Shift iQ - Glossary


Glossary Page


Access to education and training:

Conditions, circumstances, or requirements (e.g. qualification, education level, competences, work experience) governing admittance and participation to educational institutions or programs.

Accreditation of an education or training program:

A process of quality assurance through which accredited status is granted to a program of education or training, showing it has been approved by the relevant legislative or professional authorities and has satisfied predetermined standards.


The capacity of an individual or organization to adapt to new technologies, new market conditions, and new work patterns.

Adult education:

General or vocational education provided for adults after initial education and training for professional and/or personal purposes. Adult education aims to:

  • provide general education for adults in topics of particular interest to them
  • provide compensatory learning in basic skills which individuals may not have acquired earlier in their initial education or training (such as literacy, numeracy)
  • give access to qualifications not gained, for various reasons, in the initial education and training system
  • acquire, improve, or update knowledge, skills, and competences in a specific field

Alternance training:

Education or training that combines periods in an educational institution or training center and periods in the workplace. The alternance scheme can take place on a weekly, monthly, or yearly basis. Depending on the country and applicable status, participants may be contractually linked to the employer and/or receive a compensation.


Systematic, long-term training that alternates periods at the workplace and in an educational institution or training center. The apprentice is contractually linked to the employer and receives compensation (wage or allowance). The employer assumes responsibility for providing the trainee with training leading to a specific occupation.

Assessment of learning outcomes:

The process of appraising an individual's knowledge, know-how, skills, and/or competences against predefined criteria (learning expectations or measurement of learning outcomes). Assessment is typically followed by validation and certification. (Note that the term "assessment" generally refers to appraisal of individuals, whereas "evaluation" is more frequently used to describe appraisal of learning methods or providers.)

Awarding body:

A body issuing qualifications (certificates, diplomas, or titles) that formally recognize an individual's learning outcomes (knowledge, skills and/or competences), following an assessment and validation process.


Basic information and communication technology (ICT) skills:

The skills needed for efficient use of information and communication technologies (essentially word/image/data processing, Internet, and email).

Basic skills:

The fundamental skills needed to live in contemporary society (e.g. listening, speaking, reading, writing, and mathematics).

The expression "new basic skills" is sometimes used to define skills that include information and communication technology (ICT), foreign languages, social, organizational, communication, technological, culture, and entrepreneurship. Basic skills and new basic skills together form the "key skills" needed in a contemporary knowledge society.



An official document issued by an awarding body, which records the achievements of an individual, following an assessment and validation against a predefined standard.

Certification of learning outcomes:

The process of issuing a certificate, diploma, or title to formally attest that a set of learning outcomes (knowledge, know-how, skills, and/or competences) acquired by an individual have been assessed and validated by a competent body against a predefined standard. (Note that certification can validate the outcome of learning acquired in formal, non-formal, or informal settings.)

Civil society:

A "third sector" of society beside the public sector (government) and the private sector (business), embracing institutions, groups, and associations that act as mediators between citizens and public/private authorities.

Comparability of qualifications:

The extent to which it is possible to establish equivalence between the level and content of qualifications (certificates, diplomas, or titles) at sectoral, regional, national, or international levels. Comparability of qualifications improves individuals' employability and mobility.

Compensatory learning:

Learning intended to fill gaps accumulated by individuals during education or training.


The ability to apply learning outcomes adequately in a defined context (education, work, personal, or professional development). Competence is not limited to cognitive elements (involving the use of theory, concepts, or tacit knowledge); it also encompasses functional aspects (involving technical skills) as well as interpersonal attributes (e.g. social or organisational skills) and ethical values.

Compulsory education:

The minimal legal standards and duration of obligatory schooling.

Continuing education and training:

Education or training after initial education and training (or after entry into working life) aimed at helping individuals to:

  • Improve or update their knowledge and/or skills
  • Acquire new skills for a career move or retraining
  • Continue their personal or professional development

Continuing education and training is part of lifelong learning and may encompass any kind of education (general, specialized or vocational, formal or non-formal, etc.), and it is crucial for the employability of individuals.

Credit system:

An instrument designed to enable accumulation of learning outcomes gained in formal, non-formal, and/or informal settings, and facilitate their transfer from one setting to another for validation and recognition. A credit system can be designed by describing an education or training program and attaching points (credits) to its components (modules, courses, placements, etc.); or by describing a qualification using learning outcomes units and attaching credit points to every unit.

