This Policy Paper analyses the vocational education and training (VET) system in four selected countries – namely India, the Republic of Korea, South Africa, and Vietnam. The need for adequately skilled persons is rising in all four countries. And all four countries have identified the VET system – in cooperation with the private sector – as a key actor to provide such skills. In consequence, all four countries have developed individual and apposite measures to strengthen their VET systems. Even though the four countries are very different in terms of their starting points and their demographic, economic and institutional framework conditions, they all face the same challenge: designing a VET system that makes the country future-proof. On the one hand, such a VET system skills young persons for the labour market and improves their employment prospects. On the other hand, teaching the right skills is a key necessity for a sustainable growth strategy for the economy as a whole and for reacting to current challenges like the ongoing digitalisation of the economy. Since in Germany the German dual training system has a long tradition, it is also introduced as a reference model.

The results of the country analyses allow the identification of promising reform options and policy recommendations in VET which also have the potential to be transferred to other countries. The countries in focus are:

  • Not only due to its size, but also due to its economic rise in the last decades, India is a very important country. But despite its impressive development, it still lags behind in many development indicators. For a sustainable development, India needs a diversified growth strategy which requires the skilling of a large share of the population. India’s VET system is not able to provide such skills. Attempts to improve the VET system have often faileddue to a fragmented management system. In 2014 India introduced a new ministry, the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, which coordinates all VET activities.
  • The Republic of Korea has also undergone a rapid economic upswing since the 1960s. This development was backed by a high skill level of the population. However, there is an increasing imbalance between academic graduates and vocationally skilled persons on the Korean labour market. Today, there are large shortages on the middle qualification level. The Korean VET system is mainly school-based and the participation of companies in VET is limited. In order to improve the reputation and the quality of VET, Korea has introduced so-called ‘Meister colleges’. These colleges have a focus on a closer cooperation between schools and companies. Furthermore, dual training schemes have been introduced in some colleges. Still the largest challenge is to win the population for the VET offer and to improve the image.
  • Since its transition to democracy, the VET sector and especially Technical and Vocational Colleges in South Africa have gained importance. In 2003, South Africa introduced the so-called Support to Education and Skills Development Programme in several model projects. One important pillar of this programme was the strengthening of the student support services in the selected colleges. These services aim at establishing relations betweenthe VET system and the industry. Currently, the focus of reforms is on the improvement of curricula in order to make the training contents more relevant for the industry. South Africa has now decided to expand the project to further colleges.
  • Finally, Vietnam has also been through a phase with high economic growth rates. The country focuses on further strengthening its non-agricultural sectors. The transition of people to non-agricultural jobs can, however, only be successful with an extensive skilling initiative. Mostly, VET in Vietnam does not include work-based learning, and the relationship with the industry is weak. Vietnam currently tries to improve its vocational guidance, has expanded the VET offer, and has recently introduced several VET model projects with dual elements.

The country analyses reveal fields of action as well as several successful reform approaches which can be generalised and serve as a role model for other countries. Below the main results are briefly summarised.

  • Strengthening of company involvement in VET: Nobody knows better than the companies themselves what skills are needed on the labour market. Hence, a strong and institutional relationship between the VET system and the private sector is a necessary precondition for a successful VET system.
  • Clear VET responsibilities: Centralising the efforts of VET institutions in creating a relationship to the industry is a promising approach. This pooling of resources as well as decision-making competences shall make all VET activities more efficient.
  • National VET standards: National standards are important in order to increase the quality of VET and the acceptance of VET graduates in companies.
  • Incremental introduction of dual VET elements: In countries where company involvement in VET has no tradition, the introduction of dual training approaches requires a change of mind in the companies. This cannot happen from one day to the other. Therefore, the incremental introduction of dual training – be it in single model regions or single model sectors – can be an important first step.
  • Promote the labour market perspectives of VET: VET is often considered to be a second choice for many youths if they do not have the possibility to go to university. It is important to conscientise the population about the significance of VET. Vocational guidance needs to be strengthened as it can contribute to the dissemination of knowledge about the career perspectives with VET.
  • Increase the permeability between VET and higher education: Another important factor to increase the acceptance of VET is to improve the permeability between VET and higher education. This is an important signal for young persons and emphasises the value of VET certificates.
  • Implementation of skill forecasts: Finally, all countries need to establish instruments to improve skill forecasts in order to reduce prevailing skill gaps and mismatches and to adapt the skill offer to the skill demand.