How Inclusive Is VET In Switzerland?
Goal 4 of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development of the United Nations of September 2015 is to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality of education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” (General Assembly of the United Nations, 2015, p. 17). This not only includes completion of free, equitable and quality compulsory education for all children and youths but also access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical vocational and tertiary education as well as a rise in people with relevant skills for employment. Regarding disadvantaged people Goal 4.5 of the Agenda specifies that by 2030 all gender disparities in education have to be eliminated and equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the “vulnerable”, including people with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations, has to be established (General Assembly of the United Nations, 2015, p. 17).
Switzerland with its highly selective school system has yet to rise to this challenge. Research shows that people with (learning) disabilities and youths with social and cultural disadvantages struggle with equal access to upper secondary education (Becker, 2010; Hollenweger, Hasemann, & Hübner, 2007; Hupka-Brunner, Gaupp, Geier, Lex, & Stalder, 2011; Imdorf, 2011).
In the last decade inclusion in Swiss compulsory education has been promoted and gradually established. Compared to Germany, where inclusion in vocational education and training has exceedingly been discussed (Bylinski & Rützel, 2016; Bylinski & Vollmer, 2015; Euler & Severing, 2014), this discussion in Switzerland is yet predominantly limited to initial vocational training for young people with disability in sheltered institutions (Aeschbach, 2008; Sempert & Kammermann, 2011).
Initial VET in Switzerland offers two types of apprenticeships: three- to four-year apprenticeships with Federal VET Diploma (EFZ, Eidgenössisches Fähigkeitszeugnis) for the higher achieving youth and two-year apprenticeships with Federal VET Certificate (EBA, Eidgenössisches Berufsattest) for the lower achieving youth with a mainly practical disposition. With an emphasis on comprehension of the specific needs of learners (Swiss Confederation, 2002, Art. 17) the latter pursues inclusive goals. Also, permeability between the two-year and the three- or four-year programmes is ensured within occupational groups by ordinances that are individually set up for every occupation and standardised at national level.
In our paper, we will evaluate and discuss the potential for inclusion of the Swiss Basic Vocational Education and Training, more specifically of the two-year VET programme with Federal VET Certificate. We will address the following issues:
1) Which is the inclusion potential in the transition process from compulsory
to upper secondary education?
2) How can inclusion be ensured during the two year VET programme?
3) What are mid- to long term occupational inclusion prospects for people
with a VET Certificate?
Data and measures
A document analysis of the Vocational and Professional Education and Training Act) (Swiss Confederation, 2002) and the Vocational and Professional Education and Training Ordinance (Swiss Confederation, 2003) forms the first part of our approach. Additional respective Federal ordinances and guidelines are also taken into account.
The second part of our approach consists of a meta-analysis of four representative studies on the two-year VET programmes:
1) A cross-sectional evaluation of the VET-Certificate programme five
years after its introduction (Stern, Marti, von Stokar, & Ehrler, 2010)
2) A cross-sectional evaluation of the VET-Certificate programme ten
years after its introduction (econcept AG & LINK Institut, 2016)
3) The Basic VET Certificate-Career Study – a longitudinal study
following the pathways of apprentices who graduated from the first
two-year apprenticeships with Federal VET Certificate in the retail
sales and hospitality sector in 2007(Kammermann, Balzer, & Hättich,
4) An analysis of statistical data compiled by the Federal Statistical
Office on two-year apprenticeship termination and subsequent
resumption and completion of training (Schmid, Neumann, & Kriesi,
The analyses are based on an inclusive oriented perspective addressing the above described core issues.
In Switzerland different measures to facilitate and support the transition of academically low-achieving and disadvantaged youth from compulsory to upper secondary education are provided. Their positive impact can be confirmed. However, there is still a lack of representative statistical data on the transition of young people with special needs.
Regulations to support apprentices in two-year programmes are implemented and different measures are offered. The majority of the apprentices are satisfied with their training and successfully complete the final exams. However, approximately twelve percent terminate their training without re-entry.
A mid- to longterm inclusion in labour market and continuing education is accomplished for the majority of professionals with a VET Certificate. However, people with a special needs background are at a higher risk of longer unemployment and nonlinear careers.
Our findings show that an overall evaluation of the inclusion potential of VET is not yet approvable, essentially due to the lack of statistical and in depth evidence on students/learners with special needs. We emphasise that inclusion in a selective educational system remains an ongoing challenge.
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