The reform, both comprehensive and inclusive, was introduced in the first year of secondary schooling (year 9, age 13) during the current school year 2019-20.
Why the need for this reform?
Although early school leaving has declined since 2010, the proportion of early school leavers from education and training is still above the EU average and the 10% national Europe 2020 target. This is mainly the result of an examination-oriented education system, based on the segregation of learners according to academic ability. For many years this led to disengagement from learning of over half the cohort of learners, and has also affected lifelong learning of low-qualified adults.
What is the reform about?
Lower secondary learners have now an opportunity to select options/subjects (general/academic, vocational and applied) alongside their compulsory lessons. The following nine vocational subjects and their corresponding applied ones are available:
- agribusiness, engineering technology;
- health and social care;
- information technology;
- media literacy;
- hairdressing and beauty;
- textiles and fashion.
All these subjects lead up to EQF/MQF level 3 qualification, with no dead-ends. The rationale is that vocational education supports the educational engagement of learners who may struggle with the learning pedagogy of mainstream academic subjects. The progress of learners in the vocational subjects is not assessed through formal examinations but through ongoing assessment by the subject teacher, verified internally by a second subject teacher, and evaluated by an external verifier from the national assessment board. School-based information sessions were organised for learners, their parents and teaching staff. Teachers already in service who opted to teach the new vocational and applied subjects attended ongoing professional development sessions in the learning content, vocational pedagogy and assessment procedure. Besides the investment in human resources, the ministry and the ESF jointly financed 78 vocational spaces, equipping them with the latest material and teaching resources.
A public campaign launched in 2016 – on mass and social media – continues to provide information about the reform. In its first year of implementation almost 60% of year 9 learners opted to study a vocational subject.