Comparative Perspectives from the 2017 Würzburg Winter School
Edited By Regina Egetenmeyer and Monica Fedeli
Adult education has deep connections with employment contexts. This volume discusses interrelations within transnational contexts studied during the Würzburg Winter School on Comparative Studies in Adult Education and Lifelong Learning (COMPALL). The book shows that adult education and work contexts are influenced by international and transnational developments. The findings are presented in three chapters: Lifelong Learning Policies Targeting Employment Contexts; Transnational Perspectives on Lifelong Learning Policies; Employment Perspectives and Professionalisation in Adult Education.
Comparing the Continuing Vocational Education and Training Policies of Italy, Brazil, and India: What could be compared and what could not be compared, and why? (Shalini Singh / Leonardo Silveira / Janiery da Silva Castro)
Abstract: This paper explores how the continuing vocational education and training policies in Italy, Brazil, and India are embedded in the economic context along the lines of productivity, labour market, and employability. It also reflects on countries as units of comparison in research.
Italy, Brazil, and India are sovereign countries and members of UNESCO. While Italy is a member country of the European Union, Brazil and India are BRICS countries, categorised as newly industrialized countries and known for their high growth rates. However, merely being a predefined geographical unit (countries) or political unit (sovereign states, UNESCO members) might be insufficient for scientific comparisons in the current transnational context.
In this paper, we compare the continuing vocational education and training policies in Italy, Brazil, and India and reflect on the selection of units of comparison for comparative studies in scientific research.
Defining continuing vocational education and training
The most widely used definition of continuing vocational education and training (hereafter CVET) in research and policy is the one by Cedefop (2014), which defines CVET as
education or training after initial education or entry into working life, aimed at helping individuals to improve or update their knowledge and/or skills; acquire new skills for a career move or retraining; continue their personal or professional development (Cedefop & Tissot, 2014, p. 51). ← 61 | 62 →
Cedefop (2015) specifies that CVET can take place in formal, non-formal, and informal settings (Cedefop, 2015, p. 22). Cedefop (2015) refers to adult learning outcomes connected to professional development (vocational education) as ‘continuing’ only after an individual enters the labour market (Cedefop 2015, p. 23).
Cedefop defines CVET as a ‘way to improve participation of adults in lifelong learning, reinforce their employability and increase employment in Europe’ (Cedefop, 2015, p. 18). By contrast, for the OECD, entering the labour market is not the criterion to decide whether a VET programme is initial or vocational (OECD, 2015, p. 5). If the individual has received VET at a level in the European Qualification Framework, VET at the next level will be called continuing (OECD, 2015, p. 49). Therefore, for the OECD, the complexity of the function and the required competencies in VET are the criteria to decide whether it is initial or continuing VET (OECD, 2015, p. 49).
CVET is neither defined nor used by UNESCO. UNESCO uses the term ‘technical vocational education and training’ (TVET), ignoring the differentiation between initial and continuing VET. It defines TVET as
those aspects of the educational process involving, in addition to general education, the study of technologies and related sciences and the acquisition of practical skills, attitudes, understanding and knowledge relating to occupation in various sectors of economic life (UNESCO, 2017, online resource).2
Unlike Cedefop or OECD, it focuses more on soft skills and employability (McQuaid & Lindsay, 2005; King 2009).
The operational definition of CVET for this paper is based on the definition adopted by Cedefop due to the clear distinction between initial and continuing VET. We therefore define CVET in this article as the
learning process of an individual in formal, non-formal and in-formal settings, within and outside the work environment, after entering and before retiring or finally leaving the labour market to improve professional knowledge, skills and competencies (International Winter School, 2017, personal communication). ← 62 | 63 →3
We focus on two research questions in this paper. The first research question discusses the way CVET policies are formulated in Italy, Brazil, and India, including primary influences on policies, actors, policy objectives, and target groups. The first research question is therefore:
1. How is CVET policy (not) formulated in Brazil, Italy, and India?
The second question builds on the first question, enquiring about the reasons why CVET policies were formulated in Italy and Brazil but not in India. The question is:
2. Why are CVET policies (not) formulated in Brazil, Italy, and India?
The question focuses on the context of comparison and investigates the linkages between the provisions, providers, target groups, and the societal sectors influencing CVET in the three countries.
