Cases in the European Union and Turkey

Rapid changes define the modern world in all aspects of life, and therefore, it is the responsibility of every individual and system to change and conform to the current state of affairs. In the modern society, one has to acquire the necessary education and training to qualify for employment and maintain competence in the dynamic labor market. The dynamic aspect of the labor market points to the fact that the educational system has to be changed with time in order to ensure that it provides learners with quality skills to be offered in the job market.

Turkey is well aware of these facts so it is implementing policies and reforms in its educational system including vocational education and training (VET). These reforms have restructured its VET system to comply with its socio-economic needs and achieve greater development and more efficient practices in the international context, specifically in the European Union.

Vocational education and training fall under tertiary education with the mandate of providing accredited education and training in technical job related skills. VET covers a broad range of career and industrial courses like technology, hospitality, retail, office work, trade, and many others. The current paper aims at analyzing the vocational education and training systems in Turkey and the European Union (EU) to identify their achievements, reforms, and their structural similarities and differences.

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Vocational Education and Training in Turkey

With the aim of improving the quality of education so that skills acquired match the labor market expectations, the Republic of Turkey together with the Ministry of Education conduct research regarding the National Educational System by considering a number of factors. Some of these factors include laws on education, the Constitution, government programs, development plans, council decisions, and strategic plans (Study In Turkey n.d.). Other factors include monitoring and evaluation reports, scientific developments in the education field, stakeholders’ views and recommendations, and the national and international standards of education (MYK n.d.).


In Turkey, the vocational and technical education system is classified under various titles. The titles include national vocational qualifications, national occupation standards, and certification. Other titles involve modular vocational training programs, quality assurance system, assessment and evaluation, professional guidance and promotion. VET consists of both informal and formal education institutions, aimed at assisting individuals in acquiring the necessary skills and competences required in the labor market.

Formal Education

The Turkish educational system is under the National Education Basic Act No. 1739. The educational system consists of two constituent parts, formal and informal. Formal education refers to the regular education conducted within a school and covers individuals under a certain age group that is at the same level. There are four levels of formal education, namely pre-primary, primary, secondary and higher education. Vocational education and training fall under the secondary level referred to as general and vocational education.

General and Vocational Training

This category includes VET centers that offer courses that are conducted for the duration of four years, although some centers like Social Sciences High School have a five-year period of education. The objective of these training centers is to equip an individual with a minimum general knowledge that would enable one to get familiar with the problems affecting the society in an attempt to seek solutions. The shared experience gives students awareness that is supposed to contribute to the development of the country’s socio-economic and cultural status and prepare them for higher education and professional life. General and technical education refers to a certain group of centers that offer learning of foreign languages predominantly referred to as Anatolians, for example, Anatolian Vocational High Schools, Anatolian High Schools, etc. The only difference between these institutions is a large number of foreign language courses.

Informal Education

Unlike the formal education, this form of education is delivered by means of short courses, apprenticeship training, public training and distance learning. Its operations are monitored by the Ministry of National Education. Informal education targets individuals who have never joined a formal school or those who have dropped out of the formal system for various reasons. The main objectives of informal education are to equip individuals with reading and writing skills to provide a learning platform for them to continue with their studies. The learning opportunity platform offered helps one to adjust to the economic, technological, scientific, social and cultural development that would enable them to promote and develop national values and culture.

Vocational and Technical Education

In Turkey, the vocational and technical education system is made up of school training (theoretical) and in-company training (practical) dimensions. MoNE acts as the oversight body by implementing policies and activities for vocational and training education and is within the legal framework of the vocational and education system. The vocational educational system is made up of; apprenticeship training, mainly a combination of practical and theoretical training in the vocational educational centers and technical schools that render training in at least 130 occupations providing education to specialized technicians and workers as well as vocational centers providing informal education.

In Turkey, there are 37 vocational Test centers. Vocational and technical education provides 19 of these centers (public and private) following under five categories. The first category under vocational and technical secondary schools includes schools affiliated to the Ministry of National Education (MoNE). It lies under the Directorate for Boys’ Education, and includes Anatolian Meteorological Vocational High School. Also, there are Industrial Vocational High Schools, Multi-Program High Schools, Anatolian Technical High Schools, and Agricultural Vocational High Schools. They also comprise of Technical High Schools, Anatolian Cadastral Vocational High Schools, and the Anatolian Vocational High Schools (Study In Turkey n.d.).

The second category consists of schools under the MoNE Directorate General for Girl’s Technical Education and these are Multi-program High Schools, Anatolian Vocational High Schools for Girls, Anatolian Technical High Schools for Girls, Vocational High Schools for Girls, Technical High Schools for Girls.

