Curriculum, subjects and number of hours
The documents centrally regulating the contents of vocational training are issued by the ministries in charge of the given vocational qualifications. There are two important regulatory devices: the vocational and examination requirements, the related requirements modules, and the framework curricula of vocational qualifications. These have been developed for every basic qualification, are contained in the National Vocational Qualifications Register (NVQR) and were issued by ministerial decrees. The NVQR has been significantly simplified in 2020. The qualifications it contains have been published in the Register of Vocational Occupations which is introduced in a phased system from February 2020. These above regulations are mandatory requirements but they leave some freedom for the institutions when elaborating their local curricula. Thus, it is possible to adapt the curricula to local pedagogical concepts and the requirements of the local labour market. From 2013, the framework curriculum for upper secondary vocational schools was developed in such a way that 50% of the material covered in post-secondary vocational training is offered in grades 9-12 and the other 50% in grade 13. This is the reason why, for students graduating from an upper secondary grammar school or another vocational secondary school focusing on a different sector, the duration of post-secondary education is 2 years (grades 13 and 14).
The vocational and examination requirements of basic vocations on post-secondary level specify:
- the input competences required for starting the vocational training,
- the necessary educational background with the percentage shares of theoretical and practical training,
- the related vocations (the so-called partial qualifications and add-on vocational qualifications which contain common modules with the basic vocational programme),
- a brief description of the work area of the vocational qualification,
- the vocational requirement modules,
- the necessary technical/professional skills and knowledge required for each module, the individual, social and methodological competences to be developed during the course of the programme,
- the list of teaching aids and equipment required for the programme,
- the detailed description of examination requirements.
The vocational training framework curriculum is developed on the basis of the vocational and examination requirements. It has to be used on a mandatory basis but it may be adapted to local conditions in the local curriculum with a certain degree of flexibility. Developments regarding content have been implemented since the 1990s with the involvement of experts delegated by stakeholders of the economy. Usually, these efforts have been coordinated by the background institution of the ministry in charge of vocational training. All content documents can be downloaded from the website of the ministry’s background institution (National Office of Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning) and the website of the Innovative Training Support Centre.
In educational institutions, professional work is performed in accordance with the applicable pedagogical programme that must be made publicly available. The pedagogical programme includes the educational programme consisting of development programmes (such as social skills or personality development) and the local curriculum, which is the school’s level of content regulation. The local curriculum determines the subjects in each grade, the material to be covered, the requirements and the number of lessons as well as the guidelines for selecting textbooks and other teaching aids. The requirements of entering into the next grade or the possible forms of assessment are also regulated by the local curriculum.
The local curricula of vocational training have to be strictly adjusted to the vocational and examination requirements and to the framework curricula. Schools may devote an increased number of classes to compulsory subjects at the expense of electives. They may introduce completely new subjects as well. In post-secondary vocational programmes, the subject materials can be more directly modified according to the actual needs of the labour market in comparison with upper-secondary vocational education.
Teaching methods and materials
Regarding the methods applied during the teaching and learning process, schools and teachers enjoy a high degree of freedom. There is no central document which would define what educational procedures to follow.
In the vast majority of schools, teaching takes place in the framework of 45-minute classes organised by subject. Practical training consists of 60-minute classes. As for the methodology of post-secondary training, both (upper-) secondary and tertiary methods are implemented but the former ones are more significant.
In post-secondary education, the application of info-communication technologies can be regarded as relatively widespread.
Teaching aids, textbooks
In case of each vocational qualification, the list of vocational and examination requirements, issued by the minister responsible for vocational qualifications in a decree, and new programme requirements contain the minimum number of teachings aids required during practical training.
In post-secondary education, not every subject has a textbook. Many vocations are studied by fewer than a hundred students per grade but even the most popular vocations are studied by only a couple hundred students simultaneously. Preparing a new textbook for each subject whenever the material is modified would not be economical. Of course, textbooks exist for subjects that are being taught in many vocational training programmes. In addition to these materials, notes prepared by the teachers of the vocational school are circulated among students or sent electronically. Besides textbooks, the so-called unconventional content carriers – particularly those based on digital technology – are playing an increasingly important role.