Archive for the ‘education’ Category

My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) – Part One: The magic years 1989-1990

December 8th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

This week (on Friday) our institute will have a special event “Klausurtag” to reflect on the development of our patterns of work. This event is supported by a particular pilot activity inspired by the Learning Layers (LL) project. Our LL team has created together with the developers of the Learning Toolbox a specific stack “Klausurtag” to share information and to work with specific issues raised in the last year’s event or to take further issues that are discussed this year. As I cannot participate due to health issues, I have chosen a special program for me. Last year it became apparent that our young colleagues are interested to know more about the history of our institute – and not only of the facts that are written down in history documents but more about the lived practice in research – in projects, networks and communities. As an oldtimer with a special relation with our institute – Institut Technik & Bildung (shortly ITB) – I have decided to write a serious of blogs with the heading “My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB)”.  In this first post I try to cover my first encounters during the years 1989 and 1990 – which in many respect were ‘magic years’ for Germany and for me.

My study visit in October-November 1989: Five weeks travelling around Germany

My contacts with ITB started in 1989 when I had got grants from the DAAD and my university to carry out a five weeks’ study visit program involving German research institutes in the fields on vocational education and training (VET), industrial sociology and industrial relations. This study visit was part of my effort to prepare the grounds for similar approaches in the newly created Work Research Centre of the University of Tampere. In this respect I tried to collect impressions from several neighbouring research approaches and inform myself of similarities, differences and synergies. During this trip ITB in Bremen was my first station and remained as my major cooperation partner. Yet, I found that at that time there were several evaluative measures going on in which many of my counterparts were involved. From that point of view the visit was well timed. However, the most impressive experience during the trip was the possibility to follow from close distance the erosion of the DDR-regime – which culminated in the opening of Berlin wall three days after I had returned to Finland.

Talks in ITB and on ITB projects: Berufspädagogen, Berufsbilder 2000, CAPIRN, Landesprogramm AuT

In ITB my two-day visit was hosted by Gerald Heidegger. With him we discussed firstly the general picture of the relatively new institute – its commitment to vocational teacher education and to interdisciplinary research in VET and the importance of the guiding principle ‘Gestaltung’ (social shaping of work, technology, work organisations and vocational learning). On the more specific talks on different projects of that time I can recall the following impressions:

  • Pilot project “Qualifizierung der Berufspädagogen für alle Lernorte” (discussions with Peter Gerds and Helmuth Passe-Tietjen): This project was a smaller local pilot the sought find flexible solutions that enable career shifts between teacher/trainer/training manager positions. I do not remember the details of the approach and of the boundary conditions under which it worked. Nevertheless, the programmatic to address all learning venues with an integrative approach made an impression.
  • Scenario project “Berufsbilder 2000” (discussions with Gerald Heidegger): This project explored the prospects for skilled workers (Facharbeiter) in the context of computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) – an early predecessor debate of the current one on ‘Industry 4.0’. The project explored several branch-specific technologies and drafted different policy scenarios for the use of semi-skilled vs. skilled workforce. Here the specific point was to highlight the policy choices and the ole of social shaping (at the organisational level and as the contribution of skilled workers).
  • Industry culture project CAPIRN (discussions with Klaus Ruth): This project and the subsequent network initiative focused on different policy choices in designing CNC-tools – whether they are designed for lowly skilled workforce (little prospects for social shaping and users’ own programming) vs, skilled workforce (more options for social shaping and users own input). The first comparative studies had already ben carried out and the network was expanding to new countries.
  • Landesprogramm Arbeit  und Technik (discussions with Ludger Deitmer): As I had interpreted it, Germany was in a transition from one generation of socio-technic innovation prohrams (with focus on ‘Humanisation of Work’ (Humanisierung der Arbeit – HdA) to a new focus on social shaping of ‘Work and Technology’ (Arbeit und Technik – AuT). In this transition Bremen was playing a pioneering role and had appointed an expert commission to outline a regional innovation program. Ludger, who had been supporting the expert commission gave a report on the shaping of the forthcoming program and the way it is expected to implemented.

Discussions on cross-cutting themes and on overarching expert hearings and evaluation studies

Already in the themes discussed in ITB I could see a set of cross-cutting themes coming up whilst some other themes came up in further institutes. Likewise, in several institutes I was informed of overarching expert hearings and evaluation studies to which my counterparts were contributing. Without going into details (and recapitulating particular talks) I try to give a group picture of such talks and different positions or contributions:

  • Kollegschule NRW (KS), Doppelqualifizierende Bildungsgänge Hessen (talks with Kalrheinz Fingerle, Gerald Heidegger, Arnulf Bojanowski, Antonius Lipsmeier): At that time Finland was discussing reforms in educational structures. The integrated framework fo upper secondary education – as piloted in the Kollegschule in Nordrhein-Westphalen wasone of the interesting models. I got a lot of materials and reflections why such reform concepts fell between mainstream institutions and how the curriculum innovations with ‘integrated’ qualifications tended to lack the ‘grounding’ in occupational work. Therefore, Gerald emphasised the importance of such pilots that are based on apprentice training (instead of other vocational paths).
  • Bundestag Enquete-Kommission “Zukunft der Arbeit”: (talks with Gerald Heidegger, Burkart Lutz): The above mentioned scenario project “Berufsbilder 2000” was one of the projects invited to the expert commission of the German parliament to explore the future of skilled work in Germany. It appeared that the industrial sociologists saw the risk of polarisation as the likely option, whilst VET researchers emphasised the role of social shaping of work, technology and work organisations.
  • DFG-Denkschrift “Berufsbildungsforschung” (talks with Burkart Lutz, Laszlo Alex, Wolfgang Lempert): The German Research Council had set up an expert commission to examine the status and resources of research in VET – in the universities and in non-university institutes. The general picture was that the more policy-related research was concentrated in bigger public R&D institutions (BIBB, IAB) and in university affiliated institutes (MPI Berlin, SOFI, ISF) whilst the research in pedgaogics of VET (Breufspädagogik) was fragmented. Here, the former mentioned instititutes were recommending cooperation to create centres of excellence based on inter-university cooperation, whilst the university representatives wer expecting ‘natural growth’ of some top institutes.
  • Modellversuchsforschung (talks with Heiz Holz, Dieter Weissker, Peter Dehnbostel, Brigitte Wolff, Gerhard Zimmer): In BIBB I had discussions on the current stand of pilot projects (Modellversuche) and related accompanying research (Begleitforschung). The coordination unit was supporting thematic clusters (Modellversuchsreihen) of pilot projects in order to promote synergy and learning from each other.
  • HdA- & AuT-Begleitforschung (talks with Gerhard Bosch, Rainer Lichte, Else Fricke, Eva Kuda, Norbert Altmann, Ingrid Drexel, Christoph Köhler, Frieder Naschold): In the institutes that were affiliated to trade unions and/or specialised in industrial reations and labour process research I had several talks on the experiences of the eatrlier HdA-program and the related accompanying research (with which the researchers had note always been in good terms with the social partners). Now I couls see that in the successful cases the researchers were moving from observational into co-shaping approaches (e.g. regarding the introduction of apprentice training models alongside automation). In this way resewarch teams were supporting workers’ participation and social shaping of work processes.

I guess this is enough of  my impressions on the discussions. At the same time when I was approaching Berlin, my last station, the old regime of DDR came to dead end and had to give up. After a rupture period the political process took the course to unification.

Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung 1st to 3rd of October 1990 in Magdeburg

Almost one year after I had another opportunity to visit Germany by participating in the conference “Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung” 1990 in Magdeburg. This conference was initiated by the founders of ITB in the 1980s (before the ITB was founded) and it served as a joint forum of researchers in VET and active practitioners with interest in research. In addition to plenary sessions the conference had several regular domain-specific sessions (Fachtagung) and another set of thematic workshops (which may vary from one year to another). The conference of the 1990 was originally given for Stuttgart but it was relocated to Magdeburg – as a sign to build good neighbourhood relations between the Federal Republic of Germany (BRD) and the German Democratic Republic (DDR) which was in transition. However, shortly after this decision had been made, it appeared that the two German states will be unified during the conference dates. Thus, the conference was started in Magdeburg, DDR and finished in Magdeburg, BRD. And the announced main theme ‘Key qualifications’ was overshadowed by questions, challenges and anxieties regarding the rapid unification.

