German Quality Standards in Vocational Education and Training
by Uwe Wieckenberg
What is quality in TVET?
If you ask five people what they understand by quality, you will often get five different answers. It is still comparably simple when we are asked to evaluate the quality of a product. This product has different features and a certain price and we may also find customer reviews on the internet.
However, when it comes to services, the determination of quality becomes more difficult. And especially with complex services, such as "Technical and Vocational Education and Training” (TVET).
The matter is difficult here, because in education the beneficiary (i.e. the student, the apprentice, the participant of a programme, …) always contributes or has to contribute to quality and not only the provider of the training or the teacher. This can be compared with a visit to a gym. The mere fact that you pay your monthly fee does not lead to success in terms of less weight, more muscles or a better shape. As a customer you have to make an effort and do something for your fitness - in addition to paying. Paying alone is not enough.
So, the student also contributes to the success and quality of the training, and not just the teacher or the curriculum. He has to learn actively, i.e. he has to take on a lot of effort, to understand the content and to keep it permanently as well as to exercise skills.
Quality in TVET is usually only discussed when it is not or not sufficiently available. But how can one determine the quality of individual training courses, for example to compare the programmes of different providers and finally decide on a selected programme?
German quality standards in TVET
The umbrella organisation of all chambers of industry and commerce in Germany, the “Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce” (DIHK), has taken on the task to set up quality levels with defined quality criteria for programmes based on the German dual system.
First of all, three quality levels are distinguished:
- German dual vocational and educational training (VET) abroad
- Local dual VET in line with the German model
- Local dual training with elements of the German system.
The differences between these three quality categories can be most easily recognised by their proximity to the corresponding German training programme. The main differences are measured by the respective shares of the corresponding German curricula and training plans in the Egyptian curricula.
The level "German dual vocational and educational training (VET) abroad" (A-Level), for example, requires an almost 100 percent correspondence to the German specifications with only very slight adaptations or localisations to the local conditions.
In the level "Local dual VET in line with the German model" (B-Level) at least 50% of the core and professional skills of the German job profile must be found in the curriculum.
The level "Local dual training with elements of the German system" (C-Level) does not give any percentage guidelines, which must nevertheless be recognisable.
However, this is only one of several areas where quality can be checked; to a certain extent it is only a rough classification of the German quality criteria and standards.
The more subtle differences and quality criteria become clear if one proceeds along the training process and considers the respective input, process, output and outcome quality.
Since the AHK (German Chamber of Industry and Commerce Abroad) acts as a representative of its members respectively the industrial companies, the quality criteria refer exclusively to the operational or practical parts of the training in companies and not to the school-based parts of the training and education.
Depending on how many criteria and to what extent these are fulfilled, the AHK awards the appropriate quality level with accreditation following the assessment.
As everywhere in quality management, the difficulty here is to make the listed criteria verifiable and measurable.
The role of the AHK
One may now ask why the AHK has such an important position in quality control in vocational education and training. It should be noted that in Germany the chambers of industry and commerce - along with other chambers - are legally responsible for the role of the "responsible body" for the company-based vocational training within its jurisdiction in the dual system. The chambers represent the interests of their associated companies vis-à-vis local authorities, state governments and government agencies. The same function is assumed by other chambers, such as the Chamber of Crafts, with regard to training in craft trades. The AHK is neither a governmental nor a private institution, but a public-law institution with legally defined tasks and powers. For this reason it is highly recognised by all parties in society.
On the side of school-based vocational training, the corresponding functions are usually carried out by the ministries of education.
Apart from that, the chambers are charged with examining the suitability of companies for vocational training, promoting and monitoring vocational training and conducting examinations for recognised training occupations.
Outside of Germany, the AHKs take on this important function of the chambers and thus guarantee that the companies that invest in the training of their future skilled workers can also play a decisive role and have a say in the process.
One example: The German-Arab Chamber of Industry and Commerce (AHK) in Cairo, Egypt pursues this strategy and has gained experience with the procedure of accreditation of German standards. The establishment of a corresponding structure of related committees was crucial here. The superior body is the GEVET Board (German-Egyptian Vocational Education and Training Board), responsible for dealing with all fundamental matters in the area of German dual vocational training. The Board shall strive for the continuous development of the quality in vocational training of the AHK and support the AHK in the area of German dual vocational training.
In addition, there are also industry-specific bodies and committees, right down to Examination Panels, which conduct the examinations.
All members of the different AHK bodies belong to companies of the private sector and to other relevant institutions in the Egyptian TVET sector. This ensures that the industry itself checks the compliance of competence standards in training. The industry or the private sector thus assumes an important function in vocational training and contributes to the education and training of its own prospective professionals.
So two important criteria come together. The first is the third party verification of professional competences and the second is the involvement of industry as the ultimate beneficiary of these competences. This configuration contributes to closing the gap between the education sector and the employment system in Egypt.
Why are standards important for vocational training?
Why is a growing number of companies now subjecting themselves to these regulations and accept the time and financial expenditure involved? The reasons are partly the same, which is why companies follow the ISO 9001 standard: they want to show to the outside world that they meet certain verifiable quality requirements.
The most important reason is certainly to be able to provide training that is of lasting high quality and future-oriented qualifications for the respective company.
Many companies are also having increasing problems in finding suitable skilled workers. By participating in the dual system and in the committees of the AHK, companies can directly influence the design of vocational training and counteract the lack of skilled workers. But the best argument for vocational training is still a high quality in training. The companies bear a great responsibility for this and are always doing important work for the future.
On the threshold of Industry 4.0 with ever faster innovation cycles, the professionalisation of vocational training and its orientation towards the requirements of the market is of growing importance. Recognised and reliable quality criteria play an important role here.