The Role of Multilateral Institutions in Bringing Vocational Education and Training Reforms in Romania During the Transition Period (1989–1999): The Case of the European Union Phare VET Programme

Author Abhishek
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1177/00208817221138155
Published date01 October 2022
Date01 October 2022
Subject MatterResearch Articles
https://doi.org/10.1177/00208817221138155
International Studies
59(4) 364 –381, 2022
© 2022 Jawaharlal Nehru University
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DOI: 10.1177/00208817221138155
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Research Article
The Role of Multilateral
Institutions in Bringing
Vocational Education
and Training Reforms
in Romania During the
Transition Period
(1989–1999): The Case
of the European Union
Phare VET Programme
Abhishek1
Abstract
Regime change and opening of the market brought many opportunities as well as
challenges to Romania. In terms of economy, growth stagnated, unemployment
increased and a reverse movement of labour took place, from more productive
manufacturing and services to agriculture. Need to reskill the workers to
attract foreign direct investment was felt. Two multilateral institutions, World
Bank and European Union (EU), stepped in. EU, through its Phare programme,
played an important role in this reskilling by providing necessary funding and
experience for the restructuring of vocational education and training. The article,
based on both the primary and secondary sources, examines the role played
by the multilateral institutions and argues that although Phare VET programme
failed short of what it was intended in many areas because of some planning
and operational shortcomings, it was quite a successful programme in terms
of initiating curriculum development, introducing modularization, acquainting
Romanian VET schools with modern equipment and pedagogy, and planted the
seeds of social partnership in the field of VET.
Keywords
Vocational education, East European, education, European Union, Romania,
World Bank
1 School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India
Corresponding author:
Abhishek, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Mehrauli Road, New
Delhi 110067, India.
E-mail: abhishek51186@yahoo.com
Abhishek 365
Introduction
Regime change and the opening of the market brought many opportunities and
challenges to Romania. In terms of the economy, the initial years were the years
of rapid change and restructuring that brought upheavals: unemployment increased
and growth stagnated. In the case of Romania, the GDP shrank, manufacturing
registered a downfall, and for the unemployed workers, agriculture emerged as a
temporary relief. The overall labour force of Romania was educated enough for
manufacturing jobs: In 1992, 70.2 percent of those aged 25 years and above had
completed at least lower secondary, but these people were not skilled enough.
Along with other factors, the lack of skill required by the transnational corporations
made these firms refrain from investment. In three years, from 1990 to 1993, the
unemployment rate rose from meagre to 10 percent (Earle & Pauna, 1998). More
importantly, the share of industrial employment in total employment fell from
almost 45 percent in 1989 to about 30 percent in 1995 (Malamud & Pop-Eleches,
2010). Hence, a reverse movement of labour from more productive manufacturing
and services to agriculture took place. The transition period has been especially
harsh for those with vocational training because the old industries got closed and
production techniques changed. Hence, they were not only unemployed but also
unemployable.
Romania’s vocational education and training (VET) system needed reform, but
policymakers lacked the required expertise and resources. In this situation,
multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and the European Union (EU)
stepped in. Through different projects, these institutions played an important role
in restructuring vocational education; their involvement has been quite successful
in reforming the Romanian VET that helped ease the short-term pain associated
with the transition. As many lower-middle income countries are undergoing
demographic change and the world of work is witnessing churning due to industry
4.0, the role that foreign and multilateral assistance play in reforming the technical,
vocational education and training (TVET) system of a country is being debated.
In this scenario, Romania offers an interesting case to understand: one, the
importance of having a well-functioning TVET in facilitating a country’s global
production network participation; second, the role multilateral institutions can
play in reforming the VET system of a country.
The article makes a qualitative study based on primary and secondary
sources. The primary sources include the loan agreements, staff appraisal reports
and the final evaluation reports of the projects prepared by EU and World bank.
Barring the introduction and conclusion, the article is divided into three parts.
The first part looks at market integration in a general manner, offers a broad
understanding of the market reform and highlights how the opening of the
market and endeavour of integration into the world market necessitate TVET
reform in general. The next part looks at the economic changes and the problem
of shrinking GDP and rising unemployment in Romania. Then the third part
looks at the educational reform and the role played by the multilateral institutions
in general and that of the EU in particular.

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