VOCATIONAL EDUCATION & TRAINING (VET) AND THE FOURTH INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION (4IR): SUGGESTIONS TOWARDS A SUCCESSFUL EMBRACEMENT

S. Pitsikalis , C. Vitsilaki, D. Gouvias

University of the Aegean, Department of Preschool Education and Educational Design (GREECE)
The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is explained as the assimilation of the physical and digital world, where a number of emerging technologies, such as Internet of Things (IoT), Robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Digital Realities (Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality) are rapidly evolving and transforming societies. To succeed with the 4IR embracement, the educational sector, including both education and training, ought to adapt; students need to be exposed to and be stimulated to learn through technology-enhanced pedagogies and instructional approaches, while teachers/ trainers also need to be proficient in integrating innovative technologies into the educational and/or training process. Emerging technologies as well as any innovative tool introduced into the educational and/or training process, should be treated as a concept, taking into consideration numerous factors, rather than a sole technological tool offering new teaching and learning opportunities. Curricula upgrades, specifically in Vocational Education and Training (VET), need to include content and directions that link crucial knowledge and skills for the 21st century labor market with relevant real-world problems and applications, so that students may evolve into future human resources with additional value in their fields. In this study, the authors discuss weaknesses and challenges highlighted through existing VET curricula in Greece, with emphasis on Vocational Education (in Greece Epaggelmatika Lykeia – EPA.L.) taking into consideration other countries’ VET curricula as well as existing trends towards curricula reform and accordance with modern labor markets. The aim of the current paper is to: (a) underline axes which need to be reformed in the existing VET curricula, and (b) provide directions and suggestions towards innovative curricula with strong technological backgrounds, supported by emerging technologies, aiming to reduce the gap between VET and real labor markets. Authors also put emphasis on the need for continuous teacher development, in order to effectively apply the reformed curricula. Teacher development is essential to ensure that teachers are aware of curriculum revisions, understand the additional value of emerging technologies, and finally, are capable of supporting teaching and learning in the 21st century.