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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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Educational Systems Research: Intention, Scope, Desiderata. A Vocational-Pedagogy and Historical Comment


1.  Introduction – three current debates

As the German controversy around Level 6 of the European Qualifications Framework has shown, research on educational systems is in high demand. The policy issues of access to university education associated with these questions are indicative of a longstanding tension between vocational training on the one hand and general education on the other.

This conflict has its roots in the establishment of the technical vocational school system as well as the differentiation of Gymnasium (higher secondary) general education schools at the start of the 19th century. The decade between 1890 and 1902 provides vivid examples by way of which we can examine both the competition among the different pillars of education and long-awaited reforms as well as questions relating to the study of educational systems themselves (Schütte 2007).

In his groundbreaking 1903 study of the vocational education system, Friedrich Paulsen examined issues of class differences within this system, providing methodological as well as educational policy insights that helped shape the development of educational research. “We cannot eliminate the differentiation of professions without severely harming social productivity (…) If maintaining differentiation of professions is a social necessity, then so is maintaining a differentiated educational system” (Verhandlungen 1890, p. 667).

The continued relevance of historical longitudinal studies is also evident in the criticisms relating to the professionalization of academic study that have been triggered by the Bologna Process. Current studies on “academisation mania” underscore the necessity of...

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