Lessons learned from Germany's dual system
IN RECENT YEARS, Thai young people have grown less and less interested in studying at vocational schools. This is despite it being an educational model tailored to support students' training for occupational competency in various business sectors.
Vocational education is a training programme that imparts vocational ability and academic knowledge as well as developing students for skilled occupational activities.
The Office of Vocational Education Commission (OVEC) has been making great efforts to promote the study of vocational schools and to persuade young people to apply for vocational education instead of studying in high school.
Also, OVEC has issued a 15-year Vocational Education Policy (2012-2026) and specified missions, goals and strategies to try to nourish and foster the Thai vocational education system. This aims to boost the number of young people attending vocational schools and train them to be competent and qualified employees, in both core and functional competency. OVEC plans to work collaboratively with the industrial and commercial sectors, and both local and international agencies.
In May 2013, OVEC signed an agreement with the German government in order to share the best practices from Germany's vocational education system. It is well known that this vocational system has had great success and gained worldwide acclaim.
A memorandum of understanding on German-Thai Dual Excellence Education has been drawn up between the Thai Ministry of Education and Germany's Federal Foreign Office. The German government and German-Thai Chamber of Commerce will help OVEC set up a 'Dual Training Curriculum' for Thai vocational schools with collaboration from German industrial sectors.
It is hoped that lessons learned from Germany will help Thai vocational education reach international standards.
What is the German dual training system? What can we learn from the long-term experiences of German vocational education? What are young people being trained in at German vocational schools - in particular the dual training system - and how? How can companies or social employers get involved in the dual system?
The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in Germany defines the dual training system "[as] a combination of learning and working that provides basic teaching vocational skills".
It mainly provides teaching in part-time vocational schools (Berufschule) in a company. Simultaneously, the learning takes place coordinating both company and school-based training regulations and the Vocational Education Act.
The mission of vocational education is to train young people to qualify and have the competence to get jobs.
To achieve the dual vocational training, the school and company have to agree upon a training contract, which covers the training period, training regulations, training content, termination of employment and an allowance paid to the trainee.
The training regulations must cover the following: "state recognition of the occupation, designation of the occupation, duration of training, minimum requirement of the training occupation, training plan and examination requirement", as reported by the BMBF. The basic element of the dual system is joint education responsibility between vocational schools and companies. The German system aims to promote employability. So the state-accredited occupations - about 348 training occupations - require formal training in cooperation with social partners, employers and employees' representatives.
Normally, students learn the basic curriculum 1-2 days per week on average at school. Also, students learn the basics of training regulations 3-4 days per week within the framework of the training contract with the company.
The teaching process is based on an active learning approach and hands-on working. The duration of study is about two, three or three-and-a-half years. Students should learn a general course that can be applied to a broad range of occupations, such as social studies, economics, foreign languages and religion which account for about one-third of the curriculum. In the same training period, students should learn a vocational-oriented course, such as technology, applied mathematics and technical drawing, for about two-thirds of the curriculum.
To study for a dual system: the BMBF states that "the dual system does not have any formal admission prerequisites: by law, all school-leavers, regardless of what school-leaving certificates they have, can learn any recognised occupation requiring formal training ... depending on pre-qualifications".
To graduate from the school: the BMBF states that "in the final examination, trainees must show they have acquired the necessary skills, the necessary practical and theoretical knowledge from their companies and that they have mastered the course material, as taught in vocational schools".
The certificate is recognised by "examining boards that consist of experts commissioned by employers' and employees' associations and include at least one vocational-school teacher", according to BMBF.
OVEC and the Thai government must clearly decipher the essential German components that can foster a vocational learning system and personal development.
To get success from a German model, we must find a Thai way to do it.