The quest for an inclusive curriculum and assessment culture: The national council for vocational awards 1991–2001

Trant, Mary-Liz (2002) The quest for an inclusive curriculum and assessment culture: The national council for vocational awards 1991–2001. Irish Educational Studies, 21 (1). pp. 19-32.


In 1991, the National Council for Vocational Awards (NCVA) was set; up on an ad hoc basis by the -Department of Education and Science.; This temporary existence lasted for ten years; in June 2001, with the; enactment of the 1999 Qualifications (Education and Training) Act, the; NCVA was subsumed into a new, statutory body, the Further; Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC). From 1991-2001,; the NCVA developed vocational certification for learners outside of; the mainstream second and third level education systems. Starting; with fewer than 5,000 learners inl991, by 2000 almost 30,000; candidates received awards, with over 100,000 learners awarded; certification prior to the NCVA's dissolution. Participants in NCVA; programmes include those who complete post-Leaving Certificate; courses, early school leavers and adults with little or no formal; educational qualifications who wish to return to learning or re-enter the; workforce with new skills. Some of these participants can be; described as disadvantaged, either within the education system or due; to their life circumstances. However, regardless of the profile of those; accessing the system, the NCVA's aim from the outset has been to; create an inclusive curriculum and assessment culture within the new; system. Consequently its curriculum and assessment structures are; designed to maximise access to a wide range of learners and to include; those who had hitherto been excluded by the mainstream system, and; also to make the practice of curriculum and assessment accessible to a; wider community. This aim was stated in early Council documents; and publications, and was subsequently expressed in a more public; forum by three NCVA staff members:; Equality of opportunity, flexibility of access, room; for local and regional input into the curriculum,; modes of assessment appropriate to the type of; curriculum envisaged and mutual recognition of; qualifications across frontiers are key goals in theNCVA vision. (Boland, Fogarty and MacNamara,; 1995, p. 27); This paper begins by describing the main curriculum and; assessment features of the NCVA system. Secondly, it presents; findings from an incomplete research project on how NCVA; curriculum and assessment has worked in practice. Thirdly, a number; of barriers to the NCVA's progress are identified, and finally,; suggestions are presented on how a culture of inclusiveness in; curriculum and assessment could be further developed for an; organisation such as the NCVA and for the wider education; community in Ireland.

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