The big picture of unification – and the instant implementation of the legislation of BRD in the ‘new Federal states’ dominated the plenary sessions. They were expected to make a rapid transition from the school-based and company-affiliated vocational education system into the dual system of apprenticeship. This was a major organisational, administrative and educational challenge. At the some of the educational solutions of DDR that were valued by West-German educationalists, were given up. These issues were discussed openly and the participants from West tried to to show very cleatrly their solidarity to their Eastern colleagues who were implementing changes with very tight schedules.

From the specific sessions I remember that I followed firstly the discussions in the Fachtagung “Metalltechnik” chaired by Prof. Hoppe from ITB. Then I moved to Fachtagung “Wirtschaft und Verwaltung” in which I followed the presentations of Dr. Benteler on the Modellversuch at Klöckner Stahl (rotating clerk-apprentices through different production units of the steelworks to give them an organisational overview) and of Dr.Rischmüller on Modellversuch WoKI on the training of clerk-apprentices at VW in Wolfsburg.

The highlight for me was the possibility join in the International workshop initiated by Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) and to give a presentation on Scandinavian reforms in VET. In the relatively heterogeneous program of the workshop (with rather conversational presentations) my comparative view attracted attention and I got an invitation to the Soviet-European exchange seminar in Moscow (organised by the Soviet Academy of Educational Sciences and Cedefop).

– – –

I think this is enough of these ‘magic years’. I think I have made it clear, why I use this expression – both regarding the political processes and my individual experiences. I had started the journey to familiarise meself with the German VET and working life research. Very soon I was received as a contributor from Scandinavia to enter the European arenas of exchanges and cooperation in VET research. In the next phase on this career path I continued my cooperation with ITB.

More blogs to come …

Independence Day – Finland 99 years as an independent state! – Part Four: The post-war decades of independence

December 6th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my three previous posts I have been writing a series of blogs to celebrate the 99th Independence Day of Finland. The first post gave a brief overview of the time before independence and the second one discussed the process of nation-building. In the third post I discussed the struggle for independence and on the first decades of independence – including the many wars during the World War II. In this final post I will discuss the post-war decades of the Finnish experience.

The years of post-war reconstruction, tensions, and recovery (1946 – 1956)

The first years after the interim peace have recently been characterised as a period of ‘uneasy peace’ (rauhaton rauha), since the return to the new normality was not merely in the hands of the Finns. The allies had set a Control Commission (led by a leading Soviet politician A. Zhdanov) to monitor that Finland is properly implementing the terms of the peace treaty – such as abolishing the ‘fascist’ and and similar parties and voluntary organisations, taking the pre-war leading politicians to a court that will judge them as guilty of war etc. And at the same time the political, economic and cultural life was to be given a new start. These were years of change – the radical right-wing party was abolished and the traditional conservative party landed to opposition, The government was relying on centre and left wing parties. Yet, the political leadership was handed over to the veteran politician J.K: Paasikivi, who served firstly as the prime minister and then as a president of republic 1946 – 1956. (Paasikivi had already been prime minister in 1918 and he had led the Finnish delegations in the peace treaty negotiations in 1920 and during the World War II.)

Paasikivi was able to work together with different post-war government coalitions and with his firm conviction to rebuild the relations with the Soviet Union on the basis of trust between the neighbours he tried to educate the Finnish people understand the new realities and take bitter pills if needed. In this way the transition period from the interim peace to the peace treaty of Paris passed without major complications. The special trial of the pre-war politicians sentenced some of them to 2-6 years in jail – but no more than that (and their reputation was not ruined – they just had to suffer the punishment of the country being on the wrong side in the war). Yet, after this chapter was put behind, the Paris treaty came into force and the Control Commission was abolished.

In addition to political tensions (and fears of possible Soviet intervention) there was a great economic pressure on Finland. The peace treaty required Finland to pay major sums of compensation in industrial products to Soviet Union for the damage caused in the war. This, however, helped the country to start new industries and to support the development of different regions by allocating industrial plants to different parts of the country. A major role in this development was played by state-own industries in mining, steel production, machinery and chemical products. These compensation payments were completed by 1952. Two years later – after the death of Stalin – the Soviet government gave up the military base in Porkkala and ended the ‘tenant’ contract. Thus, by the end of his second term of presidency, Paasikivi had ‘schippered’ the country through the uneasy post-war years to new stability.

The era of president Kekkonen (1956 – 1981): Peaceful co-existence, welfare state and CSCE

When Urho Kekkonen started his term as president, he was a controversial politician from the agrarian (centre) party – very experienced but ambitious. Also, the political life in the country was disturbed by internal splits in several parties and in the trade union movement. This had triggered a tariff conflict and a general strike in 1956. Also, during the first term of Kekkonen several government coalitions were fragile and short-lived. Whilst the governments may have not been so successful, Kekkonen’s authority due to his success in foreign policies – in particular in creating personal relations with the Soviet leader Nikita Hruštšev. This became apparent during the period of the Cuban crisis, when some of the fringes of that tension reached the Finnish-Soviet relations.

After being re-elected for the second term Kekkonen together with a newer generation of political leaders and social partners was forging new patterns of national consensus. The newer broad-based centre-left government coalitions (led by social democrats) and the tripartite framework agreements on trades and tariffs paved the way for major social reforms (comprehensive education, public health services, social insurance, national pensions, children’s daycare). All these created systems of social welfare state that enabled a massive transition from traditional agriculture to industries and services. And if the employment opportunities were not available in Finland, then in Sweden – and the unified Nordic labour markets were already at place. At the same time the bilateral trade with Soviet Union was upgraded with major projects – such as building new industrial town complexes on the Soviet side by Finnish companies and by building the first Finnish nuclear plant by a Soviet company.

In this way Finland, led by Kekkonen, was in the position to host the first Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) between the US and Soviet governments in the early 1970s. And shortly afterwards Finland took the initiative to host the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) that took place between 1973 (foreign ministers’ conference in Helsinki), 1973-1975 (expert commissions in Geneva) and 1975 (concluding summit in Helsinki). This conference stabilised the intergovernmental relations in Europe, eased the tensions between the military blocks and set new standards infree movement people and ideas. After this success the whole nation and all major political parties were supporting Kekkonen for yet another term of presidency in 1978. However, due to health reasons he had to give up in 1981.

(In the light of recent experiences with the armed conflict in East Ukraina, it is worthwhile to note the work of the CSCE was continued by Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OCSE) – and it appears to be the body that maintains communication channels that give some hope for solutions in the said conflict.)

The years of unchallenged neutrality and the end of Cold War (1981 – 1995)

During the first term of presidency of Kekkonen’s successor, Mauno Koivisto the old bilateral agreements with the Soviet Union were renewed to ensure further bilateral trade projects and mutual trust. However, the shift of emphasis in foreign trade was moving to increasingly towards Western economic integration. Yet, the old centre-left governments, supported by smaller parties (including the agrarian populist party) were keeping a rather traditional course. But during his second presidency a new coalition emerged between the conservatives and social democrats (leaving the centre in the opposition). This new coalition took major steps liberalise the financial markets and opened the access of wider circles to obtain loans in foreign currencies – which was good when the economy was growing but when the growth of the late 1980s ceased, the recession of the early 1990s hit badly the Finnish economy – the bank crisis, the crisis of major ‘rustbelt’ industries and a rapid growth of unemployment.

In the meantime there had been major changes in the leadership of the Soviet Union. Mihail Gorbatshov had declared perestroika (reconstruction) and glasnost (openness) as the new guiding principles. That was taken positively in Finland but the economic erosion in the Eastern block brought new problems – people were losing confidence and the old regimes started to lose power. And this led to a chain reaction. Critical situations were experiences when the Baltic states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were ready to take the decisive steps to  re-establish their independence. The coup d’`état of the traditionalists of Soviet Union raised once again worries but ended with the collapse of Soviet regime and in the dissolution of the Union into set of independent states. This, for Finland caused economic problems because the bilateral trade ceased and several industrial sectors (reliant on Soviet trade) collapsed, when global competition took over their domestic markets.

