One of many changes in Vocational Education Law that has been well-received by the people and society is the title Practical engineer and Practical bachelor bestowed on college graduates. However, this issue remains controversial as this regulation is seen as irrelevant, unscientifi33c and unlike any other country in the world by some opinions. This paper will elucidate the practicality, scientificity of this regulation in Vocational Education Law.
1. The difference between university and college education
University education or higher education is educational stage that takes place in universities, university institutes and technological institutes. University education in general includes undergraduate level and postgraduate level.
According to International Standard Classification of education (1), university education level 7 in classification tables and the programs of this level encompasses mostly theory that is more academic than lower levels. These programs are generally implemented by universities and corresponding-level education institutions.
According the Encyclopedia (2), “University, high education includes basic science, fundamental science, professional science and theory, experience and extensive professional skill, scientific - technological research activities, organization - management of professional activities, self-study method and skill, enhancement of professional activities”.
According to University Education Law, the objective of university education is “…to train learners to gain political, ethical merit; have knowledge, professional practical skill, research capacity and ability to develop scientific and technological applications corresponding with trained level; have physical strength; have creativity and professional responsibility, ability to adapt to working environment; consciously serving the people”. Specific objective of university education is to “….help student to learn comprehensive professional knowledge, fully grasp the principles, law of nature – society, have basic practical skill, have ability to work independently, creatively and being able to solve problems arising in trained occupation” (3).
With those objectives, university graduates will be conferred the title engineer or bachelor.
Engineer is the title given to people trained in the area of science and technology. The engineers use their creativity, technology and scientific understanding to address scientific problems. People who work like an engineer usually graduate from technological universities.
Bachelor is a title bestowed upon people who graduate from university program depending on regulation in different countries. In Vietnam, bachelor degree is presented to graduates in natural science and social and humanity science, pedagogy, jurisprudence, economics (scientific bachelor, economic bachelor, law bachelor…)
Unlike university education (level 6), college level according to ISCED 2011 is equivalent to level 5 and so called “Short-cycle tertiary education”.
According to ISCED 2011, college education provides learning experience based upon secondary education, preparing the learners for entry into labor market as well as entry into university level and postgraduate level. College education helps individual learn knowledge, skill and capability at lower level in comparison to more complex level in university level but focuses more on practical capacity of learners in meeting requirement of participating in employment, production, service.
According to Vocational Education Law, general objective of college education is to train workforce for production, business and service, help them attain practical capability corresponding to college level; have morality, physical strength; be professional responsible; have creativity and ability to adapt to working environment in the context of international integration; ensure the productivity, quality of labor; facilitate learners’ job-seeking, job-creating for themselves or entering higher education.
Apart from that, objective of college education includes helping learners to achieve capability to implement work at secondary level and address more complex work in a certain profession and occupation; have creativity, ability to apply technology into work, instruct and supervise others in the team doing their work (4).
Therefore, there exists a difference in orientation and objective and level of capability between university and college. In short, university level is more directed at academic knowledge, theory, while practice is only empirical experimentation, while college level pivots around practice, application. However, graduates of college level can be qualified for higher education level.
2. Scientific basis for the title practical engineer/practical bachelor
With the goal for college education set forth above, Vocational Education Law (Article 38) stipulates, people who complete program at college level is conferred bachelor’s degree and have the title practical bachelor or practical engineer acknowledged. Title practical bachelor is being given to people in social sciences; while the title practical engineer provided to those in science and technology.
It can be said that the determination of title practical engineer or practical bachelor is not subjective, baseless but has been carefully prepared and examined. This regulation assures both scientificity and practicality with experience selectively learned from overseas.
The first one is scientificity
By scientific logic, if the university is more focused on academic knowledge, ability to address complex problems (theoretical mathematic problem) that are indirect and the degree is titled engineer or bachelor then college is more concerned with solving practical mathematic problems that are direct, practical thereby college graduates after completion of training program at college level can be justifiably recognized for a title similar to that of undergraduate level and postgraduate level.
According to ISCED 2011, college level is below university level and belongs to post-secondary education.
In Vietnam, according to the Joint-statement of 46th ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting held in 25 August 2014; 8th ASEAN Education Ministers Meeting held in 11 September 2014 in Myanmar and other relevant meetings, ASEAN qualification reference framework (AQRF) includes 8 levels, more specifically (5):
- Level 1: Certificate 1;
- Level 2: Certificate 2;
- Level 3: Certificate 3 (primary);
- Level 4: Secondary;
- Level 5: College;
- Level 6: University;
- Level 7: Master;
- Level 8: Doctor
With national qualification framework with 8 levels as mentioned above, level 6 of university level is recognized with title engineer or bachelor or corresponding titles such as architect, medical doctor, pharmacist, etc, while there are no titles given for lower levels even though by logic they shall be given a professional title.
