By An Attendee of the Nay Pyi Taw TVET Forum
At the opening ceremony of the TVET Forum held in the Myanmar Convention Centre (2) , Nay Pyi Taw, from 15 to 16 July 2016, the State Counsellor Daw Aung San Su Kyi, in her opening speech, said that the role of Technical and Vocational Education and Training should not be looked upon as being lesser than that of the Higher Education sector. In fact in many countries TVET is taken up by youth as an educational path that meets their interest and can enhance their lives. In such countries, neither the young person nor their parents look upon TVET as being second class to higher education. She pointed out that countries focusing on vocational training had achieved development. The status of TVET in Myanmar should be such that all citizens believe that vocational training is a first-class education, she said. Next the State Counsellor invited suggestions for improving the system.
The State Counsellor’s remarks are only too true. In Myanmar it seems that most parents wish their children getting a ‘degree’ (preferably a professional one) as a mark of being ‘educated’ and to be assured of a good income job. Because of the ‘second class’ attitude to TVET by most parents, the education authorities are providing ‘pathways’ for TVET students who complete the course with good marks to be able to cross over to the Higher Education Stream and earn ‘Engineering’ degree. It is also the practice in some countries that those graduating with high marks from the polytechnics, are able to join the Universities and continue studies towards an engineering degree . But it seems only a few are qualified to attend the University courses.
In the first place, as all Engineering Educators will agree, there is a difference in the content of Engineering/Professional Courses from TVET Technician Courses. Engineering/Professional Courses are more targeted to concepts, design and analysis of systems. It can be said as being more knowledge based to nurture and promote ‘thinking’, ‘creating’ and ‘innovating’ and ‘advancing engineering/professional knowledge and technology’ at the highest post graduate level of the Higher Education Stream. Engineers are generally classified as ‘Professionals.’
On the other hand, TVET Technician Courses are more aligned to practical application of technology such as ‘doing’ ‘operating’ and ‘maintaining’. Engineering technicians or other technicians are generally classified as ‘Associate Professionals’. In future the need for technicians will far outstrip the need for engineers, according to the education experts.
It must be admitted however that in Myanmar at present, many B.E. graduate engineers are, being employed in supervisory positions of ‘Technicians’ and may well be performing the functions of ‘Technicians’.
In Myanmar, to improve TVET stream, we could perhaps consider it as part of a distinct ‘Professional Stream.’ At the lower end of the ‘Professional Stream’ would be the skilled workers. Training of skilled workers would be undertaken by the ‘formal’ education sector comprising of Technical High Schools under TVET Department as well as the ‘non-formal sector’ comprising of skills training for workers by ‘Employers’ (both public and private) and training providers as set out in the Employment and Skills Development Law. At present skilled workers may obtain qualifications of National Occupational Competency Certificate at (4) levels, (level (1) being the lowest level) under the Employment and Skills Development Law.
From skilled worker level (4) upwards of the ‘Professional Stream’ would be the present TVET system Technician Level Diploma (AGTI) and above it the B.Tech Degree. In fact, B.Tech Degree level could be upgraded, based on the application of technology concept, to being of an equivalent level to the corresponding BE degree, so that TVET graduates need not seek a B.E. degree.
From the level of the upgraded B.Tech upwards ascending would be the various levels of ‘professional qualifications’, awarded by legally formed ‘professional bodies,’ the likes of which already exists. In such a case the highest ‘professional qualification’ would be at the same level as the highest qualification on the Higher Education Stream. The graduates at various levels of the professional higher education sector who take up employment in industry, business or commerce or are self-employed, will of course, also be part of the ‘Professional Stream’.
Important for the success of the ‘Professional Stream’ would be a system of quality assurance for all the qualifications in the stream. Subsequently, another requirement would be that the remuneration of B.Tech (upgraded) degree holders in the ‘Professional Stream’ should be the same as B.E degree holders.
The above suggestions are made bona fide with a view to further enhancing the status of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), making it more effective and at the same time more attractive to parents and students contemplating TVET educational path.
By An Attendee of the Nay Pyi Taw TVET Forum