Strong vocational education – a safe way to the labour market? A case study of the Czech Republic


27 May 2015, 13:30 – 14:30

Jana Straková

In its communications, the European Commission stresses the importance of vocational education and endorses apprenticeship training. Educational systems that have dual tracks of academic alongside vocational learning routes have been shown to generate better labour market outcomes for school leavers, and smooth the school-to-work transition. On the other hand, dual tracked educational systems can reinforce the effect of social origin on educational performance: the differences between the achievement of students from a background characterised by low socio-economic status and students from high socio-economic status backgrounds are greater in a tracked system than in a comprehensive one. In addition to these general tendencies, the content and organisation of vocational education differ in individual countries, as do its strengths and weaknesses and impacts on the labour market prospects of young people.

This paper studies vocational education in the Czech Republic: specifically, its apprenticeship track leading directly to the labour market. It seeks to answer questions about whether the Czech apprenticeship education system provides its students with the knowledge and skills necessary for success in the modern labour market, and whether it facilitates their transition from school to work. The paper also studies the impact of the high vocational specificity of the Czech education system on educational inequalities and the development of these inequalities over time.

The research questions are answered using statistical data and analyses of Czech data from international surveys of adult skills: the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) and the OECD Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), which studied probability samples of adults aged 16-65 years. The IALS data were collected in 1998 and included 3132 cases, and the PIAAC data were collected in 2012 and included 6102 cases.

Design and methods
The IALS and PIAAC data were analysed using binary logistic regression. Descriptive statistics from PIAAC, statistical yearbooks of education, and national surveys on the transition from school to work were also used to provide evidence.

The analyses show that in spite of its high vocational specificity, the efficiency of the Czech education system in facilitating transition to the labour market is relatively low, as are the achievement outcomes of its apprentices. This high differentiation, moreover, contributes significantly and increasingly to educational inequalities. In the light of those findings, the paper discusses features of the Czech apprenticeship education system and intended policy measures that are aiming to retain the current structure of the system and foster apprenticeship education.

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