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My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) – Part Two: From MV Schwarze Pumpe to European projects 1995 – 1999

December 9th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous post I started to write a serious of blogs with the heading “My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB)”. These blogs are intended to support the work (or follow-up) of the ITB “Klausurtagung” that will take place on Friday 9. December 2016.  The inspiration to write personal blogs that deal with the history of ITB comes from the Klausurtagung 2015, when we had a presentation by Klaus Ruth on some highlights of the history of ITB. With this series I try to compensate my absence due to health issues and to pass a message, wah has happened at different times and with different themes. In the first post I tried to cover my first encounters –  my study visit in 1989 and participation in the Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung 1990 conference. In this second post I will give insights into the Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe – the pilot project with which ITB worked in European cooperation projects 1995 – 1999.

‘Gleichwertigkeit’ and ‘Doppelqualifikation’ as emerging themes

As I indicated already in my previous post, at the end of 1980s and in the beginning of 1990s Finland was preparing structural reforms in the educational system. The mergers and upgradings in higher vocational education – the creation of the Finnish Fachhochschulen was less controversial and was implemented quickly. However, the corollary issue – how to keep a balance between ‘academic’ and ‘vocational’ learning pathways in the upper secondary eduvcation, was more problematic. Traditionally Finland had followed in its educational policies the Swedish reforms that emphasised comprehensivisation and unification of educational institutions and getting rid of separate ‘academic’ and ‘vocational’ tracks. However, in the above mentioned debates the Finns were distancing themselves from what they felt ‘academisation’ of vocational learning and were looking for alternative models. From this perspective, alternative models of curricular cooperation between ‘academic’ and ‘vocational’ learning were explores – as means to improve the attractiveness of vocational education- were discussed. And during these debated Gerald Heidegger from ITB was invited as visiting expert to contribute to such debates. Later on, when the Finnish upper secondary experiments (with curricular cooperation between Gymnasium and Vocational schools) was launched, Günter Kutscha from the University of Duisburg was invited to the international evaluation team (with his expertise on the Kollegschule implementation).

‘Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe’ takes off

In the light of the above it is worthwhile to note that the German educational policies in the 1990s were looking for new ways to enhance vocational learning and vocational progression routes. To a major extent this was motivated by efforts to re-integrate some of the educational models of DDR into the sytemic frameworks of BRD. From this perspective the ‘new’ Federal states launched several pilot projects (Modellversuche) to incorporate curricula with dually valid qualifications (Doppelqualifikationen). Whilst these ‘pilots’ were mainly based on existing established (and mostly successful) practice of the late DDR, there was a need to accommodate such programs under the dual system of vocational education and training (VET) and to clarify the progression models. In this context the pilots were setting new accents.

In this context the ‘Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe’ played a special role. Firstly, this was due to the industrial partner and the technologies involved- the energy plant LauBAG was relying on the regional brown coal resources. and related energy production. From the ecological point of view this couldn’t be characterised as sustainable, neither was the company at that time profitable. However, it was the major energy provider for a wide region and a major employer in the regional labour market. Yet, in the light of the inevitable exit from brown coal, the company had to find a balance between measures to keep skilled workforce for current production and preparing them for alternative occupational prospects after the brown coal era. Secondly, the educational concept of the pilot project was to introduce vocational curricula that provided dually valid qualification (craftsman certicate and access to higher education – Berufsqualifikation mit Fachhochschulreife) in integrated learning arrangements.  Thirdly, as a special accent of ITB (as responsible for accompanying research) and due to the aptitude of local teachers and trainers, there was a special possibilty to develop integrative working and learning arrangements in which social shaping and self-organised project work played a major role. (I personally could experience this last mentioned aspect in the conferences hosted by MV Schwarze Pumpe in 1995 and in 1997 8n which the apprentices (Azubis) demonstrated their projects). So, in 1994 the combined Modellversuch started with Gerald Heidegger in charge of the accompanying research team in which Rainer Bremer was responsible for accompanying the school pilot and Hans-Dieter Höpfner on the pilot in the in-company training.

Project Post-16 strategies and follow-up

In the light of the above it is understandable that the ITB approach in emphasising the Gestaltung (social shaping) idea and enhancement of vocational learning attracted European attention – in particular, when the MV Schwarze Pumpe provided a pilot ground to be studied. This possibility was picked by the Finnish-led project initiative “Finding new Strategies for Post-16 Edutacation (Acronym: Post-16 strategies). This initiative was inspired by the Finnish upper secondary pilot and its international review and the preparation of the project supported by the Finnish educational authorities. The project was approved as one with the strongest resources in the Leonardo da Vinci programme, strand ‘surveys and analyses’.

