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  • 1 University of Debrecen, CHERD, Hungary
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Chisvert-Tarazona, M. J. , Moso-Diez, M. , & Marhuenda-Fluixá, F. (Eds.) (2021). Apprenticeship in dual and non-dual systems. Between tradition and innovation. Peter Lang International Academic Publishers.

This book is the 19th volume of the serie ‘Studies in Vocational and Continuing Education’, edited by Philipp Gonon and Anja Heikkinen. It is the continuation of ‘Vocational Education beyond Skill Formation. VET between Civic, Industrial and Market Tensions', edited by Fernando Marhuenda-Fluixá, published in 2017 by Peter Lang, and ‘The School-Based Vocational Education and Training System in Spain', published in 2019 by Springer. The 23 authors in the volume represent six countries: Spain (10), Switzerland (5), Germany (4), Sweden (2), Austria and France (1–1 authors).

Presentation of the book

The book is divided into three large sections, each consisting of 3-3 studies. The first section is entitled Dual systems in Europe. Sandra Bohlinger (Contextualising policy transfer initiatives in the field of vocational education and training (VET) ) is aiming at enlarging the discussion on VET policy transfer seen from a German-speaking country's perspective by considering additional, non-German research findings as well. Her attempt is to strengthen the international approach to VET transfer, critically reflecting on the strengths and weaknesses of existing theories of educational policy transfer. The author provides examples of VET policy transfer derived by the German government to ‘export’ its apprenticeship system to different areas of the world. She presents some obstacles of the transfer, as incompatibility with existing education system, or lack of linkage with labour market needs. She recalls several studies addressing the question if the German apprenticeship scheme could be a role model for further European countries. She highlights that numerous studies and evaluation reports contrast policy learning against policy borrowing and policy transfer. She is looking for a more general understanding of comparative VET research and educational policy transfer, focusing on the importance of the identification of appropriate cases for international comparisons.

Florinda Sauli, Matilde Wenger & Jeanlouis Berger (What constitutes quality in the Swiss initial vocational education and training dual system: An apprentice perspective) point out, that increasing the quality of IVET is a major challenge for Swiss VET institutions. This task remains to the two fundamental learning sites, vocational schools and training companies, led by two different logics. The study is searching for what characterizes the quality of IVET from the perspective of the apprentices, applying a questionnaire. The apprentices were asked about the positive aspects of their training, and the aspects they would like to see improved. According to the results, the pedagogical skills are central to the perceived quality of IVET. Apprentices perceived a gap between what they learned at school in relation to what is considered useful for the training company. They asked for more practice at school, while general knowledge was considered of little relevance. The school was criticized for lacking connections with the training company. The focus on what was considered useful for the present and the disregard for potentially useful distant or future knowledge suggested that the apprentices' future time perspective (how far ahead one's thoughts are projected) was rather short.

The chapter ’The disruptive potential of digitalization and the current Swiss VET landscape’ is written by Stefan Kessler & Philipp Gonon. The paper discusses the ’disruptive potential’ of digitalization on three different levels, the training model, the practices and the stakeholders. Authors understand ‘disruption’ not solely as ‘made by technology,’ but more broadly as a change in the quality of a given concept, process or practice. Digitalization might encourage a redefinition of what is conceived as the ’vocational’. Dual VET in Switzerland is orientated towards employment at a medium qualification level and is structured around particular occupations. Only bigger associations are active participants in current debates about the digitalization of VET. The question for Switzerland remains whether the change will be disruptive, and occupations will fall into specialized study fields or develop into ‘core occupations,’ or rather will result in regular updating of teaching and learning objectives. The authors present selected examples of how Swiss VET providers and policy-stakeholders react to digitalization. As the result, the changes and prospects of digitalization are more gradual than disruptive. A shift towards a more ‘digitized’ VET can be observed, but the dual model of VET is not subject to a fundamental change.