Therefore, Vocational Education Law selected the title practical engineer or practical bachelor in recognition of people graduated from college because this level focuses on practice and application. On the other hand, this title is both alike the title engineer or bachelor of university education but also indicates a difference from university education.
In summary, college learners are more directed toward practical ability, ability for application. Thereby, distinguished from engineers or bachelor in university level, college graduates are capable of solving practical problems rather than theoretical problems. If graduates of university level (level 6) can receive the title engineer or bachelor then referring to college graduates (level 5) as practical engineer or practical bachelor is absolutely justifiable.
Second one is practicality
Being extremely obsessed with having university degree, many young people after graduation from high school do not want to pursue vocational training due to the feeling of inferiority as vocational training gives no title, no status in the society. The government has formulated many solutions for orientation of secondary school and high school students but those solutions remain ineffective. During the creation of Vocational Education Law, the question on allocation of student into vocational training was extensively deliberated by the experts. All opinions converge into an agreement that vocational training shall be made attractive in order to lure learners.
As the result, after agreeing on college level and vocational college level, Committee on Culture, Education, Adolescents and Children of National Assembly affirms recognition of a title for college graduates is one of policies designed to attract learners into vocational education, and should be viewed as one of solutions for automatic allocation of learners into vocational training in addition to other solutions.
Previously (during 99 -2000), due to this factor, in college degrees issued by colleges, universities the title college bachelor is recognized for learners.
Thirdly, learning of international experiences
The title practical engineer existed previously in German colleges, universities (German: Ingenieure Pädagogik, Ingenieure Bauer…).
According to Dr. Horst Sommer, a German expert, Director of GIZ program in Vietnam, today in Germany (as well as Austria) training of engineers takes place in Universitaet (Uni.) and Fachhochschulen (FH) as well as vocational institutes. In recent years, training for practical engineer is being provided in professional schools (Fachschulen - FS), with requirement of being 10th grade plus 2 to 3 years of vocational training. Today FS schools have transformed into FHS and no long exist since 1990.
In Germany today, many people view Fachhochschule (FH) or Hochschule as university, while others see it as college, this is due to the complexity of German education system unlike other countries. However, according to experts and people studying in Germany (according to the Website of student association in Germany), this education level is equivalent to college level in United Kingdom, United States.
Professional colleges (FH) in Germany is the product of education debates in 1960s. The demand for highly skilled workers with solid fundamental knowledge and short duration of training was driven by economic race with the world. That provides explanation why professional colleges (FH) were founded.
Majority of professional colleges (FH) were created on agencies, advanced vocational schools in a specific discipline, for example engineering schools, or economic schools. Decision made by culture ministers from all the states in 1969 (each state in Germany has distinctive culture and education system) has consolidated the education affair applied to all colleges – and the “Common law on the system of universities” in 1976 has lifted professional colleges (FH) to a same level as universities and other relevant corresponding institutions.
Since Germany became unified, due to new federal system, this problem has evolved into new dimension. The regions in former DDR (German Democratic Republic) started building engineering colleges (Ingenieurhochschulen) based on similar model of professional colleges used in West Germany. But similar to former federal system, professional colleges (FH) were also built on engineering schools and other professional secondary schools.
Nowaday in Germany, an increasing number of students are pursuing study at professional colleges (FH), reasons are ascribed to shorter duration of study and they are more associated with practice rather than theory like the universities (Uni).
Today, degrees issued by professional colleges are similar degrees issued by the universities (Uni.) but type of school needs to be specified in professional college’s degree. For instance: Degree issued by the Uni. is named Engineer Degree (Diplom Ingernieur) while degree issued by FH school is designated as Engineer Degree FH (Diplom Ingernieur - FH). With focus placed on practice, engineer degree issued by FH schools in Germany today can be considered in-depth engineer degree implying specialization in practice, application.
Therefore, it can be asserted that designation of the title practical engineer, practical bachelor for college graduates is both practical, scientific with international experiences learned. The designation of this title is also the objective of college education wherein learners not only gain professional theories but also become highly skilled, this can not only entice learners but also elevate the image of Vietnam’s college education./.
1. National Assembly (2012), University Education Law No.08/2012/QH13.
2. National Assembly (2014), Vocational Education Law No.74/2014/QH13.
3. Vietnam Encyclopedia, http://bachkhoatoanthu.vass.gov.vn/noidung/tudien/Lists.
4. UNESCO (2011), International Standard Classifiation of education (ISCED 2011).
5. Teresita R. Manzala (2014), The ASEAN Qualifications Reference Framework (AQRF).
6. FH St. Pölten: Frischgebackene Diplom-Ingenieure (FH), Website: http://www.fachhochschule.de/.
Dr.Vũ Xuân Hùng
National Institute of Vocational Training