The years of prosperity and European integration (1994 to present date)

Already Koivisto had expressed a priority to shift the emphsis from president-led policies to stronger parliamentarism. After his presidency the successor, Martti Ahtisaari, was a former UN-diplomat and civil servant with less involvement in Finnish  politics. In the beginning of his period the centre-right coalition was struggling with the recession and with the challenge to negotiate the terms of membership for Finland to join in the European Union. In the next phase a new government coalition was led by Paavo Lipponen with top politicians of the social democrats and conservatives – involving the whole spectrum of parties in the ‘rainbow coalition’. This coalition had the challenge to pull Finland out of recession but at the same time it had the parliamentary support to bring Finland to the Euro-zone and to the inner circles of the EU with maximum involvement. At the same time the Nokia boom helped the national economy to overcome the crisis.

In 2000 Tarja Halonen, the social democratic foreign minister of the rainbow coalition became the first female president of republic. Lipponen continued as prime minister with his second rainbow coalition government. In the next elections in 2003 the centre party came into power and formed a coalition with social democrats. By that time all parties had already been in coalition with all possible counterparts. Finland was deeply involved in the EU but kept itself outside NATO – except for the partnership of peace program. After Halonen’s two terms as president the former minister of finance of the rainbow coalitions, Sauli Niinistö was elected as the first conservative president after Paasikivi. During his presidency the government coalitions have been led by younger conservative or centre-party politicians. Yet, as president, Niinistö has emphasised continuity in Finnish neutrality – even if the ministers have been favouring membership in NATO. Yet, as the crisis in Ukraina aggravated, Niinistö was the head of state to maintain communication channels between EU and Russia.

– – –

I think this is enough of the developments during the post-war decades. During this perod Finland made its way through from post-war reconstruction to stability, prosperity and and into European integration. This was reflected in the self-esteem of Finnish people and Finnish popular culture. This will be reflected in the way in which the pop-star Juice Leskinen celebrates his rural home municipality – which in terms celebrates its own celebrity. See the video “Juankoski here I come”:

With this celebration of Finnish (rural) identity I conclude this series of blogs.

More blogs to come …

Independence Day – Finland 99 years as an independent state! – Part Three: The first decades of independence

December 6th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I started a series of blogs to celebrate the 99th Independence Day of Finland. The first post gave a brief overview of the time before independence and the second post discussed the process of nation-building and of making Finnish language a national language. In the third post I will try to give an overview on the struggle for independence and on the first decades of independence with the multitude of experiences made by the young nation.

The periods of oppression and resistance (1900 – 1916)

As I have mentioned in my previous posts, Finland had got a special status as an autonomous Grand Duchy under the Russian rule. This was topped up with the reforms that gave Finland its own currency (the Finnish Mark) and its own language rule (recognition of Finnish and Swedish as equal domestic languages). In the beginning the of the 20th century the new Czar Nikolai II was pushed by the pan-slavist movement of Russia to try to to abolish this autonomous status and the specific legislation inherited from Swedish era. These attempts are known in the Finnish history as the first and the second period of oppression (led by the General governors Bobrikoff and Seyn). The interventions of the Czar and the General governors met massive protests – petitions, demonstrations and campaigns for solidarity in Europe. Finally, the bigger events worked in favour of the small nation. In 1905 Russia lost the war against Japan and this led to a turmoil. As a concession, Czar Nikolai had to give up. Russia got its parliament – the Duma – and Finland got its own one-chambered parliament with equal voting rights for men and women (irrespective of social status).

Finland – with its newly elected parliament – was being consolidated as a nation state but the panslavists pushing the Czar did not give up. New attempts were made to withdraw the concessions and to stop the parliament working by dissolving it time and again. However, the times had changes. Already during the years of turmoil (1905-1906) bourgeois parties and the labour movement had started to set up their own armed forces to protect themselves from Russian police forces. And when the World War I broke out, many things changed. Firstly, Russia brought into Finland its own soldiers and refrained from calling Finns to military service. Secondly, part of the protest movement took steps towards armed resistance and sought cooperation with Germany. Thus, nearly 2000 young Finns travelled illegally to Germany to get military training there – and subsequently fought against Russia during the war.

The declaration of independence in 1917 and the civil war in 1918

The collapse of the czarist regime in 1917 led to a new situation. The Finnish (socialist-led) parliament took the course towards independence. The provisional government in Russia (led by Kerenski) blocked this and dissolved the parliament – once again (and this was supported by some bourgeois parties in Finland). When the new parliament was elected and constituted, the Bolshevik revolution in Russia changed the situation once more. Now, all parties were ready to take the step to full independence. The declaration of independence was approved in the Finnish parliament on the 6th of December 1917.

However, the newly declared independence did not remove the tensions. In January 1918 a civil war broke out between the armed forces of the bourgeois parties (the White guard) and of the radical labour movement (the Red guard).  The young nation was divided – socially and geographically. A bitter civil war with atrocities on both sides was fought and finally, the White guard was winning. At that time the returners from military training in Germany came back with contingents of German troops and gave their ‘helping hand’ in conquering Helsinki from the Reds.

So, in the beginning of the period of independence the country was split – part of the elected parliament was either jailed or exiled. The bourgeois majority took initiative to set up a kingdom with a German royal house. But then Germany lost the war and the German troops left Finland. So, the time was ripe to start as a republic with a democratic constitution (originally drafted by the first president Ståhlberg) and to to try to bring the nation together again.

The years of reconstruction, unrest and recovery (the 1920s and 1930s)

The first years of the young republic were characterised by post-war reconstruction and by rebuilding the nation with its own institutions and modes of governance. Education, healthcare and public transport were reorganised. The economy started to recover and foreign trade started to boom – the forestry sector was in the lead. A major factor in good and bad was the struggle with the prohibition law – smuggle and distribution of illegal alcohol created powerful commercial networks. But – the end of the prohibition law led them to legal business rather than criminal networks.

In politics the country remained divided. When the economic development turned towards depression, the political life was polarised. The country was shaken by a fascist-like mass movement that terrorised left-wing politicians and bourgeois liberals and was about to start a military coup d’état. The bold measures of the conservative president Svinhufvud (one of the leaders of the earlier independence movement) stopped these attempts and paved the way for years of appeasement. Thus, the latter half of the 1930s was characterised by economic recovery, political cooperation between the social democrats and the agrarian party (the centre party). And these years are also remembered because of long and hot summers.

The three wars during the World War II (1939 – 1945)

Once again, bigger events intervened into the destiny of the small country. By the end of the 1930s the expansive and aggressive policies of Nazi-Germany gave clear signs of the coming war. But the crucial strike for Finland was the Hitler-Stalin agreement and their secret agreements on zones of interest (regarding countries between Germany and Soviet Union. Accordingly, Soviet Union made a proposal that Finland should give away an area at the Karelian isthmus and get as compensation another area from the Soviet Karelia (further north). Finland did not accept the proposal and a war broke out. In this “Winter war” 1939-1940 Finland was fighting alone against Soviet army. However, the Finns had a powerful ally – the coldest winter of the century. The Finnish troops were better used to the climate whilst the Soviet troops were badly equipped and were not prepared for hard resistance. After 100 days of fighting and major losses on both sides a ceasefire was agreed and the peace treaty of Moscow was negotiated. Although Finland had been able to defend its territory, the defense had reached its limits and therefore the terms were hard – the Karelian isthmus and the municipalities around the Ladoga lake, the Petsamo (Petshenga) mining area in Lapland and some smaller areas were given away. In addition, the Soviet Union got the the right to have a military base in Hanko (near Helsinki, opposite Tallinn) as a ‘tenant’.

The following period (1940-1941) was already at that time called the ‘interim peace’ and the the bigger picture moved to that direction. When Nazi-Germany with its allies attached the Soviet Union, it declared Finland as one of the allies. Although there was no written agreement between the governments, preparations had already been made for a second war – counting on being on the same side as the Germans. I would like to emphasise that Finland was not ruled by Nazi-minded puppet government (like Quisling in Norway) but by coalitions that would have preferred to side with Western allies. But that was not on the cards. So, when the Germans attacked, war broke out between Finland and Soviet Union as well. This time the Soviet army was retreating and the Finnish army was conquering back old Finnish territory – and continued to those parts of Karealia that was never part of Finland. Then, for quite a while the fronts were stable. But in 1944 there was a massive offensive of the Soviet forces – and the Finns had to retreat. The final defense battles were fought on the ‘old’ and ‘newer’ borderlines – and the defense held. At that time the Soviets were more keen to get rid of this minor battlefield and move their troops further – to reach Germany and Berlin before their Western allies. So, in summer a separate interim peace was reached between Finland and Soviet Union and the new borders were drawn (on the basis of the 1940 peace treaty). And now, instead of Hanko, the Soviets wanted a military base from Porkkala (closer to Helsinki and Tallinn), again as a ‘tenant’. This was the end of the ‘Continuation war’ (1941 – 1944) as the Finns call it.

