To operationalise the scope of research, the TRACK-VET Partnership needed to develop a common understanding of the key following terms and concepts to be applied:

1. transversal key competences (TKC),
2. development (of TKC),
3. assessment (of TKC),
4. validation (of TKC),
5. formal initial and continuous VET.

1. Transversal key competences

In the TRACK-VET project proposal we decided to use the term transversal key competences (TKC), which is defined as a subgroup of the 8 key competences defined in the Council Recommendation (2006), namely:

-learning to learn,
-social and civic competences,
-initiative-taking and entrepreneurship,
-cultural awareness and expression.

On 22 May 2018 Council of the European Union issued Recommendation on Key Competences for Lifelong Learning which the modifications to the key competences reference framework were introduced. In the below table we compare differences between the two documents in their approach to TKC.


The reference frameworks for eight key competences – comparing Council Recommendations.

Competences regarded as transversal key competences are indicated in bold

Council Recommendation on key competences for lifelong learning (2006):

Council Recommendation on key competences for lifelong learning 2018:

Communication in mother tongue

Literacy competences

Communication in foreign languages

Languages competences

Mathematical competences and basic competences in science and technology

Mathematical competences and competence in science, technology and engineering

Digital competence

Digital competence

Learning to learn

Personal, social and learning competence

Social and civic competences

Civic competence

Sense of initiative and entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship competence

Cultural awareness and expression

Cultural awareness and expression competence


2. “Development” of TKC


Within the TRACK-VET project, development of TKC is understood as the intentional process of forming competences. This process might be defined in the curricula, programmes or other documents. In many instances VET systems develop competences “unintentionally” we do not aim to investigate these aspects in detail, because of the systemic focus of the project.

3. “Assessment” of TKC

We adopt the approach and definition of “assessment” from the ECVET Recommendation 2009. Assessment “means, methods and processes used to establish the extent to which a learner has in fact attained particular knowledge, skills and competence”. In this sense assessment is similar concept to the concept of “examination”.

We distinguish between using assessment results for formative and summative purposes. The country reports should pay attention to this distinction, and provide information on different forms of assessment, however, the focus should be on summative assessment, leading to a qualification. The distinction between formative and summative assessment refers mainly to time and purpose (after Harlen & James 1997; DES/WO 1988):

- formative assessment, so that the positive achievements of a learner may be recognised and discussed and the appropriate next steps may be planned;

- summative assessment, for the recording of the overall achievement of a learner in a systematic way.

In line with Boud (1988) and other researchers we consider that “assessment methods and requirements probably have a greater influence on how and what students learn than any other factor. This influence may well be of greater importance than the impact of teaching materials”. See also Gordon et al. (2009), Sainsbury and Walker (2007), Psifidou (2014).

Therefore, the approach in the TRACK-VET corresponds to validation of non-formal and informal learning initiatives promoted at the EU level – if the qualifications are being awarded based on the validation of non-formal and informal (VFNIL), then in the assessment and validation procedures, the formative assessment methods cannot be taken into considerations and the fact of achieving transversal key competences need to be verified by other means then formative assessment.

4. Validation of TKC

We take the approach and definition of validation from the Cedefop Terminology of European Education and Training Policy (2014) and ECVET Recommendation (2009). In the Cedefop Terminology, validation means: “confirmation by a competent body that learning outcomes learning outcomes (knowledge, skills and/or competences) acquired by an individual in a formal, non-formal or informal setting have been assessed against predefined criteria and are compliant with the requirements of a validation standard. Validation typically leads to certification.”

5. Formal initial and continuous VET system

We recognize that there is great diversity of what might be categorized as formal VET in different European countries. By formal VET we understand that it is by the education and training system set up or sponsored by the state (after Groombridge, 1983; Tight 2002). Public formal VET often overlaps with school and tertiary education systems, and ministries of education often share responsibility for VET policy with ministries of labour and/or employment (Cedefop 2017).

We propose to define formal initial and continuous VET, as systems that have some or all of the below characteristics:

- based on core-curriculum or national qualification (standard);

- lead to state recognised (and very often state examined and quality assured) qualifications;

- be funded by the state (at least partially);

- is not part of 1st or 2nd cycle in higher education.