COVID-19 exposed the critical role of vocational education – OECD
A new Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report with indicators on education for 2020 highlights the role of vocational education and training (VET) in the COVID-19 pandemic and the role it can play in fostering resilient societies. The ‘Education at a Glance 2020’ report inevitably refers to the pandemic in its review of VET in OECD countries.
COVID-19 and VET
“During the lockdown that followed the spread of COVID-19, the reliance on vital services such as manufacturing and healthcare, many of which rely on vocational education, has brought to light, more than ever, the need to look at VET with a fresh eye and implement measures to increase its attractiveness to potential learners,” Angel Gurria, OECD secretary-general, said in his introduction to the report.
“One way to do that is to enhance work-based learning and strengthen ties with the private sector. In contrast to exclusively school-based learning, combined school- and work-based programmes provide students with a unique understanding of the workplace. By being placed in direct contact with employers, students assimilate the most relevant skills and gain direct exposure to the labour market. Despite their advantages, these types of VET programmes are still uncommon: they account for only one-third of upper secondary vocational enrolment on average across OECD countries.
“As we enter the COVID-19 recovery phase, it will be critical to reflect on the role of educational systems – and particularly vocational education – in fostering resilient societies,” OECD secretary-general warned.
Main outcomes of vocational education
These are the main finding of the report:
- The employment advantage of an upper secondary vocational qualification over a general one tends to weaken over the life-course
- Combined school- and work-based learning is relatively uncommon despite the benefits
- Enabling VET students to pursue tertiary studies can improve their learning and employment outcomes
- Total spending on educational institutions has increased at a lower rate than GDP
- Instruction and teaching time have remained relatively stable over time
Other results on VET in OECD countries
- Younger adults (25-34 year-olds) are better educated than they were a decade ago. On average across OECD countries, the share of younger adults without upper secondary education has decreased from 20% in 2009 to 15% in 2019. On average across OECD countries, one in two (53%) 18-24 year-olds are still in education.
- Higher educational attainment increases the likelihood of being employed. On average across OECD countries, the employment rate is 61% for 25-34 year-olds without upper secondary education, 78% for those with upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education as their highest attainment, and 85% for those with tertiary education.
- Greater educational attainment brings increasing rewards in terms of salaries.
- A larger share of children from low-educated families report being bullied.
- The most common form of participation in adult learning is non-formal education, and most of the time it is job- related and employer-sponsored.
- The number of international and foreign tertiary students has grown on average by 4.8% per year between 1998 and 2018. Even though OECD countries host the great majority of international and foreign students, the fastest growth has been among internationally mobile students enrolled in non-OECD countries.
- On average, about two-thirds of upper secondary vocational students are in programmes that theoretically give them the opportunity to enter tertiary education directly. Usually, this is at the short-cycle tertiary level but in about two-thirds of countries with available data, graduates from upper secondary vocational programmes can go straight into bachelors or equivalent programmes.