Once again, the lost areas from Karelia were to be emptied from Finnish inhabitants (if they had not already been evacuated) and other terms of the interim peace had to be respected (see more in the next post). But the most important obligation led to the third war in which the Finns fought during the World War II – the War of Lapland (1944 – 1945).

The background of this war dates back to the years 1940-1941. At that time Germany had occupied Norway and had agreed transit rights for German troops (going on holidays and returning) via Finnish territory to the Northern part of Norway. In 1941 when Germany attacked Soviet Union, it sent several contingents of such ‘transiters’ to Northern Finland. And in a short while a mutual agreement was reached that these contingents will be based in Lapland and they will be in charge of the Northern fronts (next to the Petsamo/Petshenga mining area). Now, when Finland got its separate peace agreement, the Finnish government got a strict deadline to chase the German troops out of its territory – peacefully or with arms. The Germans had no intent to go quickly nor quietly, so another period of war was fought – and the retreating Germans burned down all towns and villages before they left. By April 1945 the last German contingents had left Finland. The mission was completed – and the Soviet troops had entered the Finnish territory – ‘to give a helping hand’. Finland had fulfilled its obligations and was trying to return to the new normality.

– – –

I think this is enough of the first decades of the Finnish independence and the hard ride of the young nation alongside the European turmoils. As the musical theme I add “Evakon laulu” – the song of a family evacuated from Karelia. The pictures of that period give a clear impression on, what kind of story the lyrics tell.

 

In my final post I will continue the story of Finnish independence with the post-war decades.

More blogs to come ...

Independence Day – Finland 99 years as an independent state! – Part Two: Building the Finnish nation

December 6th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I started a series of blogs to celebrate the 99th Independence Day of Finland. The first post gave a brief overview of the time before independence – the long centuries under the Swedish rule and the one century under Russian rule. In this second post I will take a look at the process of nation-building and of making Finnish language a national language. Here again, we have two different periods – the slow development under Swedish rule and the ‘hatching period’ under Russian rule.

The ‘invisible’ Finland and Finnish people under Swedish rule

In my previous post I mentioned that when the Swedes conquered Finland, there was no geographic nor national entity that now is called ‘Finland’ (or – to precise: others call it that we, for us, the nake of our country is ‘Suomi’). And even that name refers only to ‘land’s end’ – the final outposts before the dark wilderness. Neither had the Finns of that time a perception of national identity – they were scattered ‘tribes’ speaking local dialects that were understandable to each other. But that was it. The Swedish rule brought stability and defence against Russians (with whom there was a constant struggle, who gets the uninhabited areas that were in no-man’s-land beyond the vaguely defined borderlines.

This all changed due to the Lutheran Reformation. Young priests travelled from all parts of Scandinavia to Wittenberg study theology in the new spirit. And already in Wittenberg these young pioneers started to translate the New Testament to their national languages. And please note that the young Finnish priests of that time – Mikael Agricola in the lead – translated the New Testament into Finnish (the first major book to appear after the Finnish ABC-book and the Psalmbook). So, that was the start of the Finnish language to make ist way to a written language and to a national language.

This was the start and with the help of the basic books for religious teaching the whole Finnish population was shepherded to the Lutheran state church. The priests took care of bringing the elementary reading skills to the people – who were to demonstrate on regular basis in public events that they can read from the books and that they know by heart their prayers. That was the level of literacy  needed in Finnish language. The ones to get school-based education and higher education had it in Swedish. At the end of the 18th century there was an initiative to start a Finnish newspaper but it was very short-lived (yet, the effort to go ahead was already there).

The emergent Finnish nation and the emancipation of Finnish language under Russian rule

When Finland got under Russian rule, the educated people had an identity crisis, which led them to look for a new perspective: “We are no longer Swedes, we don’t want to become Russians, let us be Finns!” 

In this spirit the young intellectuals started a movement to revitalise the Finnish language and the Finnish culture. Some of them (like J.L. Runeberg and Z. Topelius) wrote poems and novels of the glorious past of the Finnish people – in Swedish, but with Finnish spirit. Elias Lönnrothcollected old folklore and sagas from rural areas and composed the national epos ‘Kalevala’. The philosopher J.V.Snellman had a great influence – not so much with his highly respectable academic work as a Hegelian intellectual – but more with his work to start the Finnish press (in both Finnish and in Swedish) and then as a politician. During czar Alexander II he was a senator (read: prime minister) and managed to push through the new language rule, the currency reform, the start of the Finnish railways etc.

The above mentioned language rule was an important cultural concession of the liberal young czar to the autonomous Grand-Duchy of Finland. Instead of imposing Russian as the official language, it recognised Finnish and Swedish as two equal ‘domestic’ languages. And it obliged all public civil servants to obtain and demonstrate their command of both languages. Please note that this language rule is still in force in independent Finland. The Russian rulers expected that such a concession would help to distance Finland from the old ‘motherland’ Sweden and to become loyal vis-à-vis the czar and his Empire. For the Finnish national movement this was a great boost forward – the Finnish public education (in Finnish language) started to spread all over the country, the Finnish press got an upswing and the Finnish literature started to take off. The first novel in Finnish – the “Seven brothers”  of A. Kivi – appeared to the contemporaries far too rustical but afterwards it became beloved by the whole nation. Also, many artists in music and in fine arts with inspiration from the national movement made career – not only in Finland, but in the wide Europe in which they travelled and got engaged with different influences. Jean Sibelius – the most famous of this generation – became world famous already before Finnish independence and even more after that had been achieved.

Obviously, not all Russian rulers were pleased with these developments taking off. By the end of the 19th century pan-slavistic movements gained more power and put (among other things) the special status of Finland under question. In the beginning of the 20th century czar Nikolai II started twice a campaign to get rid of the autonomous rule of Finland. But these were stopped by bigger events of world history – firstly Russia lost the war against Japan and got into turmoil in 1905. Secondly, the World War I broke out and the Russian Empire needed to keep the border province Finland (next to the capital St. Petersburg) in peace and quiet.

– – –

I think this is enough of the story of the nation-building and of the emancipation of our language and culture.  As a musical  theme, let us listen to Sibelius’ Karelia Intermezzo and view the landscapes of Finnish Karelia and the Karelia lost in the World War II (see my next blog).

In my next blog I will give insights into the struggles for independence and developments in independent Finland.

More blogs to come …

Independence Day – Finland 99 years as an independent state! – Part One: Time before independence

December 6th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Quite some time I have started all my blogs with reference to the ongoing project. Now that I have said goodbye to the project work (after my contract came to an end) I have felt puzzled – what will I be blogging about after the active engagement in a long-term project. Today I have a clear answer, what to start with – the Finnish Independence Day.

Countries with long history as independent nation states do not necessarily have a concept of ‘independence day’. Their histories are not characterised by being under the rule of a bigger nation. Instead, they have constituted their nation states by processes of unification or dissolution of major empires. But there is no clear point of becoming independent from a ruling power. And the constitution of the nation has been a long process – national language having become written language, ruling language and cultural language. For most countries that is old history.

Therefore, my non-Finnish friends may ask: “What is so great about national independence and of Independence Day?” I will tray to answer it with three blog posts. With the first one I try to sketch the time before independence . With the second one I discuss the emergence of the Finnish nation. With the third one I sketch a picture of 99 years of independence.

