18 | September | 2021
This database is the main source of information about vocational education and training (VET) systems in the European Union, Iceland and Norway.
It helps policy makers, social partners, researchers and other stakeholders better understand similarities and differences of national VET systems through easy-to-navigate up-to-date descriptions that are structured by theme. The database also contains detailed information about each VET programme type, including qualification levels, share of work-based learning, providers, target groups, etc.
Cedefop has designed, piloted and populated the database in close cooperation with national partners with the view to provide access to VET system information for all but also to meet specific needs of users. These needs were identified during the pan-European ex-ante evaluation that preceded the development of the database.
Data collection for this database is being supported by ReferNet – a network of institutions across Europe representing all Member States, plus Iceland and Norway. The network is partly financed by the European Union and provides Cedefop with information and analysis on national vocational education and training.
Cedefop populated the database for the first time in 2019. Updates are foreseen every two years. The database will also contain the historical data.
In Мay 2020 the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) announced its findings on the financial literacy of 15-year-olds who participated in the Programme for international student assessment (PISA) 2018. This is the world’s most comprehensive and reliable indicator of quality in education policies.
Around 117 000 15-year-olds from 20 countries, including 4 100 Bulgarians, took part in the test and evaluated their knowledge and skills in various money-related aspects. This was part of the PISA 2018 survey on reading, mathematics, science and global competences. Results showed that the average performance of Bulgarian learners (466 points) was below the mean score across the OECD countries (505 points). Almost half of the Bulgarian participants (49%) were learners in vocational schools. The mean result of VET learners was even lower at 398 points, and variation in mean performance scores of learners across vocational schools was observed. The gap between the highest and lowest-performing vocational schools in Bulgaria was 270 points: the highest mean score was 550 points and the lowest 280 points. This gap represented a significant difference in the ability of 15-year-old vocational learners to address financial matters and to make decisions in financial contexts.
Data lessons on financial literacy in VET
PISA data show that teenagers in many countries already have experience of financial services. They have developed cognitive skills which allow them to search relevant financial information effectively, to compare and evaluate financial products, to interpret important details in financial documents, and to make decisions on financial matters.
On average, half of vocational learners in Bulgaria demonstrated basic financial literacy skills (proficiency level 1 and below). They were able to understand commonly used financial concepts, and make simple decisions on everyday financial matters. According to the PISA framework, these learners are not yet able to apply knowledge and skills in real-life financial contexts.
About 43% of vocational learners performed at levels 2 and 3, able to solve moderately difficult tasks. 5% of the learners performed at proficiency level 4 and demonstrated in-depth understanding of financial information and documents.
None of the vocational learners attained the highest level (5) on the financial literacy proficiency scale. This means there are no learners able to apply the knowledge and skills in complex financial contexts that may be more relevant to their future adult lives. In comparison, 2% of 15-years-old Bulgarian learners from general schools performed at the highest proficiency level.
The obvious conclusion is that the Bulgarian education authorities should be concerned about the financial literacy of teenagers. The development of a national strategy for financial education in schools, including VET could be a first step.
The state of emergency in Bulgaria, declared by a decision of the National Assembly, started on 13 March, 2020. All schools in the country, including all VET schools, were closed and on 16 March switched to distance learning. This quick change was made possible by the efforts of teachers, the support of parents and the enthusiasm and curiosity of learners. The education ministry supported schools depending on their needs and monitored training provision. In just a few days, more than 90% of schools successfully applied digital technologies. Learners with no internet access or adequate equipment were provided with printed material and supported by education mediators.
To date, all schools continue to operate via distance learning. A variety of e-tools and applications is used depending on the specific needs of each school. Most commonly used platforms are Google classroom, Microsoft Teams and shkolo.bg. Teachers and learners also use social media such as Facebook and Viber.
