While the Government is responding to the concerns raised by many that our educational system has not been producing industry-relevant employees through revamping Technical, Vocational Educational Training, it seems the initiative still lacks strong political backing and the zeal required to help it pick up.
We need a national campaign sanctioned by the cabinet and spearheaded by the Ministry of Education to educate Kenyans on the importance of TVET and why the Government focus on it and need for Kenyans to enroll in the institutions.
It was hoped that with the implementation of Sessional paper No 14 of 2012 that provides for promoting industry and training linkages approach to education starting the vigor and political support given to, for example, the competence-based curriculum or supervision of national examinations would follow, TVET is still not a priority, especially from the political establishment. It still lacks a champion from the executive, thus not a priority in the education sector.
Most of the existing ones are in bad shape, abandoned, poorly equipped and mostly isolated and remote. Roads leading to such colleges like Bumbe Technical Training in Busia, Kajiado West Technical and Vocational Training in Kajiado County, Endebbes Technical Training Institute in Trans Nzoia, Ekerubo Gietai Technical and Vocational in Nyamira County and Kasarani Technical and Vocational College, in Kamulu, Nairobi County. In addition to improving the access to the institutions, they need dressing to make them attractive to the learners and parents.
Over the years, the Tertiary and Vocational Educational Training system has not enjoyed a strong status and linkage with the industry. It is often seen as an option of last resort and a poor relation to tertiary education. The courses developed have failed to meet the expectation of the industry training providers in isolation from the industry. This is what the Government is reversing, albeit within several challenges; focus seems to be on building new ones through county governments and CDFs while the national government is concentrating on new equipment and developing new curricula.
The sessional paper revitalizes the Tertiary and Vocational Education Training, which will be required to work closely with the industry to producing short skills development modules that are guided by the competency requirements in specific industry segments also introduces the Kenya Qualification Authority that shall be responsible for the Kenya Qualifications Framework. This will harmonize all qualifications and requirements in various professional cadres and across training institutions in Kenya.
Section 15.36 of the sessional Paper states that the Government will promote the role of industry in both the design and delivery of Technical, Vocational and tertiary training programs to be more relevant and demand-driven, rather than supply-driven and a stand-alone activity and Institutionalize industry inputs into training through the establishment of Industry Advisory Groups.
This partially explains why the Government has over the years converted most tertiary and vocational training institutions into public universities and paid very little attention to their development.
The industry has complained about the relevancy of a training approach that very detached from industry needs. The curriculum rarely gets input from stakeholders and given the changing nature of the job markets, some of the things taught are out of place.
In addition to responding to the reality that our university-based education system cannot cope with the huge number of Form Four leavers and borrowing from global best practice suggests that the curriculum model is not responsive enough to the changes in the industry, the Government is slowly responding. Global studies and current country practices indicate that the curriculum development process takes time and a lot of resources.
The training packages are used to deliver competencies in TVET to students who attend and vary quite dramatically to the subject curriculum used throughout all levels of the school education system. Each training package incorporates a wide range of areas in each industry. Then within the training package, each area has specific set guidelines to achieve a specific certificate-based qualification. These are made up of a number of competencies that have to be completed to achieve the qualification or certificate.
As we ponder what to do with the over 300,000 students who will miss spaces out of the public universities, and the continued lamentation by employers that our educational system is not linked to the job market, we need to seriously re-look the place of tertiary institutions in addressing this national challenge.
Mr Victor Bwire is the Deputy CEO at the Media Council of Kenya.