I would like to open the debate to the floor to encourage colleagues to
explore the points that have been made. Again, I would like to remind you
that the topic is "setting the European VET research agenda", and that
by examining the Maastricht study, we have obtained some very interesting
suggestions concerning this agenda. Quite obviously the European Commission
has featured prominently in the presentations we have heard. The Commission
themselves don't seem to see a problem. The Commission's view of the world
is that their policies will achieve the economic goal of increased competitiveness
and therefore wealth, and at the same time achieve the social goal of greater
cohesion. This is the fundamental reason why they can't see a problem in
asking the VET community to take our research agenda from their model of
the future development of Europe.
But can we be so confident? If you think back to the presentation by James
Wickham in this room at the start of the VETNET programme, you will remember
that he analyzed the European social model and the role of the VET system
as the supporter of that model. James' writings on the European social
model question whether it is sustainable, whether we can achieve both social
cohesion and economic competitiveness on the basis of the policies which
the European Commission is currently following. And there’s another thing
that worries me - if you take your research agenda from the European Commission’s
view of the world, then it leads you towards a deficit model of vocational
education and training. It leads you into the closing of skills gaps between
European industry and its global competitors. I don't hear a great deal
about the nurturing of human potential in the research agenda which the
Commission's point of view directs us towards.
you very much for the presentation and the discussion kick-off. I have
two or three comments. The first is a question: how is VET doing? We heard
about that from Anneke and Tom, but I have a question about that. I don't
think there are good indicators to assess the contribution of VET to the
Lisbon goals, nor to the general employment and mobility goals etc. I think
we need to do a lot more in that respect.
The second thing is that there is a very big gap between what is going
on in Brussels and at the longer level, all these European policy making
processes etc and principles. We have a lot of them: we have the exchange
programmes, the European CV, the EuroPass, the EQF, the European qualification
framework, credit transfer, we have now added recently the sector approach.
But what does it mean in practice, in a school, in a local community? I
see a big gap between these levels, the European, the national, the local
etc. I'd like to have some comments from you, from the floor about that.
And the third thing is the lack of private funding. Tom Leney was mentioning
that. He gave a couple of what he called questions or guidelines or challenges
at the end. And one of the challenges was a lack of private funding. But
we heard that contribution of Professor Lynch, who said that this is very
controversial. If you had a lot of private funding in education it would
serve only one community. It would hamper the general good, it would be
not good for the social contribution to society, and at the end it would
also increase the social divide and it would also be very costly for society
in the long run.
would like to refer to Anneke's picture about the educational expansion
to fifth and sixth level in Europe. There is the discussion in Estonia
right now as there is strong conflict between university level education
and secondary VET education. Whether we have to hear the voice of industry
and managers, or the voice of students, especially young students, who
tried really to get higher and higher education all the time? Industry
needs skilled workers, and for this it is not necessary to reach to fifth
and sixth levels, and this is really very big discussion and a policy issue
in education in Estonia right now. And my question - in your picture we
saw that there is considerable educational expansion to fifth and sixth
level in some countries, and in some countries it was not so high, for
example in Germany. Can you explain this? What could be the reason for
such kind of big differences considering the European expansion to fifth
and sixth level?
picture was not so much in, if I understand well, in a expansion but in
participation. The figures show the different rise in the participation
between 1991 and 2001 - the difference is growing in participation in different
countries. So the figures show in fact the rising participation in education
level five and six in Ireland, these are much higher compared to developments
in France and Germany and the Netherlands. And when you are asking why
this difference, well to be frank the figure didn't tell it, so what you
can get from me are only my private guesses. One could be that for instance
in Ireland participation was low traditionally and so gained much more
by new investments and new enrolment in education as a whole, and as a
consequence, enrolment in higher levels as well. That should be one explanation.
Another one might be, but now I am referring to the Dutch situation, that
the options to continue the route of VET into higher education were quite
limited in terms of learning tracks.
would like to link the discussion to the issue 'parity of esteem' between
general/academic education (on the one hand) and vocational education and
training (on the other hand). It strikes me that there has been very little
progress with this issue in the recent years and there seems to be little
interest to revitalise the debate. Therefore, we tend to find ourselves
making complaints about the relatively lower esteem that is given on vocational
learning or on vocational progression routes and career models. However,
it strikes me that in this discussion we tend to refer to assumptions on
the concept ‘vocational’ and on respectively different ideas on the possible
way forward. On the one hand we may refer to very particular and country-specific
concepts that need interpretation in the European context. In this respect
I would emphasises that in different educational cultures and in different
labour market contexts there is a need ,to identify the societal (or -
to be precise: configurational) dependency structures that maintain the
disparity between ‘academic’ and ‘vocational.
