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Modules are equal in Wales

Colleges in Wales are preparing to leapfrog over the Dearing reforms with a pioneering modularised further education curriculum.

A new framework being piloted throughout the principality aims to divide qualifications and college courses into equal-sized units to produce the first common measure of academic and vocational achievement.

The system is designed to give students maximum flexibility to build up credits for national awards or to meet employers' needs.

The Welsh framework, known as Credis, is the first so-called credit accumulation and transfer initiative to operate on such a scale.

It goes beyond recommendations of the review of 16-19 qualifications by the Government's chief curriculum adviser Sir Ron Dearing, which stopped short of full modularisation.

The modularised route is the path favoured by the majority of the English FE lobby. A succesful pilot in Wales could prove a model for change in England.

Credis, backed with more than Pounds 1 million from the Welsh Office, was launched in a drive to boost post-16 achievement which lags behind England and Scotland.

All 26 colleges, the Welsh funding council and training and enterprise councils are involved in the initiative, which follows last month's launch of a similar credit framework for the Welsh higher education sector which enables all learning to be mapped and linked.

So far, 90 per cent of the college curriculum has been split into units, which are valued in standard-sized credits. The Credis database has 4,000 units and will expand.

Students' achievements are logged on a special form showing credit totals at four levels - advanced, intermediate, foundation and entry. It aims to help employers understand the value of a qualification. They will also be able to mix and match units to tailor training packages.

With a year to go in the development of the programme, project leaders FForwm - the Welsh colleges' association - are now focusing on promoting the scheme to employers and encouraging colleges to adapt.

The framework demands changes in curriculum structure and also highly sophisticated student guidance and tracking systems as learners follow increasingly individually-tailored programes.

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