Theoretical Frameworks and Historical Experiences of Industrialisation for an Exchange with Developing Countries for the Further Development of Qualification for Employment

by Stefan Wolf


The aim of this text is to examine German historical experiences of the early industrialisation process by using Prussia as a symptomatic example, and to use this as a source of inspiration for future independent efforts by developing countries. For this purpose, historical and contemporary secondary studies were evaluated. The historical presentation is embedded in necessary theoretical frameworks which, on one hand, make the stability and persistence of vocational training models understandable on the basis of the underlying regulatory patterns and, on the other hand, show the possibilities for change which, from a historical perspective, has evolved from the concept of historical institutionalism. Both theoretical concepts serve to avoid technocratic shortcircuits and abridged views of a simple transfer of German historical experiences as blueprints to developing countries.

The historical presentation shows a holistic concept of a combination of promotion of industry and commerce – the difficult to translate historic German term was Gewerbeförderung – and vocational training measures. This holistic approach has not been found in development policy so far. It also shows, however, that a clear cause-and-effect chain for state action cannot be established, but rather that consideration of the institutional order and the regulatory pattern of vocational qualification for employment is important. It is more a case of unintended consequences and indirect effects than of technocratic control possibilities, since the historical process is too complex and too strongly permeated by contingency.

This finding means that the presented historical experience of early industriali-sation can be an inspiring starting point for exchange with developing countries. The inspiration means that the existing separation of development politics into economic policy and education policy should be dismantled and the inclusion of the framework conditions in developing countries, e.g. in the promotion of traditional education, should be given greater consideration. This calls for a stronger exchange of local and international experts, which will at the same time make it easier to refine the existing analytical instruments presented here for breaking down the qualification for employment.

Published in: Eigenmann, P., Gonon, P. & Weil, M. (2020) Opening and Extending Vocational Education. Berlin, Bern: Peter Lang

The complete manuscript can be requested at