The third group is the Trade and Tourism Education schools under the MoNE Directorate that comprises the following centers: Anatolian Hotel Management and Tourism Vocational High Schools. They also include Justice Vocational High School, Anatolian Commercial Vocational High Schools, and Anatolian Mass Communications School. Also, there are Vocational Schools, Commercial Vocational High Schools and Multi-program High Schools.

The fourth group is made up of schools for religious education affiliated to the MoNE Directorate. These include Imam-Hatip High Schools with Intensive Foreign Languages Learning and Open Education, Imam-Hatip High Schools, and Anatolian Imam-Hatip High Schools.

The last group is the Ministry of National Education (MoNE) Department of Health Affairs that includes Heath Vocational High Schools.

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Open Education High Schools

Students who cannot make it to the formal education for various reasons attend Open Education High Schools. Open education targets all citizens regardless of their age or socio-economic status in 16 educational centers that include the following: Tourism Training Centers, Open High Schools, Adult Technical Training Centers, Private Courses, and Girl’s Practical Art Schools.

There are also Vocational and Technical Schools, Open Education Schools, Apprenticeship Training Centers, Training and Practice Schools, and Maturation Institutes. This category also includes Open Primary Education Schools, and Adult Tourism and Hotel Training Centers. Industrial Art Schools of Practice, Public Training Centers, Science and Arts Centers and Vocational Training Centers also fall under this category. The aim of these centers is to educate individuals in line with the general secondary education objectives to prepare students for tertiary education (MYK n.d.)


In the 9th grade, students undertake a course in Information and Communication Technology and an elective course running for three hours. The students are later allocated to job families in the 10th grade followed by an occupational branch in the 11th grade. In the 12th grade students train according to these branches and upon completion they graduate from them.

The occupational branch consists of sub-branches that consist of courses giving students skills making them competent for different professions. Anatolian Technical High Schools and Technical Schools are not part of the generalization. This is because the weekly schedule and curriculum they implement are similar to general high schools as per the natural sciences courses and general education courses. The current occupational branches in vocational and technical education institutions equal approximately 225 and are classified into three groups. Social services related branches include child development and education, organizational services, skin care and hairdressing among others. This is the first group. The next group is industrial and technical branches comprising electronic technologies, plastic technologies, apparel textile technologies and nourishment technology.

This category includes information technologies, metal technology, construction technology, automotive technologies, industrial casting, and computer aided mechanical modeling. It also comprises apparel machinery maintenance and repair, olive technology, electric technology, furniture, decoration, etc. The third category includes branches related to commerce and tourism, which include travel agencies. There are also accounting and finance, public relations and promotion, accommodation services, office management and secretary, cinema and television, and travel. This group also includes insurance trade and risk management, recreational services, computers, tourism, marketing, journalism, catering services, among others.

Apprenticeship Training and Public Education

Informal training is carried out by the General Directorate of Apprenticeship Non-Formal Education. The training follows a dual approach system, which includes practical training that is carried out in the workplace and covers 70% of the practical and theoretical training approach administered in schools, which comprise the remaining 30% of the coursework. To qualify for apprenticeship training, one must be 14 years old and above and have at least a primary school certificate. The training offered in apprenticeship training targets individuals who did not make it past primary education level and those who did not make it to the formal system for various reasons. Apprenticeship training runs for 2 to 4 years depending on the course that one opts to pursue (Işiklar n.d.).

After completing the apprenticeship training, one goes through a process of tests and job experience to attain a foremanship certificate and later on a mastership certificate. Only individuals who have a mastership certificate are eligible to initiate their workplace (Işiklar n.d.). In Turkey, there are 359 centers that administer these tests.

Public education centers, on the other hand, refer to institutions that offer educational services outside of the formal educational system institutions. The main courses that these centers offer are literary, vocational, and socio-cultural courses.


The Ministry of National Education (MoNE) is the body mandated for the administrative purposes in the entire educational system in Turkey. MoNE has been implementing reforms in all aspects of the educational system, paying close attention to the vocational education and training system that was initiated in 2004. Reform processes are based on the Copenhagen Process of 2002 and the global understanding of vocational and educational training. Turkey’s objectives in these reforms are informed by the need to enhance the quality of the VET provision to comply with the European Union and developed countries (OECD). Improving the vocational education and training centers to concur with the principle of Lifelong Learning is another need that has contributed to these reforms. Besides, in 2004 Turkey implemented changes to ensure that 12 years of uninterrupted primary level education are available to every individual (OECD).