The long centuries under Swedish rule

The history of Finland is different from the ones of bigger nations – characterised by long periods under foreign rule. When the Swedish vikings conquered Finland centuries ago, there was no concept of ‘Finland’ (Suomi – as we say it) as a national entity. The name ‘Finland’ comes from Latin and refers to ‘land’s end’ before uninhabited tundra. Then, Finland became the border country between the expansive Swedish kingdom and emerging Russian empire. At a certain point the Swedes promoted Finland into Grand Duchy (one of the Swedish princes being the Duke). But the legislation was that of Sweden and the centre of administration was in Stockholm (and a province governor in Turku on the other side of the Botnic bay).

During those centuries Finland was considered as a periphery, as a border province to be expanded to keep the Russians out. Also, when Sweden was expanding during central European wars, Finland sent soldiers to Swedish armies. Finnish forests provided wood and tar for ship-building. But not much more was thought on the province. The ruling Lutheran church was keeping the ordinary people in discipline with religious teaching and preaching in Finnish. But the language of education and culture was Swedish. And if things would have continued this way, it would have been more likely that the Finnish language would have disappeared rather than emancipated as a national language.

The one century under Russian rule

Things changed due to the bigger picture of European politics. Napoleon Bonaparte had become Emperor of France and was isolating Great Britain with his continental blockade. He had got the Russian czar Alexander I to join the blockade (after a war) and wanted to get Sweden (ally of Great Britain) to join in as well. Therefore, he pushed Russia to start a war against Sweden – and promised Finland to Russia after the war. The war was fought in 1808-1809. Sweden lost, the Swedish king was sent to exile and the new royal house – the Bernadottes – were imported from France. And, indeed, Russia got Finland as its new border province in the north.

The Russian czar was not so greatly interested of the new province – although it was in the immediate vicinity of the Russian capital – St. Petersburg. So, the the representatives of the Finnish upper class saw their opportunity. Already during the war (when major part of the Finnish territory was conquered by Russians) they negotiated a deal with czar that as a reward of their loyalty vis-à-vis the new ruler they could keep the status of Grand Duchy and old Swedish legislation -adjusted to the new circumstances. The czar would be recognised as the Grand Duke of Finland and he would have his General Governor and regional governors in Finland. But mainly the administration would rely on the Finnish senate and civil servants (using Swedish as their ordinary working language but Russian with their new rulers).

This special status of Finland was topped up during the rule of czar Alexander II when Finland got its own currency – the Finnish Mark. For many reasons Finland – in the vicinity of the Russian capital – had become an interesting economic zone with rapid industrialisation and good infrastructure due to good railway connections and many channels that connected inland lakes to routes towards St. Petersburg. So, quite a lot of foreign capital was invested into this special economic zone (before that concept was invented) and foreign industrialists themselves came to start the new industries. Thus, Finland was becoming more and more self-governing and self-reliant – with many export articles traded with its own currency. But – not to forget – this economic growth was not a steady progress to prosperity. Finland still mostly agrarian country in a rough Nordic climate zone and these periods were also characterised by several years of crops lost and people in the countryside suffering of famine. Yet, with the economic development things appeared to be getting better. However, once again the big picture of European politics changed to a new direction.

– – –

I guess this is enough for the starters – the time before independence.Let us add the musical theme of the awakening of the national history with the old instrumental piece with modern interpretation and landscape photos and ‘historical video – The band Piirpauke and the melody ‘Church bells of Konevitsa monastery’ (at lake Ladoga):

In my next post I will discuss the nation-building and issues on Finnish language and culture.

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

 

My journey with the VETNET network – Epilogue: The (rocky) road to ECER 16 in Dublin

August 16th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my five latest posts I have written a series of blogs on my journey with ECER conferences and the VETNET network. In these posts I have discussed the development of the network from its earliest origins in the beginning of 1990s up to present date. These blogs are my contribution to the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) 2016 and to the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the founding of VETNET – the European Vocational Education and Training Research Network.  Unfortunately I have to stay out of ECER because of health issues, but these posts may serve as building blocks for the collective memory. In this epilogue I shift the emphasis from the past to the preparation of the forthcoming conference with some final remarks.

From ECER 2005 (Dublin) to ECER 2016 (Dublin) – Ten/eleven years after

My first remark is related to the preparation of the VETNET Opening colloquium. Interestingly enough, the VETNET  organisers have invited once again James Wickham as a keynote speaker (he had this ro le also in ECER 2005). To me this was a very good choice. In 2005 made interesting comparisons between ‘the European dream’ and ‘the American mirage’ as leading ideas for European training and labour market policies. Now he has chosen the heading “Always the first cut – vocational education and training in the Irish crisis”. It would be interesting to see, what kind of links he might make between his earlier analyses and those on the present crisis.

Communities, networking and web tools

My second remark is related to the way in which we discussed in ECER 2005 on the role of research communities (in regional initiatives) and on the support provided by social networking and web tools. At that time we were dependent on very early stage of web technologies and related possibilities for social networking. At that stage the interaction between researchers, tool developers and practitioners was far more complicated (and the chances for participative design were far more limited). Now, our experiences with the Learning Layers project (and with the online tools of the VETNET network and the IJRVET journal) open new horizons.

Visibility of VET research

Finally I would like to make a point on the visibility of VET research – both within the EERA community and at a more general level. In both respects the VETNET network was in 2005 still in the process of making its case. The subsequent years of stabilisation, consolidation and new initiatives have clearly given more visibility to VETNET and European VET research in the context of ECER and the EERA community. And in particular the launch of the journal IJRVET and its success have brought the public visibility of European and international VET research to a new level.

– – –

I guess this is enough food for thought for those who are on the (rocky) road to ECER 2016 in Dublin. It is a pity that I cannot join them. But I will keep in touch and then catch up with the news. I am looking forward to that.

More blogs to come …

 

 

My journey with the VETNET network – Part Five: The years of new initiatives

August 16th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest posts I have been writing a series of blogs on my journey with ECER conferences and the VETNET network. These blogs serve as my contribution to the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) 2016 when we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of VETNET – the European Vocational Education and Training Research Network.  This year I have to stay outof ECER because of health issues.  In the previousposts I have covered the earliest years from 1992 on, the founding  phase until  2001, the stabilisation phase between 2003 and 2007 and the consolidation phase between 2007 and 2011. In this final post I will have a look at the latest phase up to present date.

ECER 2012 in Cadiz: The role of VET in overcoming the economic crisis

Whatever we might have been able to plan in advance for ECER 2012 in Cadiz, real life pushed genuine challenges to public discussion. The fact that the host country Spain was heavily hit by the economic crisis and youth unemployment gave us a clear clue, what to discuss in the conference. Therefore, in the VETNET Opening colloquium we raised the question on the role of VET in overcoming such a crisis. Fernando analysed recent developments in and current debates on Spanish VET system. He drew attention to potentials that had not been used (cooperation between VET and working life) and demands for changes that have not been thoroughly thought through (transfer of German model of dual system to Spain).  Marg Malloch presented a picture of parallel developments and political pressures on privatisation of VET in Australia. Michael Gessler analysed, how the German dual system works regarding the transition from school to working life and examined, how a complex web of additional options and measures – the system of transition schemes – has emerged and stabilised as a self-sustaining system.

In addition to this opening event we had several contributions on the role of VET in supporting transitions and in supporting workplace learning. In particular the Dutch contributions on VET schools as organisers of/ partners in practice-based learning (Aimee Hoeve, Hester Smulders, Jeroen Onstenk) addressed these issues. I gave an overview on the development of the themes ‘workplace learning’, ‘cooperation between learning venues’ and ‘work process knowledge’ in European projects since 1995 to present date. Ludger Deitmer discussed the role of apprentice training as a basis for innovations in organisations (with reference to analyses using the QEK-tool).

For the VETNET community the Cadiz experience was a strong impulse for getting more intensively engaged with the crisis and paying attention to specific support measures (e.g. bilateral programs between Germany and Spain or Greece).

ECER 2013 in Istanbul: VET between academic drift and enhancement of work-related learning

Concerning ECER 2013 in Istanbul, the advent of the conference was characterised by massive protest movements and partly these demonstrations continued during ECER. However, these protests were not related to economic problems or youth unemployment. Thus, the Opening colloquium of VETNET focused on the position of VET in Turkey – between academic drift and lowly esteemed occupational work. The VETNET organisers discussed this theme with two Turkish professors – Oguz Baburoglu (as expert on the development of Turkish Higher Education institutions) and Özlem Ünlühisarcikli (as expert on Turkish VET development). We couldn’t draw clear conclusions but we learned a lot.

