Education & Training Systems International

Vocational Education & Training Systems for the 21st Century in Switzerland, Germany & Singapore

JKroundBy Jackie Kraemer & Jennifer Craw

In the 21st century, vocational education and training (VET) plays a vital role in preparing students not only for immediate employment, but also with skills that allow students to continue their education and training and learn throughout their careers. The best vocational education systems have both raised the level of academic rigor in traditional programs in the crafts and trades and also broadened the programs of study to include highly technical, traditionally white-collar fields such as biotechnology, computing and precision engineering. VET programs differ widely from country to country, but the strongest systems offer both work- or school-based learning designed with business involvement and clear pathways to further options for study or higher-level training.

CIEB is currently undertaking a comparative international study of VET systems. The purpose of this study is to examine the VET systems of a half dozen countries, with a focus on identifying the strategies that account for quality, equity and productivity. For this month’s Statistic, we look at some basic data from three VET systems—Germany, Singapore and Switzerland— that offer strong initial VET training to a large percentage of young people to prepare them for work and further education.PISAchart These systems offer vocational programs starting in upper secondary school, so we look first at how students entering these programs perform on PISA, an international assessment taken by students at the age of 15.

Source: OECD PISA 2012

These three countries scored above the OECD average on all three sections of PISA 2012. Singapore, which has recently undertaken a large-scale reform of vocation education, was among the top five countries overall in all three subjects on PISA 2012. Switzerland ranked 9th overall for Mathematics in 2012, making it the second highest-ranking European nation (behind tiny Liechtenstein) in Mathematics. And Germany is one of the few countries to have improved continuously since the first round of PISA tests. A strong academic foundation is important for vocational training to produce highly skilled graduates. The OECD has recently linked the performance of 15-year-olds on the 2000 PISA examination with the performance of 26-27-year-olds on the 2012 Survey of Adult Skills, reinforcing the difficulty of helping young adults to excel once they have already fallen behind at age 15.

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