The VET system in Europe, improving education and training systems to advance society
by Giulia Torbidoni (@TorbidoniGiulia)
The system defined in the European context as VET (Vocational Education and Training) includes all vocational education and training pathways, i.e. those that lead to recognizable qualifications that can be used to enter the labor market and the professions. The European Union has sought to formulate guidelines to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the new economy, with a view, among other things, to eradicating the social scourge of unemployment, and has set out four basic perspectives: improving employability; attaching greater importance to lifelong learning; increasing employment in the services sector, which creates new jobs; and promoting equal opportunities in all respects.
Source for the photo: https://www.european-agency.org/activities/vet
The Commission has strongly advocated the objective of improving the quality of education and training systems, which are a privileged instrument of social and cultural cohesion and an important economic means of improving Europe’s competitiveness and dynamism. In fact, the European model of social cohesion should enable all citizens to have access to formal and non-formal education and training systems, in particular by facilitating the transition from one area of education to another, from childhood to old age.
The research was carried out to analyze significant case studies in the European context of France, Germany, England, and Hungary, in order to highlight the absolute relevance of the VET sector in the various educational systems investigated. The French case, even if it is placed within a framework tending to the “generalist” diploma for all, shows in the last years an increasing relevance of the professionalization paths, that are aimed at the job insertion. An important push in this direction is provided by the debate on the success of all pupils.
The German case is already very much oriented in a technical and vocational direction, especially as far as the so-called “double channel” is concerned, even if the current trend indicates a rebalancing of the three components of the system: high school education, vocational school education, and dual vocational training. The English case represents a reality rather distant from the Italian context in terms of legal culture and conception of education, which is seen as a private rather than a public good. In the Hungarian case, the polytechnic approach typical of Eastern European realities emerges, even if, following the recent reform, a greater dynamism can be noticed, which has favored a progressive increase in the participation of students, through passages and interventions for the integration of young Roma.
A relevant element is constituted by higher education: in all the cases investigated we are faced with a rich, deep-rooted educational offer, shared between the different actors. This, which is referred to in European Union documents as “non-university higher education”, represents that part of the education system which allows those who hold a diploma (state or professional) to access a wide variety of specific and targeted training opportunities, having as their object the acquisition of skills “in action” typical of innovative professional figures that are generated and evolve continuously in the fast dynamics of research applied to production and service processes located within the global economy. This segment of the education system is clearly distinguished from the university system (oriented towards liberal professions, managerial roles, or public administration figures). In fact, a high-quality higher education system allows for greater synergy and understanding between the research and economic spheres, so much so that only within this triangulation can training be effective and geared to the actual professional needs emerging from the economic system.
It is worth noting the multifaceted nature of vocational training courses: first of all, they have a vocational characteristic, i.e. they allow young people to choose the training pathway that best suits their aptitudes and is therefore able to generate a greater motivation in them; moreover, they have a progressive character in the logic of the supply chain, by virtue of which they do not represent ‘closed’ options but are placed within a process of vertical continuity that can be experienced both in the initial training phase and in the continuing training phase; Moreover, these pathways encourage the acquisition of skills and thus facilitate the transition from school to the world of work, precisely because they provide people with requisites that can be used in the economic and professional context; they are also opportunities for personal education and, in particular, for developing the civic sense of citizenship, understood as the autonomous exercise of responsibility by the individual; they are also tools for social integration, especially in relation to populations of a different ethnic group than the indigenous population and also in relation to those groups of young people who have learning difficulties and experience exclusion, dispersion and marginalisation.
It is clear that the European Union, with its recommendations and directives reflecting the trend in education systems, represents a fundamental point of reference for the renewal not only of the Italian education and vocational training system but also of all those sectors, often disconnected from each other, that provide citizens with qualifications and certifications that can be used on the labor market. From this point of view, it is therefore essential to compare, study and cooperate with other EU countries in order to identify the criteria for a necessary and indispensable renewal process.
This beneficial influence coming from the Community context has made it possible to tackle for the first time, to a considerable extent, the cultural prejudice, which is widespread in the Italian context, according to which training courses are hierarchically divided between ‘cultural’ fields (high schools) and ‘practical’ fields (vocational, but also technical).
This process of innovation in systems, but also in cultural approaches, fortunately, coincides with the growth of interest on the part of companies, young people, and families, for vocational courses, interrupting and reversing a trend that for several years now has seen them progressively decline compared to so-called “generalist” courses. It is no coincidence that the first sign of a reversal concerned the vocational education and training pathways, which have been renewed since 2002, through experiments that have borrowed considerable ideas from European thinking and recommendations. In the last few years, vocational and, to some extent, technical schools have also shown encouraging signs in this direction. It is therefore necessary, in the current context, to consolidate this trend by not interrupting the process of renewing the framework of training provision.
The plurality of provision and the presence of different cultural, pedagogical, and organizational models, albeit in the pursuit of common goals, should be seen as a value, since it makes it possible to provide multiple responses to a very fragmented and differentiated training demand, given the characteristics of the users and the world of youth in general. In addition to this, it is necessary to proceed with system monitoring and evaluation initiatives in order to assess the quality of the various offers, and in particular their ability to cope with drop-outs and to foster a positive outcome both in the labor market and in the various possibilities of continuing education. It is, therefore, necessary to reward those components and institutions that favor the transition to a truly quality education system.
Giulia Torbidoni – PFE