Risk, Resilience, and the Role of School Connectedness in the Development of Adolescents in Vocational Education Training Institutions in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts – Ukraine



Vocational education and training (VET) is an essential part of the Ukrainian educational system and is a foundation of Ukraine’s growth and development, underlining the importance of VET reform in parallel to the New Ukrainian School concept. VET is acknowledged as an important driver for the social inclusion, education and protection of vulnerable groups, and has a key role in the provision of quality education for all adolescents. Given the context of conflict exposure in eastern Ukraine, this report aims to identify the biggest challenges for students attending vocational education institutions (VEI) in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, and how these factors influence key learning and developmental outcomes.

To address these aims, a quantitative survey was administered in 2018 to a sample of 7519 adolescents in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts (3680 VEI students and 3839 students from general schools).

The phenomenon of school connectedness is investigated as a protective factor for adolescent development and as an indicator which can measure the progress in transforming VEI through policies such as competency-based teaching, inclusive school governance, and safe school environment.

The study aims to provide an evidence basis for VEIspecific policy design. This is achieved by contrasting the educational and family environment of adolescents in VEI to that of their peers in general secondary schools, revealing the specific challenges faced by students of VEI. The study compares the life skills, civic behaviours, values and psychosocial indicators of adolescents attending VEI and general secondary schools.

likelihood of experiencing internalising problems, family abuse and victimisation, which underlines the importance of psychosocial support in VEI transformation. VEI students are less interested in civic participation than their peers, with higher levels of aggression and readiness for violence and lower levels of key life skills.

Despite these challenges, school connectedness was found to be an important protective factor for reducing internalising and behavioural problems in adolescents in VEI, similar to what was observed in students of general schools (see SeeD’s study of school connectedness (Connected Adolescents Report). However, VEI students report that the practices which have been shown to generate school connectedness competency-based teaching, physical and psychosocial safety, participatory governance are not as widely implemented in their schools compared to respondents from general schools.

VEI require integrated educational approaches to develop constructive, engaged and responsible graduates. School connectedness is expected to positively influence psychosocial and civic development, and particular attention should be given to improving cohesion amongst peers in VEI. Developmental differences in VEI students, such as lower life skills, a higher tendency for violence or aggressive behaviour and more behavioural problems, demonstrate the need for social and psychosocial support throughout adolescent education in order to ensure that all students are equally able to reach their maximum potential.

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