Recommendations for teaching Circular in VET

Rimante Rusaite


This policy brief is part of the publication Circle VET eBook, created by CRN. The publication is issued as a part of the Circle VET project. The overall aim of the project is to evaluate and exchange smart practice methods in developing circular economy skills in the VET sector.


The first phase of the project carried out a desktop-research on identifying smart practices in teaching and applying circular economy principles based on critical design thinking and co-design. Parallel a need assessment was performed to understand the demands of the education provider in the three chosen case study sectors (Fashion, co-working, recycling) and the learners in the partnership countries. The results were presented at Transnational Meetings and resulted in developing an assessment grid for smart practices, suited for the self-assessment of educators. The collected practices, methods and experiences have been tested and reviewed in three thematic online training labs:
Testing circular methods
Testing circular methods in Fashion
Testing circular methods in Recycling/Waste Management

3. Key Messages to Decision Makers

As with many educational subjects, timing is a crucial aspect. However, as Circular Economy is a very broad and complex concept, it should be adapted and introduced to different age groups and educational levels. In order to achieve a long-term change and sustainable transitioning towards circular production and consumption systems, it needs to address shift in mindset and values.

“Integrate CE principles and practice in all education in order to change mindset and behaviour of future adult citizenz”

Currently, educational offer on concrete CE educational offer is very disperse and limited. To conceptualize and spread the principles of CE, the decision makers should encourage CE courses across formal and non-formal educational institutions.

“Support educational offer in Circular Economy”

To stimulate a coherent development and skill application, the CE principles need to be tested in practical situations. Internships and work training are perfect arenas to do that.

“Support organisations that provide internships in the area of circular economy for those who wants to gather experience in this field”

4. Key Messages to Education Practitioners

Keep it practical. Especially in VET sector, problem-based learning, case study analysis, interactive and blended teaching methods should be considered over traditional didactic practices.

“Transform the programs to create learning experiences like a learning journey”
“Integrate Learning by doing or action learning process using real cases and gamification”

Cultural aspects. Project partnership observed that country/region specifics are of high importance to achieve the best teaching results in CE. There is a huge difference between European countries in using CE in the training (e.g. from very advanced in Finland to less known in Turkey). Clear understanding of the environment (geography, legal framework, knowledge of current process) is needed before an educational curriculum is prepared.

“Adapt the educational offer to the target group and country”
“Adaption of the methods for each culture and country is crucial”

Values and perspectives. Circular Economy is not only an economical model, but a mindset, based on values and societal trends. Therefore, not only the practicalities of CE need to be addressed in the educational process, but also ethical and behavioural aspects – the traditional concepts of value in society might be questioned in order to start a constructive discussion and critical thinking.

“Teach kids the importance of value rather than money”

Needs assessment and system thinking. To deliver an optimal learning experience, educational practices need to be adapted not only to local specifics, but the knowledge levels and needs of the group. Furthermore, as CE is a very broad concept, even theme specific educational activities should be explained through the prism of system thinking.

“Assess the knowledge level of the group before designing a learning experience”

“Even when talking about specific aspects, keep referring to the system”

5. Conclusion

CE and VET. To transmit the CE principles in work of future VET professionals, it is very important to integrate it into VET curriculums. However, it would be much more effective, if the principles are taught from early school years and beyond. VET sector has a wide outreach to learners in different stages in their life, and, from that perspective, has an advantage over strictly academic studies. It also includes a lot of practical methods, which have been pointed out during the project partners, as favourable for teaching CE. It is also important to integrate Circular Economy principles across all topics, and the VET sector is highly diverse, therefore could be fruitfully exploited to introduce and develop this new field.