Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in South Asia
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The term Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is education and training that accords learners the opportunity to acquire vital knowledge and skills needed for employment, through formal, nonformal, and informal training and learning modes. Moreover, TVET serves multiple purposes of which a key purpose is the preparation of youth for work. Additionally, it is an accepted important conduit for delivering social parity, access, inclusion, and sustainable development.
The development agenda of policymakers in different decades may be based on a diversified range of factors as per the need of time among which education and training have always been considered a crucial one. This is mainly because returns to the investment in education and training have always been noteworthy and proven to be a major driving factor in enhancing the national income of a country. Besides, a well-trained and educated workforce can contribute to the society and country in various aspects. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is characterized by the inexorable pace of integrating artificial intelligence and mobile supercomputing in the production process. This has particularly rendered continuous learning and training an indispensable part of human life to thrive in the current situation of twenty-first century. Besides, to address the growth objectives in developing countries, which are characteristically burdened by the presence of massive youth unemployed and underemployed in the labor market, the necessity of skills development and training is much more relevant than ever before.
The term “Technical and Vocational Education and Training” (TVET) was officiated at the World Congress on TVET in 1999 in Seoul, the Republic of Korea. Moreover, Congress recognized the term TVET to be broad enough to incorporate other terms that had been used to describe similar educational and training activities including Workforce Education (WE) and Technical-Vocational Education (TVE). The term TVET parallels other types of education and training, e.g., Vocational Education but is also used as an umbrella term to encompass education and training activities. The decision in 1999 to officiate the term TVET led to the development of the UNESCO-UNEVOC International Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training in Bonn, Germany.
According to UNESCO (2013), education is the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) which will make all the others possible to fulfill. Ensuring quality education directly influences the cycle of poverty and contributes to development all over the world. Moreover, TVET has a cardinal part to contribute to the realization of the 2030 SDGs. It is a formidable instrument to support entry to respectable work in the world of work. It offers individuals opportunities for lifelong learning and enables personal development as well as civilized, developed, and sustainable communities and economies. Many countries view investing in skills development as a priority responsibility due to the significant socioeconomic benefits that can accrue to individuals, businesses, and the country as a whole. However, numerous challenges are encountered in developing workable financing mechanisms to change TVET systems to yield the desired developmental outcomes, mainly due to inadequate parliamentary appropriations to vocational training compared to other forms of higher education.
Additionally, TVET serves multiple purposes. A key purpose is the preparation of youth for work. This takes the form of learning and developing work-related skills and mastery of underlying knowledge and scientific principles. Work is broadly defined and therefore refers to both formal employment and self-employment. To support self-employment, TVET curricula often include entrepreneurship training. Related to this is the social reproduction and transformation of occupational and vocational practices.
Furthermore, a related role of TVET is continuing professional development. It is because the rapid technological changes demand that workers continuously update their knowledge and skills. Unlike the past where a job could be held for life, it is commonplace to change vocations several times. Moreover, TVET enables flexibility in two ways. One is providing broad-based technical knowledge and transversal skills on which different occupations can be based on. The other one is providing continuing vocational training to workers.
Besides, TVET today has the responsibility of reskilling such workers to enable them to find and get back to work apart from providing work-related education; it is also a site for personal development and emancipation. These concerns the development of those personal capacities that relate to realizing one’s full potential concerning paid or self-employment, occupational interests, and life goals outside of work. At the same time, TVET seeks to enable individuals to overcome disadvantages due to circumstances of birth or prior educational experiences.
From a development point of view, TVET facilitates economic growth by increasing the productivity of workers. The returns from increased output far exceed the costs of training, direct and indirect, leading to economic growth which is very crucial for developing countries like Bangladesh. On the other hand, like any other form of education, TVET also facilitates socioeconomic development by enhancing the capacity of individuals to adopt practices that are socially worthwhile. As a form of education similar to all others, TVET aims to develop a broad range of personal capabilities that characterize an educated person.
