Vocational education: A new driver for economic diversity in ASEAN?

Pic: AP.

Pic: AP

By Murray Hunter

Education is generally accepted to be one of the major drivers of economic growth. This is one of the major infrastructural investments any government will channel a large percentage of their GNP into, to build an educational system that will support the country’s vision of its intended future growth path.

To the majority of the ASEAN economies the intended growth path has been industrialization. Within the education sphere, we have seen a mad scramble by government to create and develop universities as the prime medium to educate their young citizens in discipline based knowledge that will lend well to enhancing industrial skills and productivity. In Malaysia, this has led to a fervor to achieve high university rankings.

Most ASEAN governments have built a number of vocational training schools and institutes that focus on providing ‘hands on’ and ‘practical skills’ in specific trades like engineering, electronics, automotive, ICT, petrochemical, tourism and hospitality, food, textiles, agriculture, and nursing, etc. These institutions are in parallel to the university system, principally aimed to provide higher education opportunities to students who could not be generally be accepted into universities.

For this reason, vocational education has long been depicted as second class, which prompted the government of Malaysia to upgrade vocational schools into colleges with certificate and diploma structures that resembled university structures. As such, most courses are two and four year long with the objective of placing the student into the industrial workforce after graduation.

However the evolving social-economic panorama within the ASEAN region is shifting dramatically. The major cities in the region can be considered fully developed metropolises in the economic sense of the word. In contrast, many rural areas are still very much underdeveloped. These areas are losing skilled people, who drift to the cities with expectations of ‘big economic opportunities’, leading to a labor and expertise drain in rural areas. This rural malaise has been compounded with the collapse in the prices of commodities like rubber of late.

There has been a great emphasis on creating the economic usefulness of graduates. In Thailand for example, most vocational colleges are in the hands of the private sector which produce high numbers of graduates with certificates and diplomas, targeting career jobs in industry, medical, hospitality, and the service sectors. Malaysian polytechnics are producing graduates with diplomas in disciplines like robotic studies, which are only useful in specific industries. Polytechnics are created on the premise of providing infrastructure to produce human capital to service foreign manufacturers in specific industries.

The vocational education infrastructure within the ASEAN region, with its emphasis on developing industrial skills for industry, has been largely at the expense of creating craft and skills-based education that would assist enterprise start-ups of micro-SMEs.

With the changing economic landscape, ASEAN policy makers need to look beyond industry as the prime economic driver. They need to consider new paradigms of education beyond developing industrial skills to increase diversity and create new and enhanced value in their respective economies today.

Business schools have been generally considered the centres where most new entrepreneurs will be created. However the curricula and modes of teaching are not installing creativity and innovation very well in their cohorts. This can be best seen with final year students doing useless unpaid jobs at banks, airports, and government departments, giving queue cards to customers for their internships. By their very nature, business schools with no technology anchors are not coupling general business skills with technical skills. They disseminate business knowledge without the ‘hands on’ enterprise skills which are needed to set up new businesses. In effect students within ASEAN business schools are getting an incomplete entrepreneurial education.

This is where vocational education can step in. Vocational training should become much wider than occupational training and incorporate entrepreneurship as one of the prime objectives. There needs to be a focus within curriculum about how to develop value through innovation.

There has been some successes in the area of coupling business skills with technology through many of the agricultural colleges and institutes in both Thailand and Malaysia, where many very competent agro-entrepreneurs have been created. In particular, Thailand has showed great success in developing appropriate agricultural technologies with innovative renewable energy production systems, which have had a major impact on farming within the country. Community colleges and informal programs in both countries have created many successful rural based micro-entrepreneurs.

This type of approach needs to be expanded across all activities in the economy to create even more diversified value and diversity at the SME level within the economy.

However attempts in Malaysia to widen this have generally been lackluster. Both ministry and private contractors have tended to use ‘standard modules’ on entrepreneurship, which tend to be really about small business, leaving out important entrepreneurial issues about how to be creative in an enterprise sense, apply innovation to a business model, and develop new products rather than copy others. These courses are also most often taught by people who themselves have never been entrepreneurs.

If one agrees with the premise that entrepreneurship is one of the prime activities that can create new sources of value within economies, then practical entrepreneurial education is of utmost importance. So this is the basic challenge ahead for vocational education within the ASEAN region. ASEAN countries will need to develop enriched economies filled with diversity, which can only be achieved through creating value. However this is something that current micro-SMEs struggle to do as they are primarily only really duplicating other micro-SME activities, as copy-cat businesses.

A major rethink is needed.

Business school education is creating more executives and clerks to fill offices within the major cities of the region. Business schools have generally failed in coupling business knowledge with technology.

