Multiple crises and faster adoption of new technologies has sharply widened the skills and labour mismatch in the fast changing world of work globally. Technical and vocational education and training (TVET) systems in many low and middle income countries, including India, are unprepared to meet the large rise in demand for TVET in the coming years.
The first rigorous global analysis of TVET challenges and reforms in developing economies titled “Building Better Formal TVET Systems: Principles and Practice in Low- and Middle-Income Countries” jointly prepared by the World Bank, the International Labour Organization (ILO), and UNESCO and launched in advance of World Youth Skills Day (July 15) has cautioned that there is a greater need of a well-performing TVET to ensure smooth job transitions.
Many countries need to pay even more attention to equity and gender equality, since TVET is often male-dominated. Gender gaps is widest in South Asia and East Asia and the Pacific regions. Countries in South Asia have some of the highest gender disparities for participation in vocational education: India has the lowest gender parity index for TVET participation, with women comprising only 10 per cent of the students in vocational education.
Irrelevancy of skills and training has been a serious problem all over the world in general and India in particular. The report gives India’s example and attributed the issue to irrelevant and outdated curricula, which remains a challenge in India, where the digital skills curriculum in schools and colleges has not kept up with industry demands.
There is a poor separation of TVET regulation and provision which makes it more difficult to ensure accountability. If not managed well, it leads to conflict of interest, as it occurs in India where industry sector skills bodies are involved in quality assurance or provide training while also being responsible for providing sector-specific advice to government on skills needs and priorities for their sector.
Many countries have created a hybrid secondary education track for students interested in TVET. India is one of them, where in lower secondary, pre-vocational education is designed to make students aware of the concept of work. A National scheme and financial assistance are also provided to promote thinking of secondary education in terms of vocation. However, the report says that Vocationalisation of secondary or post-secondary education could be a way to keep some students engaged in education longer, but one concern of these programs is to continue stressing foundational skills and avoiding an excessive and premature focus on technical skills.
Urgent reform in TVET is of utmost important in the context of rapidly changing labour markets and evolving skills needs due to globalization, technological progress, demographic transformation, and climate change. This is especially critical as global youth unemployment stands as high as 16 per cent in 2022, much higher than the overall unemployment rate. Moreover, these averages mask large disparities across countries, particularly in low- and middle income countries.
Training often falls short of expectations in low- and middle-income countries, says the report. This is largely due to difficulties facing learners, unsupported teachers, and weak incentives for providers.
“Many countries are experiencing a fast-growing youth population. At the same time, almost one quarter of youth are not in education, employment, or training worldwide; and among young women, this rate rises to almost one third,” said Mamta Murthi, World Bank Vice President for Human Development. “Good TVET systems will help countries invest in skills and jobs for young people and benefit from the demographic dividend. They also help people navigate the climate, demographic, and technological changes that are already happening.”
“We are witnessing an unprecedented deepening of inequalities within and between countries, a rise in working poverty, significant challenges for youth employment, and a risk of informalization of the formal economy,” said Mia Seppo, Assistant Director-General for Jobs and Social Protection at the ILO. “Effective skills and lifelong learning systems are crucial components for tackling these challenges and advancing social justice. They also empower individuals to aspire to better jobs, better pay, and better lives. Therefore, they are key enablers of human development and decent work for all.”
She also informed that the ILO has recently released its Strategy on Skills and Lifelong Learning 2030 to develop resilient national skills policies and systems and adopted a new international labour standard on quality apprenticeships to support Member States in designing and improving national apprenticeship systems.
“Youth unemployment is one of the biggest challenges of our times, and one that demands our unwavering attention, collective resolve, and full dedication to inclusive and accessible lifelong learning and upskilling,” said Borhene Chakroun, Director, Division for Policies and Lifelong Learning Systems, UNESCO. “Through TVET we can equip the youth with the skills and knowledge they need not only to excel in today’s job markets, but also to be able to capitalize on technological breakthroughs and stay one step ahead in a rapidly changing world.”
The report finds that many factors affect the performance of TVET, such as access, equity, quality, and relevance. Many institutions focus on what they know how to provide, which is often technical skills, but not what students or firms need, such as cognitive, digital, or entrepreneurship skills.
Students are also not well served by under-prepared teachers and outdated equipment. Critically, TVET is commonly considered a second-tier educational track to which challenged learners are directed. This can discourage potential students from enrolling or firms from hiring TVET graduates.
While reform priorities for TVET differ across countries, the report encourages countries to prioritize the needs of learners and enterprises and realign financing to reward reforms. Since these reforms may take time to bear fruit, the report also urges countries to identify and pursue quick wins, such as starting with priority sectors.
The report notes that transforming TVET systems in low- and middle-income countries is possible to achieve by leveraging new data and technologies, and drawing on lessons learned from earlier experiences, including from the COVID-19 pandemic. Mobilizing private financing can infuse additional resources into TVET, often needed given that low- and middle-income countries spend less than 0.2 percent of GDP in TVET compared to 0.46 percent for high-income countries.
Over the next two decades, demographic trends and higher completion rates at lower levels of education are likely to cause an exponential increase in the number of TVET students, and hence TVET reform is urgent, the report says. (IPA Service)