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Lahti, Finland, 22-25 September 1999


Contribution of "inclusion" to active citizenship: Examples of effective practice within the French VET system

Dr M’hamed DIF

BETA/Cra-Céreq Alsace

University of Strasbourg I (ULP)



Until the late sixties, inclusion policy had dealt simply with the problem of smoothening the transition from school to work, in addition to a very limited number of specific cases concerning the first professional integration of inactive and disadvantaged adults. Then, the crisis of employment and its intensification since the early 70s has generated many mixed and complex situations: Longer school-to-work transition, increased precariousness, marginalisation and exclusion of many people, especially among those who are already disadvantaged. To adapt the concept of inclusion to these new complex situations and help policy makers to take the necessary measures and actions, a "Centre for Research on Employment and Qualifications: CEREQ" was created for this purpose (cf. M. Vérnières, 1997).

In this context, the first section of the paper proposes, after an overview of the general structure of the existing French VET system, some basic elements for an inclusion policy conceptual framework in an active citizenship. In the second section, two examples of effective practice within the proposed framework will be examined.


The first part of this section gives an outline on the general structure of the present VET system through which most of the vocational inclusion measures are introduced and implemented. In the context of more open and dynamic approach to the concept of citizenship (based on the promotion of the individual's ability to participate effectively in larger and multidimensional social production processes), a basic framework for the concept of inclusion will be presented through the last part of this first section.


As a complement to the dominant general education (usually referred to as the "normal" system), the French VET system is a combination of a variety of vocational and training sub-systems. They are traditionally grouped into two main separate systems (cf. M., DIF, 1998b; N., Terrot, 1997):

Initial vocational education and training system (IVET);

Continuing vocational training system (CVT).

This distinction is the result of a long traditional separation between the two spheres: education and production. Providing a bridge between the two systems was one of the main objectives of the reforms launched during the last decade. The development of alternating vocational training and involving firms and local authorities in the system were the main elements of this reform.

1.1- Initial vocational education and training (IVET):

IVET is, in its turn, made up of two main systems : The vocational education system (a traditionally dominant system) and the initial vocational training system.

1.1.1- Vocational education system (VES):

VES is a combination of three school-based sub-systems: vocational education, technological education and university-level vocational and technological education:

The first category, "vocational education", allows pupils to pursue vocational studies leading to the following degrees:

A vocational competency certificate (CAP) or a vocational studies diploma (BEP) at the end of a two or three-year course.

a vocational higher secondary school diploma (Bac. prof.). It is a two-year degree which allows for further higher education.

The technological education leads to:

A higher secondary school diploma in technology (BTn);

A university-level diploma in technology (DUT) or a higher technician diploma (BTS).

The third category includes all the other university-level vocational and technological studies (under-graduate and post-graduate levels).

In fact, initial vocational education plays an important role in keeping up students familiar with the new technological change. In addition, it contributes to smoothing the transition between school and working life.

1.1.2- Initial vocational training (IVT):

IVET system provides an important bridge between initial education system as a whole and real working life. It includes apprenticeship, alternating vocational training and other specific regimes.

a)- Apprenticeship: It is generally carried out through a specific work contract between the employer and the apprentice. It allows the latter to follow a vocational training on the company's production site and within an apprenticeship centre. It is financed through an apprenticeship tax provided for by companies, the state and local authorities.

b)- Alternating vocational training: It is a sub-system of the initial vocational training system, which was officially introduced in February 1984 to provide a real alternation between school-based vocational training and in-company work experience. It includes basically three kinds of alternating vocational training regimes: the orientation contract, the adaptation contract and the qualification contract.

c)- Other specific regimes: This category includes all other regimes adapted to specific and complex situations of "inclusion" through the VET system (e.g. PAQUE Programme).

1.2- Continuing vocational training system (CVT):

CVT is mainly designed to deal with the vocational training of workers. It is either an employee self-directed continuing vocational training (SD-CVT) or an employer directed continuing vocational training (ED-CVT) (cf. M. DIF, 1998b &1999a).