1. The ‘relationship model for comparative research in adult education’ for choosing the focus of research, designing the contexts, and formulating categories of comparison (Fig. 1): Egetenmeyer (2017) argues that the focus of research comparing adult education in different countries should be replaced by a comparison of contexts owing to the ‘diverse range of providers, levels and modes of learning’ in adult education, which could not be restricted to the boundaries of states and are rather transnational in nature (pp. 80–81). Egetenmeyer argues for designing contexts of comparison according to what is relevant for answering a particular research question rather than using predefined contexts (like states) as categories for comparison (p. 81). She argues to go beyond the predefined, traditional, hierarchical, or vertical structural arrangements and theoretical paradigms; politically driven empirical data sets (with categorisation) provided by transnational actors; and even the discipline of education to adopt an inter-disciplinary approach (p. 94). ← 63 | 64 →
2. Figure 1: Relationship model for comparative research in adult education.
Source: Egetenmeyer’s ‘Relationship model for comparative research in adult education’ (Egetenmeyer, 2017, p. 85)
In her model, Egetenmeyer proposes three dimensions of comparison that comprise the context of comparison:
a. provision & effects
b. (non)participants & learners
c. transnational contexts
Egetenmeyer argues that comparative research in adult education should be focused on ‘provision & effects’ or the practices and the underlying phenomena in adult education. She suggests studying the linkages of these provisions and effects (policies, professional situation, providers and institutions, educational provision and/or learning and competencies) across the ‘transnational contexts’ in relation ← 64 | 65 → to ‘(non) participants and learners’, embedded in time and the ‘relevant societal sector (state, market, civil society)’ (pp. 84–85).
We use the insights from Egetenmeyer’s model and focus on the comparison of CVET ‘policies’ as ‘provision & effects’ in the contexts of Italy, Brazil, and India, analysing the (non)existence of transnational contexts (transnational/national policy influences and providers) on the policies in question, the ‘employment situation’, ‘civic engagement’, and ‘educational biographies’ of ‘(non) participants and learners’, embedded in the relevant societal sectors.
2. Analytical policy models for adult education to describe contexts in a structured manner: Lima and Guimarães (2011) propose to analyse policies along the following dimensions:
a) ‘Political-administrative orientations’: Policy formulation apparatus or legislative apparatus including ‘laws, rules and norms’.
b) ‘Political priorities’: Objectives, target groups, and resource allocation.
c) ‘Organisational and administrative dimensions’: Policy implementation apparatus or bureaucratic apparatus.
d) ‘Conceptual elements’: Policy orientations.
(Lima & Guimarães, 2011, pp. 39–66)
We use the four dimensions used by Lima and Guimarães (2011) as categories of comparison to compare CVET policies.
3. The ‘box model’ to understand whether the chosen units of comparison could be used for scientific comparison (Fig. 2): Ehlers (2006) argues that there are only four ways in education to understand totality: the ways of thinking (or approaches) in ‘practice’, ‘profession’, ‘science’, and ‘policy’. Ehlers emphasises that thinking in one way or box is not completely compatible with the thinking in another way or box (pp. 10–11).
← 65 | 66 →
We use the model to analyse whether it is scientifically appropriate to consider India as a unit of comparison using a scientific approach, which is different from CVET policies and practice in the three countries.
Review of scientific literature
Perkin (2007) describes CVET as a phenomenon of post-industrial society or the late twentieth century with the inclusion of services as a product, followed by competitive trends to acquire the most advanced skills and expertise through intense specialisation of the workforce (Perkin, 2007, p. 41)
Alves (2007) describes CVET as essential for ‘employability’, making individuals more productive in the labour market (Alves, 2007, p. 60). She points out that CVET also signifies the transfer of responsibility from the state to the individual, from employment to employability, subsequently influencing economic growth (p. 59).
Heyes (2007) and McCowan (2015) analyse how CVET is becoming increasingly important in the policies of transnational actors, such as the EU and the OECD (Heyes, 2007, p. 1; McCowan, 2015, p. 3). Trampusch and Eichenberger (2012) and McCowan (2016) highlight the increasing role of non-state actors in decision-making regarding CVET because of their involvement in various settings: formal, non-formal, and informal4 (Trampusch & Eichenberger, 2012, p. 2; McCowan, 2016, p. 506).
