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Making post-secondary vocational education more attractive


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Presentation by Jens Bjørnåvold (Cedefop) on the occasion of the EESC hearing on 12 July 2011

Presentation by Jens Bjørnåvold (Cedefop) on the occasion of the EESC hearing on 12 July 2011

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  • 1. 1
    Making post-secondary vocational education more attractive
    European Economic and Social Committee
    12 July 2011
    Jens Bjørnåvold
  • 2. The need for a better mix of academic and vocational education and training
    The percentage of students in universities is by many seen as a measure of modernity and progress
    However, universities alone can’t ensure economic growth and social inclusion
    We need a stronger focus on how to balance education and training systems; exploring the right mix between general, vocational and academic provisions
    Post secondary vocational education and training illustrates the challenges involved in balancing education and training policies and systems
  • 3. Dangerous pre-conceptions
    • The term higher education is frequently used as a synonym
    for academically oriented, university education;
    • Higher education is often contrasted with vocational training
    – the latter understood as being at a lower level;
    • This mixes up institutional levels with the content, profile and
    orientation of education and training;
    • Vocationally (or professionally/labour market) oriented
    education and training is already an important although
    ‘invisible’ part of higher education
  • 4. Why is there so little focus on VET in higher education
    A lack of clarity as regards key concepts (vocationally, professionally, occupationally, practise and/or labour market oriented education and training)
    A diversity of institutional solutions creates confusion
    • Dual system/combinations of education and work
    • 5. Fully integrated in Universities
    • 6. Distinct academic and vocational pathways (universities/polytechnics)
    Low esteem and status
    • Tension between theory and practise orientation
    • 7. VET subject consider weaker as regards research-basis
    • 8. VET programmes do not fit the ‘Bologna‘ three cycle model (Bachelor, Master, Doctor)
  • European VET – change and development
    • A growing consensus that vocational education and training need to be developed at all levels – also the highest
    • 9. We can observe that vocational education and training at higher levels are getting more attention – not least by enterprises and sectors
    • 10. Examples: Meister, Fachhochschulen, Berufsakademien, Polytechnics,Advanced Vocational Education and training, Associate Degrees, Foundation Degrees, Higher level apprenticeships
  • European and national qualifications frameworks and their impact on vocational education and training
    • The European Qualifications Framework
    (EQF) was adopted and introduced in 2008
    • All EU countries have welcomed the recommendation
    • 11. All EU countries have developed or are developing national qualifications frameworks in line with EQF
    • 12. The work on qualifications frameworks has resulted in a renewed and intensified debate on the profile and levelling of vocational education and training
  • EQF Level 8
    EQF Level 7
    EQF Level 6
    EQF Level 5
    EQF Level 4
    EQF Level 3
    EQF Level 2
    EQF Level 1
    EQF is based on 8 qualifications levels defined and agreed on the basis of learning outcomes and specified through
    • Knowledge
    • 13. Skills
    • 14. Competence (autonomy and
    EQF covers all types and levels of qualifications, from those achieved at the end of compulsory education to doctorates
  • 15.
  • 16. Upgrading vocational qualifications….
    • The new NQFs have in some cases reopened the discussion on how to define and understand VET
    • 17. Should, for example, the ‘Meister’ be placed at same level as a Bachelor (EQF 6)?
    • 18. Can a vocational qualification be placed at level 8?
    • 19. The ‘monopoly’ of universities as regards controlling ‘higher level qualifications’ is challenged
  • Knowledge vs. skills and competence
    • A high qualifications level is not only dependent on the level of theoretical knowledge, but just as much on the level of skills, autonomy, responsibility etc.
    • 20. Learning outcomes express the expectations as regards what somebody knows, is able to do and understand
    • 21. The new frameworks criticize the tendency ‘academisation’of practical skills
  • Towards ‘parity of esteem’ between theoretical and practically oriented subjects
    • The new frameworks can be use to strengthen the position of VET in the education and training systems
    • 22. The new frameworks van be used to identify areas where new qualifications should be developed
    • 23. The focus on learning outcomes offers an alternative way to judge the level of a qualification and thus its value in society - independent of institutional setting and pre-conceptions
  • The need to balance education and training systems
    • National and European educational policies must focus much more on the mix of systems and in particular the balance between academic and vocational subjects
    • 24. The assumption that VET is lower level than academic subjects must be challenged
    • 25. Lower level of theoretical knowledge can be balanced by higher levels of skills and competences
    • 26. A strategy on post-secondary education need to be taken forward in this perspective – as a way of broadening and thus strengthening the skills and competence focus of European education and training