Theoretical Relevance of TVET
The population at large who are intended to carry out the recurrent tasks are fittingly the TVET graduates with proper training and education. This is particularly true in the perspective of developing countries. Modernization paradigm introduced in the 1950s has dominated world strategy and development policy with its view of increasing economic growth in a country through industrial transformation. However, in the wake of basic need paradigm of the 1970s, the measurement of economic growth started to consider social indicators too during the 1980s (Stoian et al. 2019), which further consolidated the idea of education and training. Relevance of TVET to the policymakers and various stakeholders such as World Bank and UNESCO can be understood from the perspective of two dominant paradigms namely human capital theory and sustainable development. According to Tikly (2013):
And the population at large must be prepared to accept training for—and then to operate—an economic system whose methods are subject to regular change, and one which also increasingly confines the individual in large, disciplined organizations allocating to him specialized narrow, recurrent tasks.
Human capital theory formalized by Becker (1962) can make the importance of TVET to various stakeholders quite discernible. Firms and workers both have impetus to invest in education and training as the investment provides returns in the form of competitive edge over rivals, profits, pay. Investment in education and training can make individuals more productive that eventually leads to an enhanced employability of the workforce. Policymakers around the globe are increasing investment on human capital including TVET as a mean of higher economic growth and national prosperity (Woßmann 2008). Though there is a common consensus as to the realization of returns from the investment in education and training, there also exists differing views regarding the time of investment in education and training in a person’s life. Evidence and theory suggest that economic returns to skills investment are higher in early childhood and decline over the life cycle (Backes-Gellner and Wolter 2010; Carneiro and Heckman 2003). That is, much of the investment in education and training should be carried out in the earlier period of life; otherwise, learning opportunity may eventually disappear. TVET in the perspective of human capital paradigm is not free of criticisms. It is often criticized for being “positive” in approach and for its “one size fits all” sort of policy prescription when economies around the globe may not be equal in so many aspects (Tikly 2013). Human capital approach also ignores important dimensions of skills development such as environmental, social, or cultural dimension. Sustainable development approach to TVET can address these omitted issues.
In the case of financial institutions such as the World Bank, for example, policies to promote TVET are principally seen as an investment in human capital and as a means for supporting economic growth. The underlying view of development in operation is an economic one in which ‘progress’ is measured in relation to levels of economic growth and prosperity. UNESCO’s long-standing interest in TVET on the other hand has been linked to a more human-centred view of TVET as a means for supporting sustainable development.
The approach to development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (WCED 1987, p. 43) can be defined as the sustainable development. The concept of sustainable development is fundamentally a human-centered approach based on principles of environmental, economic, and social sustainability (Tikly 2013). It is the most dominant paradigm adopted by the UNESCO in relation to its promotion and formulation of policies regarding TVET. Sustainable development approach to TVET links various social, economic, and environmental issues to the TVET. For example, TVET curricula designed in the perspective of sustainable development are intended to address the issue of sustainable management of resources in sectors like forestry, construction, manufacturing, tourism, etc. It emphasizes on limiting pollutions and wastage of resources and on building social and environmental responsibility as a worker, entrepreneur, and a society member. In the process of learning to attain sustainable livelihood, TVET in the perspective of sustainable development aims at building social sustainability by focusing on gender and ethnic equality in the working place, in developing teams and group skills, the ability to explain, justify, and negotiate ideas and plans, and the promotion of practical citizenship in the wider community (Fien and Wilson 2005, p. 277). Though a major proponent of social, economic, cultural aspect of human life, sustainable development concept in relation to TVET often comes under criticisms for its conceptual ambiguity and uneven scope for different group of people. Issues regarding gender, ethnicity, language, race, etc. have not received proper weight in the perspective of present age.
