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Social inclusion and vocational schools: New research findings

Year/Date: 14/05/2014

How to make vocational schools more inclusive places - ETF publishes research findingsfin

In 2013 the ETF and the experts from the London School of Economics and Political Science completed a research project ‘Mapping of VET [vocational education and training] educational policies and practices for social inclusion and social cohesion’ in south eastern Europe, Turkey and Israel. Now the ETF has published the cross-country report with findings and recommendations.

The project was unique in scope and methodology. It took the approach of participatory action research: seeking to understand the problems by trying to solve them, collaboratively and following an evidence-based reflection.

Seven hundred and forty two teachers and 2,862 students were surveyed. More than 300 people, key to the issues of education and training, took part in the interviews, and more in the focus group discussions. 


VET policy: Modernisation of VET systems has been taking place at differing speeds across the region. Policy orientations in the countries vary: some emphasise social inclusion, other focus on adjustment to the labour market. Yet implementation in general has been slow.

School choice: Education systems are a powerful source for the transmission of social exclusion. Working-class and disadvantaged youth are more likely to be channelled into vocational schools compared with children of middle-class parents.

Experience at school: VET schools appear often to reinforce the social exclusion of students. Vocational schools are underinvested, often have out-dated curricula and poor teaching methods. Disabled students were significantly less happy with their school experience. Students become less happy with their schools as they move from their first to their final year. Few participate in extracurricular activities. Practical training is insufficient to provide many students with a sound basis of vocational knowledge and experience.

Dropping out: Young people most at risk of dropout in south eastern Europe, Turkey and Israel, come predominantly from lower-level socio-economic groups. School dropout should be regarded as a process, rather than a single occurrence, resulting from a complex interaction of different factors.

Transition from education to work: The lack of adequate career guidance and counselling at vocational schools was a common theme in the country case studies as was the prominent role played by the presence or absence of family contacts in the search for a job, highlighting the importance of social networks and connections.

Overall conclusion: There is strong evidence of the cascading effect of exclusion as students progress through school and beyond. Initial gaps in school performance widen, increasing inequality in educational outcomes and leading to adverse effects on social cohesion.


Based on these results the report provides recommendations to policymakers, local stakeholders and school directors and teachers.

Read more about the findings and recommendations in the report 'South eastern Europe, Israel and Turkey: Trends, perspectives and challenges in strengthening vocational education for social inclusion and social cohesion'.

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