Is vocational education in Bulgaria in decline?
Furniture manufacturing industry is one of the stable sectors of the Bulgarian economy. Over the last few years it has been developing and has become export oriented. Around 2 100 registered companies and 20 thousand people operate in the sector. Despite the fact that there is very strong demand for qualified professionals, vocational education in Bulgaria has been attracting increasingly fewer students for years. Most vocational schools have only one or two classes, while others (for example, the one in Sofia) had to close down forever. There are multiple reasons for that: the strong ‘competition’ of the dozens of language and mathematical high schools, the obsolete equipment, the demographic factor – the great number of the so called prestigious and attractive schools, and degree courses with fancy names have to fight for fewer students, young people’s motivation, the quality of education and the outdated curricula, the government’s abdication from the problems of vocational schools, the lack of efficient partnership with business and many others.
Despite the advantages that vocational education can provide such as acquiring specific skills and knowledge while still at school and the excellent opportunity for early professional realization as well as solid grounds for further education at university, most high schools of wood processing and internal architecture are on the verge of closing down. The industry needs young and highly qualified professionals, while young people need career opportunities. There is demand, so there should be supply. So, what is the reason for this paradox? What disrupts the process and where? It might be that the system of vocational education in our country has become obsolete and a way should be found to adapt it to the present conditions and the future.
A serious attempt towards a positive change has been made with the introduction of the “dual system of education” – vocational education which is conducted in two different places simultaneously – at the school and at an enterprise. The curricula are adjusted and comply with the demand in the economy, while in the enterprise students acquire adequate skills and knowledge. This will definitely affect the quality of their skills and will have positive impact on the interest that businesses have towards professionally trained people. The first attempt in this new for Bulgaria educational form will be made in academic year 2016/2017 in the Vocational High School for Internal Architecture and Wood Processing “Hristo Botev” in Plovdiv in collaboration with “TED – BED” EAD. The time might have come for businesses to address the problem and to start training people for their manufacture.
The truth is that the decline in interest young people show towards studying technical subjects has been observed as a trend in a number of European countries. Young people want to be “managers”. This, no doubt, is prestigious, but can we call it ‘profession’?
Dear colleagues from the industry, would you advise your children to study at a vocational high school? A big part of you would like to see their children join the family business. Shouldn’t they first acquire certain technical and practical knowledge, something that language schools do not offer, neither do management, marketing or law classes?