The key elements addressed by the reforms include the development of occupational and training standards, connecting the vocational education and training system with the job market demands. Also, strengthening social partner relationships and complying with the European Qualifications Framework would increase managers’ and teachers’ qualification. Other issues addressed include raising awareness on VET, establishing and supporting both Vocational and Qualification Authority and Vocational Information Systems.


Currently, Turkey together with MoNE and State Employment Agency carries out regular analysis of the labor market and skills to ensure that the quality of education offered by the VET system complies with the needs of the labor sector.

Vocational education and training systems are the most challenging problem in all countries and are used to ensure that the training curriculum grooms individuals with skills that are required for the labor market. Through the reforms established in 2004 Turkey established Vocation Authority Qualification (VQA), which ensures that the occupational and training standards comply with the developed countries’ standards.

Turkey has consistently maintained good social relationships with partners involved in VET. In return, these efforts have strengthened the VET system. The representatives of these social partners attend meetings formed under projects such as Curricula Development and Lifelong Learning which plays a vital role in the improvement of the training and education offered by the vocational centers (Infed n.d.).

Through such programs as Personal Leadership Styles and Management Tools and Modular and Competency-based Training, Turkey improved the quality of instructors and teachers working in the VET system to ensure that instructors offer the best quality education in their sessions with the students.

In September 2006, the Turkish Grand National Assembly accepted the law of the Vocational and Qualifications Agency. Establishment of this law was a significant achievement towards complying with (EQF) European Qualification Framework and VQA. Establishment of VQA and EQF has helped Turkey’s VET system to achieve academic and occupational mobility and introduce grading and certificates accepted internationally within the labor market sector.

Vocational Education and Training in the European Union

Due to the different cultures existing in the member states, there are different education and training systems. The European Union’s educational policy is aimed at encouraging member states to cooperate by understanding various education systems and retaining the diverse education experience among the EU countries. Each member is responsible for arranging its educational system and coursework taught throughout the member countries. The EU limits its involvement scope within the support and supplementation of the activities and cooperation of their member states (National Center for Vocational Orientation n.d.).

Bodies and Networks

To achieve its objectives regarding the vocational education and training system, the European Union has come up with various agencies and networks whose aim is to promote and coordinate different dimensions to the European approach of vocational education and training. Bodies and Networks of the EU are the European Training Foundation, CEDEFOP, and the Eurydice Network.

The European Training Foundation assists in and supports the reform process with the aim of modernizing the VET systems across the EU. The activities of this body cover a broad range of countries collectively grouped into four. These are countries of Southeast Europe, candidate countries that wish to join the EU, Mongolia and the newly independent state, and other regions that are covered by the MEDA program. The foundation headquarters are located in Turin, Italy (National Center for Vocational Orientation n.d.).

CEDOFOP, which refers to the European Centre for Development of Vocation Training, acts as the reference center to the European Union for VET and is based in Thessaloniki. The primary activities of this body include providing information and academic analyses regarding the VET system, generating and implementing policies, and conducting research in the field of vocational training. Other operations carried out by this body are facilitating exchanges, promoting cooperation and providing combined effort between the target groups of the VET system such as stakeholders and managers of policy making bodies (Cedefop n.d.).

The Eurydice Network is the European network that provides information to 30 countries that participate in this system; 25 states, which are EU members, 3 EEA/EFT states, Bulgaria, and Romania. With its dynamic database, the Eurydice network contains educational systems information regarding all of its 30 members and also summarized details of their political and economic statuses. The network’s goal is to provide relevant information and advice about educational systems and service policy makers. The European Service manages all the activities of the Eurydice network.


The structure of the vocational education system varies within different countries of the EU, but all the member states’ systems ensure the provision of VET that comply with the Copenhagen Process, which aims at strengthening the dimensions of the European vocational training, and promoting transparency of information, advice, and qualification regarding VET. Considering Germany as a representative member of the EU, its structure includes initial vocational training, general lower and upper secondary education, vocational education and training at the upper level (Jacob & Solga).

Initial Vocational Training

Initial vocational training starts at the age of six with a compulsory full-time education that lasts for six years with some attending schools for up to 5 years. After the initial four years of primary school that is compulsory for everyone, the educational establishments are subdivided into Grammar Schools, General Schools, Comprehensive Schools, and the Intermediate Schools (Riphahn & Zibrowius).

General Upper and Secondary Education

The program in lower secondary education is informed by the principle of public primary education with an emphasis on performance-related support. The upper secondary education, on the other hand, lays emphasis on vocational training. Upper secondary education ends either by qualifying for higher education or going to vocational institutions which groom individuals with skills that make them qualified to get employment as skilled workers. Lower secondary education targets individuals in the age group of 10-16. Upper secondary education, on the other hand, is intended for individuals falling into the 15-19 age groups. Individual performance determines one’s qualification to upper secondary school.

