Przejdź do treści

Quality in tertiary vocational education and training

The measures in the tertiary vocational education report have contributed to an increased attractiveness, increased relevance, and to some extent, to a better learning and a more solid academic environment. At the same time, there are also some significant barriers to the desired development, and aspects of the VET sector and developments that are perceived to counteract the desired development in terms of quality-enhancing factors. The white paper on tertiary vocational education emphasises that quality in education and training at all levels is one of the Government’s most important objectives and emphasises that the main objective of tertiary vocational education is a “tertiary vocational education that is of good quality and adapted to the needs of working life.” So, in the following section, we look at measures in the tertiary vocational education report that are focuses how to raise the quality and stimulate development in vocational schools. The concept of quality was the subject of discussion in the tertiary vocational education report, and in the evaluation, the report used this quality discussion as the basis for its understanding of the concept.

The report begins by placing particular emphasis on examining how the quality- enhancing measures in the tertiary vocational education are implemented and affect the quality of tertiary vocational education. Furthermore, the report links quality work to the knowledge base, and focuses on how the existing knowledge base facilitates high quality in tertiary vocational education. In this context, the report discusses the importance of ensuring relevance, good learning, and solid academic environment. The quality of education through the tertiary vocational education is closely related to the attractiveness of higher vocational education for both working life and potential students. So, attractiveness is therefore also a topic the report explored in detail, along with visibility, which in many ways is a prerequisite for increased attractiveness and should be able to have effects in the form of increased number of students: ensure that more people are pursuing high-quality vocational education that is relevant and adapted to the needs of working life. Nevertheless, to achieve the goal of more people taking higher vocational education, one must ensure that the education is both recognised and visible to applicants and employers. Though here the focus is on the concept of quality education as used in the tertiary vocational education report, and the discuss is on the effect of the proposed measures on various aspects of quality work and the quality of education and examine whether and how the measures have had intended effects on vocational education’s visibility and attractiveness, as well as relevance learning environment and solid academic environment.

The concept of quality in tertiary vocational education

The importance of facilitating quality development in the sector was highlighted as very central by the tertiary vocational education report, a great emphasis is placed on quality in education. Good quality at all levels of the education system is necessary to ensure highly qualified labour, well-functioning welfare services and a competitive business sector. Good quality education is also important for further developing a well-functioning democratic society with active citizens.

Ever faster technological changes require continuous changes in education if it is to be relevant for students and working life. This is especially noticeable for tertiary vocational education, which aims to be flexible and vocationally oriented and adapted to new technology and new trends and needs in working life. The vocational education report explains the concept of quality by emphasising that several conditions must be in place for an education to be good:

  1. Abiding to laws and regulations.

  2. Administration, construction, equipment, and finance for management of vocational schools.

  3. The professional, practical, and pedagogical facilitation of education.

  4. Teachers’ competence.

  5. Students’ prerequisites, motivation, and efforts in the programme.

  6. Relevance to working life.

It adds that, among other things, the following factors contribute to influencing the quality of education:

  1. Admission requirements for the study programmes.

  2. The content, design, and facilitation of the educational programme.

  3. Interaction with schools, business, industry, and private sector.

  4. The employees’ combined competence with a view to ensuring a solid and stable professional environment.

  5. Students’ learning environment.

Quality of vocational education in the context of national objectives

The four main objectives presented in the tertiary vocational education report, to which the measures are linked, all refer to factors that are central to ensuring good quality in education:

1. The students must get involved in the subject and succeed in tertiary vocational education and training: Committed and motivated students, with attention to vocational and school-related activities and the opportunity for influence are important to ensure good quality in educations.

2. The academic environment must be up-to-date and practice-oriented vocational competence: To maintain good educational quality, it is important to have a robust academic environment with a solid knowledge base developed in contact with working life and national and international academic and competence environments.

3. The tertiary vocational education sector must offer education that the labour market needs, and that the students want: Educations that are relevant, attractive and provide good work opportunities, based on knowledge of national and regional competence needs and feedback from working life, are important in ensuring Good, Quality tertiary vocational education.

4. The tertiary vocational education sector must be well organised, with clear ownership and good governance: Efficient, targeted operation of tertiary vocational schools is also important to ensure good quality vocational education. This is achieved through the establishment of a more solid structure, cooperation across the board, inclusion and participant of different VET students and stakeholders, as well as predictable and transparent financing.

Overall, the main responsibility for ensuring good quality of education lies with the individual tertiary vocational school. However, other actors in the sector, such as the ministry of education and research, county authorities, and school owners, can also bring their influence in different ways. Though this also require having a quality assurance system that can be used to find out the extent to which tertiary vocational education succeeds in achieving the national objectives through quality indicators that are relevant to the tertiary vocational education. Among these indicators there are questions about quality assurance systems,

the proportion of teachers who participate in continuing education and training, the completion or drop-out employment after graduation and satisfaction with competence achieved. Relevance to working life is particularly emphasised in in- depth discussions related to quality in higher vocational education. Reference is made to the fact that the concept of relevance is both about work experience in education, the importance and suitability of education for actors in the labour market and the transition from education to relevant employment.