To me one of the crucial issues is the distinction between ‘vocational
particularism’ and ‘vocational professionalism’. The idea of ‘vocational
particularism’ tends to delimit vocational learning as modularised and
credit-oriented just-to-the-need learning with little emphasis on professional
growth and continuity of the learning history. Vocational professionalism
on the other hand seeks to create new frameworks for vocational and professional
learning with an emphasis on professional growth, renewal of contextual
knowledge-bases and competences and continuity of learning histories. To
me both these approaches (that I have characterised as ideal types) run
the risk that their idea on ‘vocational learning’ is being defined as a
separate realm outside the mainstream education.
the light of the above I found the discussion that we had in the prior
session on European mobility and credit transfer quite inspiring. Instead
of focusing on the transparency of modular packages the presenters tried
to develop tools for common and trans-cultural reading on competences.
The presenters had used the theoretical groundwork of Dreyfus to develop
specific tools to analyse the transition from learning to utilisation of
competences. I think that such contributions are needed to create a more
open and dynamic understanding on the role of vocational or professional
profiles (in different national contexts) and on the similarities or differences
in the acquisition and utilisation of competences. Furthermore, such facilitation
of trans-cultural dialogue in VET is needed to make progress with the debate
on parity of esteem between ‘academic’ and ‘vocational’ learning.
am very interested in the discussion about innovation, because I think
one of the big problems that we face when we are talking about innovation
in VET is twofold: is what theory of change we have, I think Frank said
this before, and what theory of learning we have. I think one of the major
problems we are facing in this sector is that there is very little discussion
about new theoretical understandings of learning and about pedagogy. Most
of the discussion, including what's happened here this morning, looks at
the drivers for improving VET and levers for improving it, but very little
about the actual pedagogy of VET. I think there are important exceptions
to this, but they are few and far between.
I'll take as one example the EC policy focus on the validation of non-formal
learning. In work I have done with Phil Hodkinson and Janice Malcolm, and
with other colleagues in the 'transforming learning cultures in further
education' project, we have looked at the way in which the almost complete
view of learning as a process of acquisition distorts the cultural understanding
of learning and forces formal, informal and non-formal learning to be understood
as located in different boxes, whereas if we take a cultural perspective
on learning we begin to understand how different aspects of formality and
informality are in fact completely inter-related in all forms of learning.
And that helps you to get a much better grasp of some of the issues of
inequality, how learning actually contributes to reproducing inequality
and so on.
I think from these critical issues and a critique of this focus on accreditation
of non-formal learning in particular there is more research that we have
to undertake in order to understand what can be done to bring about improvement
in learning theory and in pedagogy, not just what drivers and levers we
can throw at the problem.
me make a remark on Martin Mulder's comment and the last comment. From
my standpoint and as far as I have an overview about the TVET research
there is an underdeveloped research on the interrelation between VET and
innovation as well at the level of companies, local contexts, regional
contexts and the national context. National innovation system research,
this is done by a special community, not connected to the VET innovation
system research, and regional innovation system research we are a little
bit connected to this research, and in the companies the interrelation
between innovation, competitiveness and education and training is extremely
weak. So I would agree totally, we have to develop research on vocational
education and innovation.
At the same time I agree we have to have in the context of this research
this cost-benefit and quality, and the quality dimension is extremely important.
We need criteria for quality, otherwise we reduce vocation education to
the dimension of human resources development. In so far the debate on quality
is extremely important. This is the weakness of the benchmark setting of
the European Commission. The comparison of education in Europe is at the
beginning, because we have not really criteria, there is a lack of theory.
At the same time it is extremely important, otherwise we compare apples
with bananas and things like that. That happened in the study that we had
Referring to some of the countries where we are for example doing research,
I know only one country in Europe where the cost-benefit relation is OK
and where the quality of vocational education is really high, and that
is Switzerland. In Switzerland the benefit of an apprenticeship training
is about 800 to 1000 Euro in three years. In Germany, the similar system,
the cost is 8000 Euro in three years, not benefit. The whole debate in
comparison between Switzerland, Germany and Austria can't be understood
if we ignore this cost and benefit. For instance to reduce apprenticeship
training to three years because the cost is too high; and if the
costs are high the quality is bad - things like that have to be investigated.