Overview of the SDG 8 and the Indicators
SDG 8 targets and indicators
8.1 Sustained per capita economic growth – at least 7 % gross domestic product growth per annum in the LDCs
8.1.1 Annual growth rate of real GDP per capita
8.2 Achievement of higher levels of economic productivity
8.2.1 Annual growth rate of real GDP per employed person
8.3 Promotion of development-oriented policies to formalize and help grow micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises
8.3.1 Proportion of informal employment in nonagriculture employment (by sex)
8.4 Improvement of global resource efficiency in consumption and production and decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation
8.4.1 Material footprint (per capita and GDP)
8.4.2 Domestic material consumption (per capita and GDP)
8.5 Achievement of full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, young people and disables, and equal pay for work of equal value
8.5.1 Average hourly earnings of female and male employees (by occupation, age, and persons with disabilities)
8.5.2 Unemployment rate (by sex, age, and persons with disabilities)
8.6 By 2020, a substantial reduction of the proportion of youth not in employment, education, or training
8.6.1 Proportion of youth (aged 15–24 years) not in education, employment, or training
8.7 Eradication and prohibition of forced labor, modern slavery, human trafficking, and child labor in all worst forms (by 2025 child labor in all its forms)
8.7.1 Proportion and number of children aged 5–17 years engaged in child labor (by sex and age)
8.8 Protecting labor rights and promoting safe and secure working environments for all workers
8.8.1 Frequency rates of fatal and nonfatal occupational injuries (by sex and migrant status)
8.8.2 Increase in national compliance of labor rights (freedom of association and collective bargaining, by sex and migrant status)
8.9 By 2030, devising and implementing policies for sustainable tourism to creates jobs and promotes local culture products
8.9.1 Tourism direct GDP (as a proportion of total GDP and in growth rate)
8.9.2 Number of jobs in tourism industries (as a proportion of total jobs and growth rate of jobs, by sex)
8.10 Strengthening domestic financial institutions for expanding access to banking, insurance, and financial services for all
8.10.1 Number of commercial bank branches and ATMs (per 100,000 adults)
8.10.2 Proportion of adults (15 years and older) with an account at a bank or other financial institution or with a mobile-money-service provider
8. A increasing aid for trade support for developing countries, in particular, least developed countries
8.A.1 Aid for trade commitments and disbursements
8.B By 2020, developing and operationalizing a global strategy for youth employment and implementing ILO-Global Jobs Pact
8.B.1 Total government spending on social protection and employment programs (as a proportion of the national budgets and GDP)
SDG 8 and the TVET
The most explicit mention of education and training under SDG 8 is in the target 8.6 that seeks to achieve a substantial reduction in “the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training.” In the context of developing nations, TVET is highly relevant to achieve this target. One of the most significant advantages of TVET is that it offers a graduate employability in short time. In the developing nations a large portion of youth population who do not have the required literacy and numeracy skills and the age for enrolling in formal education can effectively be brought under education and training through TVET programs. For example, the national technical and vocational qualification framework (NTVQF) in Bangladesh is rather a unique way that can integrate people of any age with little or no skills in literacy and numeracy (Haolader et al. 2017). Targets 8.5 and 8.3 can implicitly be linked to TVET from the perspective of development countries. Characteristically, developing countries are burdened with growing youth unemployment, mammoth informal sector. There are also growing evidences that existing education systems in many cases fail to produce enough skilled workers that can be absorbed into the fast moving economic engine. To reduce mismatch between skills demanded by the labor markets and skills available in the workforce, TVET can be integrated in to the education system (Hughes 2005). Though targets 8.3 and 8.5 both have an appropriate welfare indication regarding the social and economic dimension in a country, these targets seem to overlook the problem of informal sector in a country. For example, target 8.3 prescribes for the formalization and growth of micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises. Omission of plan regarding informal sector in SDG 8 is problematic, as in many developing nations it may work against the expected achievement of objectives described under SDG 8. According to McGrath et al. (2018),
8.3 Promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services
8.5 By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value
8.6 By 2020, substantially reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training
8.B By 2020, develop and operationalize a global strategy for youth employment and implement the Global Jobs Pact of the International Labour Organization
The aim of target 8.3 is to promote “development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation and formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services”. The implication of this target for the informal sector is that of formalization. However, this is problematic and does not take into consideration the complexities of formal-informal linkages and the needs of informal sector workers and employers. Some of the problems faced by workers in the informal sector include poor or lack of access to quality infrastructure and services such as transportation, electricity, internet and business advisory services. Of the many challenges, it is the financial constraint to the growth of SMEs that is acknowledged in target 8.3 and stressed in 9.3.
