Sunday, April 3, 2011

Technical and vocational education is inferior

In short, the British grammar-style education that we adopted was for the elite, and not workforce development. We have a largely untrained and unskilled labour force because we did not see the need to train and certify everyone.We were quite comfortable, it seems, to continue with our plantation economy as primary producers and cater to the traditional professions of law and medicine. We did not do very well at industrialisation or economic growth. In fact, those who graduated from this British system are largely to be blamed for our bad economic and tribal political polices over the last 48 years. This is the real cause of Jamaica's poor economic performance.

I further submit that the Task Force Report of Education 2004 was not radical enough. We need to revamp the current syllabus-driven CXC examination system. If we can't get consensus with our other CARICOM partners, Jamaica may well leave CXC and go it on our own.The OECD countries do no follow the British grammar-style education system. In fact, the K-12 is the most popular type, and technical and vocational education is mainstreamed. The success of the economies of US, Singapore, Germany, France, Australia,Austria Japan and China, among others, was facilitated by workforce development led by technical education. Employers really want workers with knowledge and skills. Not just knowledge. Indeed, the new age requires adaptable workers and workers who can multitask.

So the establishment of the Tertiary Commission should be applauded because it will level the playing field and give better value and recognition for technical and vocational education. The national qualifications framework will allow for credits to be given for practical experience, competency, as well as establish equivalency standards and transferability of credits among institutions.Students can also get a lot of exposure while studying in such universities and different course Global Production Engineering,Business Administration and Process Energy Environmental Systems Engineering.

It will also mean that we will have to rationalise the qualifications offered at CXC for secondary certification. This must be led by the expansion of secondary education to age 18. That is adopting the K-12 or K-13 system. That is why I fully support the concept of a senior school to age 18 called the Career Advancement Programme (CAP).So I wish to propose the integration of Basic Proficiency, CCSLC, CVQ and NVQ with CSEC General Proficiency. We would have one exam called CSEC and retain the two options of Technical Proficiency and General Proficiency. Grades four and five would represent foundational qualification, and then grades 1-3 would remain as acceptable grades for further education. But we must also reform the high-school curriculum to ensure we have a curriculum that will produce the ideal Jamaican and ideal Caribbean worker and citizen, and through these different subjects, we will have the Caribbean Secondary Diploma, based on a minimum cluster of subjects.

Secondary-level graduates should be well rounded, with the basic knowledge and skills necessary for further education or to function effectively in the workforce based on further training.Post-secondary institutions would offer higher-level training in technical and vocational education, or the normal tertiary universities or colleges. It is worthy of note that many universities, including UTech and UWI, are already seeking the transition into this new global imperative.The purpose of career and technical education is to provide a foundation of skills that enable high-school students to be gainfully employed after graduation either full time, or while continuing their education or training. Nearly two-thirds of all graduates of career and technical programmes enter some form of post-secondary programme.

Across the United States, career and technical education programmes are offered in about 11,000 comprehensive high schools, several hundred vocational-technical high schools, and about 1,400 area vocational-technical centres. Public middle schools typically offer some career and technical education courses such as family and consumer sciences and technology education. About 9,400 post-secondary institutions offer technical programmes, including community colleges, technical institutes, skill centres, and other public and private two- and four-year colleges. In 2001, there were 11 million secondary and post-secondary career and technical education students in the United States, according to the US Office of Educational Research and Improvement.

To reverse declining enrolments, career and technical education faces a twofold challenge: to restructure its programmes, and to rebuild its image. Traditional vocational programmes provided students with job-specific skills that many parents viewed as too narrow for their children.The trend is for career and technical education programmes to rethink their mission by asking how they can prepare students with high-level academic skills and the broad-based transferable skills and technical skills required for participation in the 'new economy' where adaptability is key. Programmes adopt this dual approach in an effort to make career and technical education a realistic option for large numbers of students to achieve academic success, which will translate into employment for them.

These programmes teach broad skills that are applicable to many occupations. This preparation for the world of work is anchored in strong academic skills, which students learn how to apply to real-world situations. These academic skills include the competencies needed in the contemporary workplace as well as the knowledge and skills valued by academic education and measured by state examinations.

The reality is that the academic skills needed for the workplace are often more rigorous than the academic skills required for college. The multidisciplinary approach of most work tasks and the amount of technology and information in the workplace contribute to the heightened expectations of all workers, including entry-level.For career and technical education programmes to flourish in today's test-driven school environment, they must find ways to continue to prepare students with the skills and knowledge needed in the increasingly sophisticated workplace; embed, develop, and reinforce the academic standards/benchmarks that are tested on the state-mandated assessments; and teach the essential skills that all students need for success in life.As career and technical education programmes redesign curricula to embed academic standards, their students have an advantage over other students because career and technical education students also learn how to apply these skills.

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