Report from Workshop 7 on Learning Environments and Vocational Training

If we would start to look at Citizenship Education from a Vocational Training’s perspective, we would learn that a re-evaluation of competences is necessary. This is one of the main results of today’s Workshop 7, ‘Learning Environment – Vocational Training.’

What is happening right now? Students pursuing a vocational training are most likely to show little participation in voting and alternative forms of political activity, as workshop moderator Bryony Hoskins from the University of Southampton pointed out. Citizenship education and related competences are hardly part of the curricular. Her findings are based on data of a four-country-survey, that compared the competences of students who passed vocational training and general education.

That's why a competences-based approach combining elements of Citizenship education and Vocational training is needed for all young people. Such competences include negotiation, presentation, basic knowledge of the political, economic and legal system and speaking in public. It's about personal competences that one could use as a citizen as well as at the workplace. “This is going deeper than manipulating knowledge”, as Elena A. Begant from the Slovenian Centre for Citizenship put it. But teachers across countries express a lack in adequate teaching materials, as the outcomes of VOICE, a multinational pedagogical research project, indicate.

‘Look through the window’-Programmes

This might be linked with the way Vocational Training is valued/devaluated across European countries today: Tony Breslin suggested rather than speaking of ‘Vocational Training’ it should be called ‘default curriculum’, a ‘look through the window-programme’ designed for those not doing well in school. He calls for professionalizing Vocational Training. Pursuing a Vocational Training in Health and Social Care shouldn’t stop you from possibly becoming a Doctor of Medicine. “My notion is that anything could be studied to any degree,” Mr. Breslin commented, arguing for less elitism in dealing with practical skills.

Especially if Citizenship Education aims at empowering disadvantaged groups it should be concerned with this lack of equality in our education values. The low status ascribed to Vocational Training mostly affects those young people considered as most disadvantaged.

Starting in Vocational Schools is too late

In this regard the project “14 plus” presented by Oliver Steinke was discussed as a possible model: combining democracy learning, citizenship education and occupational training in 21 schools in North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany). The project currently involves 3300 pupils starting in 7th grade. “We need to start before students are channelled into different branches of the education system,” Mr. Steinke said. The project currently takes place in all German school types except grammar school but grammar schools already uttered interest to take part.

In fact all young people should have access to and would benefit from a broader curriculum, the working group concluded. This could be mitigating the inequality between practical and theoretical knowledge and the division of citizenship competences across Europe.

Attached you can find the factsheet of both of the projects presented.

Learning Environments
Conference Day: