Education International has released a review of academic literature on Vocational Education and Training (VET). In recent months, VET has started to feature more prominently in debates on education, as it is considered pivotal in the recovery from the jobs crisis.
Several international organisations have made policy suggestions to increase the status and provision of VET. The review was undertaken to respond to this development by building a knowledge base for future policies on the topic. The study addresses four topics – defining vocational education and training, the role of VET in social and economic development, the link with the labour market and the status of teachers and trainers in the sector. The main conclusion of the review is that the VET-sector is facing deep threats of privatisation. Increasingly, VET is being seen by governments and international organisations as a responsibility of the private sector and private individuals. This development contrasts starkly with the public responsibility that governments have to return to sustainable economic growth. Trade unions are therefore advised to closely monitor developments in the VET sector in their respective countries.
VET is typically seen as preparing young people for mid-level jobs, by focusing on skills such as craftsmanship, practical experience and problem solving. However, in recent years, we are starting to raise our eyebrows to this approach. Increasingly, VET is being offered at higher (i.e. tertiary) levels of education, raising its status alongside higher education. This troubles or vision that that VET is mostly offered at secondary level. Following this development, the VET sector needs to be viewed with different eyes. For example, we should no longer see it as education of a lower level than general education, which exists only for marginalised groups. For teacher unions, this means that policies should be updated, with a vision of where VET should be offered and how it relates to general education. VET and Development
Industrialised countries invest much more in VET than developing countries. For a big part, this can be attributed to the policies of international financial institutions such as the World Bank. Over the last twenty years, these institutions have viewed VET as a responsibility of the private sector, rather than public governments. A related problem is that VET has not received a lot of attention in the international development agenda, as concerns to enrolment in primary education overshadow other problems. Together, this causes VET to be disregarded as a viable option for many developing countries.
The Labour Market
VET is under a lot of pressure to adapt itself better to the needs of the labour market. Usually, this is a good idea, considering the need for VET to contribute to employability. However, as jobs become increasingly temporary, the link with the labour market needs to be organised in a sustainable way. Also, good apprenticeships are increasingly scarce, which will need more attention from governments and social partners.
Teachers and Trainers
Reforms in the VET sector influence the daily work and the status of trainers and teachers in VET. Increasingly, it is becoming clear that staff in VET has received too little attention from policy makers. A high quality VET needs teachers with high level qualifications, experience in the private sector and the right set of pedagogical skills. These requirements are often higher than other levels of education, while the status of VET teachers and trainers is often lower. In the coming years, EI and its affiliates will therefore have to work hard to raise the profile of this profession, while being aware of the threats of privatisation on their jobs.
If you wish to download the literature review in English, please click on the link below.