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Canada confused over award levels

Colleges in Canada are facing the same turmoil over variable work training standards as their counterparts in Britain, according to a new report. However, Canada has rejected the British approach of creating a new system of national vocational qualifications in favour of trying to ensure existing awards meet minimum standards.

The findings of a study by inspectors from the Further Education Funding Council are published just as ministers on this side of the Atlantic are embroiled in a row over alleged exaggeration of the success of NVQs and Britain's training revolution.

A recent report from the London School of Economics and the London University Institute of Education suggested only 2 per cent of the workforce are involved in NVQs, which were introduced in 1988 in an attempt to create a national system of job-related qualifications.

The FEFC inspectors, who visited Canada last March, found growing concern over variations in the content and quality of the diplomas and certificates awarded by the country's 203 community colleges. Historically, Canadian colleges have been free to devise their own vocational awards in conjunction with local employers; unlike England, Canada has no national examining boards or vocational awarding bodies.

The inspection team found Canada's national and provincial governments were keen to establish clearer markers on the skills college graduates should possess before entering the workplace.

The federal government has now set up councils representing key industries and occupations to lay down minimum occupational standards. However, Canada has stopped short of introducing a UK-style system of national vocational qualifications in addition toexisting awards.

The FEFC study also reveals Canadian colleges share the British problem of high drop-out rates and funding cuts.

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