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close this bookThe Integration of General and Technical and Vocational Education - Trends and Issues in Technical and Vocational Education 3 (UNESCO, 1986, 356 p.)
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The case-studies on the integration of general and technical and vocational education clearly indicate the progress made in this field in a number of countries. In general, it can be concluded that there is no one solution to the integration problem. In reading the case-studies, it can be seen that each country has found a strategy suited to the local situation. One thing, however, is very clear - there is definitely an overall trend towards integration, and the need for increased democratization of education and training systems has become a major political issue.

Policy formulation and trends

The processing of legislation and the formulation of policies varies from country to country. In most countries, a two-thirds majority is required to pass educational legislation and it is therefore understandable that such legislation does not change rapidly. Education concerns all members of society, and a broad consensus is consequently required if democracy is to be functional. The major issue, however, is to determine whether education should be oriented towards society’s needs, towards the individual or towards certain groups in society. It is for this reason that a consensus has not yet been reached everywhere on the desirability of integrating technical and vocational education with general education.

The case-studies permit a comparison between various examples. In Finland - as well as in other Scandinavian countries - it can be seen that the comprehensive school has become a reality; the Austrian case-study shows that change can only take place gradually, starting from an experimental pilot programme and leading to legislative enactments. Equally noteworthy are the difficulties experienced by certain countries having federal systems, for example, Australia and the United States, where the federal governments have no legislative power over education, such power being wholly at state level. It should be mentioned here that Australia has chosen one state - Queensland - for the case-study, with a view to providing a more precise description. It should be kept in mind, however, that this study does not reflect the situation in all the other states, even where the development has been similar. The United States report has attempted the nearly impossible task of describing trends throughout the whole country, but has mainly concentrated on upper-secondary-level education. Policy, however, may not concern only one state, but may require co-ordinated efforts in all states. Whatever the advantages of adjusting education to meet the state’s needs, and hence those of society, there are also certain hard facts that strongly militate in favour of national standards, at federal level, which guarantee free movement, equal access and the recognition of qualifications and certificates.

The reasons underlying any reform may also differ considerably. One of the most pressing considerations is in the socio-economic sphere. The increasing rate of youth unemployment, in particular, has become a serious problem for a number of governments. More and more general secondary school-leavers, prepared only to enter the university system, are unable to find a place in the university and are also unable to find work openings in the economy. The need to orient the educational system towards the manpower requirements of economic development has therefore become a priority, particularly in the developing countries. Certain countries have accordingly decided to vocationalize general education in such a way that every school-leaver will possess enough general education to enter the higher education system, while at the same time having a job qualification. In some countries, the entrance requirement for higher education even includes one or two years of job experience.

The integration of general and technical and vocational education may also be seen from an educational point of view, where, it should be noted, there is a definite disparity of views. Educationists agree in general on the value of including vocational aspects in general education and, especially, of bringing together ‘hand and mind’, thus changing attitudes towards manual work. Objections exist, however, on the grounds of high cost and overloading of curricula. Resistance also comes from the teachers themselves, who feel that the addition of new elements in the education system makes their position less secure.

The major issue, however, is the political factor mentioned above. Can an elite education be tolerated, or should we move towards further democratization of the education system? Clearly, the majority of governments have chosen the latter course. One specific and important aspect of such democratization is the access of girls and women to technical and vocational education. In 1980, two Unesco meetings were convened in the Federal Republic of Germany on this issue.1 One of the conclusions reached was that not only must the education system change, but employment conditions and social services (in a word, the whole of society) must also change if women are to have rights equal to those of men.

1. International Seminar on Opening-up to Women of Vocational Training and Jobs Traditionally Occupied by Men, Frankfurt, 11-13 November 1980; International Congress on the Situation of Women in Technical and Vocational Education, Bonn, 9-12 June 1980.

Policy decisions and norms for adequate examination systems must also be established if integration - or, at least, articulation - between the two systems is to be improved. The case-studies clearly show the trend towards utilizing objective testing, and some countries (Brazil, for example) have mentioned the introduction of a credit system. It will be essential to find ways and means of awarding full credit for practical experience which, in most cases, is indispensable to the development of manual and social skills. In this regard, it should be mentioned that Unesco executes a number of operational projects financed by the United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank and other funding sources. In India, for example, one such project is designed to set up a national testing service for technicians, and in this context a computer-assisted test item bank is being established in Bhopal. The experiences gained from such a project could well be of interest to other countries attempting to reform their examination systems. Standards and qualifications have always been a concern of Unesco, and a Convention on the Recognition of Studies, Diplomas and Degrees concerning higher Education in the States belonging to the European Region was adopted in December 1979.

