The Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training SFIVET organises the International Congress on Research in Vocational Education and Training every two years. This year’s event brought together 170 participants from 26 countries in Bern from 4 to 6 March 2019. The research paper on skills specificity of upper-secondary VET programmes and the gender pay gap by Miriam Grønning, Irene Kriesi and Stefan Sacchi won the Best Paper Award competing against over 90 entries.
Professor Christian Lyhne Ibsen from Michigan State University presented his thoughts on the politics of vocational education and training in the digital economy. He claims that VET should play a key role in enhancing socio-economic equality. Dual-track skills development systems have traditionally been able to respond to incremental technological change by adapting the content and structure of VET programmes to fit the skills demands of employers. However, digitalisation increases the speed of technological change, casting doubt on whether incremental adaptation of VET programmes in response to the needs of existing employers will suffice to satisfy the skills demands of the digital economy.
Growing interest in human learning
The presentation by Professor Elsbeth Stern from ETH Zurich addressed educational neuroscience as a field between false hopes and realistic expectations. Educational neuroscience has emerged as an interdisciplinary field, mainly stimulated by the improvement of brain imaging techniques and a growing interest in human learning inside and outside of schools. Getting information about human learning and cognition beyond testing or behavior observation by recording brain characteristics is appreciated by many learning researchers. While public expectations towards neuroscience go beyond what can be achieved today, it adds considerable value to research on learning and instruction. For instance, neural correlates of intelligence offer a better understanding of individual differences in information processing and learning over the human lifespan.
Professor Leesa Wheelahan from the University of Toronto talked about the capability approach in VET. She claims that human capital discourses in many countries posit a direct relationship between investment in specific skills and jobs and that VET can help individuals to achieve their aspirations, reinforcing social inclusion and social justice. The economist Professor Alexandra Spitz-Oener spoke about the task-flexibility of workers and the implications for wages and employment. She observed two dimensions of workers’ adjustments to changing skills demands: occupational mobility on the one hand and task adjustments within occupations on the other.
Antje Barabasch, Congress Chair, email@example.com, +41 58 458 27 89
Lucia Probst, communication SFIVET, firstname.lastname@example.org, +41 58 458 28 01