The quiet revolution: Modular structures and units within European vocational training
By Loukas Zahilas- Senior Expert Area Enhanced Cooperation in VET and LLL. The issue of modularisation and/or unitisation in VET has been the subject of debate at European level for more than 20 years. It has been taken forward in most European countries as an answer to the needs for greater fl exibility and responsiveness of VET to changes in the labour market and in individual learning paths.
The unitisation of qualifications has gained momentum with the development of credit arrangements based on learning outcomes and progress in the fi eld of recognition and validation of non-formal and informal learning. A focus on the transfer and accumulation of learning outcomes and the European Credit system for VET (ECVET) has renewed the interest for unitisation of qualifi cations in policy and practice. Alongside this increase in interest, possible drivers for modularisation of VET programmes and the unitisation of qualifi cations are the development of validation mechanisms, the need for increased access, progression and quality of mobility in education and training and the modernisation of training systems and offer that is made to learners.
To look at these challenges, Cedefop completed a study on “Unitisation and modularisation for flexibility and mobility in VET”. The study analysed the existing patterns of modularisation and unitisation in 15 EU countries(2), considered how unitised and modularised programmes and qualifi cations have an impact on the wider VET systems, and analysed how programmes are validated in each country with a specifi c focus on the links to ECVET.
The analysis included characterising national processes of unitisation and modularisation along different dimensions (for instance stakeholders’ perspectives, the role of legislation and regulation, input and outcomes based approaches to education and training) and the mapping of the different solutions adopted in response to the challenges. The analysis also focused on the interrelation between unitisation and modularisation processes and the implementation of credit arrangements at Member State and European level.
On the basis of the initial fi ndings of the study, three of the 15 countries (Germany, the Netherlands and Scotland) were selected for an in depth analysis of the structures of programmes and qualifi cations in six occupational areas representing a range of crafts, industries and trades (automotive, butchery, financial services, hairdressing, retail warehousing and logistics).
One of the difficulties in understanding unitisation and modularisation developments relates to terminology. For the purpose of the study, Cedefop definitions of modularisation and unitisation were used. Modules are components of education and training programmes and units are a set of learning outcomes which constitute a coherent part of a qualifi cation. In relation to ECVET, these units can be assessed and validated. However, evidence from the study showed that in some cases modularisation and unitisation are used as synonymous.
The research methodology included both secondary and primary data collection. The fi ndings indicate that there is currently widespread use of modularisation and unitisation within VET qualifi cations in Europe - and we can describe this trend as a ‘quiet revolution’. This gradual introduction of modular and unitised structures is, by and large, responsive to the perceived needs or demands of employers and stakeholders. The rationale for introducing modularisation and/or unitisation is that it allows easier updating of qualifi cations to incorporate, for instance, new technologies or ways of working by replacing or updating individual modules when they are needed.
Student choice and individualisation are also factors in the move to modularisation and unitisation; however, none of the countries offer students an entirely free choice. Flexibility with respect to learners can be seen in terms of programme duration and multiple entry points. In some countries, devolved structures of governance and ‘bottomup’ approaches to decision-making allow enormous scope for providers to plan and implement modular structures of learning. However, ‘top-down’ approaches to decision making are more prevalent in the 15 countries. The overwhelming majority of countries in the study have a legal framework that underpins the use of modular and unitbased qualifications. In a small number of cases there exist ‘enabling’ frameworks that support the development of unitised structures, but leave individual institutions to decide how this will be implemented.
The modularisation structures adopted in the 15 countries vary and typically respond to local needs. The four main types of modular forms are:
• mandatory structures (components of qualifications that are required to be completed by learners);
• core and elective structures (programmes structured to combine general compulsory core modules and free choice modules);
• specialisation structures (modular programmes which include additional specialised elements);
• introductory modules (designed to give learners an experience of a range of linked occupational training areas, providing a progression route to college or to higher vocational schools).
There are different forms of modularisation and unitisation that can be seen as representing a range of dimensions across a spectrum. There are ‘radical’ forms of modularisation at one end of the spectrum and the Berufskonzept or traditional ‘holistic’ training, such as apprenticeships and some school based approaches at the other end. In the ‘radical’ form the system takes a studentcentred approach and offers fl exibility in terms of time and content. The units are delivered potentially by different providers, can be assessed independently within qualifi cations and often form clusters to give awards at Certifi cate and Diploma level. At the opposite end of the spectrum in the holistic approach individual units are validated only as part of the full award and form an integral part of it. The majority of the approaches used by the 15 countries are towards the middle of the spectrum and can be said to represent a combination of both models.
Few examples of the use of ECVET were found in the cases studies. In the occupations examined ECVET is just one of a number of ‘tools’ to encourage mobility and it is relatively new. However, there is some evidence that the infrastructure to support the implementation of ECVET is beginning to emerge. From the case studies, we found little widespread use of credit transfer arrangements between modular and unitised qualifi cations, despite the extensive use of modular structures across the 15 countries. In some countries this can be explained by a lack of systems which attach credit value to individual modules and units. However, in those countries with a credit-based modular and unit system in place, funding acted as a barrier to transfer.
The study also shows that modularisation provides flexibility for employers to train their workforce in skills which suit their needs, but training is still embedded in an overall framework or programme. Modularisation also allows qualifi cation designers to respond more quickly to changes in the world of work (for example in terms of technological developments). At the same time, in some cases, modularisation also allows learners the fl exibility to select courses and competences which most suit their needs. There is the possibility to organise courses to meet the needs of different learning groups (for example by duration), and more options for collaboration between training providers in terms of delivering combined programs. The step-by-step certifi cation provided by some forms of modularisation also has the potential to reduce the number of ‘drop outs’ due to regular assessment which can be formal or informal.
However, despite the fact that these potential benefi ts were outlined by research participants and the literature, little empirical evidence was found which evaluates or measures the actual impact of modularisation and unitisation. This weakness associated with modularisation is linked to the fear that learners will leave the system with only partial qualifi cations (which are not necessarily needed or recognised by the labour market). There are also concerns that fl exible structures lack transparency and can be diffi cult to understand by all those who are involved. See ECVET MAGAZINE - Issue 15 (2013).
1er Forum mondial de l'éducation et de la formation tout au long de la vie
"Douze ans après le rapport Delors" les 27, 28 et 29 OCTOBRE 2008, PARIS
L’objectif de cet événement est de faire le point sur l’éducation et la formation tout au long de la vie, douze ans après le rapport Delors d’avril 1996 (« L’éducation, un trésor est caché dedans »), sur les avancées des systèmes d’éducation, de formation et d’apprentissages tout au long de la vie sous toutes leurs formes, ainsi que sur les pratiques innovantes développées dans tous les endroits du monde. Il s’agit aussi d’analyser des effets multiples de la mondialisation sur l’éducation et la formation tout au long de la vie, de marier l’efficacité économique et l’ambition sociale et de tracer des perspectives communes. http://www.forummondialftlv.org/
Mục tiêu của sự kiện này là để tập trung vào việc giáo dục và đào tạo trong suốt cuộc đời, mười hai năm sau khi Delors báo cáo của tháng tư 1996 ( "Giáo dục: các kho tàng trong vòng") trên tiến bộ của giáo dục, đào tạo và học tập trong suốt cuộc đời trong tất cả các hình thức của nó, cũng như cải tiến các thực hành phát triển trong tất cả các phần của thế giới. Http://www.forummondialftlv.org/. Xem thêm...