Integration at the first stage of secondary education (age-group 12-15)

In the last twenty years, major changes have occurred in this level of education which, in many countries, is still part of the compulsory education system. Premature specialization has been abandoned and, in consequence, technical and vocational education in the traditional sense no longer exists at this level. General education, however, has been changed to include some elements of technical and vocational education in order to reorient education towards modern society. The case-studies indicate that there are many different terms for these aspects of general education: in Australia, manual arts; in Pakistan, agro-technical studies; in the United States, practical arts or industrial arts. In other countries, the term technology education is used, and in the Eastern European countries, the concept is known as polytechnical education. Some countries offer options. In Australia’s manual arts, for example, a general option, a technical option or home economics is proposed. All of the options also include a vocational and educational guidance element. In agriculturally oriented countries, agricultural arts play a dominant role.

Just as the variety of terms used sometimes leads to confusion, the different philosophical approaches to the concept of technical and vocational aspects of general education can also lead to an ambiguous interpretation of what this type of education should represent.

In Unesco’s Revised Recommendation concerning Technical and Vocational Education, adopted in 1974 by the General Conference at its eighteenth session, Chapter IV gives a precise description of what the General Conference considered the most suitable approach to this type of education. According to this instrument, technical and vocational initiation in general education should perform the following three functions, as stated in paragraph 21:

(a) to enlarge educational horizons by serving as an introduction to the world of work and the world of technology and its products through the exploration of materials, tools, techniques and the process of production, distribution and management as a whole, and to broaden the learning process through practical experience; (b) to orient those with the interest and ability toward technical and vocational education as preparation for an occupational field or toward training outside the formal education system; (c) to promote in those who will leave formal education at whatever level but with no specific occupational aims or skills, attitudes of mind and ways of thought likely to enhance their aptitudes and potential, to facilitate the choice of an occupation and access to a first job, and to permit them to continue their vocational training and personal education.

More specific objectives are outlined in paragraph 22 of this instrument.

Unesco has also published a terminology guide,1 which sets down the term preferred for use in Unesco publications, ‘general technical education’.

1. Terminology of Technical and Vocational Education/Terminologie de l’enseignement technique et professionnel, Unesco-Ibedata, Paris, 1978. (Bilingual English/French guide.)

One of the criteria for general technical education is its practical content. The various concepts differ in the ratio of theory to practice. Figure 1 shows the whole range of concepts from the relatively theoretical concept of applied sciences to the highly practical concept of pre-vocational training. General technical education is considered as lying somewhere between these two extremes. It may be noted that France has recently changed its concept of this type of education and that this change is reflected in the substitution of the term ‘manual and technical education’ (√©ducation manuelle et technique) for the expression ‘technological initiation’ (initiation technologique).

From a historical point of view, this type of education previously existed in the very narrow form of handicrafts in some of the traditional education systems, where boys learned the basics of paper work, leather work and woodwork while girls were taught needlework. About fifty years ago, however, a much broader concept was developed in the Scandanavian countries known as SLOYD, which also took into consideration future employment needs.

FIG. 1. Range of concepts in technical education.

Today, in virtually all countries, a trend can be recognized towards including general technical education in lower-secondary education and the necessary legislation is already in effect. In developing countries, however, the reality lags behind the theoretical trend. This type of education is costly and requires well-prepared teachers as well as workshops and laboratories. The trend will therefore only become a reality in such countries if a well-trained corps of teachers is available and if laboratory equipment can be largely produced within the country.

The problem of teachers is of particular significance. Two possibilities have been investigated - the retraining of science teachers and pedagogic training of craftsmen from the community. Both these solutions must be considered as transitory and it is essential that full teacher training in general technical education should be established.

Another aspect is curriculum development and the development of learning materials for general technical education. Valid results can only be achieved by fostering research in this area, which may also have a considerable impact on the teacher-training factor.

With regard to field projects, an interesting Unesco project in Singapore may be cited. Under this project, science teachers were re-trained through crash programmes to become industrial arts teachers in woodwork, metalwork and basic electricity. Singapore today has a well-established general technical education using a system of centralized workshops. This is only one example and, at present, similar projects are being carried out under Unesco assistance in almost twenty different countries.

Under Unesco’s Regular Programme, a Graphic Communication Course1 was developed in 1980 for the education system at grades 7-9. The course consists of eighteen modules designed to be used on a self-learning basis, and is at present being tested in ten Member States. It is readily adaptable to local languages and conditions. The course promotes, in particular, communication through technical drawing, which is considered the language of technology and which has the advantage of being international.