Credit system for vocational education and training:

A device in which qualifications are expressed in units of learning outcomes to which credit points are attached, and which is combined with a procedure for validating learning outcomes. The aim of this system is to promote:

  • Mobility of people undertaking training
  • Accumulation, transfer, validation, and recognition of learning outcomes (either formal, non-formal, or informal) acquired in different locations
  • Implementation of lifelong learning
  • Transparency of qualifications
  • Mutual trust and cooperation between vocational training and education providers nationally and internationally

Credit transfer and accumulation system:

A systematic way of describing a higher education program by attaching credits to its components (modules, courses, placements, etc.), to:

  • Make study programs easy to read and compare for all students (local and foreign)
  • Encourage mobility of students and recognition of formal, non-formal, and informal learning
  • Help universities to organize and revise their study programs


The inventory of activities involved in the design, organization, and planning of an education or training action, including the definition of learning objectives, content, methods (including assessment), and material, as well as arrangements for training teachers and trainers.


Digital divide/digital gap:

Within populations, the gap between those who can access and use information and communication technologies (ICT) effectively, and those who cannot.

Digital literacy:

The competence to use information and communication technology (ICT).

Distance education and training:

Education and training imparted at a distance through communication media (e.g. books, radio, TV, telephone, correspondence, computer, video).


Withdrawal from an education or training program before its completion.



Learning supported by information and communication technologies (ICT).

  • e-learning is not limited to "digital literacy" (acquiring ICT skills), and can include multiple formats and hybrid methods (e.g. using software, Internet, CD-ROM, online learning, or any other electronic or interactive media)
  • e-learning can be used as a tool for distance education and training. It can also be used to support face-to-face learning.

Education or training path:

The sum of learning sequences followed by an individual to acquire knowledge, skills, or competences. A learning path may combine formal and non-formal learning sequences with validation leading to certification.

Education or training pathway:

A set of related education or training programs provided by schools, training centers, higher education institutions, or vocational education and training providers, facilitating individuals' progression within or between activity sectors.

Education or training provider:

Any organization or individual providing education or training services. Education and training providers may be organizations specifically set up for this purpose, or they may be other organizations, such as employers, who provide training as a part of their business activities. Training providers also include independent individuals who offer services.


The combination of factors which enable individuals to obtain or progress toward employment, to stay in employment, and to progress along a career path.


Formal learning:

Learning that occurs in an organized and structured environment (e.g. in an education or training institution or on the job) and is explicitly designated as learning (in terms of objectives, time, or resources). Formal learning is intentional from the learner's point of view. It typically leads to validation and certification.



The rules, processes, and behavior implemented for the exercise of power at national and international levels. Governance must ensure that public resources and problems are managed effectively, efficiently, and in response to critical needs of society. Effective governance relies on public participation, accountability, transparency, effectiveness, and coherence.

Guidance and counselling:

A range of activities designed to help individuals make educational, vocational, or personal decisions and carry them out before and after they enter the labor market. Guidance and counselling may include:

  • Counselling (personal or career development, educational guidance)
  • Assessment (psychological or competence/performance-related)
  • Information on learning and labor market opportunities and career management
  • Consultation with peers, relatives, or educators
  • Vocational preparation (pinpointing skills/competences and experience for job seeking)
  • Referrals (to learning and career specialists).

Guidance and counselling can be provided at schools, training centers, job centers, the workplace, the community or in other settings.


Human capital:

Knowledge, skills, competences, and attributes embodied in individuals that facilitate personal, social, and economic well-being.


Individual learning account:

A system of public incentive to encourage access to learning (e.g. those not already benefiting from publicly-funded education or training). Individual learning accounts aim to widen participation in personal and professional development by providing support (money or time) which learners can spend in the institutions of their choice.

Informal learning:

Learning that results from daily activities related to work, family, or leisure. Informal learning is not organized or structured in terms of objectives, time, or learning support. In most cases it is unintentional from the learner's perspective.

  • Informal learning outcomes do not usually lead to certification but may be validated and certified within the framework of recognition of prior learning schemes
  • Informal learning is also referred to as experiential or incidental/random learning

Information and communication technology (ICT):

Technology which provides for the electronic input, storage, retrieval, processing, transmission, and dissemination of information.

Information and communication technology (ICT) skills:

The skills needed for efficient use of information and communication technologies (ICT). The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recommends this classification:

  • Professional ICT skills: ability to use advanced ICT tools, and/or to develop, repair and create such tools
  • Applied ICT skills: ability to use simple ICT tools in general workplace settings (in non-IT jobs)
  • Basic ICT skills (or "ICT literacy"): ability to use ICT for basic tasks and as a tool for learning

Initial education and training:

General or vocational education and training carried out in the initial education system, usually before entering working life.

