If you’re interested or worked in education, (especially international education), you know that definitions of education levels often resemble definitions of art history periods. Secondary, tertiary, and post-secondary education sound a lot like pre-modern, modern, post-modern. There are so many “pres” and “posts” that it’s easy to lose track.
Korea, like all countries, is searching for better ways to develop high-level vocational, technical and professional skills needed in modern economies. Education beyond secondary school level is organized in different ways in different countries and a first challenge for education researchers and OECD analysts is getting the definitions sorted out.
So what is post-secondary VET anyway? At least we mostly know it when we see it. It includes programmes such as nursing and other health fields, engineering, business, etc., and it could be delivered in different institutions – polytechnics in Finland, community colleges in the United States, TAFEs in Australia, IUT in France or in regular universities.
Across many countries, the range of courses and programmes in post-secondary VET education has expanded dramatically over the past two decades – diversity, complexity and rapid change are becoming the norm.
An OECD-KRIVET* Seminar just last week brought together leading education researchers, policy advisors and OECD analysts to discuss some of the common policy challenges across countries, tackling questions such as:
- What economic and social factors will drive demand for VET skills in coming years?
- What are the challenges of a highly diversified post-secondary education market?
- How can governments steer post-secondary VET systems?
- What labour market features foster the development of high-level vocational skills?
The seminar also discussed the particular challenges facing Korea, where around 4 out of 5 high school graduates now go on tertiary education, but many later find themselves in jobs that don’t require tertiary level skills. The rapid expansion of tertiary education in Korea has led some Korean commentators to suggest it’s time to reconsider. Questions discussed included:
- Does Korea face a skills gap or skills-mismatch? What skills does it most need?
- Why has Korea apparently over-invested in academic education and under-invested in post-secondary VET?
- What policy levers could be used to shift towards the skills Korea needs?
The seminar couldn’t come up with any definitive answers in an afternoon. But it was an important input into the OECD’s new thematic review on post-secondary VET, Skills beyond School and is part of a new collaboration between KRIVET and the OECD on post-secondary VET* in Korea and the OECD.
The project will help education leaders in Korea and across OECD countries better define their policy needs and goals for post-secondary education. Because skills and education are too important to get lost in translation...
*Speaking of definitions, KRIVET stands for the “Korean Research Institute for Vocational Education and Training” and VET stands for “Vocational Education and Training.”
- Learning for jobs: OECD Reviews of Vocational Education and Training, Korea
- OECD Learning for Jobs website
- Attached powerpoint presentation by Deborah Roseveare, OECD Head of the Education and Training Policy Division in the Directorate for Education: Post-secondary Vocational Education and Training in a Changing and Challenging Policy Landscape, OECD-KRIVET (Korea) Joint Seminar 17 November 2010