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International Qualification Framework: EQF, Grades e Levels [reprise]

2021-08-25 21:46

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International Qualification Framework: EQF, Grades e Levels [reprise]

An intriguing exploration to gain deeper insights into the international structure of music education, offering perspectives and reflections developed over the




Here we revisit a column by the director focusing on the international framework of music education, originally published on the website blomcommunity.com some years ago. Its relevance has been reignited by the launch of the MIUR pilot project in public schools, aiming to internationalize music education across all levels, incorporating a curriculum that enables the assessment of musical competencies.




International framework of music education: EQF, Grades and Levels

In the first article of this series, written for blomcommunity.com last year, I explained the reason behind my decision to delve into this topic.


We are republishing it below in full, as it remains as relevant as ever.


Indeed, starting in September (the article was written in 2022), the MIUR will launch a pilot project for public schools aimed at internationalising music education at all levels, integrating a curriculum that allows for the evaluation of musical skills.


The description of the international education framework seems like a taboo. A chimaera for those seeking to delve into the subject. Even more so for those interested in exploring the topic relative to music and its related subjects.

As the director of Perform School of music, I frequently have to talk to aspiring students eager to embark on journeys toward obtaining internationally recognised certifications.

Among them, we encounter students aspiring to pursue structured pathways as well as seasoned musicians seeking to elevate their existing skill sets.

Moreover, we are approached by fellow professionals already immersed in the music industry, aiming to attain accredited credentials.

However, upon delving into the international educational framework to better comprehend our diverse curriculum offerings, we often find aspiring students grappling with confusion. 

This prompted me to shed light on the matter.

Below, we outline the key areas we will explore:

  • The International Music Education Framework
  • Examination boards
  • Schools of music
  • Educators and Teachers
  • Grades and Levels
  • Conclusions

International educational framework


My decision to share my humble insights stems from my own struggles to navigate the international system in the past. Several years ago, when we embarked on our international collaboration with a British institution (still active today), we grappled with understanding the system ourselves. This challenge extended to effectively conveying it to our students or prospective learners.

Indeed, delving into the intricacies of the system can feel like entering a labyrinth. And when it comes to seeking information about music education pathways, the challenge can seem even more daunting.

My observation is that we Italians often attempt to relate it to the familiar educational systems we know, drawing analogies with primary, secondary, and high schools. However, this approach falls short.

Nevertheless, we endeavour to provide insights to help grasp the comparable characteristics of the system.

Examination boards

Understanding examination boards has posed another significant challenge. As we'll explore in our upcoming blog instalment, while there are several such “institutes”, they should not be confused with traditional "schools."


In essence, these boards serve as the entities that certify and establish relationships with various Countries. This ensures that the certifications they provide are recognised and correspond to a certain level, as defined qualitatively in individual Countries.


Recently, some of these examination boards have allowed candidates to independently prepare for exams, followed by the exam itself, where the candidate must demonstrate their understanding of the required program. This approach harkens back to the traditional notion of the conservatoires' "external exam," as it's commonly referred to.


In my opinion, I find this path somewhat challenging, even though the lower grades are relatively accessible. The issue arises from the tendency of students to prepare for exams without proper diversions, leading to significant gaps in their academic journey.

Diversions, supported by schools of music through their programs and teacher preparation, are essential. This is especially true when the teaching faculty possesses adequate and continually updated international qualifications.


Indeed, international certifications often diverge from the Italian approach. While conservatoire programs and teaching methods align more closely with traditional Italian conservatoire education, those who have grown up and studied in Italy may find these international perspectives unfamiliar.

School of music

Music hubs, or as I prefer to call them, schools of music, serve as the bridge between those in need of support (students, aspiring musicians, etc.) and examination boards. We'll delve deeper into this topic in our upcoming blog post.

At our school of music, our focus before moving forward was on preparing our team for a new mindset and approach. This enabled us to offer a curriculum that is both tailored and continuously evolving to keep pace with the times.


The reason behind this continuous evolution is evident: musical education must keep up with the rapid advancements in the music industry, particularly in terms of technology. Just consider the multitude of innovations unveiled each year at events like the NAMM Show.

Teachers and lecturers

An essential aspect of a musician's education lies in the team of instructors guiding them along their journey. It's a fundamental concept often overlooked.

Unfortunately, there are instances where improvisation takes precedence. On several occasions, I've outlined the educational path only to have individuals, particularly those at an advanced level, believe they're already familiar with the material and can bypass certain aspects of the curriculum.

The issue doesn't lie in the subject matter but rather in the different mindset that needs to be instilled.

A similar notion was explored in an article dedicated to distance learning (you can find it here:  La formazione in un anno particolare come questo: written during the academic year affected by COVID-19). The most common mistake is attempting to deliver traditional teaching methods solely through remote technology, such as the ubiquitous video call. You can't apply an outdated mindset to a new approach.

Grades and Levels

Reaching this point, you might be thinking, "Alright... But what's next?!"

Well, do you really want to know everything right away? After almost a decade of work, continuous learning, and updating my team of teachers, I still have doubts about the entire system!

But jokes aside, in this article, we'll start getting a glimpse of the international framework, with a deeper dive coming in the next one.

Below, I've included one of the tables showcasing the main equivalences between various international qualifications and systems. It's extracted from a page on the official Perform School of music website, specifically dedicated to one of the certifications we prepare for (but not the only one).

For now, let's just say that the international educational framework is generally divided into Levels, with a total of 8 Levels.

The first 3 Levels are further divided into 8 Grades, as follows:

  • Level 1 – Grades 1-2-3 – Beginner
  • Level 2 – Grades 4-5 – Intermediate
  • Level 3 – Grades 6-7-8 – Advanced

For these 8 grades, exams can be conducted in two different ways, resulting in obviously different titles and values. We'll delve into this point further in the next article.


From Level 4 to Level 6, we delve into the realm of degrees, with the first being a Degree and the latter a Bachelor's. These titles fall under the category internationally known as Undergraduate degrees.



In the upcoming articles of the "International Framework of Music Education" series: EQF, Grades, and Levels, we'll delve deeper into the preparation for Grades and diplomas, the subsequent pathways for degree or bachelor programs, and potential career advancements.

Start forming an idea based on what's been discussed in this introduction; it will all become clearer and more accessible afterward!

Feel free to comment if you have any doubts or questions; we'll take them into account to provide more specific answers in the upcoming articles.

Stay updated through the dedicated page for this series by clicking here.

Until next time!

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