Trampusch and Eichenberger (2012) suggest that, apart from the market, the state and civil society are equally interested in CVET, owing to the dynamic nature of the economies since the 1990s. Thus, there currently are far-reaching consequences that underlie the relationships between the different structures and agents regarding CVET (Trampusch & Eichenberger, 2012, p. 1).
Even though CVET has been quite popular in recent years, there are critics. Frigotto (2013, p. 390) emphasises the difference between education and qualification, claiming that education for people coming from disadvantaged backgrounds – generally the focus of CVET policies – should go beyond professional training, as the latter is subordinate to the interests of the market and not those of society. Alves (2007) also claims that professional education in general is governed by the interests of capital and has been reinforcing the status quo rather than promoting real opportunities for social mobility among people coming from disadvantaged ← 66 | 67 → backgrounds. On the other hand, Cedefop (2014) and Heyes (2007) characterise CVET policies as a requirement for engaging these groups in the economy and that it is the real key to unleash the potential of economies and build prosperous societies. Whilst presenting the case studies, it will be part of this paper to understand the conceptual foundations of CVET policies in each country: even though the terms may sound similar, a conceptual foundation based on employability can be considerably different from one based on compensatory education, just like national or provincial state-driven policies may differ in theory and practice from the rhetoric of international organisations. It will be possible to observe that in the next section, as we move on to the case studies.
CVET in Italy
Since 1958, Italy has been a democracy, divided into 20 regions and 110 provinces. The CVET system in Italy is quite complex, organised through the state, which has exclusive legislative powers over most issues related to education. The regions have specific competences for social care and other legislative powers, but they have no authority on education and vocational training, except in projects involving the European Union (Ulicna et. al., 2013, p. 170; Refernet Italy, 2011, p. 7). The understanding of CVET in Italy is thus quite close to Cedefop’s understanding of CVET. In Italy, CVET refers to training as a permanent process embedded in environments, acquired formally or informally, both inside and outside of the workplace. Therefore, it is understood as an opportunity for lifelong learning, employment and corporate innovation, career guidance, development of occupational identity, autonomy, adaptability and career management skills of the individual (Cedefop, 2015).
Italian laws (Laws 53, 107, 196, 388, and Ministerial Directive 22; Decree 13) provide further clarity on CVET provisions aiming at high employability for individuals and high productivity for the economy. The target groups for CVET policies in Italy are individuals who enter the labour market and the providers of CVET. The CVET reform integrated the vocational and academic training system with higher education and employment. CVET is essential for the evaluation of competences, non-formal and informal learning, and included in the minimum standards of service described in the national system for the certification of competencies. Italian policies favour lifelong learning and thus promote employability and social cohesion through different modalities including CVET. CVET policies ← 67 | 68 → in Italy aim to make the population employable in the entire European Union rather than just in Italy.
CVET is financed by the state (through the Ministry of Education, the regions, and the local authorities), the market (public and private agencies), and social partners apart from the EU. Joint inter-professional funds for continuing training strengthen CVET policies in Italy. Consequently, the institutional jurisdiction in the programming, management, and evaluation of the actions regarding CVET is highly specialised. Primary providers of CVET services in Italy include employers and professional associations, non-accredited training and guidance structures, universities and research institutes, upper secondary schools in collaboration with other training bodies, job centres, non-governmental organisations, and voluntary associations. CVET offerings are managed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies, and coordinated by regions and provinces at the local level. Some primary CVET initiatives in Italy include:
Sectoral training funds (Fondi Paritetici interprofessionale per la formazione continua) coordinated by social partners (associations and trade unions) under the supervision of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies. The regions and provinces offer CVET.
Technical education and higher technical training is offered by the regions to (un)employed youth as a compensation for their social exclusion, aiming at their inclusion.
First and second-cycle adult education within the educational system is provided by adult education centres in public schools or autonomous educational institutions.
