A strong vocational education system can improve employment, youth opportunities and economic development. However governments often struggle to ensure vocational education systems are effective, attractive and are well aligned with constantly changing market needs. We looked at high performing vocational education systems and identified six common features which help them get results:


1.       Training combines, theory,  practical and on-the-job elements

Making connections between theory and practice is always difficult and requires students to put into practice what they are learning in the classroom. The best vocational education providers ensure highly integrated learning systems with in-school education, practical skill building and on-the-job elements. In school education teaches the theoretical components of skills, whilst practical and on-the-job experience builds confidence and competency to use the skills.


2.       Employers are comprehensively involved throughout the design, delivery and assessment of the program and in placing students post-completion

To maximise student employability, it’s vital to ensure that the learning material reflects the requirements of the employers. First, employers should have a genuine, leading role in designing the program, ensuring learning requirements are appropriate and the assessments are suitable. Second, employers should have an active role in teaching the practical and on-the-job components. Third, employers should be part of the quality assurance of the program so that they can constantly give feedback and ensure and that graduates are effective members of the industry. Last, the best systems involve employers post-completion to assist with the placement of students into jobs. 


3.       Modular programmes ensure flexibility and attract students  

Modular programmes split learning into modules, and qualifications require the successful completion of a certain number and type of modules. This allows students to tailor their learning to better suit their individual requirements.  It also makes it easier to add, change or remove modules to swiftly respond to the needs of the industry. The best systems integrate modular qualification programmes into other systems of education through recognition of prior learning. This makes vocational education a more attractive learning option as it increases the pathways available to students.


4.       Effective leaders and teachers are fundamental to learning

Ensuring the system has good leadership and teaching staff is crucial to enhance student learning. The quality of student learning is determined by the quality of those in charge. A good leader will set the vision for the organisation and motivate all staff towards achieving that common goal. Teachers must possess the requisite skills and capabilities to ensure they are effective in passing on their knowledge. Vocational education systems must not only have processes to ensure high quality leaders and teachers are involved, but also processes to ensure that leaders and teachers are constantly improving and meeting the dynamic needs of the system.


5.       Comprehensive quality assurance is essential

Quality assurance is important to maintain a high quality system. Many governments struggle to implement a robust quality assurance system which limits their capacity to improve their system. The best quality assurance systems examine the administration, inputs, processes and results of the programmes and use that information to improve or adapt the system.  


6.       Equal but different

In some nations, systems of vocational education are viewed as a lower form of education compared to traditional institutions. This reduces the perception of the system which in turn leads to lower standards and quality. The best systems treat vocational education as an alternative but equally worthy learning pathway, which implies a different way of learning and different requirements for graduation but a similar standard of achievement.