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History of Vocational Education and Training in Europe

Cases, Concepts and Challenges


Edited By Esther Berner and Philipp Gonon

Understanding today’s Vocational Education and Training (VET) systems requires a comprehension of the rise and development, i.e. of the foundations of topical VET. This book provides a comparative view of its development in Europe. The contributions of renowned authors give insight into conceptual questions, cases and challenges in this field.

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The Genesis of Vocational Education in Switzerland from the Perspective of Justification Theory: On the Development of a Dual Vocational Education Model in the Cantons of Geneva and Lucerne



1.  Introduction

The post-compulsory educational offers in Switzerland are characterised by a strong focus on professional qualifications. Even today, three out of four diplomas awarded at this level are vocational certificates (Cortesi & Imdorf 2013). Thereby, vocational education at companies and vocational schools is of great significance. In 2010, 87% of all vocational education learners in Switzerland completed their basic vocational training in the context of programmes happening simultaneously at the company and the vocational school. In the German-speaking part of Switzerland this share approached 90%, while in the French-speaking part the share was 76% (SBFI 2014, 12). Known for its alignment with the needs of the economy, this kind of educational organisation continues to guarantee its graduates a good labour market chance in Switzerland. Respectively, Switzerland is increasingly perceived as a showcase model for vocational education.

However, a look back at the birth of the Swiss vocational education system shows that dual3 education in the late 19th century was not as ← 45 | 46 → self-evident as it is today. Today’s educational organisation was preceded by a decades-long federalist institutionalisation process (Gonon 2008). The starting point of a publicly recognised vocational education was marked by the 1884 federal decision regarding commercial and industrial vocational education (Bundesbeschluss betreffend die gewerbliche und industrielle Berufsbildung) that allowed for the subsidising and vocationalisation of schools, supporting organisations such as the industrial museums, and gave a further boost from the federal side to the vocational educational efforts of associations....

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