In the sessions our ITB project team presented the first contributions from our ongoing Learning Layers project – at a theoretical level revisiting the studies on ‘work process knowledge’ and ‘informal learning’, at empirical level discussions on the design ideas for mobile learning in construction sector and analyses on user stories (based on interview material). In another session our Dutch colleagues (Loek Nieuwenhuis, Aimee Hoeve, Ilya Zitter) presented a set of interactive innovation projects in which research teams were supporting practice-based learning in VET and (vocational) higher education. A specific symposium of our former ITB-colleagues from three universities discussed validation of informal and non-formal learning in Germany and at European level. Finally, Martin Mulder presented newest results of his project to map the European group picture of VET research in the light of articles in refereed journals.

For VETNET network this would have been normally the year to elect the Convenor and the board. However, since the change of Convenor(s) had already taken place in the previous year and since the colleagues were available for a new term, the board members were re-elected. However, as a new challenge we took note of the fact that the global umbrella organisation WERA (World Educational Research Association) had published a call for proposals for WERA International Research Networks (IRNs). We concluded that VETNET (with its international partners outside Europe) is in a good position to set up such a global network for the field of VET. Therefore, such a proposal was prepared shortly after the Istanbul conference and it was approved by WERA in the beginning of the year 2014.

ECER 2014 in Porto: Past, present and future of VET research

The ECER 2014 in Porto celebrated the 2oth anniversary of the founding of the EERA (European Educational Research Association) with the theme “Past, present and future of educational research”. In this spirit we agreed to discuss past, present and future challenges in VET research in the VETNET Opening colloquium in Porto. Marg Malloch chaired, whilst I presented reflections on the development of European research on learning in the context of work (past), Eduardo Figuiera discussed  the current stand of Portuguese VET research (present) and Karen Evans outlined some challenges for (future) VET research.

In the sessions I was mainly engaged with the contributions of the Learning Layers project. Our main contribution was the symposium “Construction 2.0” in which we discussed the development of our accompanying research approach (in the context of participative design processes) and the matching of mobile learning with the development of vocational learning in intermediate training centres. Our second session was a joint workshop with the Dutch team from HAN University (Loek Nieuwenhuis and Aimee Hoeve) in which we compared two Dutch and two German cases as examples of interactive innovation research in the field of VET.

Concerning the VETNET network and the wider international community there were two clear highlights:

  1.  In the VETNET General Assembly we launched the new online journal “International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training (IJRVET)” and published its first issue. After a lengthy pre-history the final phase of preparations led to a broad mobilisation of VETNET network and international partners as support network and the practical arrangements were agreed quickly and smoothly between ECER 2013 and 2014.
  2. On the last conference day the newly founded WERA IRN “Internationalisation of VET research (IRN-VET)” has its Forum session to present its action plan and to discuss some selected themes for future cooperation (International VET research review, Developments in governance of VET, Internationalisation in VET teacher education and doctoral studies). Via this Forum a wider range of network members became engaged in cooperation at global level.

Bremen Conference 2015 “Crossing boundaries in VET”

In this context it is worthwhile to mention shortly that the next major event of VETNET and IRN-VET took place already before the ECER 2015, since the ITB-hosted conference “Crossing boungaries in VET” was organised one week before ECER. With this pre-conference the networks provided a wider opportunity for European and international participants to debate and exchange views on themes that are presented very shortly in ordinary conferences. The keynote speakers were mainly VETNET board members, whilst a major part of the IRN-VET board members were active as presenters or co-authors. Given the good dialogue-oriented atmosphere, several participants expressed the interest to continue with such conference and the University of Rostock expressed its interest to host the next one in 2017.

ECER 2015 in Budapest: Transitions in societies and VET research

When ECER 2015 was about to start in Budapest, the world news were overwhelmed with reports on waves of refugees heading north via the “Balkan route” and the Budapest railway station being one of main stops during these journeys. This gave rise for the EERA council and secretariat to appeal to the participants to show solidarity and distance themselves from xenophobic attitudes. Given that the theme of the conference was “Education and transitions” there was a close similarity to the beginning of the societal transitions in Central and East European countries in the year 1989.

In this spirit the VETNET Opening colloquium had invited as the keynote speaker professor Andras Benedek, former education minister and director general of the national institute for VET. He presented a thorough examination on the developments during the post-communist era and on the developments in VET and Higher Education, including the issue of academisation of vocational teacher education. This picture was later on complemented in the paper presentation of Magdolna Benke on the short history of the National Institute for Vocational Education (NIVE) and on later research on building partnerships to promote VET.

In the sessions I could observe an excellent symposium on VET developments in the Nordic countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland) and critical discussion, whether there is a common ‘Nordic model’ to be promoted elsewhere. In other sessions I observed several cases of interactive research (once again by the colleagues of HAN University, Loek Nieuwenhuis and Aimee Hoeve) and by a Danish research team evaluating innovations in VET schools. Our ITB team organised a symposium in which we put into discussion transition of earlier project generation to a newer one in two project threads:

  1. The Kompetenzwerkstatt projects for developing vocational curricula and supporting tools for teachers and learners  and
  2. The Learning Layers project and its transition from developing digital media, web tools and mobile technologies in initial vocational training (of apprentices) to a successor project that develops similar solutions to support continuing training (of advanced craftsmen and site managers in construction sector).

In the VETNET General Assembly we were happy to reap the harvest of the successful pre-conference in Bremen and of the VETNET program in Budapest. We could note a highly successful development of the IJRVET since ECER 2014 and we could look forward in an optimistic spirit with all our initiatives. In this context I was pleased to experience that I was nominated by the board as an Honorary Member of the VETNET Network.

– – –

I think this is enough of the most recent phase of the development of the VETNET network – charactersed by new initiatives and their successful implementation. In my next post (the Epilogue) I will have a look at the preparation of the ECER 2016.

More posts to come …

 

My journey with the VETNET network – Part Four: The years of consolidation

August 16th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest posts I have been writing a series of blogs on my journey with ECER conferences and the VETNET network. These blogs serve as my contribution to the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) 2016 when we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of VETNET – the European Vocational Education and Training Research Network.  This year I have to stay outof ECER because of health issues.  In the previousposts I have covered the earliest years from 1992 on, the founding  phase until  2001 and the stabilisation phase between 2003 and 2007. In this post I will have a look at the consolidation phase between 2007 and 2011.

ECER 2007 in Ghent: Ten years of VETNET activities in European VET research

In ECER 2007 we celebrated the tenth anniversary of VETNET activities in ECER. Firstly, the keynote of Ides Nicaise focused on the theme “Participation in lifelong learning in the EU-15”. Then, in VETNET Forum we discussed the development of VETNET. I opened the discussion with a powerpoint presentation “The VETNET Chronicle”. Then we had contributions from the convenors, communicators, networkers and newest members from Central and East Europe. After the event we celebrated the launch of the newly published book Vocational Education in international context: philosophical and historical dimensions edited by Linda Clarke and Christopher Winch.

In the sessions we had further contributions on the European Qualification Framework, on European policies concerning teachers and trainers and on quality assurance in VET. One of the special experiences was the round table on eLearning in which most of the contributors had cancelled their participation shortly before – but the interested participants made improvised presentations to fill the gap. Also, in this conference we had a joint session with the Teacher Education network.

ECER 2008 in Göteborg: Looking for innovation research approaches in VET 

The ECER 2008 in Göteborg continued on a similar track as the previous one. The VETNET Opening colloquium was based on the keynote of Per-Erik Ellström on the theme “Knowledge Cceation through interactive research: a partnership approach”. Bernd Hofmaier commented this from the perspective of research on working life. The VETNET Forum was organised as a platform for VET-related journals and their exchanges with the VETNET community.

In the sessions I could once again observe a major emphasis on teachers and trainers in VET,  the impact of European Qualification Framework, governance issues and recognition of prior (vocational or work-related learning). We also had sessions on policy transfer between EU member states and a receiving partner states as well as discussions on occupational core profiles.