Apart from this, private companies provide non-formal training to their employees. However, many beneficiaries of CVET in Italy end up financing their courses on their own (ISFOL, 2009|10, p. 58). The ISFOL (Istituto per lo Sviluppo della Formazione Professionale dei Lavoratori) – now called a state institution for research, work, and social policy under the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy – which aims to promote professional qualification, social inclusion, and local development and the Leonardo da Vinci Programme, which aims at meeting the needs of education and training (run by ISFOL), are worth mentioning in the Italian context, as they form the core of CVET policy implementation mechanisms in Italy.
CVET in Brazil
Brazil is the largest Latin American country with approximately 200 million inhabitants and 26 provinces. The official language is Portuguese. The country has ← 68 | 69 → widespread social inequality, and some of the marginalised groups even lack basic citizenship and education rights. Due to the high rate of illiteracy among youth (8.6%, i.e. 13 million people), adult education is compensatory in Brazil.
Most of the initiatives are state-driven without any engagement of the market (potential employers). In legislation, the terms ‘employability’ or ‘competence’ are rarely found. ‘CVET’ in not used in Brazilian policy documents, whereas ‘technical vocational education and training’ (TVET) and ‘continuing education’ are used by the Ministry of Education, similar to UNESCO’s position regarding TVET.
Haddad (2007) states that the recognition of EJA (Young and Adult Education) as a right for millions of marginalised people without opportunities to complete their basic education has existed since the mid-twentieth century but that it was not until 1988 that it was legally formalised as a duty of the Brazilian state and reaffirmed in 1996.5 However, it was not integrated into policies or programmes. Sporadic initiatives based on Paulo Freire’s methodology existed initially before he was extradited from Brazil during the military dictatorship period (1964–1986).
The policies regarding EJA in Brazil are still inconsistent and exclusive, benefitting only certain sections of society, leaving the needs of marginalised populations unaddressed and rendering the EJA law unfulfilled.
In the late 1990s and the early 2000s, EJA and vocational education started evolving as concrete realities in Brazil. In 1996, the national curricular guidelines for technical professional education were designed and adopted, while the National Curricular Reference Levels, approved in 2000, structured the required pedagogical details (BRASIL, 2000). This was accompanied by a wave of reforms, starting in 1995, regarding vocational education in the country to increase productivity through CVET.
In 2004, initial and continued training of youth and adults was integrated with formal high school non-technical/academic education and professional technical education.
CVET in India
With reference to the definition agreed upon in this paper, there is no concrete policy in India regarding CVET. Neither is there a concrete difference between initial and continuing VET at the policy level.
Goel (2011) differentiates between technical and vocational education in India, stating that whereas technical education refers to postsecondary education with practical training, vocational education requires a lower level of qualification and does not add to the qualifications of an individual (Goel, 2011, p. 3)
The term ‘continuing’ is used in combination with ‘education’ in policies to refer to VET offered as part of the literacy programmes in India to motivate non-literates to join these programmes. Continuing education programmes in India are a temporary answer to the question ‘Literacy for what?’, a social policy and expenditure. They are non-formal, there is a lack of provision and providers, and there is no focus on learning outcomes or professional acknowledgement.
CVET in India, however, does exist in practice. Possibilities exist for individuals in the labour market to stop working, take up CVET, and then work again (something similar to recurrent education); to take up CVET with part-time work; to get trained by the employer (on-the-job training or in-service training) (World Bank, 2007, pp. 61–67); to be sent by the employer to a provider (refresher courses); or to go for job rotation. However, no concrete macro data is available regarding CVET in India. The lack of social security policy in the labour market except in the public sector creates no need for the collection of such data. In fact, such data might prove to be politically disastrous, just like the existing data regarding VET, labour market, and employability, which point alarmingly towards policy failure (Sharma, 2016; 2017).
CVET is ignored in the policy agenda in India due to several reasons. With only 2.3 per cent of the population receiving VET in the first place (City & Guilds, 2015, p. 2), it is difficult to imagine a policy regarding CVET, which refers to the advanced phase in VET.
