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Monday, 28 March 2011

Complexities of vocational education systems

On Friday afternoon, I attended one of SQA's occasional research seminars. This one was presented by Professor Geoff Hayward, of Leeds University, and was about vocational education systems. Or, more specifically, it was about why vocational education systems have become so complex.

He pointed out that vocational education has become complex in every country in the world but that England has "unquestionably the most complex in Europe". This, he said, was due to several factors, including the introduction of qualification frameworks (credit and levelling systems) in most countries. This evolution towards complexity increased costs and reduced transparency - resulting in many employers not understanding the qualification system. Geoff was also critical of the tendency to reduce learning to small chunks, comparing this to the traditional apprenticeship, which took years to complete. He pointed out that modularisation increased complexity.

Geoff's main point was that vocational education has become more complex because governments, across the world, "try to make qualification systems do too much". This "mission creep" has produced the complexity.

It was an interesting talk. I was particularly interested to learn about the history of vocational education and to hear Geoff challenge some of the orthodoxies in modern education.

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