The project, coordinated by Johanna Lasonen (University of Jyväskylä)  focused on the policy issue, how to promote parity of esteem between ‘academic’ and ‘vocational’ learning (Gleichwertigkeit allgemeiner und beruflicher Bildung). At an early phase the project identified four kinds of strategies:

  • Unification (Unified frameworks for  upper secondary education – in the project covered by Scotland and  Sweden)
  • Mutual enrichment (Curricular cooperation between general and vocational education – covered  by Finland and Norway)
  • Linkages (Introducation of parallel ‘Bacalaureat’ diplomas for bringing general and vocational education to same level –  covered by France and England (at the level of initiative))
  • Vocational enhancement (Upgrading of vocational curricula via internal development and enrichment – in the project covered by Germany and Austria. German contribution was provided by ITB on the basis of MV Schwarze Pumpe.).

Having identified these main types the project avoided the trap to enter a ‘system competition’ between them – to ‘mainstream the winner’. Instead the project worked in small groups to learn more of the boundary conditions, pattern variances and relative strenghts/weaknesses of the types. Furthermore, the project promoted dialogue between the groups in order to find points for learning from each other. Finally, the project organised short mutual study visits of practitioners between differently positioned countries. Altogether, the project created an interesting European group picture.

Unfortunately the immediate follow-up project Spes-Net didn’t have similar resources to keep the initial partners involved when new partners were brought in to carry out similar analyses and to position themselves vis-à-vis the above mentioned  strategy types. Nevertheless, some level of dialogue could be maintained and some movements in the strategies observed.

Project Intequal and follow-up

In addition to the above mentioned project Post-16 strategies, ITB and MV Schwarze Pumpe were involved also in another European project funded by the programme Leonardo da Vinci, surveys and analyses. The project ‘Integrated qualifications’ (Acronym: Intequal) was initiated by the German comparative VET researcher Sabine Manning (Research Forum WiFo). She had already in the early 1990s studied the newer German pilot projects on ‘Doppelqualifikation’ from the perspective of international comparisons. At the European level she had worked in a pioneering European project on ‘Modularisation’ in the field of VET. In this respect her project focused on the meso- and micro-systemic implementation of vocational curricula or schemes providing dually oriented qualifications.

The countries and the schemes involved were the following ones:

  • Germany – ITB and MV Schwarze Pumpe as well as ISB München and a similar pilot project from Bayern,
  • Sweden – HLS (latterly Stockholm University) and the integrated upper secondary education,
  • Norway – SYH (latterly HIAK, latterly HIOA) and the integrated aupperr secondary/transition to apprenticeship,
  • the Netherlands – SCO-KohnstammInstituut and the MBO (middenbare beroepsonderwijs) scheme,
  • England – University of Warwick and the GNVQ (general national vocational qualification) scheme,
  • France – CEREQ and the schemes of Baccalaureat professionelle,
  • Austria  – IBW and the WiFi Academies schemes in vocational adult education (supported by chambers of commerce).

The Intequal project avoided debates at the systemic level and focused on the level of curriculum implementation, learning arrangements, assessment and learning careers. In this way the project gathered insights into the shaping of the curricula and on the feedback data that informed on the acceptance of the schemes. At the end of the initial project itsv work was continued by a multiplier-effect project ‘Duoqual’, but – in a similar way as with ‘Spes-Net’, the funding could only support the work of new partner countries but not effectively the dialogue with initial partners. Nevertheless, the mapping of curricula and schemes (promoting dually oriented qualifications) could be continued across Europe.

– – –

I think this is enough of the MV Schwarze Pumpe and of the European projects in which it was involved as the German case. Here, it is worthwhile to mention that I was involved in these activities with a new role. From 1994 on I worked as a project manager at Cedefop (European Centre for Development of Vocational Training) and was accompanying European projects – and promoting cooperation, synergy and mutual exchanges across them. The two above mentioned projects developed most intensive cooperation and were strongly present in European events (e.g. ECER conferences and EU-presidency conferences of that time. Such networking and promotion of research cooperation was also practiced with other themes and projects.

More blogs to come …

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