International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED):

The world's education systems vary widely in terms of structure and curricular content. Consequently, it can be difficult for national policymakers to compare their own education systems with those of other countries or to benchmark progress towards national and international goals.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) developed the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) to facilitate comparisons of education statistics and indicators across countries on the basis of uniform and internationally agreed definitions.


Key skills and key competences:

The sum of skills needed to live in contemporary knowledge society. In its recommendation on key competences for lifelong learning, the European Commission sets out 8 key competences:

  • Communication in the official/native language
  • Communication in foreign languages
  • Competences in mathematics, science, and technology
  • Digital competence
  • Learning to learn
  • Interpersonal, intercultural, social, and civic competence
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Cultural expression


Practical knowledge or expertise.


The outcome of the assimilation of information through learning. Knowledge is the body of facts, principles, theories, and practices related to a field of study or work.

Modern definitions of knowledge rest broadly on several basic distinctions:

  • Aristotle distinguished between theoretical and practical logic. In line with this distinction, modern theoreticians distinguish declarative (theoretical) knowledge from procedural (practical) knowledge. Declarative knowledge includes assertions on specific events, facts, and empirical generalizations, as well as deeper principles on the nature of reality. Procedural knowledge includes heuristics, methods, plans, practices, procedures, routines, strategies, tactics, techniques, and tricks.
  • A basic understanding of knowledge underpins the questions we ask, the methods we use and the answers we give in our search for knowledge. It is possible to differentiate between forms of knowledge which represent different ways of learning about the world:
    • Objective (natural/scientific) knowledge, judged on the basis of certainty
    • Subjective (literary/aesthetic) knowledge judged on the basis of authenticity
    • Moral (human/normative) knowledge judged on the basis of collective acceptance (right/wrong)
    • Religious/divine knowledge judged by reference to a divine authority (God)
  • Knowledge encompasses tacit and explicit knowledge. Tacit knowledge is knowledge learners possess which influences cognitive processing. However, they may not necessarily express it or be aware of it. Explicit knowledge is knowledge a learner is conscious of, including tacit knowledge that converts into an explicit form by becoming an "object of thought".

Knowledge society / knowledge-based society:

A society whose processes and practices are based on the production, distribution, and use of knowledge.



A process by which an individual assimilates information, ideas and values and thus acquires knowledge, know-how, skills, and/or competences.

Learning occurs through personal reflection, reconstruction, and social interaction. Learning may take place in formal, non-formal, or informal settings.

Learning by doing:

Learning acquired by repeated practice of a task, with or without prior instruction.

Learning by using:

Learning acquired by repeated use of tools or facilities, with or without prior instruction.

Learning community:

A community that promotes a culture of learning by developing effective local partnerships between all sectors of the community, and supports and motivates individuals and organizations to learn.

Learning content:

The topics and activities which make up what is learned by an individual or group of learners during a learning process.

Learning facilitator:

Anyone who promotes the acquisition of knowledge and skills by establishing a favorable learning environment, including anyone exercising a teaching, training, supervision, or guidance function. The facilitator helps the learner develop knowledge and skills by providing guidelines, feedback, and advice throughout the learning process.

Learning organization:

An organization which promotes learning, and where individuals learn and develop through the work context, for the benefit of themselves, each other and the whole organization, with such efforts being publicized and recognized.

Learning outcomes / learning attainments:

The set of knowledge, skills, and/or competences an individual has acquired and/or is able to demonstrate after completion of a learning process, either formal, non-formal, or informal.

Learning region:

A region in which stakeholders cooperate to meet local learning needs and share resources to devise joint solutions.

Lifelong learning:

All learning activity undertaken throughout life, which results in improving knowledge, know-how, skills, competences, and/or qualifications for personal, social, and/or professional reasons.

Lifewide learning:

Learning, either formal, non-formal, or informal, that takes place across the full range of life activities (personal, social, or professional) and at any stage.



Guidance and support provided in a variety of ways to a young person or novice (i.e. someone joining a new learning community or organization) by an experienced person who acts as a role model, guide, tutor, coach, or confidante.


The ability of an individual to move and adapt to a new occupational environment. Mobility can be geographical or functional (i.e. a move to a new post in a company or to a new occupation). Mobility enables individuals to acquire new skills and thus to increase their employability.

Mutual recognition of qualifications:

The recognition by one or more countries or organizations of qualifications (certificates, diplomas, or titles) awarded in (or by) other countries or other organizations. Mutual recognition can be bilateral (between two countries or organizations) or multilateral (e.g. within geographic boundaries or between companies belonging to the same sector).