1. INFO TVE 6 - Graphic Communication: A Proposed Technical Drawing Course for General Education, Unesco, Paris, 1980. (Available from the Headquarters Section of Technical and Vocational Education.)

In sum, it can be said that there is a fully integrated education system in industrialized countries while in developing countries the picture is quite different. Only a fraction of the age-group 12-15 enters or remains in the schools. A number of emergency programmes outside the school system have been created for these countries, including social service agencies to establish pre-vocational training programmes for a portion of those who are neither accepted in the education system nor able to find employment. A number of governments, however, have realized that a better way is to expand the education system so as to include everyone rather than to create a separate, second-hand system that may create social problems at a later stage.

As far as the education system is concerned, the introduction of technical studies at this level is mainly designed to serve an orientation purpose, and close co-operation is required between the education system and any guidance services that may exist outside the system. In fact, Recommendation No: 68 to the Ministries of Education concerning the relationship between education, training and employment, with particular reference to secondary education, its aims, structure and content (adopted by the International Conference on Education (ICE) at its thirty-fourth session) provides in paragraph 3 that’... the programme of guidance and information should become an integral part of school life, throughout the primary and secondary levels’. As mentioned in many of the case-studies, the guidance programme should also have a more practical component, and liaison with future employers through field visits, part-time secondment, etc. seems essential. The provision of adequate information for children of this age so as to equip them to make a realistic occupational choice is another important factor.

Integration at the second stage of the secondary level (age-group 16-19)

The situation of this age-group in the school system and outside is complex and much less progress was cited in the case-studies for this level. According to Unesco’s Revised Recommendation concerning Technical and Vocational Education, paragraph 26:

Premature and narrow specialization should be avoided: (a) in principle 15 should be considered the lower age limit for beginning specialization; (b) a period of common studies concerning basic knowledge and skills should be required for each broad occupational sector before a special branch is chosen.

It should also be noted that ages 16-19 represent a critical stage of development. Adolescence brings with it its own problems that make an occupational decision during this period even more difficult to reach.

In broad terms, this age-group can be divided into five categories:

1. Academic - from the higher classes of society, who may be more gifted and who are preparing for higher studies.

2. Technical and vocational students in full-time educational programmes, whether oriented towards industry, agriculture, commerce, etc., who have already made their occupational choice and who are therefore preparing for a middle-level occupation in their field.

3. School-leavers who enter into employment and receive training as skilled or semi-skilled workers. For practical purposes, these programmes are known as ‘vocational training’.

4. School-leavers who find employment without training. Unfortunately, this group is by and large the most numerous and in quite a number of countries, in fact, represents nearly one-half of the age-group.

5. The unemployed, who are not only considered drop-outs from the educational system, but also from society. This is a major concern today as this group is also dangerously increasing.

As the title of the present publication indicates, the case-studies concentrate on efforts to integrate general education and technical and vocational education, and therefore usually cover groups 1, 2 and 3, while making very little mention of groups 4 and 5. Almost no success has yet been reported in bringing about the integration of all three groups, though it could perhaps be said that the Scandinavian countries have come close. The Finnish report clearly states that strong efforts will be made in the years ahead to establish a comprehensive school at upper-secondary level. In most countries, however, efforts for vocationalization of general secondary-level education are just beginning.

The major task lies in reforming secondary education so as to orient it towards the world of work rather than simply towards a preparation for entrance into higher education. It has therefore been fully recognized that curricula must be changed to reflect this dual function.

Often, as mentioned in the Australian case-study, students may choose between several options. The problems in implementing such programmes are formidable, in particular with regard to organization and facilities. Specialized workshops are costly and specialized staff not easily available. The concept of centralized workshops has gained ground. In this approach, a given number of specialities, for example, sixteen, are covered in the centralized workshop where students from five to eight different schools go for one to one and a half days per week for a vocational programme. Sometimes, block release is preferred.

Technical schools have also undergone changes and now provide more general education programmes.

In spring, 1980, Unesco organized an international symposium on the transition from technical and vocational schools to work, in which both industrialized and developing countries participated and which was held in Berlin, German Democratic Republic.1 Participants had an opportunity to visit relevant educational establishments in the country. The high degree of integration between the school system and the economy was noted, as well as the large percentage of the age-group receiving a vocational qualification.

1. The Transition from Technical and Vocational Schools to Work - Problems, Current Efforts and Innovative Approaches and Measures for Improving the Transition - A Summary Report of the Unesco International Symposium held in Berlin, German Democratic Republic, from 14-18 April 1980, by Daniel B. Dunham.