In so far the question innovation and vocational education research is
extremely important and I would say we can't do it in the inner circle
of the VET community. We need partners, we need colleagues from the political
side, from sociology and economists. An important topic is what we started
with Alan Brown and others on vocational and work identity and commitment.
The commitment research is a research that is done by economists world-wide.
And the question of occupational identity or organisational identity or
whatever is extremely important for competitiveness, for example. This
research should be done in cooperation with economists, and bringing two
traditions together, vocational identityon the one side, commitment and
the relevance for innovation and competitiveness on the other side. That
would be another important topic for TVET research for the next future,
I would think.
appreciate the tension between politics and university or academic approach
we received in the two or three statements, and I would like to come back
to focus on a more academic approach to the question of participation in
VET and continuing education and training. According to me the questions
of politics, of how to do things better, how can we improve the situation
- these are the questions we face at the moment, but from an academic point
of view, and I think you [Helen Colley] mentioned this as well, we should
perhaps first of all ask how are things and how do people manage to make
things better. We do it on a systematic level, but perhaps we can as well
find out how people manage to participate in vocational and continuing
education, even if according to their heritage they are not the perfect
ones to start from out of a very low-level situation.
My background question is how can we move those 13 per cent of non-participants
in continuing education which we face in Germany, and non-participants
and this figure means that they never participate in continuing education.
I hope that we might find with pedagogical research some who made it, who
made their way out of it and learned from them. So this is the academic
am mainly interested in participation. We keep saying people aren't participating.
What are they not participating in? They are not participating in the bloody
system. They are participating in learning. We have to be very careful
that we don't conflate and make learning seem the thing as our systems
of qualifications. We have been doing a lot of work on the use of ICT for
learning in small and medium enterprises. I have been involved in twelve
case studies in the last three months. In not one of them was a single
person involved in a formal e-learning programme. In every enterprise people
were using computers for learning, often on a daily basis.
have a divide between what we see as learning and vocational education
and training, because all what is seen as legitimate in learning terms
is those things which meet the educational objectives of the vocational
education and training system. That's my problem with that nine level or
eight level or how many level nonsense it is. We are drawing up a whole
series of educational levels, which are on a whole series of educational
qualifications, and we say yes, we want to recognise your non-formal learning,
but the only non-formal learning which is valid is the learning which fits
in to our qualifications; anything else is invalid non-formal learning.
I want to look at how we increase participation in learning, and that is
a much broader topic than increasing participation in a series of educational
qualifications driven by systems. At this conference so far, I don't know
why, people seem to be very quiet, we seem to be absolutely obsessed at
the moment by systems. I haven't heard learning mentioned. First time you
[Helen Colley] were the first person who mentioned learning, which is why
we applauded, in a day, and this is worrying me.
want to make a couple of points about another term in which learning is
used and it's part of the problem at the moment. The concept of lifelong
learning is actually blurring the distinction between vocational - if I
can call it - professional learning for practice and academic theoretical
learning, which you learn in universities. So there is a problem, and I
don't how we can address this problem, because lifelong learning is ‘the
slogan’ in every country, the OECD, World Bank, the EU. That's one problem.
The second problem is this concept of the - another slogan - the knowledge
society, because that's leading to the very problems that people have articulated
about the academisation, if that's the correct word. You know that the
indicators for a knowledge society state that the higher level of academic
education a country has, the more it can claim to be a knowledge society.
For me that's precisely a problem.
My last point - I'm from Cedefop - I meant to bring along the call for
tender - there is a new call which I think has just come out to follow
up the study which Tom Leney and his partners did. So if people are brave
enough to tackle - maybe the policies are already decided, as Felix said
- but maybe it's a challenge for people to engage and to say some of the
things that are being said here. We are in danger of loosing our middle
level intermediate workforce, and we are going to displace so many people
who get this lower form of academic knowledge. Somebody said to me at a
meeting at the other day in FAS it's a kind of sham academicism. I am just
putting forward those three points, as a challenge for the VET research
community to come up with a response.
first words coming into mind, hearing everything, is the word ownership,
who owns education, who owns the system? Well, we are all familiar with
the fact that when the development of the state after the French revolution,
for the state education was a strategy for educating and for moulding,
so to speak, the citizens. That was the origin of educational systems,
it was an instrument for the state. I think in a sense you can say, what
we've seen over a longer period, and more particular in VET, is the discussion
who owns the system. Is it owned by the state, is it owned by industry,
is it owned by social partners in a more formal sense, or is it owned more
or less also by students in defining their own educational programmes.