Non-formal learning:

Learning that is embedded in planned activities not explicitly designated as learning (in terms of learning objectives, learning time, or learning support). Non-formal learning is intentional from the learner’s point of view.

  • Non-formal learning outcomes may be validated and lead to certification
  • Non-formal learning is sometimes described as semi-structured learning


Off-the-job training:

Vocational training undertaken away from the normal work situation. Normally this is only part of a larger overall training program, which is combined with on-the-job training.

On-the-job training:

Vocational training given in the normal work situation. It may constitute the whole training or it may be combined with off-the job training.

Open learning:

Learning that gives to the learner a degree of flexibility in the choice of topics, locations, pace, and/or method.


Post-compulsory education:

Education that follows compulsory education. Compulsory education sets minimum legal standards and duration for obligatory schooling.

Program of education or training:

An inventory of activities, content, and/or methods implemented to achieve education or training objectives (acquiring knowledge, skills, and/or competences), organized in a logical sequence over a specified period of time.

Generally, the term "program" refers to the implementation of learning, activities whereas the term "curriculum" refers to the design, organization, and planning of learning activities.



The term qualification has two primary aspects:

  • Formal qualification: the formal outcome (certificate, diploma, or title) of an assessment and validation process, which is obtained when a competent body determines that an individual has achieved learning outcomes to given standards and/or possesses the necessary competence to do a job in a specific area of work. A qualification confers official recognition of the value of learning outcomes in the labor market and in education and training. A qualification can be a legal entitlement to practice a trade.
  • Job requirements: the knowledge, aptitudes, and skills required to perform the specific tasks attached to a particular work position.

Qualification framework:

An instrument for the development and classification of qualifications (at national or sectoral levels) according to a set of criteria applicable to specified levels of learning outcomes. A qualification framework can be used to:

  • Establish national standards of knowledge, skills and competences
  • Promote the quality of education
  • Provide a system of coordination and/or integration of qualifications and enable comparison of qualifications by relating qualifications to each other
  • Promote access to learning, transfer of learning outcomes and progression in learning.

Qualification system:

All activities related to the recognition of learning outcomes and other mechanisms that link education and training to the labor market and civil society. These activities include:

  • Definition of qualification policy, training design and implementation, institutional arrangements, funding, quality assurance
  • Assessment, validation, and certification of learning outcomes


Recognition of learning outcomes:

Formal recognition is the process of granting official status to skills and competences through the award of qualifications (certificates, diploma, or titles) or through the grant of equivalence, credit units, or waivers, or through the validation of gained skills and/or competences.

Social recognition is the acknowledgement of the value of skills and/or competences by economic and social stakeholders.

Regulated profession:

An occupational activity or group of activities that is directly or indirectly subject to legislative, regulatory, or administrative provisions concerning the possession of specific qualifications.


Training that enables individuals to acquire new skills that improve access to a new occupation or to new professional activities.


Secondary school certificate / baccalaureate:

An examination administered at the end of upper secondary education to validate and certify the learning outcomes of learners following an assessment procedure. It is important to note that not all secondary school leaving certificates guarantee systematic access to higher education.


A group of companies with the same primary economic activity, or a category of transverse professional activities common to a variety of companies.


The ability to perform a specific task or solve a specific type of problem.

Skills audit:

Analysis of knowledge, skills, and competences of an individual, including his or her aptitudes and motivations, to define a career pathway, plan a professional reorientation, or prepare a training project. The aim of a skills audit is to help the individual:

  • Analyse career background
  • Self-assess current position in the labor environment
  • Prepare for validation of non-formal or informal learning outcomes
  • Plan a career pathway.

Social dialogue:

A process of exchange between social partners to promote consultation, dialogue, and collective bargaining.

Social dialogue can be bipartite (involving representatives of workers and employers) or tripartite (also associating public authorities and/or representatives of civil society, NGOs, etc.) and it can take place at various levels (company, sectoral, cross-sectoral, local, regional, national, international).

Social inclusion:

The integration of individuals (or groups of individuals) into society as citizens or as members of various public social networks. Social inclusion is fundamentally rooted in labor market or economic inclusion.

Social partners:

Employers' associations and trade unions forming the two sides of social dialogue.

Special needs education:

Educational activity and support designed to address specific needs of disabled children or children who are failing school for other reasons that are known to impede optimal progress.


