The President and Vice President of EfVET James Calleja and Stefano Tirati, together with EfVET members, Olga Oleynikova (Centre for VET Studies, Russia) and Mari Kontturi (Luovi Vocational College, Finland) participated in the EDU RUSSIA 2019 “Global Competitiveness through Education”, an international conference focusing on Higher Education and VET. The conference was held in Kazan, the capital city of the Republic of Tatarstan, from 28th of February to 1st of March.

Over 4000 participants ranging from federal government officials, regional authorities, educational managers, teachers and trainers have participated at EDU RUSSIA 2019. The conference has taken place within the same outstanding facilities which will host, in a few months, the WorldSkills Kazan 2019.

EfVET as a global VET reference

The President of EfVET, James Calleja, shared his views and insights on the future of education.  In his presentation, he stressed that human capital and machines will not be adverse partners but complement each other for effective competitiveness. Technology has been the driving force in the progression of human civilization for more than a hundred years. There are misconceptions about robots stealing people’s jobs. It is true that millions of jobs will be lost through technology but equally correct is the statement that millions more will be created.

Mr Calleja said that “because humans can think and act flexibly, they are often better problem solvers”. However, one cannot ignore the fact that algorithms are also solving problems and reasoning tasks better than human beings. In this scenario education and in particular vocational education and training plays a central role in providing the bridge between the world of education and the world of work. All forms of work-based learning but particularly apprenticeship programmes support the complementarity that should exist between human being and robots, between creativity and automation.

Mr Calleja emphasized that over the last two decades a large amount of data has been gathered in practically all sectors; computer power doubled over the last ten years; internationalization has become a national priority and hence working and learning in different contexts will help future workers achieve adaptability and flexibility. Education plays a central role in providing in early years the so-called 21st-century skills built on foundational literacies, competencies and character qualities. However, neither education nor businesses can work in isolation. If countries aspire to become competitive, the worlds must come together; teachers, employers, workers and learners should be partners in a combined world of lifelong learning and working; employers and businesses cannot claim to be stakeholders in education anymore but shareholders of a continuum process of permanent education and training.  Both education and businesses are facing steep challenges. While businesses are being constantly challenged by artificial intelligence, education is constantly threatening by obsolescence. In this respect, education and training programmes must be regularly updated and teachers and employers share roles as much as possible.

Concluding, the President of EfVET stressed that while artificial intelligence is influencing the whole of society and in particular sectors such as healthcare, legal systems, financial services, agribusiness, transportation, gaming and sports among others, education and training is also going through a renaissance of vocational education. This is important, in Mr Calleja’s words, “technology is the new language of human development and the rapport between humans and robots will eventually serve to make humans more creative intuitive humans and robots more mechanical servants for competitiveness and of social well-being”. Education and training are challenged by this new era of innovation and change.

Stefano Tirati focused the reflection on the changes in the labour market related to artificial intelligence and digitalization and their impact on the educational system, in terms of learning spaces, initial and continuous professional development of teachers and trainers, learners and learning processes. Some practical examples of how education can go digital have been presented, including the SELFIE tool and the forthcoming localized version for VET.

Mari Kontturi introduced the key principles and main benefits of internationalization in VET, presenting the Finnish system and the European and national support measures, as well as highlighting the practical steps to be taken to establish transnational cooperation.

The session on the 28 of February, facilitated by Olga Oleynikova who introduced the key pillars of transnational cooperation in the education of the Russian Federation, have seen the contribution also of Franca Crestani, specialist of VET policies and systems at European Training Foundation, who explained the progress made with regards to the Torino Process.

What’s next?

As a result, EfVET is pervaded by an even stronger commitment to foster cooperation and bridges between European and Russian VET providers, via EfVET Study Visits and Thematic Teams and by ensuring participation at high-level events, such as EfVET Conference or WorldSkills Kazan 2019.

Interview to Stefano Tirati

Interview to Mari Kontturi

Special thanks to Olga Oleynikova, who invited EfVET delegation