1.2.1- Employee self directed continuing vocational training:

It is considered as an employee's choice guided system. But its real functioning has always been dependent on the development of the financial constraint. It is generally carried out through two main regimes of paid leave for continuing vocational training:

Leave for self-directed continuing vocational training: LSD-CVT (Congé individuel de formation: CIF);

Leave for competencies evaluation: LCE ( Congé de bilan de compétences: CBC).

a)- Leave for self-directed CVT:

This regime, created in 1971, allows any employee, with a working experience of two years of which one year at least within the last firm, to ask for a vocational training leave. The duration of the leave does not generally exceed a full time working year (or 1200 hours for a part time leave) which is counted for as working experience. If this kind of leave has the advantage of allowing the trainee to return to the company once the training is completed, it does not oblige the employer to recognise the acquired qualifications.

The vocational training leave is financed through a special fund held and run by a parity organism (called OPACIF). This fund is fed by contributions from the employers (0,20 % of the total wages) and the State. However, the state contribution is still, generally, limited to financing special cases of vocational training leave such as long term training leaves and the training leaves within small companies (with less than 10 employees). But, the coverage of training costs (trainee's salary, training fees, transport and lodging) varies from 60 to 90% depending on the importance of the training content and its duration.

The financing capacity of the fund is getting more and more limited due to its decreased revenues and the increased number of applicants. At present, the parity organism for vocational training (OPACIF) can take into charge only 20,000 trainees, on average, per year (i.e. 70% of applications received).

This regime originally designed in favour of full and part time workers employed according to non-fixed duration work contracts, was extended in December 1991 to include precariously employed workers: employees with fixed duration contracts and temporary workers.

b- Leave for competencies evaluation (LCE):

It can be taken by any employee possessing a working experience of five years, of which one year at least with the last employer. It allows its beneficiaries to have their vocational and personal competencies evaluated and be able to restate clearly their own career projects. Its costs are taken into charge in the same way as those linked to the vocational training leave.

The precariously employed workers can always benefit from this regime in the same manner as they do under the previous regime (the LSD-CVT regime).

1.2.2- Employer-directed continuing vocational training:

It is generally carried out through the company's vocational training scheme. It includes all kinds of short term and medium term vocational training, decided and implemented by the company in favour of its employees. It is normally the result of a concerted action aiming at the promotion of internal labour flexibility. The scheme is generally financed through the firms' obligatory contributions to a vocational training fund (a minimum of about 1% of wages).


In the context of active citizenship based on the promotion of the individual’s capacity to participate effectively in social, cultural, economic and political processes, a conceptual framework for the concept of inclusion can be proposed. As a process, it can be reduced to two basic dimensions, namely space and time:

2.1- Space dimension:

It can be identified through the answers given to the following interdependent basic questions:

What? It is to identify the subject of inclusion, i.e. the individual who is in a disadvantaged situation which does not allow him or her to exercise fully his or her fundamental rights of participating effectively in an active citizenship (cf. A.-M. Daune-Richard, 1997; T.H. Marshall, 1950). The scope of an active participation is determined by the economic, social, political and cultural context of the country, the level of development attained and the degree of attachment to the universally accepted principles of human rights (cf. F. Constant, 1998). In France, the 1998 Act (of July, the 29th) for combating exclusion establishes, as one of the Government's major actions in this direction, the guarantee of equal rights for all individuals to have an effective access to employment, shelter, health care, justice, education, training, culture, family and childhood protection. For any individual identified to be unable to have a voluntary access to at least one of these fundamental rights, he or she is considered as an excluded or disadvantaged person who needs an individualised accompaniment in his or her own inclusion / re-inclusion track. In France, this exclusion is touching an increasing number of people. About 10% of the French households are under the poverty line. Two million people live on a minimum inclusion income (RMI) and six million on a variety of social inclusion minima. Out of about three million unemployed, one million are still in a situation of a long duration unemployment (cf. V. Grasset-Morel & et al, 1998).