The education ministry created a National electronic library (e-content repository). The content was significantly enriched in just a month; 50 000 users have visited the platform and the number of downloaded files exceeded 131 000. Within the e-repository there is a VET section with e-learning materials shared by teachers for free download. These include more than 400 self-learning/individual tasks, project-oriented teamwork exercises, practical cases, presentations, quizzes, simulative games and e-lessons covering various professions taught at secondary VET level.
Assessment and VET exams
VET provision at secondary level, including the practical part of VET curricula, is offered in an electronic environment through individual tasks, group tasks, project-oriented training, demonstrations and video films. In dual VET, teachers and mentors develop training materials jointly; in some cases, practical training is carried out through electronic platforms developed by the employers who have partnership agreements with schools. Regular assessment is based on learners’ results and activities.
State exams for the acquisition of VET qualifications are expected to take place in a ‛presence mode′ in school laboratories, or in cooperation with employers. Practical exams for dual VET learners will be conducted using material developed by mentors and teachers-methodologists. Depending on the Covid-19 situation, schools are allowed to postpone these exams until the 15 September 2020.
The VET Department of the education ministry initiated a survey targeted at all VET schools that provide dual VET, asking how in-company training is provided and how exams will be organised. According to responses, 95% of the schools have not terminated their cooperation agreements with the employers. Terminated agreements (5% of the cases) are mostly in enterprises operating in fields such as food production, CNC machines and systems, and tourism services. In many cases, practical training at the work place is provided through e-platforms under the instructions of teachers and mentors. Some employers also made their corporate e-learning platforms available to learners.
A similar questionnaire has been sent to the companies involved in dual training and the results are expected in late June.
In April, a survey was conducted among centres of vocational training (CVTs) about their operation during the Covid-19 state of emergency. At the time that the state of emergency was declared, most of the respondents that had already started vocational training (68.6%) were forced to suspend it; this reflects the fact that the emergency state law adopted by the Bulgarian government prohibited public gatherings in closed spaces. The main difficulties experienced by CVET providers due to the Covid-19 circumstances are:
Other CVTs are intensively exploring the possibilities for distance learning and the functionality of various web-based learning platforms (including Google Classroom, ZOOM, Moodle, Skype, and Viber). However, not all CVET providers were technically prepared to conduct online training and 53.6% of respondents stated that they had the necessary infrastructure to provide e-learning solutions.
Some CVTs pointed out that evaluation/assessment is impossible in distance learning conditions for certain professions (such as hairdressers, masseurs, beauticians), which require direct contact with clients.
Many CVTs are postponing practical training for the period following the ending of the state of emergency. Others have switched to individual practical training, or practical training based on role-playing and problem solving using electronic platforms.
The state of emergency has provided many CVET providers with the opportunity for capacity building, updating facilities and curricula.
In general, CVET provision seems to be more heavily affected than IVET provision by the Covid-19 pandemic. This can be attributed to the fact that both providers and learners were not ready to switch to e-learning. Although CVET is much more flexible in terms of duration and training schedule, providers stated that there were no clear guidelines or support, including guidance on how to conduct assessment.
Challenges and opportunities
The Bulgarian VET system demonstrated an ability to switch quickly to distance learning, using various e-learning tools and platforms. Lack of resources for practical training and dual VET ‛virtual working place′ was observed. Additional effort is needed for the design and development of occupation specific e-learning tools and resources.
Bulgaria has strong youth education traditions. The share of those with upper secondary and post-secondary education is higher than in the EU; the share with low or no qualification is below EU average. Participation in VET is slightly higher than in general education; family traditions and personal interests are drivers for choosing VET.
Demographic changes have affected the VET population. A declining school population has led to school network optimisation, targeting greater efficiency while safeguarding quality. Many small VET schools have been merged with larger providers.
The 2015 amendments to the Pre-school and School Education Act triggered changes in the VET Act in 2016. These aim to make education pathways more flexible, allowing for greater permeability while helping create a sustainable national dual VET model.