Secondary General Schools

Secondary General Schools offer basic education, which cover classes from 5 to 9. After completing the grade 9 one acquires a certificate known as the Secondary General School Certificate. The certificate that one receives is an entitlement to join a vocational school.

Intermediate School

In intermediate schools, individuals find a platform to extend the general education from class 5 to 10. Upon completion of level 10, one acquires an intermediate certificate that makes them qualified to join a course of vocational training so that they can transfer to a grammar school based on performance merits in the dual system.

Grammar Schools

The grammar schools provide students with an in-depth version of the general education from classes 5 to 13. Upon completing lower education, one is not issued a final certificate but rather is provided an entitlement to join the upper level of grammar school (Jacob & Solga). During the last year of the upper secondary level of grammar school education students sit for the Abitur examination, and the qualifiers acquire the Abitur certificate. The Abitur certificate entitles its holders to join any institution providing higher education, and also gives an opportunity to join vocational training.

Vocational Education

VET in Germany offers the dual system of education that takes place in vocational schools and learning companies. The dual system aims at providing one with thorough training that would broadly cover all the aspects required to become a competent and skilled worker in the labor market. To join VET one must complete compulsory full-time education. The system uses a private law of mechanical training contact between a student and a training establishment. Vocational schools entail full-time vocational schools, trade and technical grammar schools, Fachoberschulen, and secondary vocational schools.

Full-time Vocational Schools and Fachoberschulen

Vocational schools listed under full-time educational establishments help individuals to obtain one or more occupations, providing partial vocational training, while the courses take one year to complete. Students pursue Fachoberschulen in class 11 and 12 building on the final certificate from the intermediate schools. During the first year, one undertakes specialized practical training, while the general and specialized education is undertaken in the second year. Fachoberschulen comprises business and administration, healthcare and welfare, and technical skills. Design, agronomy, nutrition and home economics belong to the specializations. Individuals who have completed a course of vocational training qualify to join class 12 of Fachoberschule directly.

Vocational Grammar Schools

Unlike grammar schools, the vocational grammar schools have no lower or intermediate classes, but only classes 5-10. Completion of vocational grammar school makes a person eligible to enter any institution providing higher education (Riphahn & Zibrowius). Vocational grammar schools offer a broad range of vocational subjects that include communication technology, healthcare and welfare, nutrition and home economics, technical skills, and business. Some of the vocational schools give students a chance to acquire more than one qualification, that is an academic qualification or vocational qualification.

Vocational Secondary Schools

Vocational secondary schools enable individuals who complete vocational training in the dual system to acquire an entitlement to join higher educational institutions. Learning in these schools is administered either on the part-time or full-time basis with the part-time taking relatively longer time (Jacob & Solga). Vocational training that one has completed or the occupation that they are currently studying determines what course they will be allocated to. Training fields that one can benefit from in these schools include business, agronomy, technical skills, social affairs and design, nutrition and home economics, among others.

Preparation for Vocational Training

Basic vocational education is a prerequisite for joining a vocational education and training school in Germany. Individuals who wish to join this school complete the primary vocational education either by joining a cooperative in the form of an enterprise or school (EQJ) or by attending the compulsory full-time education for a year (BVJ) (Jacob & Solga). The pre-vocation training year is designed to prepare students for the requirements and demands of the vocation training. In-company entry-level vocational qualification, on the other hand, comprises 6 to 12 months work experience in an enterprise as a preparation for vocational training. The government subsidizes in-company training programs by giving the participant grants on a monthly basis aiming at individuals between the ages of 15 to 25 (Jacob & Solga).

Higher Vocational Education

In Germany vocational education and training is carried out up to the higher educational level. The higher vocational education functions as an alternative to the various courses in higher education due to the limited extent of institutions of higher education in the educational sector. To join a higher vocational education institution, completion of upper secondary education with at least one qualification allowing joining a Fachhochschule is a prerequisite. Vocational Academies in Bavaria, the vocational schools, and the schools for nurses, etc. that offer 2 and 3-year courses fall into the category of higher education.


Vocational education and training in the EU offers alternative courses that help individuals who have left school to qualify for the labor market. Through dual study programs combined with additional qualifications, the EU empowers individuals with required skills to comply with the job market demands. The qualifications aim at supplementing vocational training so that students have to increase their competence. Foreign language courses, engineering courses, and EDP courses are some of the additional qualification training offered in the EU’s VET.

