Lessons for Study branches in the Czech Republic (extended version)
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Long lasting tradition of our concept of technical and vocational education and vocational programmes with dual orientation leads to the fact that many of our policy makers and managers and teachers have forgotten its progressive features. Both,  progress made in another states and discussions connected with proposed solutions and their application, remember us hidden and lost know-how in some cases and encourage us in our work.
    The main positive feature of the project DUOQUAL is, according to our opinion, that it gives a large space for a comparison of  the national schemes, which have the same main functions of qualifying for professions and for higher education. Comparative analyses show both similar and very different features and enable to divide them roughly or finely into different groups of relationship from the point of different aspects.  Results of these analyses can serve as  a structured knowledge base (something like vocabulary, guide and adviser) which can help to eliminate some unrealistic ideas and to orientate to detail study of same specific solutions and in connection with the result of the program SPES-NET some specifics strategies of their applications. 
    But the worth applying approaches from the other schemes can be chosen only on the basis of very detailed study of  similarities and differences of the compared schemes from the point of  different aspects. Only if some similar schemes notably differ in some compared aspect and one of them shows remarkable inefficiency, then we can suppose that more successful scheme can serve as a an good example or better pattern. Generally we can say that different systems based on very different approaches can be comparatively successful and simple transfer of some approaches or elements may be ineffective due to different functions of similar or the same elements in different structures. General model of DQ programmes described by S. Manning  shows that there is only one way how to develop vocational education for high skilled professions on the one hand (i.e. directed it to the concept of dual orientation by introducing general components of education) and further vocational education for  adults with vocational qualification, which is directed to career development, on the other hand. If this trend is accepted in European educational systems, the result will be in abolishing of the rests of selective features in the progress through the educational systems  based on social dividing according to the type of education and/or type of school and/or type of working activities connected with vocational education programmes.
    An ideal-type model of VET programmes providing a high quality was developed as one of DUOQUAL programme results.
A VET programme will achieve high standing only in case if it:

  • meets all three criteria given (key competences/combining vocational and general education, access to higher education, entry to highly skilled employment),
  • extends over a major part of upper secondary education, and
  • relates to public esteem.
It is generally accepted that the Czech education and/or vocational education system was developed in a planned economy and it must be seen from the point of view of an overall socio-economic transition in the country. Despite of the fact that our economic transition meets some difficulties, it seems quite clear that structural changes are not limited by lack of qualification or by small adaptability of employees. Especially our VET programmes with dual orientation demonstrate within the context of the difficult circumstances that they fulfil all mentioned criteria and they have a high standing .
    Three types of the VET programmes with dual orientation, which are tailored for two important groups of highly skilled professions (middle level technicians-managers and high skilled workers or craftsmen and for adults with vocational qualification, make our educational system flexible and adaptable to changes at our labour market. A supply of three types of VET programmes with dual orientation, which are different but they have some common features, opens many routes to qualifications and to higher education.
The supply is broadly accepted. Barriers between upper secondary general and vocational education are weak and VET programmes have their important liberal dimension. General and basic vocational subjects respect overall aims and they are tailored according to needs of vocational education, which is closely connected to qualification demands. From this point of view, we appreciate all reform activities leading to:
  • closer co-operation between institutions of general and vocational education (Finland ),
  • providing general and vocational education programmes, routes or streams within one institution (England , Norway ),
  • providing different levels of vocational education programmes within one institution (Netherlands )
  • involving general or common parts of education (e.g.England4, Norway5,) or enriching methods of their education (Germany), 
  • developing of VET programmes at advance level for those, who possess lower level vocational qualifications (Austria ,France).
These reform activities enable to diversify routes, which (can or could) give:
  • fully respected VET programmes for the worth of qualifications given (above all),
  • arguments against still surviving paradigm of encyclopaedism as an ideal pattern for a future professional specialisation (at higher education level),
  • more and more evidence of success of those, who continue their study at higher level (in some cases in a different orientation than previous course).
  • evidence that general, common and broad high level competences can be developed by means of acquiring very different contents and education matter. 
Future development of our VET programmes is based on a curricular reform. This reform will keep our traditional broad general and basic vocational background for qualification offered in different orientations . This background and a common vocational part (theoretical and practical) for a principal branch will be supplemented by vocational part given by schools (educational institutions) in their responsibility to meet regional and innovative qualification demands.
    From this point of view we follow carefully all activities of our partners which deal with the introduction of new concepts, contents and methods into curricula (e.g. core skills in England, new methods of teaching and learning in Germany). Our labour market, despite of a general problem with rising unemployment, did not notice some important gaps in qualifications. There are no important incentives for further progress of vocational education from our social partners and their support of practical training is very weak.
The progress in practical training, which was made in pilot projects (methodology and training of instructors and teachers etc.), can enrich not only vocational education in Germany but it can also be useful for us. 
    All activities linked with seeking of common opinion of educational reform steps are studied also very carefully. The reason is that process of socio-economic transformation in our county evokes some conflicts of progressive and conservative ideas, dead-handed opinions of those who do not understand trends of vocational education development in European countries. Parity of esteem between general and vocational education programmes at the upper secondary level (VET programmes with dual orientation) is generally accepted in our society. This provides a certain advantage for dually qualified school-leavers at the labour market, if they are compared to those, who finished upper secondary general education and were not able to succeed in higher education entrance procedures. Some pressures coming from those, who are involved into general education are more aimed to weakening the present parity of esteem than making general education students more competitive. They argue that the standing of general education in other European countries is higher. From this point of view, every progress of VET programmes, which is reached, is positive news for us (e.g. progress in number of students in programmes with dual orientation in Portugal ). 

Petr Viceník (September 1999/ April 2000)

 

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 First set up 10/12/1999
Latest update: 13/12/1999
 Contact: Sabine Manning
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