In January 2021, the first-ever quality assurance review of the Education and Training Boards (ETBs), the main VET providers in Ireland, commenced. Quality assurance (QA) is one of the key pillars of the National further education and training (FET) strategy 2020-24.
The review has six objectives and the ETBs prepared in accordance with respective guidelines issued by the competent national authority (Quality and Qualifications Ireland – QQI). The review is complemented by external evaluation. The first reports (for 11 out of 18) ETBs are currently being prepared and several common issues have been identified by the QQI.
There are six objectives to the reviews of QA in ETBs:
- to encourage a quality culture and enhancing learning experience within ETBs;
- to provide feedback to ETBs about organisation-wide quality and the impact of mission, strategy, governance, quality management and the overall effectiveness of their quality assurance;
- to improve public confidence in the quality of ETB provision by promoting transparency;
- to support system-level improvement of the quality of further education and training in the ETBs;
- to encourage quality by using evidence-based, objective methods and advice;
- to provide an opportunity for ETBs to articulate their stage of development, mission and objectives and demonstrate the quality assurance of their provision, both individually and as a sector.
To prepare for the review, each ETB:
- establishes QA policies and procedures adhering to QQI QA guidelines;
- prepares a self-evaluation report;
- sets up appropriate infrastructure – QA departments, Quality Councils, quality officers;
- prepares a profile of the ETB;
- facilitates a site visit of international experts.
Early system-level observations and findings
- Reviews are nearing completion and reports are being prepared for 11 of the 16 ETBs. However, the QQI has identified several common issues:
- growing need to address the system’s capacity for new programme design and development, and review of existing programmes;
- while progress has been made in developing ETB-wide (QA) policies and procedures, this work should be accelerated with the creation of a comprehensive QA system at ETB level;
- ETBs should be systematic, enhanced and broadened;
- measures should be taken to improve equity of experience and opportunities for learners across all ETB centres;
- a more strategic and systematic approach is needed for identifying and meeting professional development needs;
- data could be used more meaningfully to support strategic decision-making;
- underdevelopment of monitoring and self-evaluation was noted as an area of concern.