Dual Study Programs

The dual study program objective is to provide individuals with practical experience complementary to the theoretical coursework covered in the school. The plan combined with the course study and in-company training ensures that beneficiaries of this program acquire high-quality skills to improve the labor market. There are at least 700 dual study programs in the fields of natural sciences, business management, computer science and engineering. The most common combination is a course in business management combined with commercial training. Other combinations such as engineering combined with computer sciences, mathematics with insurance, etc. are also available (Vocational training “Made in Germany” Germany’s dual system of vocational education and training (VET).

Reforms and Achievements

The European Commission works in conjunction with employers, workers and the governments of the member states according to the Copenhagen Process. By working in harmony, they ensure that the quality of training in VET continues to improve. The process leads to eliminating mismatches between courses and the labor market by improving the qualification of instructors, teachers and other professionals involved in the VET sector (Vocational education and training – Germany’s dual system as a role model).

Some approaches to achieving the objectives include work-based learning (WBL), and skills competitions aiming at supporting events such as Euro skills and World Skills. Sector Skills Alliances is another approach that is designed to promote synergy among the EU countries regarding the VET sector. This includes improved national systems via the EQAVET European Quality Assurance Framework for Vocational Education and Training. The Youth on Move project is another important initiative that aims at assisting the youth in gaining knowledge and skills required for their dream job. Other approaches like the Agenda for new skills and jobs provides a strategy that aims at achieving 75% employment level by 2020. This is achieved through restructuring and promoting VET to comply with the labor market needs and the Toolkit initiative that aims at integrating the ECVET into new or existing moving practice (Jacob & Solga).

Two agencies support the European Commission. The first agency is CEDEFOP (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training), which performs the function of providing analysis and information about VET, research and practices, and policies in the EU. ETF (European Training Foundation) is another body whose mandate is to develop VET systems in Central Asia, neighboring countries and in the Western Balkans.

Germany’s VET system is linked up with training partners in the economy such as commerce, industry, health services, the liberal professionals, agriculture, public administrations, and inter-company training programs. Training partners are responsible for registering trainees, advising companies and conducting social dialogue within the region. Apart from training partners, the VET system has close relationships with the employers and labor unions which manifest themselves through BIBB central committee, examination committees and the ministry’s committees. The committees carry out various tasks such as supervision of the VET system, and vocational training (Hippach-Schneider, Hensen & Schober).

Differences between VET Systems in Turkey and the EU

Although both Turkey and the EU vocational education and training systems comply with the Copenhagen Process, there are a few notable differences between these two systems. The first difference that is evident from the two systems’ analysis lies in the bodies and networks in these two systems (Santos). The EU has a broad range of agencies regarding the VET system which includes Cedefop, ETF, Eurydice Network and other educational institutions that play various roles in the development of the VET system in the respective countries of the EU. Turkey, on the other hand, does not have many bodies and networks associated with the VET, and most of the activities are carried out by MoNE, VQA, and EQF.

Vocational education and training in the EU is moving towards a more academic approach due to the increased theoretical content in their studies compared to the previous years; such studies include sociology, pedagogy, and sociology among others. VET in Turkey, on the other hand, is moving towards increased technical studies and more practical approaches which entail 70% of the coursework. These two systems are therefore moving in different directions.

Due to the different cultures among the EU members with each state member having the mandate to create its coursework and program, the VET system is a mixture of various plans and structures (Santos). Turkey, on the other hand, has a single policy and curriculum that all VET centers adhere to, therefore, having a homogenous VET system.

Another notable difference is the VET structure of these two systems. For instance, in the EU there are prerequisite courses that are taken by an individual before joining VET. Turkey’s VET system, on the other hand, does not offer these pre-vocational training courses and limitations to pursuing VET courses come up later when seeking an informal education system. In the context of structure, both systems are a bit different, for instance, in the EU there are no special schools for foreign language learning such as the Anatolian schools in Turkey. Another example in this category is the lack of vocational grammar schools in Turkey.


Vocational education and training in the world does not receive the acknowledgment it deserves due to the public perception of VET. For instance, most parents prefer academic learning to vocational education and training for their children. The wrong attitude towards VET is a result of a lack of understanding of how this system works and the wide range of courses that it offers. The reforms carried out in the VET system have improved the quality of education and training provided in VET institutions in most countries in the world.

Both Turkey and the EU have implemented a series of reforms in their VET systems aimed at ensuring that the skills and competence acquired in these institutions comply with the labor market needs. To maximize on the services provided by VET, respective bodies should invest in raising awareness by promoting VET to ensure that as many people as possible are aware of the programs it offers. However, having attained all the achievements discussed in the above paper, VET still has a long way to go to improve its system and change the public perception towards VET up to a point where one can consider it as a number-one choice.

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