ECER 2009 in Wien: Critical reflection on European Qualification Frameworks

ECER 2009 in Wien followed partly the patterns of the previos conferences but had some new features as well. The role of the  Opening colloquium and the VETNET Forum was given to the symposia that examined the role of European (and National) Qualification Frameworks in the European VET policies. The speakers  – Lorenz Lassnigg, Jordi Planas, Michael Young and David Raffe – discussed the internal policy processes, expectations on harmonisation and the practical applicability of such frameworks. In many respects the speakers came up with critical comments with striking examples (e.g. the difficulty to agree on mutually coherent frameworks between England & Wales, Scotland, North Ireland and the Republic of Ireland).

In the sessions we had also some sessions dedicated to VET policies but also new themes, such as practice-based learning as an interface between vocational and higher education. Also, some sessions brought into discussion studies based on activity theory and developmental work research.

Concerning VETNET community and the conference culture, there were some new developments. Firstly, Pontydysgu (Graham Attwell) introduced a new social networking website for VETNET (based on the Mixxt platform). Secondly, the Pontydysgu team managed the video recording of the EERA keynotes and in addition produced several video interviews with VETNET participants and key actors of EERA. Finally, the VETNET General Assembly re-elected Ludger Deitmer as the Convenor and a new board (partly re-elected, partly renewed) for the coming years.

ECER 2010 in Helsinki: Intercultural dimensions of VET and VET research

The ECER 2010 in Helsinki took place already in August and this caused problems to some participants. The invited keynote speaker for the VETNET Opening colloquium, Johanna Lasonen, was in the middle of a transfer to University of South Florida and couldn’t attend in person. As a consequence, she presented an outline of her speech as a video recording and then Marianne Teräs continued live. The theme – The role of VET in promoting integration of migrants and intercultural understanding – was also taken in a specific symposium and in one of the central EERA events.

In other sessions some of the themes of the last year  (e.g. that of practice-based learning) were continued whilst some newer themes were introduced, such as entrepreneurial education and the role of VET in promoting renewable energy.

Also in this conference the Pontydysgu team was actively involved in producing livestreams and video recordings – but now with emphasis on the central EERA events.

ECER 2011 in Berlin: VETNET in transition

The ECER 2011 in Berlin was a conference that brought into picture many transitions in the way VETNET has worked. Firstly, the traditional Opening Colloquium and VETNET Forum were replaced with an active workshop in which all participants worked in three groups (led by three facilitators) to provide a groip picture of their priority themes or key challenges for the conference. In the sessions I could see a strong presence of the new Swedish VET-related doctoral program supported by a consortium of several universities. The participants provided insights into their cooperation with their Scandinavian and Australian counterparts and they highlighted their involvement in European cooperation projects. In other sessions we had discussions on practice-based learning and on governance of continuing training. Also, the key issue of last year – the role of VET in integration  of migrants and in intercultural understanding – was present.

In this conference the Pontydysgu team was working with live radio and podcasts. Thus, several VETNET participants could announce their forthcoming sessions and/or give interviews after their sessions. Furthermore, in an experimental session Eileen Lübcke gave a presentation on the draufhaber,tv project with video demonstrations as essential part of her contribution.

In the VETNET General Assembly we experienced special moments. Firstly (in accordance with the new EERA policies) we nominated Martin Mulder (as the founder of VETNET) and Sabine Manning (long-time board member, editor of the VETNET proceedings as well as the L&W Newsletter) as the first VETNET Honorary Members. Shortly afterwards we accepted the request of Ludger Deitmer to be replaced as the Convenor of VETNET. As his successors we elected Michael Gessler (Link Convenor) and Marg Malloch (Deputy Convenor). With these changes we envisaged a period with new initiatives and new responsibilities to be managed by this tandem leadership.

– – –

I guess this is enough of this phase of consolidation. In the next post I will look at the most recent years and at the new initiatives that were brought into picture.

More blogs to come …

My journey with the VETNET network – Part Three: The years of stabilisation

August 15th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest posts I have started a series of blogs on my journey with ECER conferences and the VETNET network. These blogs serve as my contribution to the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) 2016 we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of VETNET – the European Vocational Education and Training Research Network.  This year I have to stay outof ECER because of health issues.  In the first posts I have covered the earliest years – the pre-history of the network from 1992 on and the founding and grounding phase until the year 2000. In this third post I will have a look at the subsequent stabilisation phase up to the year 2007.

Gap years 2001 and 2002

In my previous post I had reported on the election of the new convenor and new board. Unfortunately I could not witness that closely their work because I had to stay away from ECER 2001 in Lille and ECER 2002 in Lisbon due to intervening factors. In 2001 I had to move inside Thessaloniki and in 2002 I had to move out from Thessaloniki. My temporary contract as a project manager in Cedefop had come to an end. I was resettling in Finland whilst Cedefop took a new course in its engagement with researchers and their communities.

In the meantime the VETNET board led by Toni Griffiths had developed its own style of working – including interim meetings of the Board between ECER conferences and engaging all board members in the peer review of proposals. Also, during this period the first attempt was made to set up a VETNET-affiliated journal for VET research. Furthermore, in ECER 2002 VETNET hosted a visit of a representative of European Commission, DG Research who informed the community on the preconditions for participating in the new 6th Framework Programme for Research (FP6) of the European Union.

After ECER 2002 there was also a discussion, whether the VETNET network should change its name – with less emphasis on VET and more emphasis on career development and learning at work. At the end of an open debate the board agreed to keep the name and anchoring to the field of VET.

ECER 2003 in Hamburg: Looking for new forms of European cooperation

In ECER 2003 in Hamburg I made a come-back to ECER, now without my Cedefop functions (nor any new organisational affiliation) and trying to position myself anew in the community. At that time the board of Toni Griffiths was coming to an end with its work and the planning for major projects for the FP6 was heading to its final phase. In this context the VETNET Opening colloquium was organised as a panel to discuss challenges for European VET research. In his contribution the Commission representative outlined the frameworks for FP6, Alan Brown explored the possibilities to develop cooperation across national educational research programmes, Felix Rauner discussed conceptual and societal challenges for VET research, whilst I discussed the prospects of cohesion vs. particularisation in VET research.

In the sessions could witness a slight transition from themes that focused on VET policies, qualifications and curricular issues towards non-formal learning, working life and project evaluation as well as eLearning. A special highlight was the study on the role of social partners in EU member states and Central/East European countries by Magdolna Benke. Whilst this all was anchored in VET, there was a search for new ‘niche areas’ and  interfaces with neighbouring research areas.

In this context Toni Griffiths ended her period as the Convenor and a new VETNET Board was elected with Ludger Deitmer (the VETNET program chair of the Hamburg conference) as the new Convenor.

ECER 2004 in Rhethymnon, Crete: Debates on VET-PISA, eLearning and learning at workplace

The ECER 2004 was organised at the Rhethymnon campus of the University of Crete (as a replacement for the initially chosen venue  elsewhere in Europe).This time I participated as a visiting researcher affiliated to the Vocational Teacher Education College of the Jyväskylä Polytechnic. (Parallel to this I had been acknowledged as a Visiting Fellow of ITB.)

In the light of the public debates on OECD PISA-studies the VETNET board had decided to dedicate the VETNET Opening colloquium for the question whether the field of VET should have a PISA of its own. The panelists, Nikitas Patiniotis, Rainer Bremer and Jenny Hughes took somewhat different perspectives. They all distanced themselves from the approach with which the PISA studies have been carried out and of the apparatus that has been created. However, the didn’t have a common conclusion on possible alternative approach and its eventual benefits.

In the sessions I could observe a strong presence of evaluation research (project evaluation, evaluation of eLearning), revisiting studies on work process knowledge and organisational learning as well as themes in the border zone between continuing training and informal learning. At the end of the program there was a special session on the role of action research in the field of VET.

In the VETNET General Assembly we could note a good level opf participation in the conference. As a major initiative we discussed the new proposal to set up a VET-related journal in collaboration with a publishing house (that had sent a representative to Crete). The VETNET board had set a working group that presented an interim report which was well received by the participants.

Interim developments

After the conference the VETNET network was involved as a co-organiser (with the Unesco-Unevoc centre) in a special workshop on VET research and vocational teacher education in October 2004 in Hamburg. This workshop served as a preparatory event for a global Unesco international meeting on TVET teacher education in Hangzhou, China. As the results of the Hangzhou meeting were reported to the VETNET board there was some discussion, how to arrange the cooperation of the network with such affiliated initiatives or network. At the end of the day the working consensus of Frankfurt 1997 was restated.

