Gabrijela Grujić, Dual Education Advisor to the Minister in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia

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We offer children skills that make them permanently employable

Contrary to popular belief that dual education produces cheap workforce, the actual essence of this model is creating opportunities for permanent employment right after finished school, or after loosing a job. The experiences of our Austrian peers were exceptionally important to us in conceiving our dual education format.

The experiences of Switzerland, Germany and Austria were very valuable in creation of our National Dual and Entrepreneurial Education model. Our model encompasses the uniqueness of the educational and social system in Serbia – says Gabrijela Grujić, Dual Education Advisor to the Minister.

How applicable is Austria’s experience with dual education in our country?

The Austrian dual education model is one of the more reputable education formats that has accomplished exceptionally important results in terms of increasing employment among youth and meeting labour market needs. However, it is not possible to fully apply this system in our country. We can implement only those elements that fit our social and economic environment. For instance, according to our format, a pupil who has his work practice at a company concludes a contract with that company based on which he will receive a fee and have his material costs covered. But he is not treated as an employee (like in Austria) since still maintains his pupil status. Pupils spend a day or two a week in the company depending on the worker profile they are studying to be, while, in Austria, pupils spend up to four days a week at a company. Companies have to appoint instructors from their workforce to train the pupils. The instructors are also trained with the view of acquiring didactic and pedagogical competencies, and knowing relevant legislation.

In which areas has the transfer of the Austria know-how proved to be most useful in devising changes in our education system?

Bearing in mind that the dual education model is based on advancing and improving the quality of learning through work, the experiences of our Austrian peers were especially useful in the following areas – instructor training, with instructors being employees of the company that will train the pupils, concluding training contracts between pupils and companies, and building the capacities of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce for the implementation of the dual education model in the vocational school system in Serbia with the help of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development.

When is the announced dual education law going to be adopted, and how many schools and pupils are going to be included in the programme in the medium-term?

The team that has been working on the draft law, which includes representatives of all relevant institutions, hopes that the law would be forwarded to the parliament for a public debate soon followed by adoption procedure. The Action Plan stipulates that 20% of vocational high schools in Serbia should be included in the dual and entrepreneurial education system next school year. The Action Plan complies with the Decree on Municipal Development from 2014 with the view of equally implementing dual education on the entire territory of the Republic of Serbia.

Do you think that people have become less prejudiced about this type of education than before when the whole process was in its infancy?

There are still contrasting opinions. Many tie this system to the former Šuvar’s reforms and claim that it creates cheap workforce which is why it is important for me to underline the following – one of the goals of dual education is the so-called permanent employability meaning finding job fast after finishing school, as well as the ability to change jobs quickly, or finding a job after loosing one regardless of the reason.

Dual education also gives an opportunity to people to advance towards better paid and more challenging positions in their profession in the same or in other company they wish to work for. The fact remains that today’s companies are fighting to get talented and capable workers for themselves, and are sometimes resorting to snatching them away from other companies by offering better working conditions and career advancement.

In dual education, pupils are encouraged to think about their careers from a development point of view, i.e. to be ready to change companies and jobs while searching for better working conditions for themselves.

Dual education also significantly contributes to the balance between demand and supply of workforce on the labour market because companies will offer positions to those pupils who are studying for profiles they actually need, while not creating those worker profiles that are already in oversupply on the labour market.

The claim about „cheap workforce“ stems from the system where, in most cases, young people are not supplied with quality competenecies after education, but only with a diploma. The number of unemployed young people, who are registered with the National Employment Office, speaks in favour of the claim that dual and entrepreneurial education is the most important task of education reform. Pupils who, during their formal education, are given a chance to learn while working 2 or 3 days a week while successfully mastering all the teaching units set out in the teaching plan and programme, will acquire quality education and be work-ready, as well as possess several skills in line with the innovated dual worker profiles. They are going to become a part of a very professional workforce, and be well compensated for that.

One thing is certain – those pupils who are trained under the dual education system will acquire good competencies that are in accordance with labour market needs, and are, as such, employable from the moment they finish school. Also, they stand a better chance of receiving a proper financial compensation in line with their competencies.

How open is our education system towards the idea of being more in accord with labour market needs?

When visiting 50 towns, schools and companies in Serbia, the Ministry of Education and the Serbian Chamber of Commerce saw a high awareness both in teachers and employers about aligning education with labour market needs. In order to achieve efficient results in this area, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, the Serbian Chamber of Commerce and the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities have collaborated on drafting a new enrollment plan for the school year 2017/2018 which entails cooperation between various institutions and listening to the needs of the labour market. It is important to mention that all worker profiles trained in vocational high schools will be able to enroll in colleges and universities in line with the new law on high school education.

Do you think that teachers are sufficiently prepared to handle the changes in curriculum, and are there enough companies interested in taking pupils to train?

Teachers in our country don’t perceive their profession only as a profession, but as a calling too. You live off your profession, and you live for your calling. Most teachers have already shown a very high level of responsibility for educating pupils, and are interested in and understanding of this kind reform. Starting with elementary schools, our education system is mostly based on learning by subjects without those subjects having a common platform of developing entrepreneurial spirit in pupils. In order to eliminate this problem through active collaboration of the Ministry of Education and teachers, we are advocating implementation of project activities in order to develop entrepreneurial spirit in children.

How important are professional orientation programmes for pupils in order for them to make the right choice regarding their future vocation?

The main goal of professional orientation is developing skills in young people that will enable them to make and implement a reasoned, valid and independent decision in regard to choosing the school and the profession that they plan to build their career on, and thus get involved in the world of work. Elementary schools should teach pupils about real life and their future, and enable them to recognize and develop their talents as much as possible. This is why the entrepreneurial education concept is very important because it will facilitate development of entrepreneurial spirit in every individual so that they can have a firm grip on their life and future career. In order to develop entrepreneurial competencies in young people, there is a plan to introduce project activities in schools as a result of forming inter-curricular links that would raise the awareness in young people about ways in which they can acquire knowledge. Considering that the very definition of education doesn’t only imply acquiring knowledge but also teaching children how to use their minds, we think that this new activity, that will be implemented starting with elementary schools under the title „School Project – My Idea“, will develop creative, processual, composite, critical thinking in children, and teamwork as an important component of development of entrepreneurial spirit.

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