Bridging education-labour market mismatch


TEVET Forum:
THE schools of today and yesterday are not the schools needed for tomorrow. Instead, new learning processes, strategies and paradigms are needed for new mindsets, relevant skills, attitudes and attributes to drive tomorrow’s economy.

The education system thus should not be static, but be proactive to churn out appropriate human capital to the industry. Different learning pathways are thus pursued to narrow gaps between training and labour market in Zambia. One of the learning pathways is the two-tier systems in secondary school system.
The Education Curriculum Framework of 2013 contends that there is a general consensus on the need for relevant education system for each generation. Accordingly, countries are positioning themselves to meet demands of the job market. Zambia is no exception. Having undergone rapid socio-economic development, changes in the education sector for the country became pertinent to drive the required change. In this view, in 1996, the Ministry of Education developed the National Policy on education to respond to the needs of the nation and learners. The policy became the basis for educational strategies to ensure quality provision of education.
Against this backdrop, Government introduced vocational education in the school system and a guidance framework. The framework provides curriculum guidelines and structures for the school system levels supported by appropriate learning pathways and curriculum, which are pertinent factors for efficient and effective human resources on the job. The curriculum and learning pathways seek to equip individuals with essential competences and skills necessary to operate a particular job successfully; whether they are working for someone or running their business.
The framework encompasses early, primary, secondary and tertiary education coupled with adult literacy. It emphases the labour market desire for innovation, entrepreneurship and life skills, which are pre-requisites for self-employment, job creation and national development. Unskilled youths are disadvantaged as the economy demands some level of skills from them in value addition, running enterprises or conducting modern business and commerce. However, abilities are often lost when the curriculum is rigid because it limits those with academic weaknesses to excel.
Vocational education embraces academic and vocational training. It seeks to facilitate the acquisition of skills to enable learners to be self-employed if they did not secure further education or formal employment. Changes in the new curriculum at early childhood education level are the domination of play and pre-learning activities, which prepare learners to demonstrate key competences in social interaction, elementary pre-literacy, elementary pre-numeracy and fine, cognitive and psychomotor skills.
Cognitive skills have to do with intellectual competences that have to do with the mind and reasoning abilities while psychomotor skills are about using the body (hands/legs). The two-tier system brings into focus four domains of skilled activity: i) cognitive skills (thinking), ii) psychomotor skills (body), iii) reactive skills (emotions), and iv) interactive skills (reactions); which are important in imparting knowledge, competences and attitudes. The four skills domains seek to develop technical and vocational competences among learners at the right stage of their lives and help them use such skills to earn a living, create wealth and improve lives of their communities.
The major reform in the two-tier approach focuses on the creation of two curriculum pathways (academic and vocational). The academic path is meant for learners with passion and strength for academic subjects and desire for careers in that direction. Learners with ambitions and interest in technical and hands-on subjects take the vocational pathway. The curriculum provides practical skills to such learners at Grade 8 up to Grade 12. The curriculum provides collaboration between TEVETA and Ministry of General Education to enable learners on the vocational pathway to obtain trade certificates as well as Grade 9 and Grade 12 certificates. The trade certificates are awarded by TEVETA, while the academic certificates would be awarded by the Examinations Council of Zambia.
In the first phase, TEVETA is awarding trade certificates in i) bricklaying and plastering; ii) carpentry and joinery; iii) metal fabrication; iv) electrical engineering; and v) home management and food production. The vocational career pathway includes computer studies in secondary schools with personnel, facilities and equipment. First secondary schools to implement the vocational curriculum are technical schools. Government’s vision is to have certain secondary schools specialist schools for technology, agriculture, physical education and sports, performing and creative arts and home economics and hospitality.
The vocationalisation also introduced computer studies, a subject at secondary school level to equip learners with essential information and communications technology skills and knowledge. It also integrates entrepreneurship in appropriate subjects with emphasis on learners pursuing small business projects in groups. The purpose of entrepreneurship education is to develop learners’ creative and innovative capacities; thereby fostering skills and attributes that will assist them to be successful as employees or entrepreneurs.
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