ECER 2005 in Dublin: Debates on the European gospel for training and learning

In ECER 2005 I participated as a new staff member of ITB who had recently started working in Bremen. Thus, I had also joined the ITB team to support VETNET activities.

The VETNET Opening colloquium was dedicated to the keynote speech of James Wickham and his question “How European are Europe’s Work and Learning Policies?” In this context he outlined the global challenges to what he called “The European Social Model” and discussed the tensions between “the American mirage” and “the European dream”.  Another joint VETNET event was dedicated to the transnational study for the Maastricht meeting of Educational ministers in 2004 “Attainment of Lisbon goals: The contribution of VET“. The consortium members Tom Leney and Anneke Westerhuis emphasised the study as an opportunity for European research community to specify the criteria for policy analysis. At the same time they drew attention to the challenges to base policy evaluation on appropriate data. As a discussant Felix Rauner drew attention to the discrepancy between leading policy issues and more VET-specific challenges that seem to be left into margins in the current policy processes.

In the sessions I was involved in round tables and workshops that discussed VET researchers’ contribution to regional development initiatives and the role of web tools, research forums and virtual communities in such initiatives. Whilst the contributions were interesting, it appeared to me that we were experiencing a kind of rupture period between the working issues and the web technologies available.

Concerning the VETNET community, we had already launched a new website at the advent of ECER 2004. Now,  just before the ECER 2005 the website was equipped with the VETNET conference blog, which I started to use for real-time reporting.

ECER 2006 in Geneve: In the margins of European educational cooperation

ECER 2006 was organised in Geneve, Switzerland. For the VETNET community this was a problematic choice because a considerable number of VET researchers was participating on the basis of EU-funding (for which a conference in a non-member state was not eligible). After several positive discussions with Commission officials and appeals on behalf of EERA president the Commission position remained strict. Luckily enough the VETNET program chair Barbara Stalder managed to negotiate a funding arrangement from Swiss funds to support cooperation with EU programmes.

The VETNET Opening colloquium was dedicated to the keynote of Rolf Dubs who analysed the developments in Swiss VET systems in the light of the neighbouring VET cultures of Germany, Austria and France. He emphasised the interfaces and the developments towards a ‘trial system’. The other joint event – the VETNET Forum – analysed the preparation of the European Qualification Framework (EQF) in a policy process that was steered by the European Commission. Jörg Markowitsch provided a closer look at the most recent phase of the preparatory process. Georg Spöttl drew attention to different – and often mutually contradicting expectations that have been raised during the preparation of the current draft.

In the sessions (some of them based on European projects) I could observe an emphasis on working life issues, such as Development of knowledge management tools for SMEs (KMplus), Workplace learning partnerships (WLP), Development of national training markets (CVTS2-rev), Transition from R&D to RED (individual paper, Wageningen University) and Designing learning culture for innovation in companies (individual paper, University of St. Gallen).

Concerning the VETNET community development, the General Assembly re-elected Ludger Deitmer as the Convenor and elected a new board with some continuity and some renewal. Altogether, the progress was positive although the initiative to set up a VETNET journal appeared to to have been taken into other hands.

– – –

I think this is an appropriate point to draw the demarcation line between the stabilisation phase and the next phase of consolidation. In the next post I will start with the celebration of the 10 years anniversary of VETNET presence in ECER.

More blogs to come … 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My journey with the VETNET network – Part Two: The founding years

August 15th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest post I started a series of blogs on my journey with ECER conferences and the VETNET network. These blogs serve as my contribution to the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) 2016 we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of VETNET – the European Vocational Education and Training Research Network.  This year I have to stay outof ECER because of health issues. Therefore I send my congratulations with my blogs. In the first post I covered the earliest years – the pre-history of the network. In this post I will have a look at the founding phase after the official launch in ECER 1996 in Sevilla.

ECER 1997 in Frankfurt am Main: VETNET in action – working consensus on the nature of VET research

Whilst the official launch of VETNET took place during ECER 1996 in Sevilla, a VETNET conference strand became reality in ECER 1997 in Frankfurt. At this time VET-related research was clearly organised in one space and in several parallel sessions next to each other. Also, several EU-funded projects came together to exchange knowledge on their common themes (e.g. the projects on post-16 education strategies and dually oriented qualifications). One of the highlights was the symposium on “Core structures of vocational education and training (VET) research”. In the discussions we took note that we have three main approaches to research in the field of VET:

  1. Discipline-based approaches to research on VET (Forschung über Berufsbildung) that perceive VET as a special area of interest;
  2. Interdisciplinary VET research (Berufsbildungsforschung) that crosses the boundaries of traditional disciplines and promotes integrative know-how on VET development (Berufsbildungsentwicklung);
  3. Transdisciplinary research in pedagogics of VET (Berufspädagogik) that promotes integrative research to support (domain-specific and transversal) pedagocic development of VET.

The common conclusion – the VETNET working consensus of Frankfurt 1997 – was that all these approaches complement each other and that we need to give space for all of them in the future VETNET conference programs.

In ECER 1997 the VETNET assembly was already taking the role of organising the network. The fact that the initially appointed board had not become active was noted. Therefore, an acting executive board consisting of co-opted members was set up. The members brought together experience from European projects and other European networks (Johanna Lasonen, Sabine Manning, David Raffe) as well as from AERA (Curtis Finch, Johanna Lasonen). In this way the network got founded and grounded to become the umbrella network of European VET researchers.

ECER 1998 in Ljubljana: Networking the networks within VETNET

In ECER 1998 in Ljubljana the VETNET strand had already got stabilised and the community was able to initiate new kinds of sessions. The VETNET strand was opened by a colloquium on Transnationality in VET research (involving multiple perspectives on transnational exhanges, comparisons and knowledge enrichment). Also, the program included a session for dialogue between projects in different EU programs (Europrof project meets Work Process Knowledge network) and a special session Meeting point for networks in VET rersearch.

ECER 1999 in Lahti: VETNET program chair in action

Whilst the VETNET strand in the two previous conferences had been shaped by the EERA secretariat, the VETNET network had agreed to appoint a ‘local’ VETNET program chair for the ECER 1999 to organised in Lahti, Finland. Johanna Lasonen took this task as the pioneer in this role. In the conference we had then a VETNET opening colloquium with invited speakers (Yrjö Engeström, Michael Young) and a special guest (Director of VET department, Armoguum Parsuramen from Unesco). In addition there were ‘study visits’ to vocational schools and companies to discuss VET in practice and there was a VETNET reception sponsored by Lahti Polytechnic. Moreover, this time the VETNET program was organised in collaboration with the Academy of HRD, European chapter and the proceedings of the program (full papers) were made available already by the conference. From the content point of view the program included new features, such as sessions for revisiting and re-examining the results of completed European projects or for presenting new web resources for promoting knowledge development across such projects (the Cedefop Research Arena initiative).

From the organisational point of view it is worthwhile to note that the General Assembly of VETNET network agreed on a procedure to elect a new VETNET board in the next conference.

ECER 2000 in Edinburgh: New VETNET board elected

In ECER 2000 in Edinburgh the VETNET program continued on a similar track as the previous ones. This time some of the sessions took up the discussions in previous ones and continued the debates. In this way the symposium on Key qualifications/ Key competences provided an opening that was picked up in some later sessions (e.g. on transitions and re-entry to working life as well as on curriculum development in polytechnics). Also, there was an update on the work with some key themes of the Cedefop Research Arena (the shaping of new interactive web resources).

From the perspective of the community development the highlight was the election of the new VETNET board. Already in Lahti we had come to the conclusion that the co-opted executive board that had worked since ECER 1997 was coming to the end of its term. Also, Martin Mulder who had served as the founding convenor had agreed to step down. In Edinburgh we elected Toni Griffiths from University College London (the coordinator of the EU FP4-funded project “Work experience as an educational challenge for the 21st century”) as the new convenor and a new board to support the work in the next phase.

– – –

I guess this is enough of the founding (and grounding) phase of the network. In the next post I will have a look at the years of stabilisation of VETNET.

More blogs to come …

 

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