Last week, the Working Group on Vocational Education and Training (VET) had its first online meeting. One of many outcomes was that OBESSU will from now on have at least one website article per month (and thus per newsletter) on a topic related to VET. If you are interested in the topic or if you have any proposal for future articles, please contact The Working Group will be very happy to hear your ideas.

This is the first such article and it concerns a topic which is widely discussed all around Europe: the so-called “dual education system”. Given the fact that this system is strongly promoted in many discussions all over Europe, it is of great importance not only for organisations working with VET students but in fact for all organisations and individuals interested in education.

What is the dual education system?

The dual education system is a system in which apprenticeships at a company is combined with courses in a vocational school. It is sometimes referred to as the “German model” due to its strong presence in Germany and Austria. However, this name is a bit misleading since it is also used in other parts of the world, including the Western Balkan, Denmark and other countries.

Advocates of this system point to the relatively low (youth) unemployment in countries like Germany and Austria, where this system is implemented. They also point to the advantage of students learning under “real-life” conditions and argue that since the students start working for the companies already during their training, they do not risk becoming unemployed afterwards.

At the European level, where OBESSU is often involved in discussions, this system is often heavily promoted. In the recently adopted (August 2015) Education and Training 2020 Draft Joint Report, it says very clearly that “Apprenticeships and dual VET schemes are particularly important as they ensure relevant skills which facilitate transitions to the labour market”.

What does OBESSU think about this system?

OBESSU’s position on the topic is summed up in the Dual VET Position Paper, adopted at the General Assembly in 2013. In short, OBESSU recognises the fact that youth unemployment is generally lower in many of the countries with a dual system. However, this does not mean that the system is a quick-fix for a very complex problem; rather it “is more plausible that low youth unemployment rates in these countries are the consequences of a mixture of different historical, economic, social, political and cultural factors”. There are also other potentially negative effects, such as a very strong dependency of one single employer, leading to a risk that the “learning for life” aspect is neglected. Furthermore, “OBESSU believes that access to Education should never be at the discretion of a company; on the contrary it must be accessible to everyone without any costs and its impartiality should never be affected by third parties’ interests, therefore it should remain strictly a state responsibility”.

The text quoted above concerns OBESSU’s views on the dual system; the views on VET in general can be found in the Political Platform, pp. 20 - 22.

OBESSU, in particular the Board and the Working Group, will continue to work for better and more inclusive vocational education in Europe. Keep your eyes open for future VET-related topics at and in the newsletter.

More information:

VET: can the so-called “dual model” be exported?, OBESSU article from October 2014.

OBESSU reaction to the VET Riga Conclusions, June 2015.