|Trends in Articulation Arrangements for Technical and Vocational Education in the South East Asian Region (RMIT, 1999, 44 p.)|
This study seeks to investigate trends in articulation arrangements available to students who undertake technical and vocational education (TVE) courses in a number of countries in the South East Asian region. Particular reference is made to Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
The countries selected were representative of states at varying degrees of evolution as regards their educational development. Australia being at the edge of the South East Asian region, was included as an example of a country having an interesting history of articulation practices.
A significant impetus for this study was the work which was undertaken for the development of the 1994 UNESCO UNEVOC Case Studies on Technical and Further Education in Asia and the Pacific project (1) which investigated factors which impact on the status of TVE in Australia, Bangladesh, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam.
These Case Studies cited the limited opportunities for articulation due to the terminal nature of many TVE courses in a number of countries, and was seen as significant factor effecting the status of TVE.
For the purpose of this study technical and vocational education (TVE) will be regarded as also encompassing technical and vocational education and training (TVET). TVE is usually seen as having a focus on formal programs of study resulting in an academic award, (usually a Certificate or Diploma). Vocational training is normally directed at short term development of specific skills. In practice, there is usually some overlap between vocational education and training, and TVE courses will generally incorporate significant exposure to relevant skills training.
The key feature of articulation in an educational sense is the existence of pathways which allow graduates of one course of study to progress, or articulate, to another.
Articulation is usually thought of in a context of provision of pathways upwards, especially from TVE to university, but reverse articulation also applies to traffic between higher education and TVE.
The possibility of articulation arrangements between related courses at the same level, is a further example of educational articulation, but may not be perceived as such.
Articulation is important because it is related to opportunity. Articulation is related to status, because dead end courses which do not have pathways to further study opportunities, have less status than programs which do provide further options.
Articulation is significant on the broader scale, and at the national level. Nations which have structured or encouraged their educational system to provide effective articulation arrangements, are better placed to capitalize on opportunities that advance economic growth, particularly when technological change or other forces demand a response. A workforce educated in an open ended system will more easily make the transition to new types of employment as they emerge.
All countries which are the subject of this study have some provision for articulation from TVE programs, although such provision is sometimes limited in scope.
Credit transfer arrangements through the granting of course credits for recognized studies previously undertaken, are frequently an important facet of articulation arrangements. Credit transfer may occur when institutions agree to formally recognize studies undertaken by students in a sending institution, with the granting of an agreed amount of credit in a particular course, or courses, by the receiving institution.
Recognition of prior learning, may be granted to an individual seeking advanced standing in a course. Such recognition may be accorded on the basis of previous studies, or non-formal learning gained through a variety of means, or be a mixture of formal and non-formal learning. In the South East Asian region, the concept of recognition of prior learning has not been widely applied to the granting of advanced standing in formal courses.
The desirability of making provision for TVE students who have the ability to undertake further studies is by no means new. For example, the 1964 UNESCO/ILO statement on Technical and Vocational Education and Training contended that, Technical and vocational education should be so organised that every person can continue his education until his potentialities have been developed (2)
National need and individual aspirations
The question of articulation is of more concern to countries that are largely industrialized, have a sizeable services sector and significant high technology industries. Countries of this type require an adaptable well educated workforce, and widespread opportunity for further study, simply to maintain their position.
In such an environment an individual will be encouraged to undertake further education or training, perhaps in response to a desired career change, or enforced by redundancy brought about by technological change which in turn produces obsolescence of vocational skills.
It is not so much a question of having an expectation that TVE courses should be designed with the view that graduates might have the option to go on and undertake related higher level studies, but that TVE programs must be vocational. Their function is to deliver personnel able to undertake skilled work, and create a body of proficient technicians and technologists, but should not be so limited. Intertwined with these objectives, TVE courses should be structured to permit those who have the capacity, to undertake further studies aided by their TVE experience.
Many countries in the South East Asian region have had, until recently, economies based on agrarian and extractive industries. Some countries in the region, have in past decades, been subject to the effects of war and its aftermath, political or economic turmoil, or other disruption which has resulted economic dislocation and restricted the ability of governments to encourage the broad provision of education.
Only recently have many countries been able to provide universal primary education. The provision of secondary education, or partial secondary education (to say year 9) is still limited in some countries, particularly in rural areas and, in some cases limited by gender.
Associated with the desirability of broad provision of articulation, is the necessity of providing basic education at the primary and secondary level that is broad in nature, and results in students graduating not only with good levels of literacy and numeracy, but also with the knowledge and ability to adapt to developing circumstances.
For many countries in the region, a significant focus of TVE provision is at the secondary level.
The general availability of postsecondary technical and vocational education and higher education is something that many countries will struggle to provide for decades.
Skills training versus more general education
A criticizm made from time to time is that TVE programs can be too specialized, and directed at skills training, such skills often having little relevance to industrial needs, and personnel so trained being less adaptable than those who have undertaken education programs of a general nature. Another way of looking at this problem is that it is desirable for formal TVE courses to have as a core general aspects of education and to avoid early specialization.
