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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 Political Economy of Educational and Vocational Training Reforms in Western Europe from a Historical Perspective



Abstract: This contribution explores the political and historical origins of skill formation regimes in the post-war period. By studying the cases of the UK, Sweden and Germany, the paper argues that partisan politics and different varieties of capitalism have played a crucial role in shaping different development paths at this critical juncture of historical development. VET survived in coordinated market economies, while it eroded in liberal contexts. Partisan politics shaped the specific institutional design of VET (workplace-based or school-centred training). In general, the chapter argues that taking historical processes and institutional contexts more seriously will help us to better understand the political origins of contemporary education and training regimes.

1.  Introduction: The puzzle

The starting point and motivation for this contribution is the observation that in the immediate postwar period advanced industrial democracies and particularly Western European countries shared a similar institutional setup of education and training systems, but that countries started to develop along very different paths quite soon thereafter (Ansell 2010, p. 164). Contrary to common expectations, we can see large historical similarities between the Swedish, German, and British educational systems (Heidenheimer 1981, pp. 296, 298): All of them had an elitist higher education sector and a segregated secondary school system, enforcing a strict distinction and hierarchy between academic and nonacademic types of secondary schooling. With regard to vocational education and training, the institutional legacy of ← 67 | 68 → company-based, mostly voluntarist or self-governed apprenticeship training was strong in Germany and the...

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