In addition, multinational manufacturers are not the long term answer to economic growth. They have proved to be very fickle, moving to lower cost production bases as current host countries lose their competitiveness. Wealth and diversity will come from SMEs in the future. Vocational education may be the best vehicle in helping to create these attributes in the nation’s youth.

Vocational education will be better able to serve the growing number of seniorpreneurs start new businesses, with short course formats. As unemployment increases and human life spans continue to lengthen in the region, entrepreneurship education for seniorpreneurs will be critical to prevent new bouts of urban poverty erupt within the region.

If vocational education becomes the vanguard of reframing education focus away from developing industry skills back to developing community enterprise, then the objectives of these institutions need to change. Rather than focusing on industrial employability, the primary objective needs to be personal development within an entrepreneurial culture.

This is going to lead to a few problems. There has been an emphasis on building structured curricula with diploma structures within the vocational system, in an attempt to make vocational education a stepping stone to further study in other higher education institutions, rather than gain a trade. The concept of disciplinary education needs to be widened to accommodate appropriate (rather than industrial) technology based enterprise approaches. The vocational system needs build competence and install confidence in students. This type of education doesn’t have to be diploma based. It will be better served through short courses and mentorship.

Mentorship points to a second problem, that of getting enough competent teachers for this approach. This is where the governing ministries and quality assurance agencies must accept experience over qualifications and consider allowing retired experienced and practical people to become part-time teachers of entrepreneurship as practidemics. This approach has been successfully adopted by Tecnologico de Monterrey of Mexico, now considered to be one of the leading entrepreneurship universities in the world today.

As there is a need for both enterprises and labor markets to be much more diverse than before, vocational education must come to the forefront. Vocational education should produce better accountants, chefs, agriculturalists, tourist operators, and small scale engineers, who can create new sources of value, than the university structure. Focus needs to be put on specific educational needs, rather than forcing students to take compulsory studies on Asian Civilization, etc., in a university environment.

Research indicates and experience shows that potential entrepreneurs will be better suited to short courses within a vocational system rather than the longer tertiary education route. Highly motivated people tend to have much shorter attention spans. This list of successful entrepreneurs who dropped out of university due to boredom is large and impressive.

This is the challenge in the next decade that goes out to all ASEAN governments. They need to view the entrepreneurial economy as the next carryover stage of development, from the current industrial stages the larger ASEAN economies are now immersed within. They need to change the educational paradigms within their vocational systems to take the best advantage of this opportunity.

Source: http://asiancorrespondent.com

PM agrees Kapit needs vocational college

Good news for students in Kapit!

KUCHING: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has agreed to a suggestion that Kapit Division needs a vocational college.

Minister of Land Development Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Jemut Masing said he shared this vision of a technical institute with Najib during the PM’s visit on Tuesday.

“People of Kapit Division have given up a lot for the construction of three dams. And the power produced by the three dams will be used elsewhere. So it is only fair that we get something back in return,” the Baleh assemblyman told The Borneo Post yesterday.

“We hope a vocational college will be set up here to train our people so that they can participant in the construction of the Baleh Dam. We want to be participants of the mega project and not as bystanders.”

The hydroelectric power (HEP) dams in Kapit Division are the completed Bakun and Murum HEP dams as well as the upcoming Baleh HEP dam.

Upon the completion of Baleh Dam, all three would be able to produce a total 4,700MW of electricity to support industries in the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE).

“With the setting up of the college, there will be no need for our youth to travel to Kuching, Miri or Mukah to seek vocational training. They can stay put in Kapit. This in turn will help parents to save money spent on their children’s education,” said Masing.

He pointed out that Kapit folk are forward-looking and open to change and development.

“They know that the building of the Baleh Dam is a game-changer as the construction of the dam will bring about the opening of roads, linking to other places. It is true. With the dam, the SCORE Road — an 80km road connecting the dam to Kapit will be built.

“And along SCORE Road, there are over 100 longhouses with about 10,000 residents. These people know that with road accessibility, the whole area will be open up for development,” he said.

Masing said the villagers are looking forward to changes brought about by greater accessibility.

“So apart from the vocational college, it is also the hope of the people affected by the dam to see electricity being provided for them after the construction of the dam. Sarawak Energy Bhd (the contractor of the dam project) must commit to ensure that,” he added.

At present, the longhouse folk along the SCORE Road still depend on generator sets for electricity, which is costly especially when the price of fuel is high.

Read more: http://www.theborneopost.com/2015/06/18/pm-agrees-kapit-needs-vocational-college/#ixzz3dTdKGhFN

Putrajaya to add 5 vocational colleges under 11MP

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin chairs a special meeting in Parliament, Kuala Lumpur, today. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Kamal Ariffin, June 10, 2015.Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin chairs a special meeting in Parliament, Kuala Lumpur, today. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Kamal Ariffin, June 10, 2015.

