Germany Hosts Forum on Advancing Learning and Innovation in TVET

Innovation is pivotal for driving the change needed to make technical and vocational education and training (TVET) systems and institutions responsive to emerging skills demands. With ever-faster innovation cycles in business and society, the demand for innovation in education and training settings is higher than ever.

While the international TVET community, including members of the UNEVOC Network, has made significant strides to promote innovation and foster excellence and inclusion in TVET, these approaches have not yet been mainstreamed in institutional systems and practices. Recognizing the importance of sharing innovative solutions, UNESCO-UNEVOC’s focus is on developing and implementing initiatives within the UNEVOC Network that foster both peer learning and systematic transfer of innovative ideas in diverse TVET learning environments. To this end, UNESCO-UNEVOC’s Global Forum on ‘Advancing Learning and Innovation in TVET’, which was held on 2 and 3 December 2019 in Bonn, Germany, created a dynamic environment for TVET leaders and experts to learn about the policy actions and practices that have been taken to advance innovations in TVET.

The 2019 Global Forum served as a valuable platform for (a) underlining the challenges in fostering innovation at national, regional and international levels, and (b) discussing potential innovative solutions, products and scalable models to overcome them. During the opening session, Shyamal Majumdar, Head of UNESCO-UNEVOC, stressed the ‘need to boost bottom-up innovation, including technological, social, applied and sectoral innovation’, a notion reflected by the showcased examples of innovation in TVET, including in curricula and qualifications design, pedagogy, services to communities, and partnerships. Borhene Chakroun, Director of Policy and Lifelong Learning Systems at UNESCO, reinforced this when he affirmed that ‘TVET needs to be framed in new paradigms for a new era’.

During the two-day event, stakeholder groups consisting of youth representatives, the private sector, employee associations and the TVET sector, provided insight into the need for innovation within the TVET ecosystem. Laura Gam, a high school student from Herningsholm Erhvervsskole & Gymnasier, Denmark, and co-founder of oxygeni.us, shared the youth perspective, emphasizing that ‘The youth expect to be challenged by schools, where they can learn from experiences rather than theory. That challenge can easily come from innovation’. Mohamed Sennou Slassi, President of the Management Board of the Observatory of the Occupational Branches in Morocco, underscored the ‘need to actively engage stakeholders in the co-construction of the future, rather than merely anticipating what will happen next’.

The five plenary discussions brought into focus the main global challenges faced, as well as the opportunities for innovation in TVET to contribute to sustainable development. They also showcased how organizations and institutions have embraced innovation and used it to explore new thinking in TVET. In addition to the plenary discussions, an exciting feature of this year’s Global Forum was ‘The Marketplace’ – an interactive hub of innovative practices. Showcasing what happens when action and bottom-up innovation come together, The Marketplace provided a platform for contributors from the UNEVOC Network and the TVET community to share the concrete steps and innovative approaches to designing TVET, projects, products and solutions.

With more than 100 representatives of the international TVET community from over 40 countries in attendance, UNESCO-UNEVOC took the opportunity to launch the Bridging Innovation and Learning in TVET (BILT) project. This UNESCO-UNEVOC project, supported by the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) and sponsored by the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF), enables active and prospective members of the European Cluster of the UNEVOC Network to exchange experiences in implementing innovative projects and initiatives across five thematic areas: greening, digitalization, entrepreneurship, migration and new qualifications and competencies.

Throughout the numerous interactive discussions and shared experiences at this year’s Global Forum, an overarching message emerged: challenges facing innovation in TVET cannot be addressed using ‘business-as-usual’ approaches – existing systems and institutions not only need to anticipate the impact of innovations taking place in businesses and labour markets, but must also act upon them. UNESCO and UNESCO-UNEVOC have called upon the international TVET community to join them in placing innovation at the centre of global policy dialogues and strategies by kicking-off a decade of collective and open action, and strengthening platforms that build the capacities of actors in TVET to stimulate innovation.

More details are available from UNESCO-UNEVOC.

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