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Learning and teaching in VET

Learning and teaching in VET

The findings of the 2010 and 2012 Torino Process revealed that most ETF partner countries are facing multiple challenges in modernising VET and increasing attractiveness and efficiency of their VET systems. One of the reasons for the evident deficits and the low responsiveness of VET can be attributed to the almost entirely school-based VET provision and the predominance of rote or theoretical learning. Another reason is that competences and professional development of VET teachers and in-company trainers often do not meet contemporary requirements. While countries have been experimenting (often with the assistance of international partners) with the introduction of new learning and teaching methods in school-based environment and work-based learning opportunities, these remain rather marginal, small-sized and fragile to date. The lack of practical training, internships, apprenticeships, alternance models or other forms of work-based learning has been presented as a challenge by a number of countries in the Torino Process reports. While in some countries this can be attributed to the overall academic drift in education, to small VET systems and to the widespread phenomenon of ‘informal apprenticeships/skills building’ in some sectors, in other this is due to the lack of links between enterprises and schools, low awareness, incentives and capacities of enterprises to provide training opportunities and lack of trainers. Still the scope and potential of work-based learning across ETF partner countries is huge despite the challenges and obstacles that need to be addressed. In 2012, an ETF survey revealed that the vast majority of partner counties consider work-based learning as an area of growth in their country’s education and training reform in the next five years.

At European level, a number of policy documents underline the importance of work-based learning for the individual learner, for the world of work and for education and training systems. The Council Decision on ‘Promotion of European pathways for work-linked training, including apprenticeship’ (1997) followed by a Commission Communication, stressed the dimension of strengthening the employability of young people. The EC Communication ‘Making a European area of lifelong learning a reality’ points out that it is essential to promote actively the development of learning at the workplace and for enterprises and other organisations to become learning organisations. Significant attention is being paid again to apprenticeships, internships or other work experience within the Europe 2020 goals (‘Youth on the move’, European Parliament Resolution 2010) to promote youth entry into the labour market. The VET Communication of the Commission (2010) recommends ‘the increased use of different forms of work-based learning’ and reiterates that initial VET must provide young people with an opportunity to get acquainted with different vocational trades and career possibilities. The Communication also stresses the crucial role of teachers and trainers and their convergence. While ‘a trainer in a work-based setting will need more pedagogical competence and must play a supportive and mentoring role, a teacher in a school will need, like a trainer, a good understanding of work’. The role of teachers and trainers and their cooperation is pivotal due to the social process of work-based learning. The latest Communication from the Commission ‘Rethinking Education’ re-iterates the importance of investment in education and training for skills development and acknowledges that world-class VET systems require work-based learning. Promoting work-based learning, including quality traineeships, apprenticeships and dual learning models to help the transition from learning to work, are among the key priorities of the latest EU agenda. To drive the vision forward, bringing together member states and a wider range of stakeholders to learn from, the Commission has established a new EU-level Alliance for Apprenticeships (EAfA).

In 2013, the ETF accomplished a three year innovation and learning project called ‘Learning Context Matters’: The project took stock and analysed ETF partner country experience on work-based and practical learning to identify the potential and obstacles for its development. Together with international and partner country experts, the project also developed methodological instruments with a view to achieving a better synergy between school and work-based learning in VET. Future ETF work will build on the knowledge developed through this project, partner country demand, challenges and achievements as well as EU approaches (e.g. the Alliance for Apprenticeships, quality framework for traineeships, peer learning activity for VET teachers and trainers). The ETF will act as a key stakeholder promoting the principles of the Alliance for Apprenticeships.

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