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Opinion - Competence-based education the cornerstone for success of TVET students

2022-04-08  Prof Jairos Kangira

Opinion - Competence-based education the cornerstone for success of TVET students

Delegates who attended the WorldSkills Africa Swakopmund 2022 conference in the coastal town from 29-31 March unanimously agreed that technical and vocational education and training institutions in Africa should intensify the competence-based education model in curriculum design, transformation and training of students. 

 It was noted competence-based education is helpful in making TVET more meaningful to students, industry and society.  

To curb the rising numbers of students dropping out of TVET globally, it is important to make TVET more meaningful for students and increase connectivity between institute and industry. 

The philosophy underlying competence-based education is that learning is measured based on students demonstrating mastery of learning rather than the number of hours spent in the classroom. 

Best practices have proved that it is advantageous for students to advance to the next levels in TVET on the evidence of mastery of skills and not on seat time. 

Students’ practical assessments are meaningful and positive, and they empower learning experiences for students that yields timely, relevant and actionable evidence. 

Using formative assessment comprising a number of practical assessments that are tailor-made to take students from step to step without bombarding them with summative assessments at the end of semesters, institutions are guaranteed of producing competent TVET graduates armed with unparalleled industry experience and competencies in their area of specialisations.

For competence-based learning to succeed, TVET institutions are required to adopt a systematic method of skills identification. 

There is no better way of identifying the needed skills than through labour force surveys. To make these surveys meaningful, they should involve governments, society, students and all stakeholders. 

What is needed to have a systematic method of skills identification in African countries is to have a paradigm shift, which embraces the competence-based education model that will foster the development of TVET skills in a more meaningful and practical manner. In their study titled ‘Changing the TVET paradigm: New models for life-long learning’, Kanwar, Balasubramanian and Carr (2019) argue that: “Lifelong learning, which covers the spectrum of non-formal, informal and formal learning, will become essential for TVET learners, who will require continual upskilling and reskilling to keep up with industry changes and unforeseen technological advances. Lifelong learning has received increasing attention in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), featuring prominently in SDG4 on education. It is envisaged as a way to enhance skill sets and boost the economy, but also build global citizenship and peace”. 

It is, therefore, essential to integrate 21st-century skills and life-long-learning abilities as part of the TVET curriculum regardless of the study programme. Related to the success of the competence-based education is the training of TVET teachers. 

It has been observed that there exists a wide gap between the skills that TVET graduates possess and the labour market demands in this rapidly changing world. To ameliorate this situation and meet the labour market needs, a pragmatic training programme for TVET teachers must be put in place. 

Unfortunately, Namibia has no TVET teacher training institution. There is a need for a technical teacher training academy, which would be an umbrella body that addresses existing concerns about TVET teacher training. 

An understanding of what TVET training needs to offer should be established.  TVET teachers need to understand the environment from which TVET students come. Understanding the dynamics and contexts of TVET training would enable targeted teacher training. 

Countries were urged to develop policies and set standards for technical teacher training through which definitions, outcomes and parameters are provided. Set standards in TVET teacher training should be contextualised in view of benchmarks.  Research is the basis of preparing a competent 21st-century TVET teacher who understands contemporary issues.  

In all this training, localisation of the content is important; therefore, an understanding of the local economy is important in TVET teacher training programmes. Training should respond to local labour markets. 

Although the localisation of teacher training was emphasised, internationalisation of TVET programmes should be done through benchmarks and exchange programmes for TVET teachers.  

TVET teachers can also benefit from continuous professional development which should cover training aspects that will make teachers more competent in their discharge of duties. 

TVET Training and soft skills and digital skills training must be part and parcel of TVET Training. Social-professional integration of youths is crucial. There is a need for youth to be trained for jobs that are available in the market. 

TVET programme designers should consult the industry or the workplace before designing programs. TVET curricula should comprise both technical skills and life skills. Social and cultural norms must be taken into consideration when designing programmes. 

There is a need to identify professionals in the industry who can profile jobs; this makes it easier to develop appropriate training programmes. 

It is important to include digitalisation skills for learners in TVET programmes, and to learn from countries that have successfully incorporated digitalisation in TVET. 

For competence-based education or training to succeed, TVET institutions must rationalise the numbers of TVET trainees they enrol versus the available equipment. By so doing, institutions can produce quality graduates. 

The inclusion of people living with disabilities and women in TVET programmes also took a centre stage during the conference proceedings. There were inspiring life stories of people with disabilities who have made phenomenal success in TVET against all odds, and women who ventured into male-dominated areas with resounding success. 

There was also a clarion call for the education systems in Africa to promote competence-based education at pre-and junior primary levels for young learners to develop an interest in TVET programmes later in life. 

2022-04-08  Prof Jairos Kangira

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