By Nidal Ayesh- Bethlehem/ PNN/
There is global consensus on the role and importance of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in increasing the level of productivity and improving competitiveness, which in turn contributes to increasing national income and improving the standard of living.
The importance of vocational and technical education and training is increasing in light of the international changes and the rapid technical and technological developments that the world is going through, resulting in rapid changes in the professions, means and methods of work, in addition to demographic changes, which requires taking appropriate measures to continuously develop this system in accordance with the scientific and practical developments and advancements in order to provide trained workers capable of dealing with modern technologies, and to maintain a balance between the outputs of education and training, the actual needs of the labor market and the relevant national policy agenda.
It seems that the current Palestinian government’s apparent interest in education and vocational training and the cabinet’s decision to establish the National Commission; stems from the deep understanding of this role as a general starting point, and from the specificity of the Palestinian economic and social reality that is linked to the political reality, which is summarized by the exacerbation of the unemployment problem among the youth, especially university graduates. This has in turn social, economic and perhaps security implications, and has a strategic dimension related to strengthening citizens’ stability and economic disintegration.
Hence, this nascent commission faces complex tasks that are not limited to one independent dimension, but rather have complex dimensions, including economic, social and cultural, so the society’s view of this type of education needs to address and build new trends that is in addition to its intersection with the rest of the components of the human resource system on the one hand, and with the labor market, and medium and long-term sector and development plans on the other hand. All this while taking into consideration the Palestinian reality and its peculiarity, its many variables and its pitfalls, which are most often caused by external factors mainly the occupation and its consequences; and at other times their internal causes are the result of deficiencies, either on the supply side or the demand side, or in the form and dynamics of the relationship between the two parties. Consequently, the commission must develop a comprehensive, integrated, flexible plan that responds to changes in all its forms and deals with unstable circumstances, aiming for a radical treatment of the causes of the system’s failure. It does not stop at the limit of cosmetic interventions, or partial procedures that are limited to temporary solutions. Rather, we need decisive decisions and strategic interventions that address and reform the system, leaving the desired effect, based on the real partnership and complementarity of roles for all segments of society and its institutions within the framework of a national vision for human resource development, in accordance with the standards of Total Quality Management, in order to achieve a high-level qualification of the workforce, in line with global standards thereby meeting the needs of the local labor market, and perhaps even the regional and global ones.
Building a system capable of creating an efficient, highly motivated, adaptable workforce that is capable of advancing economic growth, and thereby advancing the development process is done through a system that is characterized by flexibility, effectiveness, efficiency, sustainability and accessibility, and that is directed towards the needs of the market by providing high-quality education and training through a comprehensive and continuous training process for teachers and trainers as well as the development of training curricula and applying the work-based learning approach, which is distinguished by independence and the availability of the necessary financial resources in order to be able to eventually build the technical, methodological, personal and social competencies of individuals at the same time, and to constitute an attractive path that is both parallel and equivalent to academic education.
In order to ensure the effectiveness of the system, it is important for it to work in full accordance with the standard Arab classification for professions, headquartered in Palestine, with the need to build a national framework for qualifications that includes both the academic and professional paths for all educational and training levels, which also recognizes the qualifications, competencies and experiences acquired, framing them within its levels as well as awarding certificates according to clear professional standards whereby specifics are agreed upon by all partners and involved parties to be a reference for a comprehensive system of professional examinations, a system for granting licenses to individuals and places of work practice, in order to become all an integral part of the TVET system. This system provides vertical and horizontal channels between two formal and informal TVET systems, so that it forms an integrated system that allows learners to move from one system to another according to specific standards, while working to enable the process of lifelong learning.
In order to ensure the reform of the education and vocational training system as required, and to provide the elements of self-propulsion and continuous improvement, the commission must represent a strong and independent specialized governance system that oversees and manages the system through a clear national strategy, which sets policies and ensures their implementation in harmony and integration between all its levels and its various components, governed by a law that fills the current gaps and ensures the provision of financial and human resources and that unifies national efforts and follows up all governmental and private institutions, which accommodate tens of thousands of those enrolled in this path, that will in turn ensure a balance between the output of academic universities and vocational and technical institutes. And to confirm the quality and effectiveness of the system, and thus to ensure its internal and external efficiency, and to keep pace with the changes of the twenty-first century; a set of basic tools must be available, including the activation of the Labor Market Information System (LMIS), to provide the necessary data for the TVET system, and to be a justifiable reference for proposing new curricula and programs, and for reviewing existing programs at regular intervals, with the participation of employers, professional unions and trade unions alike.
In addition to monitoring and following up on market needs and trends of various economic sectors, it can be used by planners, policy-makers, decision-makers, job seekers and employers. The LMIS system should be used to develop and reorient TVET programs towards local market needs and future economic trends. This system should also measure the satisfaction of employers as an indicator of the quality of the outputs of TVET programs.
With the private sector being the primary beneficiary of the vocational training outcomes, it should be a real partner in policy making, financing, implementation, and participation in work-based learning between the training institution and labor market institutions, and in developing programs and curricula, evaluation tests, monitoring and follow-up; that is in addition to the importance of the effective participation of federations and unions in policy-making and system implementation. The private sector must also be encouraged to invest in this sector.
To ensure the implementation of the approved policies and the desired reforms, and since the cost of vocational training is high, the commission must establish a national training fund to collect the necessary funds for the use of the TVET system, provided that financing policies are linked to performance standards and competency standards, particularly employment ratios.
The training and vocational education institutions in their current form – structurally, administratively and financially – cannot go far and respond to the visions of change and its strategic dimensions. Therefore, it is necessary to develop and transform them into “Centers of Excellence” that excel in certain disciplines. These centers should also be multi-purpose, capable of providing services to the economy with productive and advisory services, training of trainers, and other services. A boards of directors or advisory councils must also be established for them, while including the specialized private sector institutions, local community institutions and professional unions.
Achieving an integrated reform of the system cannot take place in light of the dispersal of the system and its subordination to various ministries, and in the absence of a strong and independent governance system that supervises and manages the system and sets the highest policies for its continuous development, hence comes the necessity of establishing the commission as an independent body that unifies human and material resources under its umbrella, equipped with effective tools to achieve its goals and create fundamental change at the system level as a whole, by rebuilding its dispersed components as a group of islands, and building a true strategic partnership with the private sector that guarantees its support and commitment to engage and participate in the advancement of this vital sector, and to accomplish what we have failed to achieve over the past years, despite the successes achieved here and there with the help and support that was and still is from friendly bodies, led by the European Union, Germany, Belgium, and others.