To identify empirically the nature of exclusion and hence the type of inclusion policy to be undertaken by policy makers, a set of identification criteria needs to be determined in the light of answers given to the following two intertwined questions: Where and how? (cf. E. Alfandari, 1992; M. Vernières, 1997):

Where? It is to locate the lieu of inclusion of the excluded individual. Therefore the process will be an "educational inclusion" if the lieu is the school, a "vocational inclusion" in the case of the enterprise and a "social inclusion" if we consider the society as whole.

How? It is to specify the criteria according to which the individual’s precariousness (and hence the inclusion policy measure to be undertaken) is empirically defined. If we limit ourselves to the case of vocational inclusion in a French context, an individual with an occupation within an enterprise can be empirically classified as a precariously employed worker. This can be the case, for instance, of any individual who is irregularly employed on a temporary or a short time basis and/or receives a salary lower than the referential wage. For more precision, in this case, it is necessary to use, a set of empirically observable and measurable criteria usually referred to as "referential indicators" such as "the referential work contract" and/or "the referential wage (linking the individual's qualifications and competencies to job requirements)". The nature of these complementary indicators changes over time and space depending on the specificity of the socio-economic context and its development.

2.2- Time dimension:

For how long? It is to allow for taking into consideration, within the context of this conceptual framework, the time dimension of inclusion as a process, i.e. to determine the necessary time taken by the inclusion process to reduce or to put an end to the individual’s precariousness (cf. E. Alfandari, 1992). As a vocational inclusion process, it is expected, at least in principle, to allow its beneficiary to have ultimately a steady access to employment. Access to steady employment is observed and assessed by means of "referential indicator packages" which are usually defined within the socio-economic and cultural context of their application. Like the rest of social inclusion measures, most of vocational inclusion measures adopted within the existing VET system, do not guarantee this ultimate attainment. They might trigger the process by allowing the disadvantaged beneficiaries to have access to their first inclusion or re-inclusion jobs. To secure this minimum requirement, some vocational inclusion regimes (as it was the case in the PAQUE Programme) provide for individualised social accompaniment and follow-up before, during and even after their effective launch and implementation (cf. F. Braun, 1998).


This second section of the paper presents and assesses, in the context of the proposed conceptual framework, two examples of effective practice within the French VET system:

The first example concerns the "PAQUE Programme" i.e. the Programme of Active Access to Employment and Qualifications";

The second example is the "Vocational Qualification Contract" regime, which was introduced and implemented within the framework of the "Alternating Vocational Training" system as means of vocational inclusion. It is basically in favour of young people under the age of 26 years old.


1.1- Its key characteristics:

"PAQUE" is a national programme of an active preparation for qualifications and employment of non qualified young people (from 16 to 25 years old) who are in precarious situation and unable to have direct access to qualifications and employment. Launched in June 1992, "PAQUE" programme is considered as a preparatory stage which allows a young person excluded by the selectivity of the existing initial education system to benefit from the individualised loan for vocational training (ILVT: "CIF-jeunes") introduced within the general framework of the initial vocational training regime (IVT). The PAQUE's basic founding principles are fourfold (cf. C. Mathey-Pierre, 1998):

Enhancing innovation and efficiency of pedagogical methods in addition to the development of trainers and tutors' vocational competencies;

Diversifying the contents of the training programmes and allowing for a regular personal and vocational competency control of the trainee;

Integrating the social and cultural dimensions in the process;

Encouraging financially the training bodies to be directly involved in the output of the implemented programme;

1.2- Its objectives:

"PAQUE"'s intermediary objectives are threefold:

The acquisition of basic knowledge (learning to read, to write, to reason logically, to communicate,...);

Intensive and active learning about different occupations and their sectors (i.e. preparation for undertaking any training or job search activity);

Social accompaniment.

As for its ultimate aims, they are considered as success indicators. Therefore, at the end of the training period, the beneficiary will be able :

to have access to a vocational training, (through signing a vocational qualification contract or an apprenticeship contract, ...);

or to acquire the status of a vocational trainee;

or to find a regular job ( and have access, through the acquired basic knowledge, to further qualifications and career development).