With the introduction of lifelong education (sometimes called ‘career education’), it was deemed essential that technical education students should also have the possibility of entering higher education. For this reason, the general education component of the curricula took on a new importance. Discussions are under way as to what type of general education is best suited to these students, and many professionals consider that social skills (such as those needed when dealing with other people, both at work and in private life, for example, working as a member of a team, etc.) and life skills (skills required in daily life, for example, familiarity with public services, handling money, etc.) should play a more prominent role.

Preparation for an occupation within a school environment, however, has its limitations. Even the best simulation of work experience within a school environment cannot replace actual experience and it is for this reason that school systems are multiplying their efforts to organize work-study programmes or co-operative education programmes that alternate education with employment and training.

A very interesting programme exists in the Netherlands system - the four-year Middle Technical Schools Programme for Lower Technicians in the age-group 15-19. The third year of this programme is completely spent in industry with close collaboration between the industry concerned and the educational institution. The programme consists of two years in school (technical education), one year in industry and the final year once again in school where the final examination is taken. The one year of practical experience gives the student an excellent idea of the reality of his future occupation and quite often he trains in what will eventually become his place of work. One of the difficulties involved in such systems, however, is to find sufficient places in industry. Industrial leaders with a sufficiently broad outlook to accept such programmes are also essential.

The complex legal and administrative aspects of such programmes largely contribute to create the major obstacles encountered in the integration of the groups mentioned above. The programmes are administered by different agencies, namely, the Ministry of Education in the case of group 2 in the series listed earlier and the Ministry of Labour for group 3. The products of non-formal training systems are not normally recognized by the education system and are therefore unable to re-enter that system. Attention should be drawn here to the traditional system, which is mentioned in the Austrian report and which also exists in other countries such as the Federal Republic of Germany, i.e. the ‘dual system of vocational education and training’. This system is the joint responsibility of several (usually two) agencies: during the training periods which the trainee spends as an employee responsibility falls under the commerce. trade, industry organizations. During the apprenticeship contract, the trainee is also obliged to attend a vocational school that not only provides general education, but also supplements vocational training in theory and practice. This part of the system is supervised by the educational authorities. The organization of the school programme may involve day release, block release or sandwich programmes. To a certain extent, therefore, the dual system demonstrates a close integration of education and training.

Vocational training during employment is covered by two International Labour Organisation instruments - Recommendation No. 150 and Convention No. 142 concerning Vocational Guidance and Vocational Training in the Development of Human Resources. Article 2 of Convention No. 142 states:

With the above ends in view, each Member shall establish and develop open, flexible and complementary systems of general, technical and vocational education, educational and vocational guidance and vocational training, whether these activities take place within the system of formal education or outside it.

Furthermore, paragraph 1(f) of the International Bureau of Education Recommendation No. 68, already mentioned, states that coherent action in education, training and employment should

reorganize secondary education by breaking with its traditional academic emphasis, which is a source of elitism and segregation, and by associating in one balanced, harmonious and flexibly diversified system the general, technical and vocational processes of education that make up the individual training of the young and integrate them in society.

Technological development also requires personnel at an increasingly higher level together with greater job mobility. It is therefore of interest to employers to bring the education and training systems closer together.

In addition to organizational reforms for this purpose, there are also changes inside the systems that may lead to their integration.

In recent years, considerable progress has been made in respect of learning by objectives. Training systems in particular have succeeded in spelling out clear, measurable objectives and, on the educational side, there has been an improvement in the affective and psychomotor domains as well as the cognitive. Consequently, a more precise answer to the question ‘education for what?’ can be given right from the beginning, and a clearer evaluation can be made not only of the student’s performance, but also that of the teachers and the system itself. The academic element in education is still less favourably inclined towards performance objectives although the trend clearly shows that more evidences should be made public which questions the efficiency of education as a whole.

It is therefore logical that educational research should have considerably increased in recent years, and it is in this area that close cooperation must exist between training, education and employment. A number of highly reputed research institutions have been operating for years past and have shown their capability with regard to curriculum development, evaluation techniques and the identification of economic and social needs.

At national level, many of these institutions also operate information services and conduct in-service teacher-training and managers’ training programmes.

A computer-assisted international directory of research and teacher-training institutions has been published by Unesco.1 Unesco is also, in its current programme, establishing an international information service for technical and vocational education.

1. International Directory of Selected Research and Teacher Training Institutions in the Field of Technical and Vocational Education, Paris, Unesco, 1980.

