Vocational-Technical Education

Vocational-Technical Education


a type of vocational education that trains skilled workers for branches of the national economy in vocational-technical educational institutions; the aggregate of systematized knowledge and skills that enables an individual to perform work in a given occupation or specialization. In socialist countries, vocational-technical education is part of the system of public education.

In slaveholding societies, vocational skills were transmitted during the work process itself. In feudal society, the diversity and specialization of crafts gave rise to vocational training by means of a system of apprenticeship. The growth of the heavy machine industry during the age of capitalism stimulated the establishment of vocational-technical schools of various levels and specializations, although the apprenticeship system was retained. In these schools, workers’ children learned to use industrial tools and became familiar with production technology.

Vocational-technical education became an independent stage of vocational education in the developed European capitalist countries during the second half of the 19th century. In the United States, this took place after World War 1(1914–18), when there was a sharp drop in the influx of skilled workers from Europe.

In Russia during the first half of the 19th century, the subject system of training (the study of subjects during the actual production process) was followed in vocational-technical educational institutions. Many schools devoted few class hours to specialized subjects, while others offered no instruction in general subjects. Progressive members of the community advocated the development and improvement of vocational-technical education. In 1868, K. D. Ushinskii asserted in his article “The Need for Trade Schools in Our Capitals” (Sobr. sock, vol. 3, 1948, pp. 589–97) that proper training of apprentices and masters would make it unnecessary for Russia to use the services of foreign specialists.

In the 1860’s, a group of mechanical engineers at the Moscow Technical School, headed by D. K. Sovetkin, developed a system of industrial education called operational education. Under this system, students mastered an occupation in stages, learning all the necessary specialized methods and operations. The system was demonstrated and gained acceptance at international exhibitions in Vienna (1873), Philadelphia (1876), and Paris (1900). It was observed that the Russians had made a science of manual-labor training. The engineers S. A. Vladimirskii and P. I. Ustinov improved the operational system by mastering combinations, methods, and work procedures and by teaching students during the manufacturing process itself, both in educational workshops and in shops within plants.

The better elementary technical and trade schools in Russia were staffed with skilled masters and instructors and had superior equipment and instructional materials. However, most of the vocational-technical educational institutions exploited the labor of adolescents and often employed insufficiently skilled workers as masters. In many cases there was no program of instruction, educational supplies were limited, and the students were given no theoretical knowledge.

The October Revolution of 1917 introduced fundamental changes in the system of vocational-technical education. In 1918 education became compulsory for adolescents 15 through 17 years of age who worked in enterprises and institutions. The trade schools were replaced by a network of vocational-technical courses, schools, and clubs, which sought to provide vocational and general training for youth. In 1919 a vocational-technical education section was established within the People’s Commissariat for Education of the RSFSR; in 1920 this section became the Chief Administration for Vocational Training (Glavprofobr).

The decree of the Council of People’s Commissars of the RSFSR On Measures for the Dissemination of Vocational-Technical Knowledge, adopted in 1919, pointed out that “an essential condition for the ultimate triumph of the workers’ and peasants’ revolution is an increase in national labor productivity, and … the most rapid, effective means of realizing this increase is the dissemination of vocational-technical knowledge and skills among broad masses of the people” (Izvestiia V TsIK, no. 135, June 24, 1919).

In order to develop technical skills among workers and meet the acute demands of industry for skilled workers in accordance with the decree On Compulsory Vocational-Technical Education (1920), compulsory vocational-technical education was introduced for all workers between the ages of 18 and 40. Exceptions were made for individuals with training equivalent to that provided by the former trade schools or individuals educated at technical educational institutions. In factories and plants that had no schools, vocational-technical education was compulsory from the age of 14.

The Statute on Vocational-Technical Schools was approved in 1920; in 1921 statutes on factory apprenticeship in the metal-working industry and on schools for apprenticeship in industry were approved. A new statute on these schools was approved in 1924. In the 1920’s, Glavprofobr developed a model educational program. In schools for apprenticeship in industry, 60–65 percent of class time was devoted to practical training and 35–40 percent to theoretical instruction. By combining general, vocational, and political education with practical work in industry, these schools represented a new socialist type of vocational educational institution for working youth.

During the 1920’s and 1930’s, the schools for apprenticeship in industry and other vocational educational institutions employed three systems of industrial education: subject, operational, and combined (subject-operational). In the mid-1930’s a comprehensive operational system was developed, based on the best features of the operational and combined systems. Under this new system, which has been the basic one from the 1940’s on, the students first learn the methods and operations of an occupation and then master increasingly complex procedures. Training is carried out through the actual manufacture of useful and complex products. In this way, students are trained for independent work and productive labor.

