02 SES 03 C, VET in Different Cultural Contexts
Globally, there is growing interest in work-based experiences being part of vocational education and training provisions for young people to assist their readiness for work and working life (The European Lifelong Guidance Policy Network, 2014). In seeking to understand the range of factors promoting or inhibiting such provisions, cross country comparisons are often instructive. In this paper, the findings from a review of work-based learning programs in nine Arab region countries are presented and summarised (UNESCO, 2018). Comparing these educational provisions across countries within the same region, albeit with diverse institutional arrangements and, sometimes turbulent recent histories and economic transformations permits illustrations and elaborations of these factors.
The method comprised a comparison of case studies prepared by country-based experts using a common framing of topics for reporting and a comparative longitudinal analysis across these topics. These topics included i) national context; ii) provisions of work-based learning programmes in vocational education, iii) governance arrangements, iv) stakeholders/partnerships roles and contributions, v) finances and vi) country-specific recommendations for enhancing the role of workplace learning experiences.
The conceptual framing was to delineate and associate complexes of institutional (Searle 1995) and personal factors (Billett 2009) that represent and explain what promotes and constrains the enactment of workplace learning experiences. It was found that a complex of factors shapes the prospects for enhancing work-based learning arrangements for young people in Arab region countries. These comprise: (a) government stability and co-ordination, (b) economic certainty and stability, (c) developed TVET systems, (d) maturity of social partnerships, and v) societal sentiments about TVET, the occupation it serves, and practice of learning through work. This last factor has received limited attention in previous reports and reform efforts, yet is foundational to realising an enhanced individual, institutional, and societal commitment to TVET and work-based learning arrangements (UNESCO 2018).
The findings illuminated the complex of factors that is characterised by interdependence and, as such, reform efforts and government and societal initiatives need to consider these factors as a collective and interrelated set of factors impacting upon each other, rather than only being addressed in isolation. Consequently, reform efforts and strategic initiatives or interventions need to be aware of and address them collectively and recognise that they are interdependent. The findings emphasises the importance of mature institutional arrangements such as governance, partnerships and vocational education systems that extends to competent and industry-experienced teachers. Findings about personal factors emphasize the importance of how societal sentiments about vocational education and the occupations it serves are engaged with by all actors (young people, parents, employers, government officials). The findings also emphasize the importance of situational factors and engagements, albeit in regional, remote or metropolitan communities.
Some of the implications for the European context include an elaboration of factors that shape the provision of work-based learning for young people in vocational education. A salient finding is also the apparent mismatch between models of work-based learning that are proposed by sponsoring countries and their fit with these nine countries.
The method comprised a cross-country comparative and longitudinal analysis that aimed to identify factors that promote or inhibit the enactment of and engagement in work-based learning experiences by young people. Procedurally, it comprised a comparison of case studies from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Palestine and Tunisia prepared by country-based experts using a common framing of topics for reporting and across these topics. These topics included i) national context; ii) provisions of work-based learning programmes in vocational education, iii) governance arrangements, iv) stakeholders/partnerships roles and contributions, v) finances and vi) country-specific recommendations for enhancing the role of workplace learning experiences. A thematic analysis was conducted using these studies and augmented by additional information about economic, employment and demographic data from global agencies, as well as procedural suggestions from other countries’ vocational educational education systems. The analysis was exercised in the generation of the report for UNESCO.
Sets of situational, structural and societal factors were identified as shaping in different ways, and often inhibiting, the prospects for work-based learning provisions to be more fully exercised. Strong emphases on institutional arrangements (e.g. size and make up of workplaces) and imperatives (e.g. government departments’ policy goals) as well as divergence amongst and conflicts with these arrangements render difficult support for such outcomes. As a consequence, marshalling societal support and partnerships is made difficult and means by which are set out as bases for understanding the ways in which vocational education systems are manifested, can progress and what factors shape the prospects of them achieving the kinds of goals that their governments and global agencies request of them. Yet, the level of youth unemployment demands responses that can be only realised through concerted and broadly engaged action. Central here were cultural or societal sentiments that position vocational education as being of low standing, far lower than higher education, and also views workplace components as potentially lowering either further that status. Perhaps a focus on action away from institutional arrangements and imperatives, and those that support local engagement and models of work-based arrangements that can be enacted locally and work towards the addressing the low standing of vocational education might have a lasting impact on these entrenched problems than the kinds of initiatives that global agencies often prefer.
Billett S (2009). Personal epistemologies, work and learning. Educational Research Review. 4 210-9. Searle JR (1995). The construction of social reality. London: Penguin. The European Lifelong Guidance Policy Network. (2014). Work based Learning and Lifelong Guidance Policies. Jyvaskala, Finland: University of Jyvaskala. UNESCO (2018 in press) Work-based learning programmes for young people in the Arab region: A comparative and longitudinal analysis. Paris
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