EAR2 – online recognition manual and training
On 24 April, the kick-off meeting for the EAR2 project took place in The Hague. EAR is short for European Area of Recognition, and EAR2 is one of the follow-ups to the successful EAR project that ended last January with the delivery of the European recognition manual. This manual aims to provide clarity in the divergent world of recognition procedures for foreign qualifications by agreeing on recognition standards and providing examples of good practices in Europe.
What is EAR2?
This project is one of the successors of the EAR project. It addresses three issues: the provision of training to implement use of the guide, further improvements to the guide and its presentation in a more flexible, Internet-based way, and setting up an efficient system for maintaining it.
Training and debate
A survey among the national information centres on recognition – the ENIC-NARIC offices – revealed that a large majority of centres support the good practices described in the manual. At the same time, it showed a substantially lower percentage actually putting these practices to use. Apparently, implementation of the manual is not as simple as it may seem.
This observation was the first signal that training is needed to teach centres not currently applying the guidelines on how to do so. But what would be the best way to organise this? During several workshops, the centres clearly stated that debates with peers would help. According to the centres, intensive interaction and discussion are key to convincing each other of the value and necessity of following similar evaluation guidelines.
These conclusions have been brought together in EAR2. The project will set up a combination of online training sessions, discussion groups and face-to-face days. In this way, all centres will be able to provide their views on all chapters, to review selected examples, and at the same time convince each other of the necessity of using the manual as a guide.
Improving the guide
Aside from the identified need for training, it was noted that the manual itself could be improved. While the content should remain basically intact, as it is the result of hard, consensual work, the navigational structure could be better. Instead of the current static version, existing stakeholders and future users indicate preferring a more user-friendly, web-based manual. EAR2 will make these changes. For instance, the new, online manual will contain more links to useful sources, facilitate easier navigation between topics and chapters and provide more examples to illustrate the recommendations. Clickable flowcharts showing steps in the recognition process will ensure the website’s user friendliness and navigability, maximising the browsing, surfing and linking potential of the Internet.
Apart from navigation, another advantage of an online manual is that it makes the guide a flexible, living tool, keeping up with new developments in the world of recognition. While this is certainly an attractive feature, there could also be a downside. The manual is intended to provide guidance for recognition centres. It contains standards, guidelines and examples of good practice that serve as a model and provide directions. Implementing new procedures and using new guidelines takes time and effort. Therefore, while it is important that the manual be flexible and up to date, it must also be a relatively consistent source that is reliable, and not changing all the time.
The project therefore provides for the creation of a system that allows minor changes and improvements (such as adding extra links, new examples and minor text edits) to be managed by a small working group. Major changes – to the recommendations or the addition of new topics – will require broader consent from the networks.
The kick-off meeting showed what is possible, both in respect of the electronic version of the manual – or e-manual – and the training courses. A wealth of information is available on the Internet, on features from video clips to iPhone use and from teleconferencing to social networking, as well as on differences in navigational structures. The meeting also presented a first mock-up of how the content of the current manual will look online and of what the interaction within training modules might look like. It all looks very promising and stimulating. I am looking forward to keeping you posted on this new element of transparency in the recognition of foreign qualifications!
What do you think, is the recognition practice in your country up to date and in line with the good practices described in the EAR manual? Or do you agree that some training is needed?