A series of elements whose content is defined by concerned parties. There are several types of standard:

  • Competence standard refers to the knowledge, skills and/or competences linked to the practice of a job
  • Educational standard refers to the statements of learning objectives, content of curricula, entry requirements, as well as resources required to meet the learning objectives
  • Occupational standard refers to the statements of the activities and tasks related to a specific job and to its practice
  • Assessment standard refers to the statements of the learning outcomes to be assessed and the methodology used
  • Validation standard refers to the statements of the level of achievement to be reached by the person assessed, and the methodology used
  • Certification standard refers to the statements of the rules applicable for obtaining a certificate or diploma as well as the rights conferred



A person whose function is to impart knowledge, know-how, or skills to learners in an education or training institution.

A teacher may fulfill several tasks such as organizing and carrying out training program and transmitting knowledge, whether generic or specific, theoretical or practical.

A teacher in a vocationally-oriented institution may be referred to as a "trainer".


Anyone who fulfills one or more activities linked to the (theoretical or practical) training function, either in an institution for education or training, or at the workplace. There are two primary categories of trainer:

  • Professional trainers are training specialists whose job may coincide with that of the teacher in a vocational training establishment
  • Part-time or occasional trainers are professionals in various fields who take on, in their normal duties, part-time training activity, either in-company (as mentors and tutors of recruits and apprentices or as training providers) or externally (by occasionally offering their services at a training establishment)

Trainers may carry out various tasks:

  • Design training activities
  • Organize and implement these activities
  • Provide the actual training (i.e. transfer knowledge, know-how, and skills)
  • Help apprentices develop their skills by providing advice, instructions and comments throughout the apprenticeship

Training course planning and design:

A set of consistent methodological activities employed in designing and planning training initiatives and schemes against objectives set.

Training course planning and design includes analysis of training demand and needs, project design, coordination, and implementation monitoring, as well as assessment of training impact.

Training needs analysis:

A systematic analysis of present and future skills needs against the skills available to implement an efficient training strategy.

  • A training needs analysis depends upon identification of skills needs, assessment of skills available in the workforce, and appraisal of skills gaps and shortages.
  • A training needs analysis can be conducted at individual, organizational, sectoral, national, or international levels. It can focus on quantitative or qualitative aspects and should ensure that training is delivered in an effective and cost-efficient manner.

Training of trainers:

Theoretical or practical training for teachers and trainers.

Training of trainers is for teaching/training personnel, either practicing as professional teachers or trainers, or as professionals in a given field who accompany trainees in their work environment (occasional teachers or trainers).

It covers a wide range of skills that include knowledge specific to the field in question (general, technical or scientific); educational, psychological and sociological skills; management skills; familiarity with the world of work; and knowledge of training schemes and target audience.

Also, it covers training related to course design, organization, and implementation, as well as the content of training activities (i.e. imparting knowledge, know-how, and skills).

Transferability of learning outcomes:

The degree to which knowledge, skills, and competences can be used in a new occupational or educational environment, and/or to be validated and certified.

Transition from school or training to work:

The move from education or training to employment, covering the period between leaving education and entering the labor market.

Transition between school and employment (integration path, type of employment -- with regard to level and status -- and duration) is complex. Integration depends on many factors (gender, age, qualification, employment policy, guidance, and counselling provision, etc.).

Transparency of qualifications:

The degree of visibility and legibility of qualifications, of their content and value on the labor market and in the education and training systems. This can be applicable at sectoral, regional, national, and/or international levels.


Any activity offering a learner guidance, counselling, or supervision by an experienced and competent professional. The tutor supports the learner throughout the learning process (at school, in training centers or on the job). Tutoring covers various activities:

  • Academic subjects to improve educational achievement
  • Careers to ease the transition from school to work
  • Personal development to encourage learners to make wise choices



A set of knowledge, skills, and/or competences which constitute a coherent part of a qualification.

A unit can be the smallest part of a qualification that can be assessed, transferred, validated, and certified. A unit can be specific to a single qualification or common to several qualifications.

The characteristics of a unit (content, size, total number of units composing a qualification, etc.) are defined by the competent body responsible for the qualification at the appropriate level. The definition and description of a unit can vary according to the qualifications system and the procedures of the competent body. At a minimum, a well-defined unit should include a title, a description of the knowledge, skills, and competences that the unit contains, and a definition of the criteria for assessment of the corresponding learning outcomes.


Short-term targeted training typically provided following initial education or training, and aimed at supplementing, improving, or updating knowledge, skills, and/or competences acquired during previous training.


Validation of learning outcomes:

Confirmation by a competent body that 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.

Valuing learning:

The process of promoting participation in and outcomes of (formal or non-formal) learning, in order to raise awareness of its intrinsic worth and to reward learning.

Vocational education and training (VET):

Education and training which aims to equip people with knowledge, know-how, skills, and/or competences required in particular occupations or more broadly on the labor market.