The schools for apprenticeship in industry were in operation between 1920 and 1940 and trained 2.5 million skilled workers for jobs in the national economy. At the same time, the self-contained nature of this school system impeded centralized supervision of vocational training and the development of unified curricula, programs, and textbooks. In order to expand the organized training of skilled workers, regulate the supervision of vocational-technical education, and eliminate the self-contained nature of the vocational schools, the system of the State Labor Reserves of the USSR was established in 1940. This system assumed control of the schools for apprenticeship in industry and reorganized them into trade, railroad, and industrial training schools.

During the Great Patriotic War (1941–45), labor reserve schools played a key role in training workers for the defense industry. Labor reserve trainees constituted over 50 percent of all workers in many enterprises, particularly in eastern regions. About 20,000 students and workers in schools were awarded orders and medals for aiding the war front.

During the 1950’s, the State Labor Reserves system trained workers for industry, transport, construction, and agriculture and raised the level of specialized and general-education training. As general secondary education developed, technical schools were established for the vocational-technical education of young people who had graduated from secondary general-education schools. Schools teaching skills leading to the mechanization of agriculture, modeled after trade schools, were established for the training of agricultural machine operators.

In order to provide the national economy with the skilled workers needed for scientific and technological progress, the State Labor Reserves system was transformed in 1958 into the State System of Vocational-Technical Education. The principal types of educational institutions within this system were urban and rural vocational-technical schools, which trained young people with an incomplete general secondary education to be skilled workers. The late 1960’s witnessed the initial development of vocational-technical schools providing both practical training and a general secondary education. Such schools accept graduates from eight-year schools. Secondary vocational-technical schools are becoming a promising source of general secondary education.

In the 1970’s, the network of secondary agricultural vocational-technical schools has been expanded and its material base strengthened. The role and status of vocational-technical education in the modern system of public education have been defined in the following resolutions of the Central Committee of the CPSU and the Council of Ministers of the USSR: On Increasing the Role of the State Committee for Vocational-Technical Education of the Council of Ministers of the USSR in the Training of Skilled Workers for the National Economy (1966), Measures for the Further Improvement of Skilled-worker Training in Vocational-Technical Educational Institutions (1969), On Improving the Vocational-Technical Educational System (1972), and On Expanding the Network of Secondary Agricultural Vocational-Technical Schools and Improving Their Work (1975). The role and status of vocational-technical education are also defined in the Fundamental Laws of the USSR and the Union Republics on Public Education (1973) and in the resolution of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on The Status of Public Education and Measures for the Further Improvement of General Secondary, Vocational-Technical, Specialized Secondary, and Higher Education in the USSR (1973).

Vocational-technical educational institutions offer specializations in related job groups: metalworkers, chemists, builders, metallurgists, miners, and workers in the petroleum and railroad transport industries and in agriculture and municipal and domestic services—about 1,100 occupations in all. Such specialization enables these schools to improve the quality of instruction, make optimal use of industrial training equipment, and efficiently staff the schools with specialized instructors.

Theoretical instruction includes the teaching of specialized and general (such as sociopolitical) subjects needed for the mastery of a given occupation. In the course of production training, students master the knowledge and skills required in the given occupation; they learn to work by using modern equipment and the latest working methods.

In vocational-technical education, production training alternates with theoretical instruction. The most effective combination of theoretical instruction and practical training is established for each field of specialization. In secondary vocational-technical schools, about 40 percent of class time is devoted to general subjects, 20 percent to special subjects, and 40 percent to production training. In technical schools and standard vocational-technical schools for secondary school graduates, the proportions are 10, 20, and 70 percent, respectively.

In the modern vocational-technical educational system, educational institutions function in coordination with industrial enterprises. Major enterprises supply the schools with equipment, materials, and tools and provide industrial training facilities in plant shops. Graduates are generally assigned to work in the enterprises where they completed their industrial training.

Vocational-technical educational institutions have trained more than 36 million skilled workers during the period of Soviet power. (See Table 1.)

Evening vocational-technical schools, courses, training centers, and other types of classroom and individual and team training are being organized at enterprises for young people entering industry after receiving a general education, as well as for workers who wish to learn a new occupation or improve their qualifications. In 1973, 5 million workers at various enterprises, institutions, and organizations acquired new jobs and specializations and 9.6 million improved their skills. Some 1.7 million kolkhoz workers were trained in new occupations and specializations or improved their skills. Approximately 231,000 skilled workers were trained in schools for apprenticeship and other vocational schools and in schools on plant premises.

Highly skilled workers participate as tutors in the education and vocational training of young workers. Tutorship has become a mass movement in the 1970’s.

