DOMINO is an extraordinarily well running project, especially because of strong and committed Bulgarian partners. From the very beginning there was a fruitful and creative cooperation between Switzerland and Bulgaria. This is the opinion of Hanspeter Tanner, Senior VET Consultant at SFIVET, who comes regularly to Bulgaria for meetings and trainings under the DOMINO Project.
SFIVET, Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training is the Swiss partner of the DOMINO Project. The organization supports the Bulgarian partners in understanding the Swiss VET system and implementing the appropriate steps and processes by using Swiss methodology. Adaptation to the Bulgarian system was a core element of this work, but gradually, SFIVET is growing in the role of a supervisor and consultant. The last step of the cooperation ahead is the preparation of final examinations, which will involve not only the schools but also the companies.
The Swiss VET system has three main pillars and all three are applicable to Bulgaria: the commitment of its stakeholders (private-public-partnership); the good reputation of a professional education among the population and the permeability of the system (“no education program without access to further education” or “no dead ends.”). The permeability of the system in Bulgaria is already on a high level as the professional gymnasiums are in the centre of the Bulgarian VET system, therefore each student leaving the school is also a diploma holder, which opens the gate to further steps on the ladder of professional education, explains Hanspeter Tanner. If parents realize that this is an advantage for their children, then the reputation of dual vocational education will automatically increase as well.
On the one hand, DOMINO has succeeded in linking curriculum development more closely with practice. This is connected with a big effort of the involved Bulgarian partners. On the other hand, the quantitative development exceeds expectations, especially given the high number of schools and companies involved, says Hanspeter Tanner.
Although DOMINO is an extraordinarily well running project, it is facing several challenges. The Swiss expert points out the two major challenges. The contribution of the private sector should increase more. Companies are often very pleased with the opportunity to receive qualified professionals and receive DOMINO with open doors. But when it comes to spend money, the enthusiasm drops rapidly. VET is in the beginning not free of charge. Instructors have to be sent to courses, training places must be created, instructors must spend part of their working time for the learners etc. To accept the fact, that dual track education requires a high support of the companies is still a challenge for the private sector, according to Hanspeter Tanner. The sustainability of the work already done is still fragile. If the scope of the project will be enlarged, appropriate structures must exist nationwide, as well as know-how carriers who maintain and develop the processes on a high level of quality. Four years, as the DOMINO Project is scheduled, are not enough to establish a self-running process.
Many countries from all over the world are interested in the Swiss system of dual track education because of its undeniable positive impacts on the labour market. But this positive effects can only be achieved when many parameters are involved and balanced. For many countries I doubt that the Swiss system is suitable, because, for example, the academic approach to professional education is too dominant. There I would rather recommend to strengthen the practical basis of the students, says the Swiss expert. But in a country like Bulgaria, where there is a strong industrial tradition and where the school system provides a good basic education, I see perfect opportunities for the reintroduction of dual education.
Answering the question how dual education in Bulgaria will look like by 2020, Hanspeter Tanner says: Running well with the legislation supporting it in any necessary way and with an increasing popularity among the potential apprentices and their parents. Thus as well as with the support by the business, willing to play their important role in a well-established secondary level education system. There is no doubt that the experience Bulgaria built up with DOMINO can be very useful for other Balkan countries.
Hanspeter Tanner (66) is a Swiss seasoned expert in dual education. Graduated from the University of Applied Science Berne for a mechanical engineer, he has worked for many years for SFIVET, the Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training, partner of the Bulgarian DOMINO Project.
VET consultant and VET teacher with deep and long experience in counselling, teaching and coaching of SFIVET-students as well as teacher colleagues. He has experience with projects on dual education under the Swiss model “learning by working” in India, South Africa and Slovakia.
Mr. Tanner is one of the Swiss consultants of the DOMINO Project for the introduction of dual education in Bulgaria.