Gabrijela Grujić: The Experience Of Our Swiss Colleagues Was Valuable To Us

The effects of the implementation of the Law on Dual Education will be visible in three to four years when the first generations of students, who have attended dual education under the Law, complete their formal vocational education

”I expect that, thanks to dual education, young people will get the opportunity to acquire knowledge management
skills through cooperating with companies, and, as a result, we will restore in the Serbian education something it has been lacking for a long time – the joy of learning. In this way, we will develop critical thinking, creativity, increase
the motivation for learning, and boost the confidence of young people that their knowledge is valuable because
they are employable immediately after they complete the desired level of education. Most importantly, young people will become leaders, build successful careers, and stay in their own country. Football analogy of this would be – you hire young Ronaldo, invest in him and create a great value for yourself instead of “buying him” in the market for huge amount money,” Assistant Education Minister for Dual Education, Dr Gabrijela Grujić says at the beginning
of the interview.

The Serbian Parliament adopted the Law on the Dual Model of Studies in Higher Education in September. Can you tell us more about this law?

–  The Law on the Dual Model of Studies in Higher Educationaims to reach the relevance related to the harmonization of the higher education system with the needs of the labour market. The very decision to pass such a law was made primarily to support young people Serbia, who, through various surveys, pointed out to us the shortcomings of the previous model of work practice and that the students participated in the work practice
programme without mentoring, that there was no programme evaluation and that they did not get a certificate upon
completing the practice. This law benefits students in a way that they now have the opportunity to have 450 hours of active classes, following the respective curricula, but also to spend 450 hours on learning through work in companies. The financial compensation for on-the-job learning is a net amount of at least 50% of the basic
earnings of an employee working in the same or similar jobs So, in a word, this law brings order into the system, that is, the respect for the rights and obligations of all stakeholders. It provides young people with the quality
of modern competencies and a “usable” diploma while employers get the young, educated staff that will not only sustain the Serbian economy but also its innovation and competitiveness in the global market. Often, work experience is one of the requirements in job ads. Through the dual model in higher education, young people will obtain a certain number of ECTS credits and a priceless experience that is valued immediately after education. The dual model of study is more demanding and difficult but more promising. Students who complete dual studies,
given the relevant practical experience, significantly increase their competitiveness in the labour market and have a greater chance of employment. Adopting the Law on the Dual Model of Studies in Higher Education brings the benefits that higher education institutions will recognize and thus decide to introduce such a study model. Some of the benefits would be attractive study programmes, as well as students directly informing the system on
how to modernize its study programmes.

Could you tell us about the results of the implementation of dual education in high schools so far? How satisfied are the employers and how much the students?

–  The European Training Foundation(ETF) surveyed the quality of implementationof learning through work in Serbia. The results of this research best reflect student and company satisfaction. About 62% of students rated learning through work with the highest grade. Studentsbelieve that dual education has boosted their confidence (65% of students), the development of teamwork skills (72%), the development of a sense of responsibility
(58%) and the motivation to learn (52%). More than 60% of employers would hire the best students after completed high school education. In the next few months, we are also expecting to see the results of a survey conducted under the SDC project “Support to the Development and Establishment of a National Dual Education Model”, which aims to examine the process of implementation of the Law on Dual Education. In addition to the research data on which we base further development of dual education, the statements from students and their instructors also validate the quality of these teaching models.

How much did the Swiss experienceand cooperation with their institutions help you in implementing dual education in Serbia?

– The experience of our Swiss colleagues was valuable to us. For three consecutive years, Serbian representatives have been participating in the Summer School of the Centre of Economics and Management of the Education and Training System at the Technical University in Zurich. During the first year, representatives of the Ministry
of Education, Science and Technological Development and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry presented a draft Law on Dual Education and exchanged ideas with representatives of other countries during the summer school while Professor Ursula Renold and her associates gave feedback. During the second year, the representatives of Serbia worked on the document – Master Plan for Implementation of the Law on Dual Education – which is a strategic document for devising and implementing a major reform such asthe reform of dual education. This year, the representatives of Serbia worked on the specific case of the challenges we face when it comes to the implementation of the Law, which is to create a separate dual curriculum that will differ from the classical vocational profile.

In addition to lectures and group work, during the summer school, we also visited Swiss companies implementing dual education and had the opportunity to talk with students, instructors, company directors, HR staff and career advisers. We can proudly say that this year we have presented the Master Plan to other participants of the summer school and that we are the only country participating in the summer school that had this privilege. The cooperation was further supported by the SDC project “Supporting the Development and Establishment of a National Dual Education Model”. A Master Plan was created, as well as the rulebooks stipulated in the Law on Dual Education
and a Communication Strategy. A series of surveys were also conducted, and we also have to finish the framework for monitoring and evaluation of the dual education system by the end of the project.

In Switzerland, two-thirds of children attend vocational high schools after compulsory elementary schools because the dual system allows everyone to thrive. What are the expected effects of dual education in Serbia?

– As I mentioned above, the Law on Dual Education has been implemented since this school year. The effects of the implementation of this Law will be evident in three to four years when the first generations of students, who have attended dual education under the Law on Dual Education, complete their formal vocational education. What we expect is faster and easier employability of young people after graduating from high school, the better quality of youth competences, reduction in youth unemployment and preventing brain drain among young people. We expect “recognition  that education is truly the highest value”. I would like to underline that the Serbian model differs from other models in that it protects the general education which is the pillar and the basis for reflecting on the value of the education of every young person. The job qualifications, which are acquired in two places, are an added value for young people so they can see for themselves what modern technological development looks like (design, programming, CNC machine management, industry 4.0 ..) by learning in a real work environment. In this networked way we obtain modern competences, that is, the need for equal evaluation and knowledge,skills and stances.

While implementing dual education, Serbia did not look up solely to Switzerland but some other countries too. Could you tell us how much dual education differs in Switzerland and Serbia?

– When devising the Law on Dual Education, we learned from countries that have had a long tradition of implementing dual education. However, our law is adapted to the social, cultural, economic, and business characteristics of Serbia and the characteristics of our country’s educational system. In comparison to other countries, students in Serbia are not officially employed but are learning through work.They first enrol in the school, and only then, depending on which company the school has a contract with, the student is assigned to learn through working at a certain company. Schools continue to play a central role in youth education. The
Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia accredits companies, which means that only companies that have met the statutory requirements can implement work-assisted learning (while ensuring occupational health and safety for students, as well as ensuring the quality of work-assisted learning). Instructors, or employees who underwent training for work-assisted learning work with students in the company. In addition to the instructor in the company, the coordinator of work-assisted learning, that is, the school employee, also plays an important role who, together with the instructor, participates in devising a plan for realization of work-assisted learning and monitoring of students’ progress.

Following the adoption of the Law on the Dual Model of Studies in Higher Education, what are the ministry’s further plans for this segment? Will there be further legal regulation or is the focus now solely on implementation?

– The relevant legislation is in place. The consideration of opportunities for rapid and quality implementation and,
of course, the stakeholders’ satisfaction with this teaching model are much more important than that.

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