|Case Studies on Technical and Vocational Education in Asia and the Pacific - Fiji (UNEVOC - ACEID, 1996, 28 p.)|
One of the major hurdles in the modernisation of technical and vocational education and training in Fiji as already indicated is the heavy emphasis on the processes of training in a situation where there are no firm policies to determine the direction of training. "Policy" here is taken to mean decisions taken by the government which are then translated into process by administrators.
The latest attempt by Government is one chapter on "Vocational and Technical Training" in a publication called "Opportunities for Growth" which sets out "Policies and Strategies" for the economy in the short to medium term. As can be expected from such a cursory treatment of a very important subject it is devoid of the ingredients for the development of a policy environment that would direct the processes of vocational education and training towards the achievement of the general objectives of human resource development for social and economic enhancement.
It is clear from this brief account of the status quo in vocational education and training in Fiji that there is an urgent need for the development of an alternative approach which for effectiveness must create the appropriate policy environment. The definition of "policy environment" here is adapted from that used by Dr William C Hall* in his presentation to the ILO (APSDEP) Regional Programming Meeting on Policy Support to Vocational Training Programmes in Japan in 1993 and is taken to mean the effective combination of those forces within the economy to determine the development of vocational education and training policy. These forces can be identified as politics, economics, labour market, training programmes, delivery (to include structure, facilities, deliverers) and trainees.
* Policy Environment of Vocational Education and Training at National Levels in the Asia Pacific Region. Chiba, Japan, March 1993.
For these forces to work in concert towards the overall objective of vocational education and training for social and economic development calls for the creation and acceptance of an effective model. Again the model used here has been adapted from and is a variation of that put forward by Dr Hall in his paper to ILO (APSDEP) in 1993.
The model indicates that the interaction between the three major forces of politics, the labour market which in this model means the employees or the workforce, and economics which is taken here as the owners of the resources for industry and trade, contribute towards the development of vocational training policy with the political system eventually and solely responsible for the decisions on policy.
Political decisions are often geared towards the introduction of short-term quick-fix training solutions for labour market skills problems. Considering the rapid advances not only in industrial technology but also in management systems there is a valid case against setting training policies with long-term goals.
Although labour market forecasting can often be unreliable the information obtained is nevertheless absolutely essential for the development of policy. Unfortunately in Fiji at this time there is virtually no information obtained through primary investigations into sectoral skills and training requirements to assist Government into taking policy decisions that would lead to the development of new programmes and the retraining of the deliverers of vocational education and training to provide industry with the manpower needed to cater for the rapid influx of new technologies and management systems.
By the same token while it was deemed appropriate that the generation as such information is the responsibility of government, the employers of skilled labour, especially those in the private sector must, for reason of survival in a highly competitive market, also assume the responsibility of identifying sectoral skills and training needs and utilise their unique position in the economy to influence government policy directions.
The need for an umbrella body to co-ordinate vocational and technical education has already been mentioned. In addition this body could on the basis of empirical studies provide the necessary advice to government of policy directions, and also make determinations on national standards and accreditation. It is essential that Fiji qualifications have international currency.
In the absence of any positive moves by government towards the implementation of the "programme being drawn up with the assistance of the World Bank and donor agencies which ensure market related output from school and training institutions to strengthen economic performance, job opportunities and levels of remuneration in the medium and long term", as indicated in the government policy document "Opportunities for Growth" (chapter 5, p.43), alternative catalysts for the process need be considered. Indeed, if the "programme" mentioned above is in the process of being developed, it is yet to be made public and therefore not available for comment.
The Human Resource Development Conference planned for the FNTC for the end of 1994 with the theme "Towards the Year 2000 and Beyond" for employers, workers unions, providers of training and the arms of the government concerned with training might as well give rise to recommendations that government could use the determination of policy directions and the development of programs in vocational education and training if the correct mix of inputs for the conference is achieved.
In the meantime, apart from the gradual progress of the FIT towards autonomy in 1995, and the greater emphasis on courses in Quality Management by the FNTC as indicated by the acquisition of the franchise on all quality management courses developed by the Australian Quality College it is unlikely in the light of other developmental priorities for there to be any visible changes in the TVE scene in Fiji in the next couple of years or so.