REGION-WIDE EFFORT TO PUSH WORK SKILLS Germany backs project to copy its acclaimed system

Germany backs project to copy its acclaimed system

Our vocational students lack practical skills. It’s not just Thailand – the Asean region lacks internships that help improve their working skills and prepare them for the world of work.”

That’s the opinion of Assoc Prof Numyoot Songthanapitak, president of Rajamangala University of Technology Thanyaburi (RMUTT).

Apart from internships, vocational teachers equipped with practical skills are another key to producing a skilled workforce for Asean’s changing labour markets, a regional conference was told last week.

Numyoot said he wanted the region to fully adopt German vocational education development practices. Vocational institutions there produce workers and technical personnel through internships supported by entrepreneurs. This way, they can produce personnel with a good working attitude.

A group of people with expertise in this field has joined a project supported by Germany, a country famous for its vocational education system.

The Regional Cooperation Platform on Vocational Teacher’s Training and Education in Asia (RCP) is a collaboration between vocational teaching institutions in Thailand, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and China.

Its aim is to enhance practical competence in vocational teacher education with support from the German International Cooperation (GIZ). The current RCP project runs from December 2010 to December 2013. Germany has provided a budget of 3 million euros (Bt116 million) for it.

It focuses on enhancing productivity and quality of vocational teachers by supporting activities that provide technical knowledge. Among these activities are generating academic and institutional know-how in a comfortable environment so that vocational and technical education

The six-country project fouses on enhancing productivity and quality of vacational teachers by supporting activities that provide technical knowledge… and boosting hands-on vocational skills.

can be applied to innovative technologies.

Also, the RCP secretariat helps promote and create opportunities for experts from the industrial sector to participate in the project.

RCP project director Thomas Schroder said: “Our partners understand that we need to focus on how to enhance practical vocational skills of vocational teachers. If you follow a more holistic idea of complete vocational teachers, you need to strengthen [their] hands-on practical vocational skills.”

He added that in Germany, headmasters at many vocational schools select people who want to be vocational teachers based on apprenticeships. They seek teachers with strong practical skills.

Around 70 researchers from eight universities in the six countries have joined the RCP. They have conducted research based on real vocational education problems found in their countries to find solutions for them. They have convinced all stakeholders, including policy-makers, to address the problems by implementing their research recommendations. This research helps them search for up-to-date knowledge and pass it to vocational teachers, Schroder said.

To improve the quality of vocational teachers, Assoc Prof Cao Van Sam, deputy general director of Vietnam’s General Department of Vocational Training, said his country had focused on recruiting vocational teachers with practical skills in the occupations they teach. They are required to have studied vocational pedagogy.

Laos has tried to screen teachers for excellence at all educational levels. It plans to increase teacher salaries by a factor of between two and three from October.

In response to demand from growing industries in these countries, many governments are trying to increase the number of vocational and technical students, including those here and in Vietnam, Laos and Indonesia.

However, most Asean countries face the problem of vocational education being undervalued compared to general education, said Gwang-Chol Chang, chief of the Education Policy and Reform Unit at Unesco Bangkok.

Thailand has a 39:61 ratio of vocational to general higher-education students, while in Singapore it is 65:35 per cent, Laos 30:70 and Vietnam 45:55.

So, to push vocational education improvement, Schroder invited governments of member countries to join forces with the RCP and provide support, including funds to empower vocational teachers.