70). Smithers (1993) and Green (1995) have outlined similar critiques based on international comparisons and, more recently, Prais (1995) has pointed to the inadequacy of reforms in the National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) system arguing that external testing of the individual candidate to ensure reliability and marketability of the qualification, breadth of vocational field to promote flexibility, written components of examinations to encourage mastery of general principles--are all now less adequate in Britain following NCVQ reforms than they used to be, and are far from accepted Continental procedures. (pp. 105-106).
Although the NCVQ is now defunct--having been subsumed under the new overarching Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) in October 1997 (Department for Education and Employment, 1997)--its agenda established through the promotion of NVQs is still very much alive and continues to influence policy and practice. Indeed, at a time when our VET and qualifications system is undergoing radical structural reform following a number of critical reports, NVQs are, incredibly enough, being exported elsewhere (Educa, 1997a; Carvel, 1997). Just as we imported from the USA competence-based education and training (CBET) as a model for NVQs (Hyland, 1994a, b) in the 1980s and the idea of private industry councils as a blueprint for Training and Enterprise Councils (TECs) in the 1990s (Evans, 1992) at a time when they were failing and being abandoned in their country of origin, so Britain is currently trying to sell a failed and discredited NVQ system to unsuspecting overseas countries. It is important that such activities are challenged and criticised both in the interests of professional ethics in VET practice and, perhaps more significantly, in accordance with the spirit of the United Nations quest for harmony in international relations.
At an international conference held in London in November 1997 the British Council--through its agency British Training International and with Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) approval--was openly and unashamedly seeking to sell the NVQ system to countries from all over the world. Speaking in support of this project, the Education and Employment Secretary, David Blunkett, referred to NVQs as 'one of Britain's best kept secrets' (Carvel, 1997, p. 13). This was a rather unfortunate and ironic choice of words by Mr Blunkett since the actual position is that the 'best kept secret' about NVQs--at least until relatively recently--has been the fact that they have failed, comprehensively and spectacularly, to achieve any of the objectives set for them. As a way of challenging the idea of NVQ exports, it is worth highlighting some of the main weaknesses and shortcomings of the system. The chief critical studies can be usefully