TVET in South Asia
Unemployment rate of youth (15–24) total and female in selected South Asian countries
In 2019, the female participation rate in the 15–24 age group in Bangladesh was 26.32%, whereas in India and Sri Lanka the rate was 9.87% and 20.08%, respectively. This lower female participation rate in labor force can also justify the need for technical and vocational education and training at a large scale (WDI 2020).
Dearth of data on TVET enrolment for South Asian countries makes it harder to compare country-wise achievement in relation to TVET. However, available data can provide a comparable picture existing in the South Asian countries. In India during 2011–12, about 3.8% people received formal training and 7.3% received nonformal training (NSSO 2015). Enrolment in SSC (Voc) which is equivalent to grade 9–10 in Bangladesh is 11.01%, HSC (Voc) equivalent to grade 11–12 is 16.18%, and total (Voc) is 13.11%. In Sri Lanka, 16% of those aged 15–64 had completed vocational education or training and 15 % had completed apprenticeship. The proportion of both was higher in urban than rural areas and for men rather than women (Dundar et al. 2014). Overall, the situation in relation to enrollment in TVET is better in Bangladesh compared with other two countries. In the next section, we analyze the TVET structure in Bangladesh and identify some of the priorities that must be addressed to achieve SDG 8 objectives in the country.
Understanding the Local Priorities (the Case of Bangladesh)
Structure of TVET in Bangladesh
TVET system has been existent in the country since the 1960s. The early system of TVET, however, was plagued by various constraints and was not an adept one to help the economy achieve growth objectives and build a proficient stock of human capital. Although, the system has evolved since its inception, the pace has observingly been slower and changes have been made not according to the need of the country. At present, TVET in Bangladesh is quite diverse and fragmented (World Bank 2013). To coordinate among the intricate systems prevailing in TVET, government has brought multiple ambitious changes. For example, Education Policy 2010 has outlined strategies for a much comprehensive TVET system that aims at bringing underprivileged and marginalized segments of the population to TVET and ensuring expansion and vertical movement across different levels of the system (Asian Development Bank 2015). NSDC a public–private partnership initiative has been formed by the government which helped develop National Skill Development Policy (NSDP). NSDP aims at enhancing the quality of the whole skills development system in the country. In this process, with the assistance of the ILO and the EU, a more flexible and comprehensive framework has also been formulated as a part of the TVET reform program initiated by the government of Bangladesh. This is known as National Technical Vocational Qualifications Framework (NTVQF). The NTVQF is a nationally consistent yet flexible framework for all qualifications in technical and vocational education and training and believed to enhance the standard and acceptance of the overall TVET program home and abroad (Khan 2019).
Nonformal trainings are also provided in addition to the pieces of training imparted in the formal institutions. These trainings are not accredited by the BTEB and last 1–12 months. Both public and private institutes offer these sorts of informal TVET with the curricula developed in-house. These institutes also provide the trainees linkages to the job market to keep their programs worthwhile. Various government agencies and ministries also provide nonformal training services to various target groups.
Priorities concerning the TVET in Bangladesh for spearheading the system to achieve objectives of SDGs can be narrowed down to two crucial areas: (i) Reform and modernization of the entire TVET system to achieve growth objectives and (ii) ensuring larger enrollment of women in TVET.
Reform of the TVET System
Even though the TVET system in Bangladesh is quite fragmented and complex, the system has a well-developed evaluation system for the formal TVET qualification. Prevalence of many admirable TVET providers at the private level is proven to be a sign of rising popularity and acceptance of TVET in the country. There are remarkable evidences of industry initiatives for providing skills development opportunities under public–private partnership (PPP), such as Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association through technical training centers and Bangladesh Textile Mills Association with the National Institute of Textile Training Research and Design (ADB 2015). Measures to form National Skills Development Policy (NSDP) in 2011 and National Technical and Vocational Education Framework (NTVQF) and National Skills Quality Assurance System (NSQAS) have been a timely intervention to respond to the urgency of modernizing the TVET sector in the face of rising global and national challenges (MoE 2011). The NSDP has been formed in order to reduce the mismatch between the skills demanded and supplied in the labor market and building a skilled and efficient workforce that can contribute to the growth of the economy. The NSDP has projected to increase the TVET enrollment to 20% by 2020.