International Labour Organisation (2017) data reveal that with an unemployment rate of 3.4 per cent, India has 17.8 million unemployed people, a figure likely to increase in the future (ILO, 2017, p. 39). Also, ILO (2016) and official Indian government data reveal that 92 per cent of the total employed population in India fall under the category of informal employment. Furthermore, 48.9 per cent of people in the labour market are employed in the primary sector, contributing only 15.4 per cent of the GDP (indicating low productivity levels and a high rate of disguised unemployment), whereas 32.3 per cent are employed in vulnerable jobs (ILO, 2016, pp. 2–3; Reserve Bank of India, 2016). The skills gap is enormous, and there is a mismatch between supply and demand in the labour market, almost on the verge of turning the Indian demographic dividend to a demographic disaster (Singh, 2015, pp. 250–255; Mehrotra, Gandhi, & Sahoo, 2014, pp. 1–36; Rengan, 2012, pp. 171–178). ← 71 | 72 →
Consequently, policy priorities include expanding the formal sector, promoting sectorial transition in the economy, and providing employment to larger number of people rather than CVET, which is left to the market and civil society by an overburdened state unable to reduce the non-development expenditure due to political reasons. Hence the focus of policies in India is quantitative rather than qualitative, and to a very large extent, CVET is a qualitative policy choice.
Since India has a large informal sector and employment opportunities for specialists are fewer compared to those for generalists and multi-takers, the return on investment on CVET is low for employers who have possibilities to hire inexpensive, inexperienced individuals rather than highly specialised professionals demanding hefty remuneration. Working conditions are not regulated for informal employees, and there is less incentive and more pressure to take up CVET with the burden of costs lying usually on the individual (except in the public sector and high-profile private sector firms and institutions, where the cost of CVET is paid by the employer).
Vocational and technical education courses are designed for IVET rather than CVET, without any acknowledgement for recognition of prior learning or even formal experiential learning. The absence of any policy or mechanism to support CVET even in combination with part-time work or short-term leave from work to acquire CVET makes it difficult and less attractive even in practice.
CVET in India is therefore not on the policy agenda, lacks macro-level data due to political and economic reasons, and is less attractive for individuals in practice due to the costs involved.
← 72 | 73 →
* These rows represent dimensions relating to policies rather than practice and cannot be used to describe data from practice.
Source: Created by authors based on a cumulative analysis of information available from different sources used in this paper.
Table 2 shows the dimensions of the case studies according to the policy analysis framework by Lima and Guimarães (2011). Evidently, there are far more differences than similarities between the case studies. When it comes to the political-administrative dimension, there are three different types of CVET policies: one as part of a national strategy and not particularly described (India), another one led by the government with transnational influences but also not explicitly identified as CVET (Brazil), and one that responds to a transnational discourse (Italy). These differences also affect the following dimensions, especially the political priorities of CVET policies. In India, the other dimensions are not applicable due to the characteristics of the policy analysis when applied in that context. This shows a direct connection with Egetenmeyer’s (2017) transnational contexts dimension of what should be considered when analysing policies. The Brazilian context of focusing adult education on compensatory initiatives also has a role in its political priorities, as the main argument is to enable social inclusion. In Italy, the policies are aligned with Cedefop (2014), using the same vocabulary.
The last two dimensions complete the consistent difference between the three countries analysed. Whilst Indian policies remain non-applicable to the comparative framework, Brazil’s CVET policy argument is more social-driven and led by the state, whilst Italy has a more economically driven strategy featuring a higher level of collaboration among different stakeholders. ← 73 | 74 →
The context for comparing how CVET policies are (not) formulated in Italy, Brazil, and India is the economy and particularly, the labour market, the employment situation, and the nature of economic activities. Below is a summary of our findings.
1. How is CVET policy (not) formulated in Brazil, Italy, and India?
Transnational influences are evident only in the case of Italy, whereas in Brazil and India, the primary role of the national government in policy formulation is evident. In Brazil, the state is the primary provider; in India, the market and civil society are active; whereas in Italy, all three sectors – state, market, and civil society –are active. There is a huge gap in India between policy and practice, because even though CVET policy is non-existent, CVET does exist in practice.
In Italy, CVET is an economic policy, as in most other European Union member states, whereas in Brazil, it is a social policy. The focus in Brazil is on input or curricula whereas in Italy, the focus is on learning outcomes. In the case of India, the practice of CVET leads to a focus on learning outcomes as well, thus making it fundamentally different from educational provisions that focus on input and are a primarily a part of social policy.
