THE world of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) is one of paradoxes and other mind bogglers.
Five thousand TVET and science places are waiting to be filled, yet there are no takers. Puzzlingly, too, TVET grad employability is a very high 95 per cent versus tertiary institution grad employability of an average of 80 per cent.
This the parents and students do not know, says Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik. Little wonder, only 13 per cent of all upper secondary students are pursuing TVET courses, while merely nine per cent are doing them at polytechnics.
A 2018 report by Khazanah Research Institute (KRI) on The School-To-Work Transition of Young Malaysians lends support to the minister’s claim.
The report quotes job seekers as saying TVET to be the most useful qualification for getting a good job. Yet — here comes another mind boggler — TVET is not a popular education pathway. As Maszlee says, there may need to be a deeper analysis. We agree.
Perhaps, the problem may not be in TVET itself, but in everything associated with it. This maze must be untangled. Consider this.
There are more than 1,000 public and private TVET institutions — 565 public institutions under six ministries and 600 private institutions.
This causes a plethora of problems, says the KRI report. One such is a lack of strategic coordination. This should have been to some extent solved by the Malaysia Board of Technologies — a governance and certification body — launched on Nov 17, 2016. But fragmentation continues. The puzzle thickens.
“Low wages” appear to be standing in the way of TVET, too. To Maszlee, this is a perception problem. It may very well be. And can be solved with some generous dose of awareness.
Remuneration is based on TVET skills acquired and as the skills are upgraded along with the experience gained, salary tends to move up.
But there is hope yet. Maszlee says a cabinet-level committee is hard at work consolidating resources as well as synchronising efforts to ensure stronger branding, more effective governance, funding and accreditation structures to make TVET a primary choice for students.
We will hold our horses until the more “sexy” TVET arrives. Part of this reform involves making the TVET industry responsive, according to deputy director-general at the Education Ministry’s Polytechnic and Community College Education Department, Dr Mohammad Naim Yaakub.
The idea is, he says, to make supply match demand by way of artificial intelligence and big data. This has been the experience of many European countries. European countries have skewed their skills development policy towards encouraging such a match.
KRI sees competency-based training as critical to TVET reform. This allows for the design of practical, demand-driven courses for industry needs.
Competency-based TVET uses short modular courses geared to market industry demand, enabling students to enter the market with a defined set of skills.
Modular courses also come with additional advantages: they promote lifelong learning and are less time-intensive. The rest of the world is heading towards short “nano degrees”. We should too.