Viewing relevance of tertiary vocational education in the long-term perspective, requires also a student-centred perspective on the concept of quality in tertiary vocational education. This is elaborated by highlighting that it is the goal for VET students to achieve the best possible results, and be well prepared for a future professional career, as well as complete the education as efficiently as possible. The importance of engaging the students, and contributing to high motivation, is emphasised. Individual tertiary vocational schools themselves have the main responsibility for ensuring good quality of education and must have systems in place to ensure quality in education. At the same time, the NOKUT also has an important role on behalf of the country’s authorities when it comes to ensuring quality in the tertiary vocational education. So, NOKUT has control responsibility and supervises the institutions’ efforts to ensure and develop their own quality of education. Requirements relating to the systematic quality work of tertiary vocational schools are set out in Tertiary Vocational Education Act, the Tertiary Vocational Education Regulations and Tertiary Vocational Education Supervision Regulations, and NOKUT carries out supervision based on these requirements.

Measures contributing to increased quality in vocational education.

The measures launched through tertiary vocational education report are linked to the four main national objectives as presented in the white paper: (1). The students must get involved in the subject and succeed in tertiary vocational education and training. (2). The academic environment must be up-to-date and practice-oriented vocational competence. (3). The tertiary vocational education sector must offer education that the labour market needs, and that the students want. And (4). The tertiary vocational education sector must be well organised, with clear ownership and good management. So, as discussed above, all the four measures refer to the factors that are central to ensuring high-quality education. That is, these measures, regardless of which goal they are linked to, each is hence relevant for quality of vocational education development. It is also emphasised in the tertiary vocational education report that, to recruit good students, it is therefore important that tertiary vocational education is a visible and attractive educational alternative. In other words, measures to promote the objectives of visibility and attractiveness are also highly relevant to the quality of education. The intended effects of each measure on the quality of education may be direct or indirect. What can be referred to as indirect contributions to quality in VET sector are, for example, the measures to improve the knowledge base discussed above, and measures for better organisation and management. The relationship between quality and management of tertiary vocational schools is highlighted in several contexts through the tertiary vocational education report. Among other things, it is pointed out that attractive vocational school involves engaged students who take part in the management and influence development.

Measure related to the students’ engagement and success

This measure aims at ensuring that students are involved in subject and succeed in tertiary vocational education and training. This in various ways contribute to the VET students’ well-being, living conditions, and learning environment, which are factors that can have a major impact on whether the students are engaged and motivated, and to what extent they have attention focused on academic and school-related activities and the opportunity for influence. The measure related to VET students’ engagement and success is herein emphasised as the important element regarding quality of vocational education. In addition, this measure also touches on other measures such the measures aimed at admission to studies or transitional arrangements between tertiary vocational education and university or college education. These measures are intended to contribute to high quality in admission to studies, as well as attractiveness by clarifying through admission requirements that tertiary vocational education is at the level that is above upper secondary vocational education. Measures that affect transitional arrangements are also largely about attractiveness, that tertiary vocational education can be a way forward for students who already have a degree from university or college. Hence, measure related to students’ engagement and success largely support a student-centred perspective on the concept of quality, considerable emphasis is placed on student participation and results. Further comments are made on this as an objective and its association with a measure on affiliation with the student welfare organisation. One of the measures linked to this main objective is to give the students in vocational schools a conditional right to associate with student welfare organisation. This can help to strengthen the attractiveness of tertiary vocational schools and VET students’ welfare services, so that a more equal offer is ensured for tertiary vocational education students and students at universities and colleges.

In connection to this measure, Parliament’s deliberations adopted a resolution that asked the Government to consider whether the vocational schools should, according to certain criteria, be obliged to join the student welfare organisation. Though the measure concerning the right to associate with the student welfare organisations has been followed up through legislative amendments, however, the right to association with welfare organisations is for all vocational schools, and the conditions laid down in the original proposal have not been continued. This is because a majority of the Parliament asked the Government to propose that all tertiary vocational schools should have the right to be affiliated with the student welfare organisations, regardless of their size and the scope of their education. In the processes prior to the amendment, it was discussed whether a right of association with the welfare organisation should be granted, or whether a duty to link to the welfare organisation should be introduced. In consultation on the new Tertiary Vocational Education Act and amendments to the Student Welfare Act, the Ministry of Education and Research asked for the consultative bodies’ preliminary views on whether there should be a statutory obligation to be affiliated with a student welfare organisation. The Ministry’s summary of the consultative bodies’ views shows that a minority wanted vocational schools to have both right and obligation to membership in student welfare organisations, while most were in favour of legislating the right to membership, several county municipalities/county vocational schools expressed that they believed that there should be a statutory obligation to membership for everyone.

On the other hand, for vocational schools or for vocational schools over a certain size, expressed that they believed that they believe that it is important to ensure that all tertiary vocational education and training students have the same and equal rights as other students in universities and/or colleges. Other consultative bodies expressed the view that the enactment of a duty is not appropriate, and pointed out in this connection, inter area, that the students’ overall needs should form the basis for each vocational school’s assessment regarding affiliation with student welfare organisations. In the report, it is observed that there are different perceptions about the importance of this measure. Both from several vocational schools and from the student representatives, it is emphasised that vocational school students are a variable student group with very different needs. Thus, not everyone has a need or interest in the student welfare organisation. For others, however, membership in the student welfare organisation is important. A county vocational school expressed that it has been shown that this measure was not as important as vocational school originally thought, and they have experienced that the VET students do not have the desired connection to the student welfare organisation. It is also pointed out from some other vocational schools that the students themselves do not have the desired membership in the student welfare organisation, because students do not feel that they need it. In this connection, it is commented that the students are largely adult part-time students who take online courses with or without gatherings.

Authors of the Report

The project Competences for the Future – Matching the Needs of the Labour Market benefits from a € 106 000 grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants. The aim of the project is to update the education offer through the exchange of opinions and good practices between organizations with experience in the field of vocational education of youth and adults.