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Integrating transversal competencies in lifelong learning systems

UNESCO, Bangkok, 11 March 2016 - The 2016 ERI-Net Annual Meeting, Hosted by the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tokyo, Japan, 22-24 February 2016.

In partnership with the Tokyo Institute of Technology, UNESCO Bangkok organised the 2016 ERI-Net Annual Meeting from 22 to 24 February in Tokyo, Japan. With generous support from the Government of Malaysia, the Government of the Republic of Korea, and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport, Science and Technology of Japan, the meeting focused on two core research topics related to key policy issues faced by countries in the region. The 2016 Annual Meeting aimed to share preliminary findings from case studies from ERI-Net’s school education and higher education research groups.

Research Topic 1: Integrating Transversal Competencies in Education Policy and Practice

Transversal skills are part of the building blocks that enable children to develop to their full potential. These skills – sometimes referred to as 21st century skills, soft skills or non-cognitive skills – include critical and innovative thinking, interpersonal skills, intrapersonal skills, global citizenship skills, media and information literacy, etc.

The previous two phases of ERI-Net research on transversal competencies documented experiences in the region with regards to education policy (Phase I) and implementation of the education policies at school level (Phase II).  The findings from these two phases confirmed the need for research on the role of teachers as essential drivers of transversal competencies, especially regarding how teachers can be supported to facilitate such learning. The urgency of understanding the development of transversal competencies is associated with rapid changes of society, including as a result of globalisation. 

During the Tokyo meeting, ERI-Net researchers identified several shared issues and concerns, including:

  ■ Teachers are committed and passionate about students’ learning, but often overburdened by other competing tasks;

  ■ Teaching transversal competencies is not separate from subject knowledge, but based on it;

  ■ Gaps in perception between teachers and school leaders may be one of the reasons between a perceived policy-practice gap;

  ■ Both pre-service and in-service teacher training can be reformed to align with expected learning outcomes;

  ■ Additional resources at school level are needed to ensure teachers are well prepared for learning transversal competencies; and

  ■ Many such competencies are considered important, especially in the context of globalization and regionalization.

The case studies highlight that beyond mastering academic or work-specific skills, teachers need proactive support to help integrate transversal competencies into learning processes. The individual case studies explore the diversity and range of teacher professional development strategies and policies and the perceived role in developing high-level cognitive and transversal skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, teamwork, communication skills and conflict resolution, which can be used across a wide range of occupational and non-work related fields. ERI-Net members agreed that transversal competencies were also important in terms of the organisation and recognition of learning outcomes linked with national qualifications, which was also explored during the Tokyo ERI-Net meeting.

Research Topic 2: National Qualifications Frameworks (NQF) in Asia and the Pacific

Given diverse needs and stakeholder interests, NQFs in Asia and the Pacific have different traditions and are at various stages of development, from initial planning to reviewing strategies for maintenance and sustainability.

The Tokyo meeting explored nine case studies on NQF and their contributions to regional best practices and policies. For example, the case study on the Republic of Korea highlighted the historical thrust and potential role of NQF in the local context, including connecting education, training and qualification systems with the labor market, establishing competency-based recruitment, promotion and career mobility. While many countries in the region do not yet have an NQF, including the Republic of Korea, there are higher education systems with experience regarding the successful development and maintenance of NQF, and its role underpinning a future knowledge-based society. Notable achievements include Hong Kong SAR’s commitment to the establishment of a $1 billion HKD fund ($128m USD) to support schemes or initiatives for the sustainable development and implementation of the qualifications framework, which will be guided by a Steering Committee on Hong Kong’s Qualifications Framework Fund.

The diverse values and visions for NQF in Asia-Pacific are as varied as the region itself, but a consensus is emerging within the case studies that NQF can play an important role in advancing evidence-based policies to promote quality, inclusion, mobility and accountability of lifelong learning systems, which is at the centre of the new Education 2030 agenda.

Guided by the ERI-Net Steering Committee and Education 2030 agenda, the ERI-Net Secretariat at UNESCO Bangkok will circulate plans for future ERI-Net research, publications, and opportunities to be involved. For further information, please contact the ERI-Net Focal Point, Ms. Satoko Yano at

More information:

2016 ERI-Net Annual Meeting – Background and Meeting Presentations


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