Putrajaya plans to add five new vocational colleges under the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP), including upgrading secondary schools to cater for the increasing demand.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Tanjung Pengelih in Pengerang, Johor, has also been identified to be upgraded as a vocational college under the 11MP and offer courses in “oil and gas”.

He said the move was in line with the government’s efforts to produce more technically qualified human capital to cater for an increasing demand for “game changers” based on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET).

 

The target is in line with the country’s objective of increasing quality TVET graduates under the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025 (Higher Education) that was launched recently.

Muhyiddin said the thrust on TVET would be enhanced by improving the quality of TVET curricula led by industry as well as new collaborations between the ministry and TVET providers and other agencies.

“Through the National Education System Transformation Agenda, we are targeting an overall increase in TVET enrolment by 2.5 times to 650,000 (by 2025),” said Muhyiddin when winding up debate on 11MP for the Education Ministry in Dewan Rakyat today.

Muhyiddin said the setting up of vocational colleges would not be merely based on certain areas or parliamentary constituency but rather various factors would be taken into account, including the aspiration and needs of the local community and industry as well as other requirements like the financial status of the government.

He said the programmes would be carried out through the 80 vocational colleges, 91 community colleges and 33 polytechnic colleges throughout the country.

Muhyiddin said the marketability of TVET graduates in employment after completing their studies (between 3 to 6 months) last year was 73.9% for polytechnic graduates and 94.2% for graduates from community colleges.  – Bernama, June 10, 2015

Source: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/putrajaya-to-add-5-vocational-colleges-under-11mp

Forging ahead with skills training

TECHNICAL and vocational education and training (TVET), or skills training, has always been a part of the Malaysia Plans, but never a major element.

This has changed in the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP) announced last week. It finally gives TVET an elevated status in our country’s five-year development plan.

TVET is one of the six game changers — together with productivity potential, middle-class society, green growth, innovation and competitive cities. It underscores TVET’s instrumental role in building the foundation of a high-skilled country by 2020.

A great deal of effort has already been made during the last five years, especially in two fronts — first, the mainstreaming of TVET to be at par with the traditional academic pathway and second, the enlargement of student access by establishing more TVET institutions and expanding the capacity of existing ones.

There were concerns that with so many blueprints and grandiose plans in the education sector, the vocational education transformation plan would take a back seat. But with the 11MP unveiled, we can shelf those concerns away.

Expect bigger push in the TVET sector in the next five years. Efforts undertaken during the last Plan will continue, but the emphasis this time, among others, will be on streamlining governance and service delivery and improving quality.

As in 10MP, the 11MP identifies current issues and challenges and then formulates strategies to overcome them. In TVET, topping the list of issues is the multiplicity of service providers. At present, seven ministries and agencies provide skills training. So do state agencies. In addition, there are more than 500 private education providers. To make the system even more complex, public TVET institutions were established at different times and with different governance systems and objectives.

Most have grown immensely in influence and relevance. For example, Mara has a strong presence in high-skilled TVET as well as a strong and longstanding collaboration with well-established partners from countries famous for their strong TVET sector, such as Germany and France.

The Human Resources Ministry, meanwhile, is able to leverage on its strong authority over human capital-related issues in the private sector. The extensive coverage of the National Occupational Skills Standards administered by the ministry’s Department of Skills Development (DSD) demonstrates this advantage.

Given that there’s no clear leader in TVET, no particular ministry or agency can be granted with an authority over the others. First, the fragmentation in the governance structure is deep-rooted. Large disruptions are likely to be counter-productive. Second, there is little point in creating a single institution that will weaken the unique strengths of each provider.

Instead, there is greater benefit in encouraging the providers to specialise or merge, and leverage on their existing strengths. In contrast, the idea of establishing a single governance system for accreditation and performance rating is more appealing. It is also strategic and practical. In business school-speak, they are the low-hanging fruits — slightly less in complexity but certainly not in significance.

Under the 11MP, the existing accreditation systems currently managed by the Malaysian Qualification Agency (MQA) and DSD will be consolidated. Likewise, the institutional rating systems, currently under the purview of DSD and Education Ministry, will be harmonised. We shall see how the government operationalises this in the next year and beyond. It includes whether a new body will be established to replace MQA and DSD in quality assurance. Although there are fewer agencies to deal with, it is still a big challenge.

In any case, we should aim to minimise duplication and leverage on the expertise in existing agencies. The new governance system should also be fully supported by the industry and private training providers. In fact, due consideration should be given on providing them with a greater role in the governance system. Such an architecture would make TVET more responsive, dynamic, efficient and sustainable.

BY MAZLENA MAZLAN – 27 MAY 2015

Read More : http://www.nst.com.my/node/85824