In 1973 the vocational-technical educational system employed more than 360,000 workers, including 218,000 instructors and production training specialists. The State Committee for Vocational-Technical Education controls 69 industrial teachers technicums, which provide instruction for industrial

Table 1. Growth of the vocational-training educational system in the USSR
Total educational institutions...439273,9701,5512,4883,1454,3195,3516,028
Secondary vocational-technical schools .....3242,200
Total students...........2,00088,600925,000602,000603,000755,0001,599,0002,380,0003,000,000
Students in secondary vocational-technical schools..........._168,000900,000

training specialists; an average of more than 10,000 specialists are graduated annually. As of 1974, instructors of specialized subjects were being trained in engineering pedagogical departments at 13 polytechnical institutes. Instructors may acquire advanced training by attending the All-Union Institute for Advanced Training of Engineering Pedagogical Workers With Vocational-Technical Education, founded in Leningrad in 1966, or any of its more than 20 branches in other cities. For the same purpose they may also attend advanced teacher-training institutes, special divisions, and courses at industrial branch educational institutions. Production training specialists undergo upgrading at an enterprise once every five years. The All-Union Scientific Research Institute of Vocational-Technical Education, founded in 1966, collaborates with the scientific research institutes of industrial ministries and the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences of the USSR in studying the changes that have taken place in the types of work performed in industry as a result of technological progress. The institute determines the program and system of worker training in accordance with these changes.

Teaching aids and equipment for vocational-technical education are provided by the All-Union Trust for Industrial Enterprises of the State Committee for Vocational-Technical Education (founded in 1947) of the Council of Ministers of the USSR. Textbooks and other instructional materials are published by the Vysshaia Shkola and other major publishing houses. Some 2,000 types of teaching aids and equipment are issued annually at a cost of about 25 million rubles; over 150 types of specialized textbooks and other instructional materials are published in 5.5 million copies annually.

The technical and artistic aptitudes of students in vocational-technical schools are also developed. In 1974 more than two-thirds of the schools’ students took part in amateur art groups and technical clubs. Athletic and sports activities in the vocational-technical educational system are organized by the Labor Reserves, an All-Union Voluntary Sports Association. The vocational-technical education pavilion has been a permanent feature of the Exhibition of the Achievements of the National Economy of the USSR in Moscow since 1959. The journal Professional’no-tekhnicheskoe obrazovanie (Vocational-Technical Education) is published monthly.

Other socialist countries are also expanding and improving the training of skilled workers in the vocational-technical educational system. The level of general and vocational education in vocational-technical educational institutions is being raised, and the number of secondary vocational schools of various types is increasing. As a rule, vocational-technical education is based on an eight-year program (Bulgaria, Hungary, Rumania, and Yugoslavia) or a ten-year one (the German Democratic Republic and Czechoslovakia). The training period is usually two to four years, although some vocational schools offer a one-or two-year program for young people with a general secondary education. Workers also receive training and improve their skills at industrial enterprises. The vocational-technical educational system in Bulgaria trained 42,100 workers in 1960 and 106,000 in 1970; in Hungary, 125,300 and 200,000, respectively; in the German Democratic Republic, 338,000 and 530,000; in Poland, 363,000 and 850,000; in Rumania, 127,000 and 245,000; and in Czechoslovakia, 245,000 and 355,000.

Scientific methodological conferences are held annually in the socialist countries for the personnel of vocational-technical educational institutions.

In some capitalist countries, including the United States and Japan, vocational-technical training is provided in vocational classes at general secondary schools after the completion of eight grades within a four-year period. In Great Britain, France, Italy, Austria, Sweden, Norway, and Finland, students receive vocational-technical training in vocational schools with a two- or three-year program. In the Federal Republic of Germany, this education is available in industrial training shops and in vocational schools with a two- or three-year program. Many countries have three- or four-year vocational schools that are established by companies. Most of the vocational schools charge tuition.

In the United States, Great Britain, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, and other countries, there also exists a vocational training system for skilled workers that has an apprenticeship period of two to five or more years. In addition, there are state, public, and private schools, and adult vocational training courses that are offered after working hours. Ministries or departments of education have control over the vocational schools’ methodology, while economic, financial, and administrative matters are under the jurisdiction of ministries or departments of industry and agriculture. The apprenticeship system of vocational training is managed by the ministries or departments of labor.

In capitalist countries, the communist and workers’ parties and progressive trade union and youth organizations favor the expansion and improvement of vocational-technical education as well as the establishment of a single state system of vocational-technical education that would eliminate the exploitation of young people during the training period.


Veselov, A. N. Professional’no-tekhnicheskoe obrazovanie ν SSSR. Moscow, 1961.
Bulgakov, A. A. Professional’no-tekhnicheskoe obrazovanie i profsoiuzy. [Moscow] 1967.
Kovalenko, I., and B. Omel’ianenko. Tekhnicheskii progress i rabochie kadry: Zarubezhnyi opyt. [Moscow] 1969.
Batyshev, S. Ia. Formirovanie kvalifilsirovannykh rabochikh kadrov ν SSSR, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1974.


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