02 SES 09 A, Pathways into VET and beyond
Transitions between successive levels in Vocational Education and Training (VET) often appear to be very problematic for students. In many countries, such transition problems resulting in high student drop-out rates have been reported (e.g., Harris and Rainey 2012; Jäppinen and Maunonen-Eskelinen 2012). Possible causes for these transition problems have been discussed by Biemans, Mariën, Fleur, Tobi, Nieuwenhuis and Runhaar (2016). Crucial issues in this regard are the lack of curriculum continuity and the absence of true integration of successive educational levels (see Biemans, De Bruijn, Den Boer and Teurlings 2013).
To improve students’ transitions and to prevent high drop-out rates, continuing learning pathways have been implemented in VET (and general education) systems around the world (see Biemans et al. 2016). For example, in The Netherlands, the context of this particular study, many experiments have been initiated in the last decade by governmental policy (e.g., Dutch Educational Council 2014) to design continuing learning pathways and, thus, to connect the various levels of the VET system (i.e., pre-vocational secondary education (vmbo), secondary vocational education (mbo) and higher vocational education (hbo)).
This study aimed to compare the effects of such continuing learning pathways with more traditional routes in terms of students’ learning performance at the mbo level and transitions to hbo. Continuing learning pathways are “characterised by curriculum continuity in particular competence areas or subjects lasting several years, and encompassing more than one qualification level” (Biemans et al. 2013, p. 109). Prominent examples of continuing learning pathways in Dutch VET are the Green Lycea (GL), offered by institutes for vocational education in the agricultural (or ‘green’) education domain. The GL are typified by specific design characteristics (see for more details Biemans et al. 2016, p. 321):
- Sharp selection of a specific category of students who combine a relatively high cognitive level with affinity for practical assignments in authentic settings;
- Acceleration of the learning trajectory;
- Integration of the respective educational (vmbo and mbo) programmes;
- Theoretical level attuned to hbo;
- Tailor-made, adaptive education based on the talents and interests of individual students;
- Specific attention for development of study skills needed in hbo;
- Educational orientation on professional practice;
- Broad orientation on hbo sectors;
- Systematic attention for career orientation and guidance (see also Kuijpers 2014).
At this moment, GL are offered by 12 schools of 6 VET institutes in the ‘green’ domain in The Netherlands.
Biemans et al. (2016) showed that the GL with their specific design characteristics were more effective than the traditional vmbo pathway in terms of students’ learning performance and their transitions to mbo (i.e., the first part of the VET learning pathway) but, at that point, the question remained whether the GL are also more effective in promoting students’ transitions to higher vocational education, which could be considered as the ultimate goal of these continuing learning pathways (see also Bradley 2008; Gorard, Smith, May, Thomas, Adnett and Slack 2006; Watson 2006).
Therefore, in the present study, the GL were compared with a traditional pathway to hbo (i.e., regular secondary vocational education or mbo in the ‘green’ domain). Thus, this study was aimed at examining the effects of the second (mbo) part of this learning pathway. The following research questions were formulated:
- Do GL and regular mbo programmes differ in terms of percentages of students who obtain a mbo diploma?
- Do GL and regular mbo programmes differ in terms of percentages of students who proceed with an hbo programme after obtaining their mbo diploma?
- Do GL and regular mbo programmes differ in terms of the nature of hbo programmes that are chosen by the students after obtaining their mbo diploma?
Bradley, D. (2008). Review of Australian higher education: Final report. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. Biemans, H.J.A., De Bruijn, E., Den Boer, P.R. & Teurlings, C.C.J. (2013). Differences in design format and powerful learning environment characteristics of continuing pathways in vocational education as related to student performance and satisfaction. Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 65(1), 108-126. Biemans, H., Mariën, H., Fleur, E., Tobi, H., Nieuwenhuis, L. & Runhaar, P. (2016). Students’ Learning Performance and Transitions in Different Learning Pathways to Higher Vocational Education. Vocations and Learning, 9(3), 315-332. Dutch Educational Council (2014). Overgangen in het onderwijs [Transitions in education]. The Hague: Dutch Educational Council. Gorard, S., Smith, E., May, H., Thomas, L., Adnett, N. & Slack, K. (2006). Review of widening participation research: Addressing the barriers to participation in higher education. A report to HEFCE. York: University of York, Higher Education Academy and Institute for Access Studies. Harris, R. & Rainey, L. (2012). Learning pathways between and within vocational and higher education: Towards a typology? Australian Educational Researcher, 39, 107-123. Jäppinen, A.-K. & Maunonen-Eskelinen, I. (2012). Organisational transition challenges in the Finnish vocational education – Perspective of distributed pedagogical leadership. Educational Studies, 38(1), 39-50. Kuijpers, M.A.C.T. (2014). Doorstroom vmbo-mbo [Transition pre-vocational secondary education (vmbo) - secondary vocational education (mbo)]. NRO Call for proposals Green Education Research. Den Haag: Dutch Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). Watson, D. (2006). New Labour and higher education. Perspectives: Policy and Practice in Higher Education, 10, 92–96.
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