1.3- Its performance in practice

A follow-up study, conducted on a questionnaire basis during and after its implementation stage by the Centre for Employment Studies (CEE). The questionnaire covered only the trainees taken in charge by "The Vocational Training Association for Adults: AFPA". This study led to the following results and conclusions concerning the performance of the PAQUE Programme (cf. C. Mathey-Pierre, 1998):

1.3.1- Beneficiaries of the programme:

The beneficiaries of the programme were essentially young people with a low level of education and qualifications : 3 /4 of them are from a working class origin and do not possess any degree. In fact, a large proportion of them accumulates the following common characteristics:

Their parents (originally foreigners) are unemployed or inactive .

They belong to big families (with four children per family on average).

They were confined to a special separate schooling system in their childhood.

They have health problems.

If any of these characteristics creates on its own a prior hindrance to any social and vocational inclusion, the combination of all these factors increases further the risk of social, cultural, economical and vocational exclusions.

In order to have a more precise picture of the particularity of the beneficiaries of the programme "PAQUE", the sample surveyed can be grouped into seven, more or less, homogeneous groups of young people:

Group 1 : It is represented by 3,7% respondents who are mainly young men with few brothers and sisters and live in social care centres.

Group 2 : A group represented by 9,6% of respondents who are generally young married women (over 21 years old) of foreign origin with one child at least. Most of these women live in their own accommodations and benefit from the social security coverage and other social allowances with the exception of those directly linked to unemployment ( ASSEDIC's allowances). They are registered with the National Agency for Employment (ANPE) as unemployed women looking for employment.

Group 3 : It is made up of 18,7% respondents. They are single young men (16 to 20 years old) who are either non registered with the national agency for employment or declared as unemployed but do not benefit from unemployment allowances and social security coverage. They are financially dependent on their parents but they do not live with them.

Group 4 : A group represented by 12,9% respondents who are young French people of 21 years old and more. They are financially independent and have their own personal accommodations. They are declared as unemployed in search for work and receive diverse allowances, including those linked directly to unemployment. About 33% of these people, who possess preliminary vocational qualifications, have health problems which force them to stop their initial vocational education.

Group 5 : 15% of the respondents representing this group are mainly single young men (originally foreigners) who benefited, for a long time, from the general education system (including apprenticeship for some of them) and hence they are more able to precise their vocational training needs. They are not declared as unemployed but they are financially dependent on their parents (of whom only the father is working; the mother is a housewife). This group of young men has, more than the other groups, social and criminal problems.

Group 6 : This group is represented by 17,3% respondents who are unemployed French women with a specialised educational background. Some of these women (a younger proportion) are married with one child and highly interested in having out-door cultural activities. They belong to big families (41% have, at least, five brothers and sisters) with an unemployed father in most cases.

Group 7 : This most important group (22,8% respondents) is mainly made up of inactive young single women who belong to big "introverted" families with unemployed parents. They are financially dependent on their parents and live with them. In addition, they declare not having any interest in out-door cultural activities. They received a specialised education and have health problems (more than the other groups).

If we consider only the groups 3, 6 and 7, they represent together 59% respondents who are in the most precarious situation which hinders their social, vocational and cultural inclusion. Thus, "PAQUE" is the only programme which really deals with young people who are excluded by the selectivity of the existing educational and training system.

1.3.2- Beneficiaries' appreciation of the programme

a)- Beneficiaries expectations at the registration stage:

58 % of the respondents were expecting a job (groups: 6 and 7);

36 % of the respondents wanted to have a qualification (groups: 4 and 6);

21 % of the respondents were interested in an income (groups: 2 and 6);

18 % of the respondents wanted to improve their school-based general knowledge (groups: 2 and 5).

b)- Appreciation of the results obtained:

Two to four years after the completion of the programme:

63% of the beneficiaries declared that they were generally satisfied with the programme (only 27 % were unsatisfied).

64 % of the beneficiaries have worked at least once ;

31 % only of the beneficiaries of the programme have gone through a vocational training.

