NATION

Minister Talks Importance Of Quality, Innovation And Skill In Training

The following is the address by the Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts, Mahendra Reddy at the 2016 IVETA World TVET Conference gala dinner last night.     Ladies and
24 Aug 2016 08:01
Minister Talks Importance Of Quality,  Innovation And Skill In Training
World TVET conference key note speaker, Professor S. Mehrotra (from left), Fiji National University Vice-Chancellor Nigel Healey with President Jioji Konrote at Grand Pacific Hotel yesterday. Photo: RONALD KUMAR.

The following is the address by the Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts, Mahendra Reddy at the 2016 IVETA World TVET Conference gala dinner last night.

 

 

Ladies and gentlemen, I am privileged to be here tonight to be part of the 2016 IVETA World TVET Conference.

This is a very proud moment for us as this Conference which has been held in diverse prestigious locations worldwide has chosen Fiji to be the host country this year.

I, at this juncture, on behalf of the Government of Fiji, welcome all the international delegates who are part of this conference.

While Fijians world-wide are basking in the glory of the feat of our gold medal winning rugby sevens team, I also welcome you all to be part of the on-going celebrations which you will find in every corner of this proud nation.

The vision of education in Fiji is to transform lives through education, recognising the important role of education as the main driver for development and achieving accessible, fair and equitable education progression at all levels.

This commitment is enveloped around the renewed education agenda which focuses on quality in all aspects.

Our aspirations are mooted to the end result of ‘no child to be left behind’ in their quest for education.

The Sustainable Development Goal 4, which is to: “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all,” captures our targets and ambitions.

Ladies and Gentlemen, to host an event which has won International accolades in the past is as such a milestone achievement for the education sector and to the Fijian economy at large.

This gathering of experts in technical vocational education and training, representing human resource policy makers, managers, practitioners and other stakeholders interested in technical vocational education and training is a testimony of strong global collaboration, co-operation and co-ordination towards development of Technical Vocational Education and Training Education.

Ladies and gentlemen, technical vocational education and training on a global scale is high in demand.

While the rapidly changing labour markets offer a pool of opportunities for qualified trades people, the need to develop people’s basic knowledge, skills and competencies for decent work, entrepreneurship and life makes it mandatory that all countries adapt policies to promote technical and vocational education. Access to technical vocational education and training education must be imperative and forums such as the one we are part of today, must be collaborated to evaluate policies and programmes and implement better ones recognising the area of need.

The theme for this conference, “Quality, Innovation and Skill Mobilisation in technical vocational education and training – an internationalisation process” corresponds perfectly with global shift in educational progress.

The theme has the key words :

(i)            Quality and innovation;

(ii)           Skills mobilisation;

(iii)          Education and training;                  and

(iv)         Internationalisation.

Let me speak on these.

 

Quality, Relevance and Delivery

Ladies and gentlemen, technical vocational education and training Education needs to be expanded but quality must be ensured. Students and Governments are investing their resources and we must ensure it is relevant to the industry as well pegged and delivered at an appropriate level in Qualifications Frame work.

There are numerous cases of teaching and training that I can point out where the training using a particular technology is no longer relevant to the technology used by the industry or by some of the leading firms in the industry. For example, in the automobile industry, textiles and clothing, printing, etc to name a few.

We cannot remain oblivious to developments in the industry otherwise our graduates will no longer be relevant to the industry. The Industry will have to spend some more months or a year to up skill the graduate while the graduate is on full pay.

This is not what the industry had expected from the training institution. The other issue that I have alluded to is whether the programmes are pegged at the level it is being stated to be.

This is a common problem in emerging training institutions. Some years back, students were after a qualification only.

They were not so concerned about the quality of it.

But now, with competition in the market, they are also comparing and examining the product that they will get from the provider. Industries are also comparing the product and its performance.

 

Skills mobilisation and

internationalisation

Skilled personnel look forward to moving to different labour markets. They may also explore possibilities of moving to other Universities to upgrade their qualifications.

