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Shifting tensions HE & VET in France Part II : Body

Shifting tensions between Higher Education (HE) and Vocational Education and Training (VET) in France

Shifting tensions between Higher Education (HE) and Vocational Education and Training (VET) in France


The French compulsory education system is divided into three stages, the primary education (for ages 6-11), lower secondary education (for ages 12-15/16) and the upper secondary education in either a General and technological “Lycée” or in a vocational “Lycée” (compulsory for ages 15/16-18). On completion of their schooling, pupils are given a brevet (national certificate) on the basis of their marks in the final two years (fourth and third classes) and a national examination. The brevet is not a compulsory qualification and continuation of their schooling in a lycée is not dependent on their passing the examination, but on having successfully completed the third year. In order to enter the last stage of compulsory education, the Lycée, the pupils are offered three options, general studies, technological studies and vocational training. The general and technological lycées provide the preparation for three types of general baccalaureate (economic and social, literary or scientific), a technological baccalaureate (with eight categories) or a vocational training certificate (brevet de technicien). Upon completion of the vocational “lycée”, the vocational training certificate allows students to enter working life, or to continue their studies in higher education vocational sections or in an “Institut Universitaire Technologique”.

The lycée professional provides a combination of general education and technical knowledge, including a guaranteed in-company placement. It prepares students over a two-year period for the first level of vocational qualification, equivalent to the “certificat d’aptitude professionnelle” (CAP) or the “brevet d’études professionnelles” (BEP). Both qualifications are similar, but while the CAP has a greater focus on vocational training, the BEP is more focused on general education, intended for those wanting to continue their studies. At the end of their initial vocational training, students may follow a two year program in order to obtain a vocational baccalaureate, leading to direct employment or to further study.

To deals with transitions into the labor markets either specifically in France or in comparative perspective, we look back into the discussing a few studies as examples. For instance, Kieffer and Tanguy (2001) focus specifically on the European “Transition in Youth” (TiY) network, emphasizing the extension of the transition period and indeed the emergence of a newly fashioned intermediate period between childhood and adulthood. In this context, the occupational destiny of low-skilled younger workers has been studied in detail by Coutrot and Kieffer (2009). Others describe how the changes in the domain of work tend to modify what is expected of education. Trottier (2005) argues that the development of a new style in work organization has brought a new mode of interaction between corporations and the educational system. In contrast to the Taylorist period when employees had to perform precisely described tasks, today the demands on employees are more complex, including problem-solving capacity, firm-specific knowledge, flexibility, managerial qualities, and so on.

To the Cambodian context, according to Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport statistics, the enrolment rate for higher education, for the moment, remains low with post-secondary opportunities only available in Phnom Penh and a few other urban areas. If the enrollment rates of upper secondary and higher education remain at current levels and skilled workers are needed in the future, the quality of the labor force would pose major constraints to economic growth. In addition to the low enrolment rates for secondary school or higher and the current labor force’s low level of education, Cambodia’s educational system is perceived to be of low quality. Quality of school management and that of math and science education also lag behind other countries.

Meanwhile, only about 1 percent of employed Cambodians have received formal technical or vocational training. According to Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training (MoLVT) statistics, about 27,487 students graduated from 40 public technical and vocational training institutions and 170 private and NGO training centers in 2005-2006. About 48 percent graduated from state schools. Most private training centers focus on English, business and management skills, and computer applications. NGOs offer various skills related to small handicrafts, agriculture, mechanics, and small businesses. Public schools and training centers mainly provide courses related to civil engineering, electrical engineering, mechanics, and other topics related to agriculture. About 50 percent of total trainees and students receive some sort of technical training, and the other half management and computer skills.

In addition to the low enrollment rate, the technical/vocational training offered in Cambodia is of limited quality 3. This is due, primarily, to a lack of skilled trainers, facilities (including buildings, 3 Interview with deputy director of TVET department and equipment), and up-to-date technology. Private schools and training centers with financial support from foreign governments and international organizations are believed to have better facilities and provide the best training while public technical and vocational schools have only limited funds available and are thought to be providing low quality training to only a small number of students.

Technical, Vocational and Educational Training (TVET) is the government’s overarching abour-policy framework to rectify this issue. The aim is to build up Cambodia’s labour market through developing the skills that are desired by employers. Key initiatives include the reform agenda of the National Training Board (NTB), the establishment of the National Employment Agency (NEA) and the ADB funded Strengthening Technical and Vocational Education and Training programme (STVET). The NEA augments the STVET by facilitating better lines of communication between employers, the workforce and training providers. In particular they offer career guidance and counselling, and run job centres to support the rural labour force. The duality of STVET and the NEA means that training represents the needs of employers, and appropriate skills diffuse into the labour market.

There are significant challenges to TVET, however. Perhaps foremost is society’s perception that TVET courses are for workers and not professionals. There is social and familial pressure for students to enroll in HEIs and engage in white collar professions where salaries are perceived as higher. This view markedly differs from the reality, which is that most graduates are over qualified for the positions they hold. To address this issue, it is necessary to “re-brand” TVET to reflect the reality that it provides individuals with skills that will increase their employability. Mainstreaming and coordinating TVET programmes, as well as appropriate accreditation, would go a long way in changing these perceptions.


Coutrot,  L. and A. Kieffer (2009). Improved opportunities and increased segregation: underlying  tensions between vocational and general education in France. Expected and Unexpected consequences of the Educational Expansion in Europe and the U.S.A. R. Becker and A. Hadjar. Bern, Haupt. Retrieve June 14, 2012 from: /accueil.php/Vocational Training Centres, CFA/79095.pdf

Kieffer, A. and L. Tanguy (2001). “The movement of labour market research toward the social involvement 1980-2000. ” Economic and Society 1: 95-109. Retrieve June 05, 2012 from:

Justin, J.W. Powell, Laurence Coutrot+, Lukas Graf, Nadine Bernhard, Annick Kieffer+, Heike Solga        (2009). Comparing the Relationship between Vocational and Higher Education in Germany and France. Discussion Paper SP I 2009-506. Retrieve from: ded_files/publications/CoRebVoHE_ReportFG_20090612.pdf

Powell, J.W., Coutrot, L., Graf L., Bernhard N., Kieffer, A. (2009). Shifting Tensions between Vocational and General Education in France and Germany. Equalsoc Working Paper. Retrieve from: 02.pdf

Sour H., D’Amico S. Thavin P., Consolidating Gains, Preparing for Change: Cambodia’s Labour Force and Diversification: Cambodia Outlook Conference (2011).  Retrieve from: /uploaded_files/public/ob4e.pdf

Trottier, C. (2005). “The analysis between education system and educational social labour market” Education et sociétés 16 /2: 77-97.

Sandra, D. (2010). Higher Education and Skills for the Labor Market in Cambodia. Retrieve July 02, 2012 from:// /home/archive/issues2010/un_ac ademic_impact/SimplyHelp_Cambodia_vocational_education_model.

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