Tag Archives: vocational education

International Cooperation in Education

Our monthly scan of news and reports often reveal numerous discussions of ways in which different countries are collaborating to support the development of education. These collaborations are reflected in a number of reports on the development and deepening of partnerships around particular educational issues, or as part of larger efforts addressing many aspects of society. This month’s news includes cooperative agreements that focus on issues like vocational education, technology, and system building.

Vocational Education:

One of the ways in which countries are working together to improve education is as part of a larger effort to meet the needs of the labor market. For example, Germany is working with Bulgaria on a joint vocational education project that aims to help Bulgaria make reforms to existing legislation, standards, and programs. As Bulgaria’s Education Minister explained in www.focus-fen.com  “Bulgaria would like to introduce the dual education system so that there is a link between vocational education and the labour market.” The Slovak Spectator reported that Germany will also be working to build a similar collaboration with Austria.

Meanwhile, as reported by Thailand’s public relations departmentThailand, Laos, and Vietnam are working together to create tri-country vocational certification programs that will allow students with opportunities to study in each country. Executive Director of the ASEAN University Network (AUN) Nantana Gajaseni said that each ASEAN government should support the grouping of educational institutions specializing in similar fields of study as clusters, in order to push for education development in this region.


Finland and Estonia are also working together as part of a specific endeavor to develop cloud technology that will “step up” educational and technological cooperation between the two countries. According to the Finnish government’s press release, “This joint effort aims to enable the creation of cloud services in education and learning and the use of digital materials and find new ways of learning and teaching in the learning environments in both countries. In particular, we wish to help change the school culture to become more student-oriented and inspiring and promote approaches to teaching where the focus is on experiences of success.”

System Building:

As noted in Business Reporter, Denmark and Pakistan have been expanding upon a supportive relationship, as part of Denmark’s interest in “conflict-hit” Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Denmark supports civil society organizations in the area, such as the Youth Parliament, to which it has given financial aid of 3.5 million dollars. In his most recent visit, Denmark’s Ambassador to Pakistan, Jesper Moller Sorensen, highlighted the importance of education in nation-building, and suggested that Pakistan increase education spending as a means of investing in the country’s future.
A new cooperation between China and South Africa has also been announced. According to Business Day Live, South Africa is “hoping to get lessons from China on curriculum development and implementation; teacher training and development; vocational education and training; and research and development to improve basic education.” The agreement also includes a cultural exchange and the teaching of Mandarin in South African schools.


Bilateral Partnerships:

Cooperative education efforts have also been seen in countries that seem to be looking to build alliance in multiple arenas. For example, The National reports that the United Arab Emirates and South Korea have been building a bilateral strategic partnership since 2009, which is now expanding to the areas of education, cultural, medical and health care sectors. The Kuwait News Agency also reported that Canada and Kuwait are working on ways to enhance cooperation in scientific, cultural, and educational fields, and to facilitate visa procedures for Kuwaiti students and their parents.


Memoranda of Understanding:

In the news we also see multiple examples of countries signing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on educational cooperation. Examples include:

Widespread call to improve vocational education

Christopher Furlong, BBC

Christopher Furlong, BBC

News reports from this past month have shown that many countries are rethinking the role of vocational training in their education systems.

In Denmarkwww.dr.dk reports that the government is considering new academic entrance requirements to vocational programs that some fear would result in thousands of students being barred from such programs.

Denmark is not alone in it’s effort to “raise the bar” on vocational education. The BBC reported that a survey of British employers showed almost 60% believe the government does not do enough to provide students with the vocational training they need.  The Guardian has also reported that a new standard will be applied to vocational education, allowing for diplomas endorsed by companies such as Kawasaki, Honda, and Volvo, but also hotels and even the Royal Ballet School, which is backing a qualification in performing arts.

Similarly, Thailand is also pledging to reform education to meet the demands of employers by reforming their system of vocational education. As reported in The Nation, the Education Ministry shared plans to work with the private sector to jointly design curriculum and training programs that give students real-life experiences as well as an academic education. The Thai government will also work with Germany, Australia, Japan and China – countries that have large investments in Thailand. However, in an earlier article, The Nation also reported that some researchers have expressed concerns that the government could still be doing more.