In this regard, training providers must undertake a full review of all its programmes to ensure it is pegged firmly to the National Qualifications Framework and is of relevance to the industry. Industry’s confidence in the product can also be obtained if we have the relevant workshops and labs to support it and the appropriate qualified and experienced staff to deliver it.

The graduates must, upon completion of the appropriate qualification, acquire certain attributes such as, skills in problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, etc, to mention a few.

The way forward in ensuring this is acquired is to have compulsory industrial attachment which Fiji National University already has in place and also competency based assessment which some training providers have adopted.

 

Raising demand for technical

education

Ladies and gentlemen, technical education is not for those with low IQ or failures.

It is for those bright minds who have an interest and aptitude in technical qualification.

Unfortunately, in Fiji and some small states, people have created this school of thought that those who do not perform well in high school studies should go for vocational studies…it is this thinking that has killed interest of students to venture into technical education. This is absolutely not true.

The next issue is how do we raise this interest and demand? We need to do this amongst our parents and children in the upper primary and high school system.

Universities are investing a lot in open days but there are certain fundamental problems.

It is accessible to schools in urban areas only or those which are in Viti Levu, in particular.

Concerted effort must be made to use technology to take the display and demonstrations to those who are not able to make it such as, those in deep interior and maritime zones.

Universities need to work closely with our Ministry to facilitate this.

 

Opportunities to those who

dropped out early

Ladies and gentlemen, we have noted that not all children have an aptitude for higher education studies. Therefore,they drop out at an early stage or some realise later, after undertaking Year 10 to 13 studies that their interest in not in Higher Education.

To respond to these markets, our Ministry has now established the Technical College of Fiji offering skill based level II studies.

We now have 12 fully operational Technical College Campuses Fiji-wide.

The students who enrol at the Technical College campuses are given loan schemes to study, have free transportation under the government’s transportation scheme and are taught by highly qualified and skilled Educators.

After having the pioneer graduation ceremony of the first three campuses earlier in the year, within one month 70 per cent of all those students who graduated were absorbed in the workforce. The qualification offered here are all competency based.

Added to this, we still have Vocational Centres operating in Secondary schools in Fiji, offering specific programmes and training areas best suited to the interests and choices of the students from within that area.

 

Universities and

International Students

Ladies and gentlemen, I note that we are investing heavily in offering technical education. The technical education programmes are capital intensive in its delivery. As such, we must have a good student base to generate additional revenue and supplement University funds.

For this, we must re-look at our International Student Fee. What is its main purpose? Is it to raise net income? The question is: will high fee and low volume bring in more net revenue or low fee and high volume?  Has anyone estimated the price elasticity of demand for our programmes by foreign students?

This is one area we are really lagging behind in. There are large captive international student base who must find a competitive fees. It is no use pegging up fees which discourages students to come over to Fiji’s Universities.

 

Elimination of inequality via

technical education

Ladies and Gentlemen, a major goal of Technical Education is also to eliminate any forms of inequality in education.

Inequality between students with different aptitude so that choices are available.

Inequality between students in urban areas and rural/maritime region hence, decentralising the campuses. Inequality amongst the two genders for technical education.

The days where the probability of boys taking up technical education programmes far outweighed the number of girls is gone.

Today, one of our key priorities is gender parity in access to education.

We are motivating all girls and boys and men and women to enrol in Technical Education and choose career pathways which they desire and not which are forced onto them.

 

Concluding remarks:

discourse and policy making

Ladies and gentlemen, the success of education in any country lies on sound policies and planning as well as efficient implementation.

This Conference which will last for the next two days will as such, provide the perfect opportunity to learn from experts in the Technical Education arena and contemplate on better strategies, policies and way forward in technical  education and training.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Fiji is excited to host you. We are honoured to be given a global platform to showcase our progress in technical education and learn from the best.

The networking opportunities on offer in this Conference will go a long way in assisting Fiji and the South Pacific countries in strengthening our efforts towards quality technical education.

The exchange of ideas will support our initiatives to serve our people better through our Technical Education services.

Feedback:  jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

 

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