The second section of the book is titled by ‘Apprenticeships in dual and non-dual systems: Adaptation and opportunities to develop’. It starts with a study from Enni Paul & Camilla Gåfvels (Apprenticeship education and school-based vocational programmes in the Swedish upper secondary school: Different tracks towards the same goal?) In Sweden, there are conflicting views about the object of apprenticeship education: whether it is targeting youth at risk or it is a way to better foster vocational knowledge matching the demands of the labor market, while the vocational content has become more theoretical with each school reforms since the 1970s. The study brings empirical data from a small-scale ethnographic case study. It confirms previous research illuminating how workplace communities of practice and school as a community of practice emphasize different aspects of vocational knowing which is tied to different ways of being. Three categories (being a student, being responsible and being independent) illustrate the differing participation in work tasks as a school-based student, and work tasks for apprenticeship students. The study concludes that Swedish apprenticeship training is still a school-based education, as it follows a school logic in which apprenticeship teachers have to adapt to a school curriculum.

The next study (International cooperation in the field of vocational education and training: Concepts, approaches, and empirical findings from a German perspective) is the work of Dietmar Frommberger, Matthias Pilz and Michael Gessler. German dual training has been propagated both as an instrument of development cooperation and as a vehicle of economic and foreign policy for decades. The paper presents the shift in the German stakeholder perspectives from the ’export’ of VET to the ‘vocational training cooperation’ over the past decades. The authors introduce related conceptual approaches on the transferable elements of the dual VET system. Searching the extent to which German enterprises practice dual training in their subsidiaries abroad, results demonstrated the great influence of local framework conditions. Since 2017, instead of implementing the ‘German’ approach, greater consideration must be given to the approaches to VET that predominate in partner countries as a principle of international cooperation in VET, considering their economic, political, social institutions and history. The authors were surprised that research findings from various scientific disciplines have rarely been integrated or received in developing ‘VET cooperation’ and about the completely different approaches in contrast to private-sector activities.

The paper from M'hamed Dif ( Apprenticeship in France: Institutional patterns, organisation, methods and performance’) is the outcome of exploratory research conducted on 3 large topics. The first section is dealing with the institutional patterns and gives an overview of the historical and legal background developments of the apprenticeship system and the current setting of institutions and stakeholders involved in its governance and funding arrangements. The second section provides an insight into the current practices of training organisations within and between apprenticeship training centres and on-the-job training companies, the adopted training pedagogy and methods, and the accompanying assessment and quality assurance mechanisms. The last section deals with the inclusive performance in terms of statistically observed apprentices' access to both company-based apprenticeship contracts and employment within the labour market after the completion of their apprenticeship programmes. The study concludes that apprenticeship offers a better access to the labour market, than the school-based component of the VET system. Finally, the author emphasizes those weaknesses which hinder the further development of apprenticeship in France, among others the traditionally held poor image and perception of work-based vocational training.

The third section of the book is titled ‘Dual VET and education-business cooperation in Spain’, starts with the study The interest of companies in participating in higher education’ of Reina Ferrández-Berrueco, Lucía Sánchez-Tarazaga & Stephan Humpl. Universities are aware that they alone cannot guarantee that their students will acquire the skills they need during their undergraduate studies, and have therefore established channels of dialogue with future employers. In Spain, the legal framework of this channel is insufficient, collaboration, in terms of company rights is limited to a passive role. Universities try improve their understanding of how to encourage and maximise the potential of this type of cooperation. In the authors opinion, the educational institution may take the first step forward to establish collaboration and set the rules. Based on the outputs of a survey authors highlighted that the most important benefits for companies are related to innovation and economic savings, and so companies only look for their benefit, as students are exploited as cheap or even unpaid workforce. The authors await that in the future this cooperation should go beyond external practices and companies will take a more active role in curricular design, and the Spanish system evolve from simple collaboration to a real partnership.

The paper of María José Chisvert-Tarazona, Javier Vila-Vázquez, Alicia Ros-Garrido, & Davinia Palomares-Montero (Does the dual VET bring curriculum improvements? A normative analysis in the Spanish context) refers to introducing the German dual vocational training (DVT) in Spain. It emerged following the European institutional discourse on studying different models and launch the dual VET, as looking for a solution to school failure and orienting students with the worst academic records toward VET. The authors express that the German model has been imported without a deep analysis of the factors that could guarantee its successful dissemination. Since the DVT was developed in an industrial context, with a high concentration of large and medium-sized enterprises, these characteristics generate reasonable doubts considering the model's suitability in Spain whose economy is mostly dedicated to the service sector and mainly consists of small businesses. In Spain, the different regions regulate and develop diverse models of DVT. The authors cannot affirm that students improve their skills despite spending long periods in the company. In conclusion, DVT does not provide curricular improvements at a regulatory level compared to those that have already been introduced by traditional VET in Spain.

