Concept note

Background

In December 2003, the Centre international d'études pédagogiques (CIEP) and the World Bank co-organized an international conference on Technical Education and Vocational Training Reform in the Knowledge Economy: Challenges and Opportunities at the Secondary Level in Sèvres, France. The Conference highlighted the need to organize exchanges between political leaders, economic decision-makers and international organisations on TEVT issues. In response to numerous requests, the CIEP and the World Bank now propose to follow-up on this event and organize an international conference on the topic of short term TEVT at the higher education level, to take place at the CIEP in June 2005.

A Timely Issue

The need for an intermediate qualification between technician and manager or engineer has led a large number of countries to create special degree programmes which, though differing in nature, all share the same aim: to provide an answer to enterprises need for qualified higher technicians and mid-level managers.

This definition sets both the level (post-secondary) and the objective (labor market insertion). There exists in reality, however, a great diversity of teaching structures, methods used, institutional positioning, and therefore of underlying policies and resulting choices.

For example some of these training schemes are organized by professional organizations; others are a continuation of secondary schools under ministries of education; and others still exist in a university framework. The former are clearly set in a professional framework, while the latter have a double goal - professional and academic - as they open the possibility of pursuing studies at higher levels.

These training schemes therefore often have to adapt to multiple and divergent objectives. This raises a number of questions, further proof of the difficulty of modern societies to adapt to a rapidly changing world.

First, the rapid developments in science and technology, the explosion of new information and communication technologies (ICT), the transformation of production and work systems are the source of considerable upheaval in our societies, which require increasingly complex levels of knowledge. The globalization of production and commerce not only concerns the education system as a whole, but it also requires new approaches in TEVT, particularly at this intermediate level of qualifications: there exists a need for additional technical skills, a greater adaptability to the evolution of trades and knowledge, a broader general culture and serious capacity for interpersonal relations. This level is also where the initial training appears increasingly as the starting point for lifelong learning.

Second, all countries are confronted, to various degrees depending on their socioeconomic development, to the difficulties that arise from the conflict between three major constraints:

  • The increasing social demand for higher education in general and long studies in particular;
  • The increasing enterprise need for human resources qualified to address rapidly evolving technological changes;
  • The need to contain costs without hampering the capacity to undertake relevant strategic choices.

Addressing these challenges often leads to a fundamental questioning of existing systems.

In the OECD countries these degree programs are currently affected both by the reorganisation of higher learning at the European level (L, M and D) and the changes that are deeply influencing companies, and thereby, at the same time, the labor market and professional structures.

In the many emerging or developing countries that have set up degree programs of this kind over the past decade, or that are in the process of doing so, the decision-making process is difficult. Reasons include: (i) the quickly-growing demand for higher level training, which is more often directed at university than short term training streams, (ii) rapid and profound changes in the manufacturing sector, (iii) high investment costs, and resulting political and social stakes; and (iv) the size of the modern sector, which does not always allow the offer of all required specialties. In addition, regional cooperation is often inexistent, and therefore the nature of the aid required is often in doubt as well.

The complexity of the issues, the economic and labor impact of any possible errors, and the wide array of solutions implemented or currently planned have left a number of decision-makers hesitant about the best course of action.

The time is thus ripe for a conference that can serve as a forum for discussion and comparison of ideas and experiences, such that good practices may be identified and responses may be found to a variety of situations.

Topics

Two key words summarize the questions currently being asked: objectives and modalities:

  • Objectives can be economic (employment and development), political and social (ensuring widespread access to higher education, addressing youth unemployment), or institutional (sound educational framework). Each aspect requires a different reform approach.
  • The term modalities includes where such training stands within the post-secondary education landscape, what sort of equilibrium is achieved between the various degree programs, what connections exist with secondary education and on-the-job training, as well as to concepts such as diploma credits through job experience, skills certification, public-private relationships, etc.

The conference will be structured along these two lines:

  • Objectives

    • Employment and social demand: socio-political and economic analysis of the confrontation between these two logics. How does one merge the social demand for long studies in higher education with the need for intermediate skills and the constraints of a rapidly changing labor market?

    • Strategies regarding choices and equilibria between broad educational streams (academic and TEVT) in higher education: economic relevance; role of the public and private sectors; articulation with lifelong learning.

    • Political and social management of graduates of an expanding secondary level: guidance criteria; incentives; practical modalities (including financial) ; incidence upstream and downstream (higher level training); role of socioeconomic actors.

    • Cost/efficiency analysis for society: decisions, and their sustainability; sources of financing and cost recovery.

  • Modalities

    • Fluidity of streams and capacity to adapt to rapid changes in technology: relevance of exit levels; guidance; bridges; return to studies.

    • Definition of contents: knowledge and know how; transversal skills and human development. Who choses? Who decides?

    • Diplomas and certificates: recognition and social status; initial training and on-the-job training; validation of professional experience.

    • Organization and management: evaluation of structures and methods; identification of good practices; search for impact indicators capable of measuring the efficiency of these policies.

The problem of the " massification " of higher education is nearly universal; it arises naturally in areas where demographic growth is high. It is always necessary to take into account the new requirements of development, but for poor and emerging countries, this issue becomes vital. Institutional, social and economic choices that will be made in short term technical higher education will be critical in the decades to come. The topic must therefore be approached with realism.

Conference Methodology

The conference will alternate general presentations illustrating fundamental issues, laying the foundations for a typological approach, and identifying secular trends, with analysis of concrete examples and experiences, in order to compare and contrast solutions, bring out best practices and identify causes behind successes or failures.

Three workshops will offer opportunities for direct exchanges on case studies, and two roundtables will address more specific issues.

Two senior experts will offer a summary of the work carried out during the conference.

Proceedings will be published, and all presentations and conclusions will be posted on the CIEP website www.ciep.fr.

Languages : English and French with simultaneous translation.

Audience and Procedures

The Conference Scientific Committee has decided on the principle of a "closed-door" conference, limited to around one hundred participants, in order to encourage efficient discussions and bring about emerging perspectives. These participants will include:

  • political and economic decision-makers from a broad range of countries (at least thirty),
  • representatives and experts from international organizations.

In order to accommodate time constraints faced by decision-makers this level, the Conference will last no more than three days. It will be held Monday morning to mid-day Wednesday June 6- 8, 2005.

The conference will take place in Sèvres, in the outskirts of Paris, as a residential event in the CIEP Conference Center.

Organization

Partnerships

The partnership between the CIEP and the World Bank for this event was established in the Spring of 2004. A Joint Steering Committee was set up and is growing as new organisations join in the project: UNESCO, Ministries of Education and of Foreign Affairs, France. Other institutional partners may join the team in the near future.
The CIEP will be responsible for organising the event, under the leadership of Jacques Mazeran, advisor to the Director.
The original Scientific Committee, enlarged to include correspondents and qualified figures, held a number of meetings and consulted outside experts. The present concept note was drafted as a result.

Budget

The CIEP will bear all preparation-related costs (Scientific Committee, Steering Committee, Administration and Project Management), as well as the logistic set-up.
The World Bank will contribute to the preparations, also covering the expenses for a number of speakers, and will facilitate conference attendance for participants from countries where it jointly finances ongoing projects in the field. The other partners will contribute to the conference through subsidies.

Each participant will be requested to cover:

  • his/her own travel,
  • stay and registration expenses. The full residential conference package from Sunday evening June 5 through Wednesday afternoon June 8 will be 550 Euros; this includes registration fee (220 Euros), meals and individual lodging (330 Euros).