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Lucubrate Magazine, Issue 33, July 20th, 2018

There is no quick and easy way to export a vocational training system, or individual components, to other countries. Each country’s social, cultural and economic conditions determine the methods and strategies to be used in this process.

The dual system for Technical and Vocational Education and Training

Around the world, governments, educators, and employers have expressed growing interest in German-style methods of technical and vocational education and training (TVET). In such countries, schools and firms share responsibility for providing technical and vocational education, a model often called the ‘dual system of vocational training and education.’ The dual system means that occupational training occurs at two linked sites, educational institutions, and workplaces. Dual education aims at matching the demands of a dynamically changing economy with the skill profiles of those graduating from educational institutions. To a large extent, dual education systems enable young people to acquire not simply technical and occupational skill, but broadly defined competencies that serve as the foundation for rewarding careers and social esteem. Little wonder that many countries have turned with renewed interest to the dual TVET system. [1]

Photo: Christina Morillo

The dual system in Germany

The dual system is firmly established in the German education system. The main characteristic of the dual system is cooperation between mainly small and medium-sized companies, on the one hand, and publicly funded vocational schools, on the other. This cooperation is regulated by law. Trainees in the dual system typically spend part of each week at a vocational school and the other part at a company or they may spend longer periods at each place before alternating. Dual training usually lasts two to three-and-a-half years.

There are currently around 330 occupations requiring formal training in Germany. Employer organizations and trade unions are the drivers when it comes to updating and creating new training regulations and occupational profiles or modernizing further training regulations. The shared responsibility between government, employers and trade unions also helps in responding to emerging new challenges such as digital innovations like the “Internet of Things” which will have an increasing impact on manufacturing and the way work is organized.[2]

In 2017, some 52 percent of young Germans graduate from Dual VET apprenticeships – and in a great many cases, once they graduate, they’re offered long-term employment at the company where they did their apprenticeship. [3]

The dual system worldwide

TVET policies, and apprenticeships, in particular, have gained increased attention worldwide, and the main reason seems to be the high levels of youth unemployment internationally. German, Switzerland, and Austria, representing nations that consistently have low (youth) unemployment rates, are considered to provide a high quality of vocational training, and, are often asked for their assistance in transferring their dual models of provision abroad. These countries employ an approach which requires that the training delivered is a combination of company-based training and a part-time vocational school for apprentices; which is compulsory. One of the major advantages of this system, both for the apprentice as well as the company, is that apprentices may be employed as fully qualified skilled workers right upon completion of apprenticeship training. The apprenticeship or dual TVET system is highly recognized worldwide due to its combination of theory and practice embedded in a real-life work environment. [4]

There are many examples where the benefits of apprenticeship and dual TVET system are publicly acknowledged. After several decades of focusing on academic education and the ratio of college and university graduates as the sole indicator of the success of a national educational system, it appears that the tides have turned, with widespread praise for apprenticeship training now being at stake. Having said that, it is also important to notice that dual TVET embody policies that international academic and comparative education scholars have defined as being a “traveling policy” or a “global education policy”. In general, these travel policies are the result of the successful globalization of a particular localism. These policies have strong historical, political and economic roots in specific countries, and commentators suggest that they have become global export successes due to the action of international organizations, cooperation agencies, governments of other countries and a wide range of entrepreneurship policies.[4]

Photo: Pixaby

Does one size fit all?

In a brochure in 2017 form the German government we can read [5]:

TVET “made in Germany’ has become a brand name that enjoys international recognition. A low youth unemployment rate, high employment rates, and a stable economy in Germany are evidence of the fact that investing in TVET pays off.

Germany’s development cooperation activities in the field of TVET are inspired by our “dual’ (school- and industry-based) vocational training model. Together with our partner countries, we develop solutions tailored to their conditions and needs. At present, we are supporting more than 100 projects in 63 partner countries to assist them in improving their TVET systems.

However, is it like the dual system is the best system everywhere? In a study published in 2013, the conclusion is that “One size doesn’t fit all”.  The vocational training systems that exist today are the result of certain historical and cultural forces. Germany’s dual system, like those of other countries, has been shaped by prevailing legal norms, traditions, pedagogical principles and institutional structures. This leads to two main conclusions:

  • A national vocational training system is a tool for achieving certain objectives, and these objectives can differ from one country to another. There is no “best” system; each one can be judged only by its success in achieving those objectives.
  • A vocational training system is influenced by other social subsystems, and exporting it is possible only if conditions in the respective countries are comparable.

Should we then export the German vocational training system to other countries? Some argue that this would promote economic growth in the importing countries while others see it as a way of dramatically reducing the rate of (youth) unemployment. So far the results have been disappointing, as most evaluations of attempts to export the German system show little long-term effects. [6]

A closer look shows that importing a system, or parts of it, involves more than mere duplication. It is a process of selecting and adapting certain components to suit the objectives and conditions of the potential importing country. In the case of a vocational training system, a country seeking to reform its existing system does not simply replace it with that of Germany or any other country. Instead, it reviews the experiences of various countries and selects the features that best fit its own goals, structures, and culture, adapting them as necessary. [6]

There is no quick and easy way to export a vocational training system, or individual components, to other countries. Each country’s social, cultural and economic conditions determine the methods and strategies to be used in this process.



Do you have a comment or do you want to give your feedback on this article? Do you want to write letters to the editor? Please use the link https://lucu.nkb.no/feedback/




[1] Thomas F. Remington: Public-private partnerships in TVET: adapting the dual system in the United States. Journal of Vocational Education & Training (June 2018)

[2] The German Vocational Training System (https://www.bmbf.de/en/the-german-vocational-training-system-2129.html)

[3] https://www.dw.com/en/germany-exports-a-secret-of-its-success-vocational-education/a-38114840

[4] Dr. Oscar Valiente & Dr. Hugo Fuentes: Pilot evaluation of the Mexican            Model of Dual TVET in the State of Mexico. (February 2018)

[5] Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (June 2017)

[6] Dieter Euler: Germany’s dual vocational training system: a model for other countries? Bertelsmann Stiftung (2013)


(Photo on top: Josh Sorenson)

Lucubrate Magazine, Issue 33, July 20th, 2018

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  1. I worked on several projects with the objective to implement (or piloting) dual training, and as the article says, it doesn’t work for all. China was promising (although was there very shortly only), Ethiopia totally disappointing. Would be definitely worth to do an in-deep study (best practices, cultural/social factors, bureaucracy/ frameworks etc) before “imposing” a new training system to (often) totally unprepared training providers.

  2. […] Is the dual system for Technical and Vocational Education and Training for all? […]

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