Similar news reports, collected from online sources over the past month, show a widespread call to improve vocational education, to reconsider the academic curriculum, and for educators to work alongside employers. These reports can be found coming from countries such as MalaysiaNigeriaThe United Arab EmiratesLiberiaSudanGhanaIreland, and India.


Denmark’s latest education reforms require that both teachers and students spend more time in school, but what is the plan for how that time will be spent? A recent news report describes that it is the conservative Danish People Party’s view that in order to address a disparity between the number of students studying at the general upper secondary schools and the needs of the Danish job market, the government should limit the enrollment to upper secondary schools and increase the number of students studying at vocational and commercial schools. The ruling government, for it’s part, has developed a plan that focuses on ” improved academic standards, increased professional standards of teachers, principals and other pedagogical staff and clear objectives and increased local independence for the development of the public school.”

This follows reforms proposed in Norway earlier this year, which sought to review the practicality of the curriculum and explore how vocational education could better meet the needs of that country’s job market.


“Halvorsen get both praise and criticism for school reform”

NTB, Dagen (March 15, 2013)

Minister Kristin Halvorsen get much praise even from opposition parties, the message of reform in secondary school. The image is from the University of Bergen, where she presented the research report last week Photo: Marit Hommedal / NTB Scanpix

Minister Kristin Halvorsen get much praise even from opposition parties, the message of reform in secondary school. The image is from the University of Bergen, where she presented the research report last week Photo: Marit Hommedal / NTB Scanpix

On March 15th, the government of Norway released a white paper report proposing that education be made more practical and relevant. The report, titled “On the Right Path: Quality and Diversity in Public Schools,” calls for students to have greater freedom to move subjects between grade levels, and between academic and workplace settings. Vocational education is under review for ways in which it can produce students who are better prepared for professional work, thereby yielding a greater impact on the labor market. In order to ensure that the curriculum meets the needs of the students, the government will appoint a committee to assess the extent to which today’s school subjects cover competencies and skills the students require.

In addition to vocational training, the government aims to focus on issues related to multicultural diversity of the population, such as bilingualism, by teaching democratic principles such as tolerance and inclusion, and introducing early intervention for children in kindergarten programs tailored to their needs. In particular, nursery staff will need to have expertise in multilingual education, and teachers will need to be prepared to introduce Norwegian as a second language and adapt instruction in all subjects. Newly arrived students of all ages will be assessed for language skills and receive customized training programs on the primary and secondary level. In addition, newly arrived adults who do not speak the language will be eligible for prolonged second language training.

The latest calls for improving the educational system in Norway follow a series of reforms over the past ten years that included the development of national tests and other means of monitoring the performance of the educational system.  While that emphasis reflects rising demands for accountability around the world, in an article in the latest issue of the Journal of Educational Change and a previous blog postIEN editor Thomas Hatch argues that the Norwegian reforms demonstrate a different approach. Rather than relying primarily on rewards and consequences, Hatch shows how the Norwegian reforms attempt to balance the need for individual accountability with efforts to foster individual and collective responsibility.

For more information:

*links in Norwegian

New impetus for future artisans

Commentary: The dance over Norwegian youth


Integrative vocational education has positive impact (in German)
Dornmayr, H.  Institut für Bildungsforschung der Wirtschaft (Institute for Research on Qualifications and Training of the Austrian Economy) (April 2012)

In 2003, the Austrian Government introduced a measure called “integrative vocational education” to allow students with disabilities or any other kind of disadvantage to choose adapted forms of apprenticeships. A recent study shows that the measure is having a positive impact for the students concerned and is promoting their integration into the job market. According to the report, 52% of students remained in their jobs following their integrative vocational education, and a further 10% changed to another apprenticeship. Although 22% of students are unemployed and 8% are engaged in job center skills development, 23% of the drop-outs found a new integrative apprenticeship opportunity shortly after dropping out. The study also reveals that business apprenticeships have been more effective than inter-company vocational training.