The last study of the book (VET, value generation and firm results: An empirical exploration from Spanish industrial firms) is prepared by Angel Díaz-Chao, Mónica Moso-Diez, & Joan Torrent-Sellens. The paper studies the business strategies of Spanish firms according to the VET qualification of their workers. The authors intend to identify the main differences in strategies and results between Spanish manufacturing firms to their employees' VET qualifications. The paper presents an analyses of data developed within the framework of the Business Strategies Survey. The most important finding is that most of Spanish manufacturing industry's employees do not hold any vocational ISCED qualifications from the Initial VET system. Specifically, the population between 25 and 64 years of age has a very low level of vocational training qualifications in relation to other countries. The larger the manufacturing enterprise, the greater the proportion of workers with VET qualifications is. In manufacturing SMEs at least two-thirds of the workers are low-qualified. Typology of data shows that outcomes are associated with the employment of workers with VET qualifications in a positive way. Spanish manufacturing firms employing staff with vocational qualifications achieved better business results in terms of productivity, sales, and operating profits.

Main ideas and findings

The study ‘Alternance and vocational knowledge: Reconsidering apprenticeships and education-business partnerships from an educational perspective’ is the work of one of the editors, Fernando Marhuanda-Fluixá. Even though this paper is the introductory study, I mention it at the end of the review, since many of the ideas I want to highlight from the volume are to be found in this paper, which is almost ‘a book within the book’. The author introduces and sets the papers of the volume in a broad interpretative context and adds new questions and ideas to the research on the subject. He addresses the role apprenticeship plays in shaping different VET systems and how this portrays and defines expectations upon education-work relationships. He presents the outputs of a classical and contemporary literature review on learning from experience, particularly, on learning in the workplace as experiential learning. Finally he addresses the confusion between apprenticeship and alternance and contends that they belong to different domains.

I find the most exciting part of the study to be the comparison of alternance and apprenticeship. Marhuenda suggests that alternance is part of an educational policy while apprenticeship is part of a labor policy, and in their connection labor policy has more chances to become the winner. He highlights very important differences: while apprenticeship proves useful in individual terms, alternance may be individual as well as collective, insofar it allows the chance for different students to learn from the experiences of their mates. And, while apprenticeship applies the selective rationale of the labor market, alternance may favor the introduction of affirmative action within vocational education, hence facilitating new and more opportunities for those who are left behind and do not have access to apprenticeship contracts. Alternance helps overcome the limits that apprenticeships have, it demands cooperation, and goes beyond the competition in the workplace and across qualification levels. According to the author, apprenticeships are always a form of initial VET, while alternance is a very appropriate way to handle continuing vocational education, where the existing practice is enriched by education, training, and theory. It is not clear if, in initial VET, one has to accept the omission of the advantages that the author has collected in relation to alternance so carefully, so this topic generates further questions. Marhuenda is debating whether the knowledge generated and acquired through apprenticeship and alternance can be considered the same, and what kind of vocational knowledge is worth fostering in the current times. He claims that there is a pedagogy of alternance, and that such pedagogy can enhance vocational learning by bridging the workplace and the school sites. Such processes, however, do not happen accidently. He calls for having a didactical arrangement to share learning and develop knowledge collectively, and draws attention to the emotional competence of apprentices and workers, which he considers important in the process of moving beyond individual learning to be achieved.