It would be desirable if secondary education was general in nature to leave open further options, such as some provision of vocational education subjects. For many countries in the region, such an objective is constrained by limited funds. As it will probably be difficult to make secondary education universally available for some time, there is pressure in a number of countries in the region to provide at least some skills training for those who will, for economic or other reasons, be obliged to terminate their studies in the early years of secondary school.
In the period up to the 1980s, the World Bank was a major supporter of technical education. In recent times, the Bank has expressed a preference for broad academic secondary courses, rather than courses with a vocational bias. The economic value of vocational education has been questioned. Improved training programs in both the private and government sectors, are now promoted by the Bank, directed at immediate industrial need and following broad academic preparation. (3)
Complicating the provision of training in many countries is the somewhat fragmented nature of responsibility for program delivery which may be spread between formal and non-formal, government, private and industry based training providers. (4)
The economies of many countries in the South East Asian region have a large demand for unskilled and semi-skilled workers, and this is likely to continue. Indeed many economies are driven by the need to provide employment for those who have low levels of education and related skills. Such workers receive low wages, and if subject to higher levels of pay, then industries based on this arrangement might become uncompetitive and migrate to lower wage countries. Nevertheless, without the ready availability of well educated and adaptable personnel at all levels of a workforce, it is difficult for nations to advance to higher levels of prosperity.
Pressure for change of postsecondary education
Throughout the region the trend is for primary education to be universally available. Most nations in the region have as an objective the provision of secondary education for as many young people as possible.
A longer term issue is the changing nature of postsecondary education. The time will come when some form of mass postsecondary education will tend to become universal, particularly as national economies develop industrially. At present, the postsecondary provision of TVE is usually seen as being a quite different form of education to that provided by universities. It may be that the nature of work in the future will result in more convergence between postsecondary TVE and university education, as the need for education that leaves open future options, particularly at the lower levels of postsecondary education, becomes more widespread.
Driving such a trend might be the lessening of emphasis on skills development in formal courses, towards a broad demand for adaptable graduates, who might be able to quickly acquire specific skills as necessary. Such a concept may currently seem of limited relevance to many economies in South East Asia, but given the pace of change the emergence of such a trend may well occur sooner rather than later.
The 1996 UNESCO Delors Report picks up the notion of a broader role for higher education, seeing as important that universities should extend their reach as broadly as possible, to be places of culture and learning open to all, (and in a position to provide) - learning throughout life. (5)
Interestingly, the 1994 International Bank for Reconstruction and Development report Higher Education - The Lessons of Experience took the view that non-universities in both the government and private sectors, had an important part to play in the provision of postsecondary vocational education, with scope for articulation arrangements, noting that:
In the most successful cases non-university institutions are linked with university programs through appropriate transfer mechanisms such as credit systems and equivalency provisions (6)
Information Technology educational implications
Advances in computer based learning and delivery systems, as well as and the steady decline in the cost of such arrangements increasingly will provide long term opportunities to increase the broad provision of postsecondary education. Information technology has considerable scope to enhance the possibility of TVE graduates, and others, to undertake at least part of their studies at a place and time that meets individual need. This is an important consideration for individuals living in remote locations that do not have relevant educational institutions, or in one of the many congested cities where even getting from home to work is a slow, time consuming daily chore.
The role of private education
It is important to take cognizance of the role of non-government or privately funded education institutions in many countries of South East Asian region.
Privately funded educational institutions play a vital role, not only at the primary and secondary level, but also in the provision of technical and vocational education, and higher education. The role of the private sector in the provision of postsecondary education is often overlooked, but this sector is frequently the largest provider of postsecondary education in a country eg. Indonesia and the Philippines.
The pressure for places in government funded universities in many South East Asian countries, has resulted in only the most academically gifted students gaining entry. In such an environment the possibility of articulation between TVE and university is very limited. In these circumstances articulation options may be more likely to occur in the private sector of education.
The international dimension of articulation
The fee paying option has been extended in recent years to the international sphere. It has become common for those secondary school and TVE course graduates in the South East Asian region who are unable to gain entry to a university, to look abroad for a place as an international fee paying student. This option has been a function of rising income levels in the region, but recent economic disturbances have tended to check this trend.
Currently, popular destinations for international study are Europe, North America and Australasia.
As the quality of education improves in some South East Asian countries, it is probable that the intercontinental nature of articulation arrangements will expand to include significant intercountry movement of students in search of further education, and some countries in the region are moving to accommodate this demand.
Scant published material exists on the topic of educational articulation for most countries subject to this study. As a result an important source of information was to interview a number of individuals who had significant involvement in the field of education, and in particular TVE, and higher education.
Some attempts were made to ascertain the views of representatives of industry and commerce, regarding the desirability of articulation pathways as the norm in the national provision of education, but this aspect of the study was limited, and might well be followed up by further research.
What follows is consideration of the question of articulation arrangements for TVE students in the South East Asian region, on a country by country basis.
This review is against the background of the economic development in each country and the general system of education, with particular reference paid to the provision of TVE.
Since commencing this study, most countries in the South East Asian region have been subject to serious economic disturbance, the full impact of which is yet to work through national economies. What effect this will have on national systems of education is yet to be seen. However, serious calamities of this nature frequently act as a catalyst for reflection and subsequent change.