National Technical and Vocational Education Framework (NTVQF)
Improve the quality and consistency of nationally recognized qualifications
Introduce consistent naming of credentials for formal and nonformal skills-based education and training
Provide formal recognition of workplace skills obtained in both the formal and informal economies
Provide high-quality skill outcomes to maintain individuals’ employability and increase their productivity
Improve the alignment of formal and nonformal training programs with industry requirements
Increase options for students by broadening program and progression pathways
Support lifelong learning by providing recognized pathways for workers to raise the level of their knowledge and skills throughout their working life and beyond
NTVQF Management Information System (MIS)
Trainee (data input)
Trainers, assessors (data input)
BTEB (Bangladesh Technical Education Board), policy makers (data management/monitoring)
A tracer study conducted in 2018 by the Bangladesh Technical Education Board, a statutory organization under the supervision of Ministry of Education, finds that about 77.1% of the NTVQF-certified graduates have managed to obtain jobs while 17.3% are self-employed. That is, approximately 94.4% of the graduates have been employed. Also, 88.4% of the employers are satisfied with the skills and performances of the NTVQF graduates (BTEB 2018).
Women Participation in the TVET
TVET is one of the most convenient mediums to equip women with suitable skills and education for an immediate participation in the job market. Although the necessity and urgency of girls’ participation in TVET programs are greatly articulated in almost all policy prescriptions related to TVET over different periods, the actual scenario as to the implementation of gender equality in the TVET program is quite unsatisfying, especially in the developing countries. This particularly bars the developing countries from utilizing a great source of human capital. Some common factors are observed when it comes to the gender inequality in TVET programs. For example, historically, some TVET courses available in many developing countries do not observe a simultaneous and eager participation from male and female. Courses related to traditional low-skill and low productivity tasks such as garments, food, health, etc. tend to attract female students more than their male counterparts. Furthermore, males are generally discouraged to enroll in the courses which are traditionally taken by females because these courses have linkages to jobs that pay less and are socially less acceptable for a male (UNESCO-UNEVOC 2011). Financial insolvency of households, geographic barriers and lack of family support (Kaaya and Waiganjo 2015), rearing child, family duties, lack of appropriate information regarding the job market, and low scope of received skills training are also some of the major prevalent factors hindering female participation in the TVET program in the developing countries. These factors are also attributable to the lower success in job market for those who have finished graduation. In Bangladesh, poverty and patriarchy are two main factors that exacerbate the problem of lower female enrollment in TVET program.
Gender parity index for general education and TVET in Bangladesh
Creating a gender-friendly environment in polytechnics and workplaces
Developing more service-orientated diploma programs
Developing a TVET awareness campaign for females
Supporting a career counseling and guidance system for females
Improving access to higher education
Providing demand-stimulating incentives
Generating research and knowledge
Leveraging partnerships to promote opportunities for females
Generating more and better data to track progress and inform policy and operations for female-friendly TVET
The government of Bangladesh has positively responded to form policy measures to improve the female participation in TVET program. For example, increase in female quota in TVET admission to 20% from 10%, introducing more female-friendly trades, establishing more female hostels in major polytechnic institutes, establishing polytechnics solely for the women, and ensuring the facility of girls’ common room and toilets in each TVET institute. Bangladesh has ranked 50th in the global Gender Gap Index in 2019 (World Economic Forum 2019), which is a clear sign of improvement achieved in the country following the adoption of various gender friendly measures in education and job sector.
TVET in Bangladesh is evolving to integrate a large community of people under proper training and education. With the help of various donors, the government has taken several steps to modernize the existing TVET system. Formulation of NSDP and NTVQF has increased the satisfaction regarding the education and training provided under this medium of education. Low female enrolment has still been a problem that results in lower female labor force participation. Effective gender friendly policy can improve the condition. Formal TVET institutes under BTEB often face problem regarding their limited autonomy. Due to this limitation, an institute under BTEB often finds it difficult to hire qualified teacher in a short period of time and generate finance for its own use. So, financial and administrative decentralization should be made in order to grant these institutes the freedom to pursue their own agenda.
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