With regard to research, it should likewise be noted that one country specifically mentioned the establishment of a tracer system of school-leavers in employment. Data obtained from this kind of follow-up system is imperative for improving programmes, making job analyses, etc.

A close association of research and teacher training must be instituted so that up-to-date methods may be used in the future for technical teacher training. With this in mind, a number of operational projects assisted by Unesco have developed self-learning packages or modules that will make it possible in the future to bring pre-and in-service technical teacher training closer together. Many of these modules can easily be used for instructor training, for the retraining of general education teachers as technical teachers, or to provide newly recruited craftsmen or technicians from industry with a minimum body of teaching skills.

Integration, in terms of content, also means integrating theory and practice. It is sometimes difficult to make this a reality because of a lack of competent staff. It has already proved detrimental to have two separate types of teachers - some for theory and others for workshops, with the theory teachers being unjustly granted a higher social status and even a higher salary.

The close association of theory and practice should also be taken into consideration in planning school facilities, workshops and laboratories. In this context, project work has proved to be a particularly useful approach. The utility of selecting projects in the light of their educational and economic value has become a primary consideration in developing countries and, as a result, this method has been increasingly recognized by Member States. Unesco’s current programme1 places a strong emphasis on education and productive work and the 1981 Conference of the International Bureau of Education gave primary emphasis to precisely that problem. Productive work can also be introduced into teacher-training programmes in the form of production units.

1. Approved Programme and Budget 21C/5, paragraph 1368, Paris, Unesco, 1981.

As already noted very little mention has been made in the case-studies of groups outside the educational and training systems - group 4 above, those going into employment with no training, and group 5, unemployed youth, which may also include people who become unemployed after a short initial period in employment. An interesting programme is reported by the United States under the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) for the more disadvantaged groups. It should be added that many other governments have made efforts in the same direction. For example, the United Kingdom has recently initiated two programmes for the unemployed aged 16-18 and provides an integrated education and training programme under the Youth Opportunity Programme (YOP), while an experimental programme was launched in July 1976 called Unified Vocational Preparation (UVP). Both of these programmes require close co-operation between the educational and training authorities and employment services.

While the present study focuses on the age-group 12-19, lifelong education cannot ignore essential reforms in adult education. Advances in technology have emphasized retraining and the updating of programmes, but it has now been fully realized that the integration of general and technical and vocational education is an equally important requirement for adult education. A high percentage of those who lose their jobs do so not through a lack of technical skills but from a lack of social skills. The trend for all employees to participate in management decisions now gives another dimension to adult education. Unesco’s Recommendation on the Development of Adult Education, adopted in 1976, makes the appropriate provisions.

The major problem here is the lack of adequate facilities and staff, and it is therefore quite logical to devote more consideration to the use of existing school facilities for adult education in an integrated manner. Demographic movements affecting the school population can provide opportunities in this way. For example, the decline of the school population by a high percentage may result in unused school facilities and staff, which could then be utilized for other purposes.

Adult education is also increasingly utilizing methods other than the conventional ones, for example, distance learning. Here again a significant problem is the lack of full recognition of achievement, such as may be obtained not only in organized learning but also in learning on the job.

In summary, the following five points on the problem of integration of general and technical and vocational education may be highlighted:

1. A comprehensive secondary education system has not yet become a reality and the situation at this level is not likely to improve in the near future. The present system still compartmentalizes students into major groups and often does not allow for what legislation promises in theory - equal educational opportunity and access for all. This system also lacks the efficient guidance services that should be an integral part of education. As many different agencies will have to participate in the establishment of a truly comprehensive secondary education system, co-operation and co-ordination will be a primary prerequisite in this area.

2 Education, whether carried out in the general education system, in vocational education or in training in a non-formal way, needs to improve standards for the recognition of achievement in order to ensure a more just evaluation of knowledge, skills and attitudes.

3. Educators will have to recognize that learning is not an activity which is limited to the schools, but rather one which occurs to a large degree outside the education system, i.e. in the family and in employment. The concept of ‘learning while earning’ seems in this sense a reasonable approach. It should also be noted that the broadening availability of technological facilities (television, computers, etc.) will play a more important role in the future for informal learning.

4. The values and objectives of education will have to be reviewed and new criteria and priorities set with a view to increasing the relevance of education to modern society. Continuous research in curriculum development on a scientific basis will therefore be a primary condition for finding a solution to the problem of integration of general and technical and vocational education and training.

5. Only a corps of dedicated teachers and educators and capable administrators and supervisors who are sufficiently open-minded to the needs of the future will be able to make the necessary reforms a reality.