Dual qualifications
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Results of comparison in brief

Based on: Manning (2000a) (see REM DUOQUAL folder

The aims of dual qualifications in the national context
Participation in dual qualification pathways
Combination of vocational and general education
Patterns of dual progression

The aims of dual qualifications in the national context 

The development of dual qualifications is related to specific educational aspirations in the countries concerned:

  • in the Czech Republic  there is a strong tradition of vocational programmes offering a dual qualification,  and recently their provision has been considerably extended throughout upper secondary education;
  • the national reforms in Norway, Portugal and Sweden were initiated to reorganise the educa-tional system, particularly at the upper secondary level, in such a way that it could meet the de-mands for lifelong learning and provide qualifications for employment as well as for access to higher educa-tion;
  • the ongoing reform in England has aimed at creating a coherent national qualifica-tions framework with three different pathways: general and vocational pathways and an intermediate pathway with dual orientation (GNVQ); 
  • in France, where the starting point was a need for higher qualification standards, the intention was to bring the majority of young people up to the baccalauréat  level and, by creating the bac pro,   to also meet the demand for a new category of industrial technicians;
  • the rising educational demand among young people in the Netherlands, especially for a double qualification already in operation (MBO, now: BOL4), has made the question of  further devel-op-ing its dual orientation a topical issue;
  • new schemes have been introduced in Austria, Finland, Germany and, for a period, in Greece which are specifically designed to overcome the gap between general and vocational education by developing  integrated approaches to learning.
  Participation in dual qualification pathways 

The schemes selected for analysis are part of a broad range of vocational qualifications entitling their holders to progression to vocational studies or to both academic and vocational studies in HE. The opportunity of taking up higher studies after completing one’s initial vocational education is open to a majority of students (except in France). However, in several countries access is restricted (almost or totally) to vocational higher studies (DE, EL, FI, NL). A dual option in the full sense, granting access to both academic and vocational higher studies, is available only in five countries (AT, CZ, NO, PT, SE). Finland will join this group after the present reform. It is worth noticing that the fully  dual option can be found both in both comprehensive systems (Nordic countries) and in tracked systems including several programmes/qualifications (AT, CZ, PT).

Combination of vocational and general education 

The curricula of the schemes discussed here provide for a variety of combinations of vocational and general subjects. A comparative analysis led to the identification of four approaches, ranging from an additive to an integrative focus:

  • provision of separate general or theoretical subjects within the major curriculum and also as op-tional units,   an additive approach  found in all schemes, mostly as a dominant feature (AT, CZ, EL, FR, NL, NO, PT, SE);
  • vocational application of general/theoretical subjects or a combination of theoretical and vocational subjects, an approach manifested in a variety of initiatives across all schemes, often playing a prominent role (AT, CZ, DE, En, EL);
  • education and training related to transferable skills, overcoming the division between general and vocational abilities,  an approach not traceable in all schemes, tending to function as an underlying principle (CZ, DE, EN) rather than being applied in practical terms (AT, FI, NO); 
  • action-orientated education and training based on work-related components of the curricu-lum (projects),  an approach whose variants are found in all schemes, with particular relevance being attributed to a project-related curriculum in the German case.
Assessed by this criterion, the schemes represent three degrees of integration between vocational and general subjects, ranging from a low degree  (FR, NL, PT, SV) through a medium degree (CS, EL, EN, FI, NO, PT) to a high degree of integration (AT, DE).
  Patterns of dual progression 

If we analyse typical career prospects opened by dual qualifications, two major patterns of dual progression emerge: 

  • most of the schemes offer a choice between access to studies in the technical sector of HE or entry into highly skilled employment/middle-level  management; 
  • a smaller group of schemes provide opportunities for either progression to HE studies in related subjects (with no established technical sector of HE available) or unspecified employment. 
These patterns suggest that there is a significant relationship between the two progression options. By preparing students both for (highly) skilled work and work-related studies, dual qualifications provide a basis for working careers as part of a lifelong learning process. 

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 First set up 24/04/2000
Latest update: 29/07/2000
 Contact: Sabine Manning