On the whole, the programme "PAQUE" contributed effectively to the opening up of progression opportunities for vocational and occupational routes in favour of young people excluded by the selectivity of the existing educational and training system. In spite of this performance, the programme was abandoned in September 1994 for its supposed high costs.


2.1- Its basic characteristics and objectives:

The vocational qualification contract regime (VQC) is one of the three main components of the alternating vocational training system, which was created through the 1983 agreement (October the 26th) between social partners. It was officially codified by the 1984 Act (24th February) and then completed through the 1991 Act of December the 31st. The other two components are: the adaptation contract and the preparatory vocational training. The latter was replaced through the 1991 Act by the present "orientation contract regime".

The vocational qualification contract is a specific work contract for a duration of 6 to 24 months. It is classified as one of the vocational inclusion policy measures. It concerns young people under the age of 26 years old (16-25) who are interested in completing their initial qualifications by a further vocational training more adapted to employment requirements. At least 25% of the trainee's time is spent outside the company in a vocational training centre. The training covers general and specific vocational subjects. A follow-up tutor for each trainee is usually designed by the employer. The trainee's income during this period is calculated with reference to the minimum wage guaranteed by law or through collective bargaining actions. Its amount varies, according to age and experience, between 30% and 75% of the minimum guaranteed wage.

The training costs are taken in charge directly by the employer or indirectly through an authorised mutual insurance institution such as the parity organism fund (OPACIF). In return, the employer is exempted, for each recruitment of this kind, from the payment of employer/social security contributions. In addition, the employer receives on each new vocational qualification contract a subsidy whose amount varies between 5000 and 7000 francs, according to whether the duration of the contract is lower or higher than 18 months.

It is considered as one of the dominant and effective instruments used, within the alternating vocational training system, to bridge the existing gap between two spheres: initial school-based learning sphere and production sphere. In this context, it was assigned the following founding missions and objectives (cf. A.-M. Charraud, 1995; N. Legoupil, 1999):

As an inclusion policy measure, the vocational qualification contract regime was assigned the mission of promoting vocational inclusion. In the context of 1984 Act, its application is exclusively limited to a specific category of active population, namely young people aged from 16 to 25 years old who left school:

Either without any qualifications at all (i.e. without diplomas),

Or with qualifications which do not allow them to have access to employment.

The basic objective in this context is to equip the beneficiaries with transversal and occupational competencies acquired through an alteration between in-company and school-based training.

As a mode of certification, the regime is expected to increase the scope of the certification process via the use of three modes of certification:

Traditional dominant mode of accreditation of vocational training through:

National vocational diplomas such as CAP and BTS;

Homologated certification.

Mode of accreditation established through collective bargaining (i.e. CC: Conventions collectives);

Accreditation of vocational training accepted by the National Parity Commission for Employment (CPNE: Commission Paritaire Nationale pour l'emploi) such as the delivery of the Vocational Qualification Certificate (CQP: Certificat de Qualifications Professionnelles).

2.1- Its contribution:

About 100,000 young people (on average) are recruited each year on a vocational qualification contract basis with a slightly decreasing role during the period 1992-1996. For instance, the number of newly concluded contracts has gone down from 117,000 in 1994 to 99,861 during 1995, then again to 96,184 in 1996. This is basically due to transfer movements in favour of apprenticeship contracts, in particular and the worsening situation of employment in general.

The beneficiaries of this vocational inclusion regime are dominantly:

Young men (54% in 1997) whose number is decreasing in favour of young women;

Young men and women over 20 years old (64,4% in 1997);

Young men and women with initial qualifications at levels III (a first-two-year undergraduate diploma), IV (with a vocational baccalaureate, a university-level diploma in technology: "DUT" or a higher technician diploma: "BTS") and V (with a vocational competency certificate: "CAP" or a vocational studies diploma: "BEP") representing altogether 89% in 1997;

Young men and women who finished their schooling and are still looking for work (57,9% in 1997).

The employers involved in the implementation of this regime are basically small and medium firms representing, in 1997, 91,3% of the whole number of companies involved. They are dominantly active within the tertiary sector (73,4% in 1997) (cf. the statistics of the "Direction de l’Animation de la Recherche, des Etudes et des Statistiques: DARES").

