Making Work-Based Learning More Flexible During the Pandemic

Top Performers: Flexible Work-Based Learning During Coronavirus
Gretchen Cheney
Gretchen Cheney

Top Performers: Flexible Work-Based Learning During CoronavirusWork-based learning is a critical component of vocational education and training (VET). Across the globe, many VET students lost the opportunity to engage in work-based learning as employers scaled back operation or shifted to remote work in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Top-performing countries prioritized these opportunities for students, building on the flexibility already in place in their VET systems or by adding new flexibility in the system to allow students to stay on track in their programs. For example, Finland’s upper secondary VET system allows students to sequence academic and work-based modules in ways that work best for them throughout the full year, including summer. This allowed students to focus on academic credits when work-based opportunities were more limited. In addition, Finnish VET teachers were allowed to assess student competency and skills via video conference if they could not be at the worksite. This flexibility meant that only 20 percent of VET students in Finland reported having to delay their graduation, and usually only for a short period of time. The Netherlands similarly allowed upper secondary VET students to progress to the next level of VET education, even if they were unable to complete one or two subjects or finish their work placement due to the pandemic. Those students are still expected to complete all of their requirements, but were not held back from advancing to the next stage of their education. For more on how top performers organize VET, see Marc Tucker’s book: Vocational Education and Training for a Global Economy: Lessons for Four Countries. And for more on how top performers have adapted their systems to the coronavirus pandemic, read our paper: How Did the World’s Highest Performing Education Systems Approach Distance Learning?.