the last 10 years, it has not met the requirements of so-cio and economic development and the labor market. Studies have shown that NQF and the QA system should go in tandem. This is also a big challenge for TVET of Vietnam because the number of accredited TVET institutions accounts for only 12.6% of the total TVET institutions nationwide and the accreditation at programme level has just finished the pilot phase. According to the new TVET Law, accreditation will be implemented by independent organizations instead of the governmental agencies, however, no independent accreditation center has been set up so far.

(iv) Implementation of NQF needs the enterprises/sector involvement

‘Standards’ and ‘assessment’ are the two key elements of any NQF. To implement NQF successfully, both of these two elements should have the involvement of enterprises/industry since this stakeholder of TVET is the main beneficiaries of the TVET outcome. In many countries with developed TVET systems, enterprises/sector directly involve in developing the learning outcomes standards and competency assessment for students. Whereas, in Vietnam, the link between enterprises/industry and TVET has been still loose with limited industry involvement in developing occupation standards, curriculum or training materials. Only few TVET institutions in Vietnam regularly invite enterprises to participate in assessing the learning outcomes of students. This also presents a big challenge for the implementation of NQF.


- To take advantage of the opportunities and overcome the challenges related to the implementation of NQF, the Government needs to direct the relevant authorizes to develop a comprehensive strategy to implement. It is also of high importance that the QA TVET system needs to be enhanced to ensure the belief of the society towards the NQF.

- The involvement of different stakeholders especially of the enterprises/industry in developing and implementing NQF should be strengthened.

- In the context of limited budget for NQF, priorities should be identified when implementing the NQF. The Government should focus on the review of registration, and recognition of qualifications and degrees/certificates in focal occupations and those having big demand from the labor market based on the NQF.

- Sufficient resources should be provided for the agency responsible for managing the NQF. The TVET institutions should also be supported in curriculum development in accordance with the NQF

-  The competencies of TVET personnel should be enhanced to meet the requirements related to managing and implementing NQF.

- The experiences and lessons of the other countries related to the implementation of NQF should also be learnt so as to save time and resources./.



A. Setiawwan. (2015). Compliance of IQF towards AQRF: Challenges and Opportunities of the Referencing to Regional Qualification Framework. International Conference on Innovation in Engineering and Vocational Education (ICIEVE 2015).

European Commission. (2016). Revision of the European Qualifications Framework (EQF). http://ec.europa.eu/smart-regulation/roadmaps/docs/2016_empl_008_revision_european_qualification_network_en.pdf

Murray, J. (2013). Quality Assurance in Qualifications Frameworks. An issue paper to support the Dublin Conference, organized by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), on behalf of the Irish Presidency of the European Council, with the support of the European Commission.

Tuck. R (2007). An Introductory Guide to National Qualifications Frameworks: Conceptual and Practical Issues for Policy Makers. http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@ed_emp/@ifp_skills/documents/instructionalmaterial/wcms_103623.pdf

Training materials of the Workshop on national qualification framework organized by Regional Co-operation Programme to improve the training of TVET personnel– GIZ (HCD component for executive experts and professionals (Core Group) from middle management of ministries / relevant institutions) 19-21 August 2015, Hanoi


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