The Integrated Qualifications System is a set of rules, procedures and tools that are used to organize qualifications operating in Poland, increase their accessibility, as well as provide conditions for creating new qualifications and improving the existing ones. The IQS was established pursuant to the Act on the Integrated Qualifications System of December 22, 2015 (Journal of Laws of 2016, item 64), which entered into force in January 2016. The Act organizes the terminology related to awarding qualifications in Poland. The system is “integrated” as it introduces uniform rules and standards for the creation, description, inclusion, awarding and comparison of qualifications.
The first thing to note is that this is a qualifications system, not an education system. The Integrated Qualifications Register contains qualifications awarded within and outside the education system. The area of regulating the education process, determining the principles of remunerating teachers or conducting training activities remains beyond the reach of the IQS. Instead, IQS focuses on issues related to the description of requirements related to obtaining qualifications, their validation and certification – we find in it, as in ECVET, learning outcomes and sets (units) of learning outcomes, care for transparent verification of these effects and certification that they have been achieved by the person concerned.
The second important piece of information is that the IQS introduced a new type of qualifications to the qualifications system (market qualifications), along with a proposal for the manner of their inclusion, as well as the tasks and requirements for certifying institutions in their scope and entities ensuring their quality. Additionally, in the field of market qualifications, it was possible to collect (accumulate) achievements in stages, i.e. proven and confirmed learning outcomes obtained at different times and places.
The very name of the system implies that qualifications are a key, central element of the IQS. The statutory understanding of this concept is slightly different from the colloquial:
Qualifications are “a set of learning outcomes in the field of knowledge, skills and social competences, acquired in formal education, non-formal education or through informal learning, compliant with the requirements set for a given qualification, the achievement of which has been checked in validation and formally confirmed by an authorized certifying entity. “(Act on the IQS, art. 2, point 8)
The system covers all types of qualifications operating in Poland – both qualifications from formal education systems and the so-called regulated and market qualifications. Qualifications are regulated by separate provisions of law (but not by educational acts). Examples of such qualifications are a driving license, a diving diploma or a qualification entitled “Checking and assessing the answers to the examination tasks of the matriculation examination in philosophy.” These, if necessary, can be updated, described and included in the IQS (only a few have been included at the moment).
Market qualifications are not based on separate provisions of law, most often they are qualifications developed by communities (social organizations, associations, corporations and other entities) on the basis of their experience. The term “market” means in this case that the qualifications were developed and operated on a “free market” of qualifications. A market qualification can be obtained by anyone who meets the requirements specified for a given qualification. These requirements are included in the so-called description of the qualification. On the one hand, they relate to the initiation of validation (e.g. age, work experience, health condition), and on the other hand, knowledge, skills and social competences that must be demonstrated during validation.
It is market qualifications that are supposed to support adult learning to the greatest extent. The quality of these qualifications has not been supported by a system so far, and this is the difference that occurs due to the implementation of the Integrated Qualifications System.
The most important rules for the functioning of qualifications in the IQS are as follows:
- Qualifications are described in terms of learning outcomes.
- Granting qualifications is possible only on the basis of a positive validation result (e.g. an exam).
- Qualifications may only be awarded by authorized institutions. In the case of market and regulated qualifications, these powers are granted by the competent minister.
- Validation and certification carried out by authorized institutions are covered by the quality assurance system: internal, which includes, inter alia, solutions ensuring the separation of education and training processes from validation, and external. External quality assurance for validation and certification is carried out by external quality assurance bodies.
- The learning outcomes required for a qualification may be acquired at a different time and place. The certifying institution may, in the course of certifying a given market qualification, recognize the achievements obtained in connection with applying for another qualification.
- Documents confirming the award of a qualification contain a graphic symbol informing about the PQF level assigned to a given qualification.
- Key information on qualifications is available in the Integrated Qualifications Register (ZRK).
- The Minister of National Education is responsible for the coordination of the IQS, including the design of organizational and technical solutions in the field of IQS. The opinion-making and advisory body of the minister coordinator is the Stakeholders’ Council.
- Interested entities conducting organized activity in the field of economy, labor market, education or training may submit an application to include a market qualification in the IQS. Market qualifications can be a response, for example, to the needs of people who want to confirm the learning outcomes obtained through non-formal education or as a result of informal learning.
- Individual ministers are responsible for incorporating market and regulated qualifications into the IQS. The market qualification begins to function in the IQS on the date of signing by the competent minister of the contract with an external quality assurance entity towards the institution authorized to certify the qualification *.
Examples of market qualifications included in the IQS:
- Wstępna i cieplna obróbka mięsa i ryb[poziom 1 Polskiej Ramy Kwalifikacji – PRK]
- Montaż i konserwacja autonomicznych czujek: tlenku węgla, dymu, ciepła i gazu[poziom 2 PRK]
- Przygotowanie deserów restauracyjnych(Deserant) [poziom 3 PRK]
- Tworzenie witryn internetowych[poziom 4 PRK]
- Pilotowanie imprez turystycznych typu incentive[poziom 5 PRK]
- Prowadzenie mediacji sądowych i pozasądowych w sprawach gospodarczych[poziom 6 PRK]
- Diagnoza i pomoc psychoonkologiczna osobom chorym onkologicznie, osobom po chorobie nowotworowej oraz ich rodzinom i otoczeniu – Psychoonkolog[poziom 7 PRK]
The exception are qualifications confirmed by master’s diplomas and apprentice certificates in professions that are not included in the classification of professions in vocational education. These qualifications are considered functioning in the IQS on the day of announcing the announcement on the inclusion of these qualifications in the system – the Act indicates that only craft chambers are authorized to certify these qualifications, for which the Polish Craft Association performs the function of an external quality assurance entity.