The author recalls that vocational education was a relevant piece in the social contract in the 20th century in Europe, with a significant social meaning well beyond its educational purpose. He points out that a couple of dual systems operate in different regimes, reinforcing the idea, that dual systems are flexible. He reminds us that the different trends in the connection between upper secondary education and VET cannot be properly understood without considering the structure and demands of lower secondary education and to what extent segregation or comprehensiveness are fostered. Marhuenda highlights the importance of social organization in the learning economy, where the claim for flexibility in VET is not just to respond to labor market demands, but also to facilitate a greater consciousness among workers of current working conditions and to make the world of work more human. However, he does not go beyond, how it can be achieved if lacking a strong social contract and collective bargaining. He calls for growing attention to inclusiveness and cooperation in the context of the growing internationalization of VET. Referring to the warning idea that soft pedagogy (apprenticeship may belong to this category) can be serving the needs of soft capitalism, he emphasises keeping VET as a collective and educational system where individuals are invited to cooperate rather than compete. He considers knowledge as a cornerstone of vocational education, where technical issues mingle with identity and morality, fostering vocational literacy as part of humankind. He finds future research both on the theory and practices sides of VET challenging, when VET, like HRD, is the subject to a political economy that is now played in a global context.

Finally, I would like to add a few ideas from the case studies. The apprentices, in Switzerland, were more critical of toward training at school than training in a company, and their future time perspective was found rather short. But why should they behave differently from the other actors? Apprenticeship is considered to offer better access to the labour market, than school-based VET in France, however, the time effect was not part of the research. The traditionally held poor image of work-based VET, and a high risk of dropping out of apprentices in France; the critic, as far from establishing effective learning paths in education – business cooperation, companies in Spain rather look for their benefit; the new pathways for the internationalization of dual VET; and the question of how the ‘disruptive potential' of digitalization will evolve in the future present us clear directions and strong incentives for further research of VET.

Evaluation and recommendation

The volume is an important step in the analysis of the state of VET in Europe, placing the topic in an international context, with a particular focus on the question of the exportability of VET models, which raises exciting issues not only in Spain but in many countries involved in the attempt to adopt the German dual VET. The book makes a very valuable contribution to vocational education and training research. Both its theoretical and practical approaches are highly instructive, and in many cases merit further research. I consider the authors' and the studies' social sensitivity to be a particular strength of the book. The volume can also serve as a good basis for examining and exploring the issues raised in further countries. I heartily recommend the book to researchers, policymakes, development professionals, and university students interested in vocational education and training.

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Senior Editors

Founding Editor: Tamás Kozma (Debrecen University)

Editor-in-ChiefAnikó Fehérvári (ELTE Eötvös Loránd University)

Assistant Editor: Eszter Bükki (ELTE Eötvös Loránd University)

Associate editors: 
Karolina Eszter Kovács (Debrecen University)
Valéria Markos (Debrecen University)
Zsolt Kristóf (Debrecen University)


Editorial Board

  • Tamas Bereczkei (University of Pécs)
  • Mark Bray (University of Hong Kong)
  • John Brennan (London School of Economics)
  • Carmel Cefai (University of Malta)
  • Laszlo Csernoch (University of Debrecen)
  • Katalin R Forray (HERA Hungarian Educational Research Association)
  • Zsolt Demetrovics (Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest)
  • Csaba Jancsak (University of Szeged)
  • Gabor Halasz (Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest)
  • Stephen Heyneman (Vanderbilt University, Nashville)
  • Katalin Keri (University of Pecs)
  • Marek Kwiek (Poznan University)
  • Joanna Madalinska-Michalak (University of Warszawa)
  • John Morgan (Cardiff University)
  • Roberto Moscati (University of Milan-Bicocca)
  • Guy Neave (Twente University, Enschede)
  • Andrea Ohidy (University of Freiburg)
  • Bela Pukanszky (University of Szeged)
  • Gabriella Pusztai (University of Debrecen)
  • Peter Toth (HERA Hungarian Educational Research Association)
  • Juergen Schriewer (Humboldt University, Berlin)
  • Ulrich Teichler (University of Kassel)
  • Voldemar Tomusk (Estonian Academy of Sciences, Tallin)
  • Horst Weishaupt (DIPF German Institute for International Educational Research, Frankfurt a.M)
  • Pavel Zgaga (University of Ljubljana)


Address of editorial office

Dr. Anikó Fehérvári
Institute of Education, ELTE Eötvös Loránd University
Address: 23-27. Kazinczy út 1075 Budapest, Hungary




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