Opinions of Institution Leaders about the Impact of Recent VET Reform on VET Attractiveness in Latvia
The increase of the attractiveness of vocational education and training (VET) is one of the educational priorities of Latvia (CoM 2009a, CoM, 2010a, Parliament, 2014). Legal and structural reforms are being implemented quite fast in the field of VET in Latvia. In order to align VET to the needs of the labour market, the Ministry of Education and Science (MoES) of Latvia has launched the development of a new work-based learning model. Work based professional education is currently also one of the European Union educational and employment policy priorities. In the last years, Latvian employers' involvement in the development and improvement of vocational education notably increased; this was mainly due to the establishment Sectoral expert councils and promoting the establishment of Convents in all vocational schools (Latvian Chamber of Commerce, 2012).
After the optimization of the system there are 23 VET institutions (VETIs) in Latvia which are subordinated to the MoES. 17 of them have the status of competence centres of vocational education.
While this process is being implemented, it seems important to grasp the opinions of representatives of VETIs about V ET attractiveness and the impact of recent reforms on it. Therefore, the research questions of this study were: what are the opinions of VETIs representatives about the current attractiveness of VET in Latvia and the aspects that negatively impact it? What do they think about the impact of recent VET reform on VET attractiveness?
Various methods were used to ascertain the research questions: for the analysis of the current situation in Latvia more than 20 relevant sources about vocational education were analysed, including scientific articles research reports, legislation, official website etc. A qualitative study using online interviews and questionnaire was also carried out in December 2015, in order to explore the opinion of representatives of VETIs which are subordinated to the ministry of education and science. 19 institutions from all regions of Latvia participated in the research. VETIs directors, deputy directors, project managers and project coordinators, educational methodologist and head of the study department from those institutions were involved. Data analysis was done using AQUAD 7 program for content analysis, and quantitative data were processed with MS Excel.
The most significant obstacle for attractiveness of VET in Latvia is that the best / most promising teachers do not remain in vocational education institutions (Mode = 1, SD = 1.77). An important obstacle is the fact that there is little chance of finding a well-paid job after studying (Mode = 2, SD = 1.61). It is considered that work-based learning and modular training can, in the most direct way, contribute to both an increase in the attractiveness of vocational education and its relevance to current labour market needs. Modular training is regarded very positively. Modular training programs are considered valuable because they enable the acquisition of knowledge/skills at any life/educational stage.
The preferred VET modality in Latvia is Work based learning (WBL), instead of dual tracks as in other European countries (e.g., Germany, Switzerland). In “dual” VET system students combine learning in school with learning in workplace settings. In Latvia there is a need for more elements of work-based learning in VET (e.g. apprenticeships), what is also a growing trend in the EU (MoES, 2015).
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