Is it possible to make VET provision learner centred?

At this years’  EQAVET-conference as part of the European Vocational Skills Week, I was asked to adress this question from a student perspective.

The answer?

Not only is it possible, it’s absolutely vital.

Why? Because it doesn’t matter what you see as the most important goal of even having VET, the solution that takes us there is learner centered education.

If you perceive the goal of VET as creating good new workers for the labour market (which perhaps is not really the most constructive way of viewing it, but many do think so), you need young people with the right skills for both job hunting, hard skills for the job and soft skills for contributing to the good environment in the workplace. You need motivated, well-being workers, that can take care of themselves and others, and, with an ever changing labour market, that have skills for a life-long learning process. All these come together with a learner centered education.

If you think of VET as just a part of the education system in general, this is a path for a young person towards the rest of their life. In order to fulfill the goals for any part of the education system, the young person needs to aquire the skills necessary for the upcoming 80 years. But we all come from different backgrounds, and we have a different take on learning, as well as different levels of knowledge to begin with which results in different needs. So learner centered education is really the key to achieving these goals as well.

Last: (this to me is the most urgent and important one) if you want to tackle marginalisation (and the reasons behind it, like mental health issues or unemployment), you need to give young people tools to survive not only in their private life, but also have all the skills that comes with applying and holding on to job(s), navigating the field of society’s services and again, life-long learning. And you guessed it, these also come as results of learner centered education. VET is, and should be, a very good and natural place to aquire these skills specifically. This prevents marginalisation efficiently, and also provides other benefits for a good and meaningful life.

– How? It does require change in the whole school system, starting with dialogue, skills for participation and space for participation already early on, even in early childhood education. In order to be able to participate in learner centered education, the student need, and have the right to, a set of skills. These include understanding your own needs, strenghts and weaknesses, understanding the importance of active participation, and the tools and methods for participating in the education. Gaining these are not a problem, if the schools and public leadership has the right attitude and believes in learner centered education as the method to achieve the goals of vocational education. But it does also mean time, efforts and resources put into student participation, and guidance, guidance, guidance. It does take time, but it’s worth it, because it increases succes on all measurable indicatiors, not to forget well-being of the student.

All this and a lot more at this years Vocational Skills Week. Always makes me happy to realise how much is being done to make VET more accessible, attractive and awesome!

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