Vocational education and training entered a cul-de-sac a decade ago Zdenko Medveš
Summary: The evaluation research studies and synthetic evaluation carried out by the Institute of the Republic of Slovenia for Vocational Education and Training in 2012 provide a clear, frank, critical, and reflective overview of the reformed vocational education and training programs employed for the education of three generations of students, who attended the programs between 2004 and 2010. These studies suggest that the expectations formed in the Starting Points for the Preparation of Educational Programs in Lower and Secondary Vocational and Secondary Technical Education published in 2001 (hereafter referred to as Starting Points 2001) have been put into practice in different ways. Schools demonstrate significant and positive expected changes: less frontal instruction, more teacher collaboration on developing key qualifications and competences, more applied approaches to teaching, a stronger emphasis on knowledge usefulness, and a greater orientation toward goal-oriented learning. However, the evaluation has revealed fundamental shortcomings of the system itself caused by the Starting Points 2001, especially in favoring the “hybrid” model of education, which is a combination of the school and apprenticeship types of vocational education and training. In comparison with the Starting Points for the Preparation of Educational Programs in Lower and Secondary Vocational and Secondary Technical Education published in 1997, in Starting Points 2001, the responsibility for education is transferred back to schools, including the (considerable) part provided by employers. This in itself has reduced the responsibility of the social partners; therefore, neither chambers nor trade unions have any awareness of personnel development as one of their primary tasks, which proves fatal to the development of vocational education and training. Bearing in mind other recent research studies as well, we can observe that both lower and upper secondary vocational education and training have been deteriorating, and the number of students and range of available educational programs have decreased. They have thus become the weakest links in the educational system. The visions and considerations of vocational education and training are far too schoolified. They tend to forget the wider marginal conditions in the society, ands this demotivates the young from entering vocational education and training and hinders any planned development of educational possibilities for the whole generation, particularly those who live in hazardous circumstances. Future prospects are not bright either, especially because the state keeps drowning the Institute of the Republic of Slovenia for Vocational Education and Training in a conglomeration of general expert services for the development of education, rather than associating it with social partners as an independent expert service, rather than with the state itself.