And for me, what you see, is a kind of shift in ownership. And at least,
on a more pragmatic level, more ownership is allocated to the students,
when they are given the possibility to define their own programmes.
And that brings me to a remark on theory and knowledge more in general.
I think you are familiar with this question of Lyotard, being - I'm quoting
now - "who defines what knowledge is?". Is it theory, is the industry defining
what knowledge is or is knowledge something defined within the framework
of an individual? Also there you see this shift of redefining knowledge,
and in a sense this has also implications I think for VET researchers.
Particular when they are working, as lots of them are nowadays, with teachers
and students and school management: what's particular scientific knowledge
in this collaboration? I'm not so sure about these demarcations any more,
and indeed do we need general educational theories and as the focus of
the collaboration between practice and the world of VET researchers?
So for me there are also new challenges in defining the knowledge produced
by researchers. I'm not so sure we will be helped by returning to the old
systems. We have to look for new definitions of knowledge, also in VET
would just like to make some very brief .comments about this fascinating
discussion, and probably the last time that we will talk in any form about
this piece of work we have now finished some time ago. It has created real
interest in countries, and not least we did try not simply to produce a
lot of stuff , we did try all the time to dig underneath - who is doing
something interesting, where is interesting innovation taking place - and
so hopefully you'll have a chance to study the outcomes.
A word about independence. I think Felix is right - clearly there is a
big difference between basic research and this kind of, it's not even really
applied research, it's policy related synoptic research. And clearly for
the VET community that does remain a very important issue. At the same
time we had quite a wide range of institutions, as many as you can comfortably
have in a contractual arrangement, about ten, our consortium covered Europe
well except for the Iberian Peninsula, Spain and Portugal, and it certainly
covered state and independent universities and people working outside both
of those. And I don't think that Felix in his comments was saying that
in a micro sense we didn't remain independent, because I think anybody
who knows the process that the research went through knows how fierce the
battles we had were with the Commission at various times, particularly
this time last year.
Indicators and priorities - I mean it has been pretty simplistic stuff
so far, and quite clearly, not least when you reach the period when we
started to think about the period of 2010 and beyond, when is that period,
well it is right now, because we have to be thinking already what should
be the priorities and the indicators for the period post 2010. They need
(a) to be much better if I can use a simple word, and (b) VET needs to
be much better stipulated. And lying behind that is the data, as it stands
at the moment.
Mechanisms for taking VET out of its isolation - we tried to, in particular
in the past report which Anneke and her institute were responsible for,
to look at flexibility and attractiveness of VET, and the relationship
of VET with general education, and in particular access from VET into further
studies of one kind or another seem to us to be two absolutely key and
crucial elements, besides the kind of teaching and learning. So whether
that may come to the point that Felix was making about universities not
really being in for this sort of thing, we thought that universities ought
to open their doors rather widely and other kind of institutions be able
to do so as well.
Graham finished with the points about really we're trying to capture learning
and people in their learning situations, and we are all learning all the
time, and most of that isn't recorded. Clearly that's the nugget of what
we are trying to find. I would be hesitant to say well we are all learning
all the time, because the problem is that governments will then say that's
fine, we haven't have to do anything.
in answer to the points about the danger of private and maybe employer
investment in aspects of our education and training systems, the problem
is this: with competing priorities, governments haven't the facility for
funding to provide all that they might want to. There is perpetually a
conflict of policy priorities, and simply saying - private funding bad,
public funding good - while it saves some of the agenda it puts others
There is another tender out at the moment, I think it's called something
like the road to Lisbon. We did lead the 2005 report, it was great fun,
we became great friends all of those who did it, it was very difficult
and incredibly demanding and hardly any of the consortium took a summer
holiday last year, but I'm going to take mine this year. And two or three
of us who were involved in this study would be very happy to participate
in the 2006 study. I don't want to put any of you off, but none of us are
actually in the market for leading the study. And thank you very much for
your interest today.