The main present limitations of the regime as a vocational inclusion instrument are threefold:

First, vocational qualification contract is basically a discriminatory regime in terms of age. Its timid extension by the Anti-Exclusion Act of July 1998, covers only a specific category of disadvantaged people beyond the age of 25 years old. During its experimental stage ending on the 31st of December 2000, the beneficiaries have to be exclusively unqualified people living a situation of long duration unemployment (cf. N. Legoupil, 1999) . The number of people who are in need for, at least, one chance of vocational inclusion or re-inclusion has been exponentially increasing over the last two decades. This is mainly due to the worsening situation of unemployment and the lengthening period of initial education and training.

Secondly, this regime is becoming more and more of an additional means for certification in favour of young people who already possess high initial qualifications, especially during the 1990s.

Thirdly, as a specific work contract, the vocational qualification contract is, in fact, a substitute for a normal recruitment which would have been undertaken anyway by the employer. In this sense, it has the disadvantage of encouraging and subsidising the development of precarious employment.

The contribution of the VQC regime to vocational inclusion should be tested in terms of stock criteria rather than flow criteria, i.e. to test the final stage in the process of an effective transformation of a temporary and precarious employment to a steady one.


It is clear from the above analysis that the effectiveness of anti-exclusion measures introduced and implemented through the VET system is highly dependent on two basic sets of factors:

Factors linked to the real content given, institutionally and in practice, to the notion of citizenship and to the related concept of inclusion;

Factors related to the structural nature and functioning of the VET itself as means for social inclusion in general and vocational inclusion in particular.

Citizenship is an ever changing notion over time and space. Its real content is historically determined by "cultural trend-setters" under the majority rule for a democratic society (M. DIF, 1998b). This implies that there are always minorities who are forced, directly or indirectly, to accept integration (which may not be possible for real socio-economic and cultural barriers) or marginalisation and exclusion. Therefore, a notion of active citizenship, highly attached to democracy and universality, needs to go beyond this reality and have a larger content which guarantees for all individuals, within the society, an effective and voluntary participation in all "social production" processes (cf. F. Constant, 1998). In this case, inclusion is a "collective action" which allows disadvantaged individuals to have effectively the means of their voluntary active participation in theses processes. Due to the complexity of the exclusion phenomenon, any particular vocational inclusion measure, for instance, may need to be accompanied with other complementary social inclusion actions before, during and even after the implementation process.

As for the VET system, it is still characterised by the existence of structural and functioning factors which may hinder it to play its role as means of social inclusion in general and vocational inclusion in particular. These factors are mainly:

A high degree of segmentation produced by the proliferation of many ad hoc and experimental regimes, especially those introduced and implemented within the alternating and continuing vocational training systems. It has contributed on one hand, to the dispersion of efforts and means and on the other, to an increased lack of stability over time in the whole functioning and performance evaluation of these regimes.

Insufficient integration in terms of a learning path-fluidity and complementarity between and within different components of the existing educational and training system as whole. For instance, the exclusion leakage produced, at present, within the initial education system is mainly due to two types of rigidities (cf. M. DIF, 1999a):

A growing gap between a dominant "normal" general education and less prestigious vocational education considered as means of "rescuing" pupils with educational problems.

A relatively high rate of selectivity, especially within the first component of the system: initial general education system. Moreover, access to certain curricula traditionally delivered by some prestigious institutions is still limited to the elite with socially and economically advantaged background.

Lack of social accompaniment and performance follow-up: Most of vocational training regimes (with the exception of the explicit case of the PAQUE Programme) do not take into consideration the complexity of the exclusion phenomenon. They are generally punctual measures without any social inclusion accompaniments and real implementation follow-up. Moreover, they are, in most cases, characterised by their discriminatory nature in terms of age and established working status (cf. M. DIF, 1998a , 1999a and 1999b).



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This document was added to the Education-line database on 22 September and revised on 6 October 1999