CVET is not used as a policy term in Brazil and India. It is a transnational policy term and has been used by the European Union, particularly Cedefop, influencing Italian policies. Although there are mentions of TVET – a clear influence of UNESCO – in Brazil, the idea of continuing and initial VET, as referred to in this paper, is not truly recognisable in this case or in the Indian case.
2. Why are CVET policies (not) formulated in Brazil, Italy, and India?
CVET is used by the European Union and Cedefop to describe and formulate policies regarding the specialisation and optimisation of the productive capability of the invested resources (including the workforce) because of the European Union’s highly structured and organised economy. Italy follows the model to harness the vast opportunities for growth, employment, and employability but at the same time, it monitors the quality of CVET through benchmarking and an open method of coordination to keep it from dropping below a certain level. In the cases of Brazil and India, transnational influences are limited. Consequently, there is neither an imposing framework within which the two countries formulate policies nor any check to prevent the absence of policy mechanisms for optimised productivity and overall development through CVET. Italy is more integrated ← 74 | 75 → transnationally, driven by economic considerations, whereas Brazil and India, for political reasons, adhere to a stronger nation-state model.
As a consequence, policy priorities and contexts are different in Italy, Brazil, and India, resulting in advanced CVET policies in Italy, a weak CVET policy Brazil, and no policy in India. As a consequence, Italy has a higher level of productivity with mobility opportunities across the EU, whereas Brazil and India are struggling with low productivity and the wastage of resources.
The discussion leads us to some scientific reflections about the choice of units for comparison. The authors chose the three countries to initiate a deep discussion about the units of comparison. The arguments by Ehlers (2006) and Egetenmeyer (2017) make it clear that adhering to pre-defined categories cannot qualify India as a unit of comparison for comparative studies in scientific research. Neither are predefined comparative categories relevant for all research questions.
Even though CVET exists in practice in India, it lacks a specific policy. It would therefore be scientifically inappropriate to include India as a unit of comparison. Policy cannot be equated with practice from a scientific perspective. Policy is different from practice in terms of objectives, scope, nature, process, outcomes, and most importantly, approach.
This discussion is more methodological and refers to the difference between what could be compared and what could not be compared scientifically. The assumption that the units of comparison should be similar enough to be compared and to be similar or different (Singh, 2017, pp. 298–299) underlines the fact that India is not scientifically comparable regarding CVET policies.
The comparability of Indian policies might increase in the future as it gets more integrated into the global economy. The problem of low productivity in India and Brazil raises questions about the lack of CVET policies in India and the social orientation of CVET policies in Brazil. Both need to reconsider and change their stance. However, whether Brazil and India follow the EU model or develop their own competitive models as BRICS countries or individual states cannot be predicted at this time.
For comparing provisions different or similar, designing suitable contexts to answer research questions and formulating categories of comparison accordingly make comparative studies more systematic, scientific, and fruitful. ← 75 | 76 →
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1 The authors thank Professor Søren Ehlers (University of Aarhus), Professor Regina Egetenmeyer (Julius-Maximilian University of Würzburg), Professor Natália Alves (University of Lisbon), and Professor Paula Guimaráes (University of Lisbon) for their intellectual input while conceiving this article.
2 Unesco: TVETpedia, retrieved 15.05.2017, from http://www.unevoc.unesco.org/go.php?q=TVETipedia+Glossary+A-Z&term=Technical+and+vocational+education+and+training.
3 This definition was agreed upon at the International Winter School, Comparative Studies in Adult Education and Lifelong Learning on 6–17 February 2017 in Würzburg, Germany, during the group work on lifelong learning and national/regional CVET policies with researchers from Portugal (Natália Alves), Italy (Beatrice Galligani), Brazil (Leonardo Silveira and Janiery da Silva Castro), and India (Donika Arora and Shalini Singh). The authors acknowledge the intellectual input from these researchers that informs this article.
4 This is an important feature of CVET, because unlike other education-related topics in which education may be analysed entirely within the formal framework, in this case it transcends the boundaries of formal qualifications and environment.
5 This was reaffirmed by the 1996 Law of Guidelines and Bases of National Education.