THE poor quality of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) instructors is adversely affecting the employability of graduates, a senior researcher said.
Sofea Azahar, of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia, said improving the performance of the teachers would help produce more talented and skilled workers.
Sofea said this could also decrease unemployment.
She said TVET instructors were not required to have much industrial experience and that they also lacked proficiency in English and information communication technologies.
“The performance and employability of TVET graduates is likely to be a reflection of the teaching quality at the institutions.
“TVET instructors must be equipped with the necessary and relevant skills and knowledge to be transferred to the students,” said the author of the research paper, Preparing the Future Workforce for Post-Pandemic Recovery.
“However, studies revealed that the competency of educators is one of the main challenges in Malaysia’s TVET system, partly due to hiring requirements that have been affected by operational issues such as shortage of staff.”
She said this has resulted in the hiring of instructors solely based on academic achievements while disregarding their lack of industrial experience, which should be a priority.
Sofea said the National Occupational Skills Standard curriculum is 70% skill-based and 30% focuses on theory.
Other factors for the poor quality of teachers are lack of professional development programmes due to budget constraints, a rotation system, and an overwhelming workload.
The Covid-19 pandemic, which resulted in schools having to go online, has also showed the instructors’ lack of digital skills and knowledge to successfully integrate ICT/remote learning into TVET classrooms, she said.
Sofea said TVET instructors must be required to possess adequate industrial experience.
“Simultaneously, their English and ICT proficiency should also be enhanced via training or courses. The performance of TVET instructors can be monitored and evaluated with the e-profiling system.”
According to Sofea, the stigma surrounding TVET stems from the public perception that vocational schools or colleges are designed for school dropouts and poor academic performers.
A lack of awareness among students and parents about career opportunities for TVET graduates is another contributing factor, she said.
“These perceptions have led to vocational pathways being the second or last choice after the traditional academic pathway, in addition to poor recognition of TVET, low self-esteem among TVET students, and low enrolment rates,” she said.
Sofea said one of the ways to address the stigma is by improving awareness of TVET.
“This includes educating students on available vocational alternatives and potential career opportunities through counselling and guidance services,” she said.
“Similarly, continuously promoting real-life TVET success stories especially among the youth would help,” she said.
According to the latest statistics for 2020, the youth enrolment rate at local TVET institutions remains relatively low at 6.1%.
Among key Asean economies, Malaysia’s TVET enrolment rate is also one of the lowest in the region. Additionally, there is still a huge gap in enrolment rates between Malaysia and the industrialised nations.
Based on the latest Unesco data, TVET enrolment rates in these countries are well in the double-digits such as Singapore at 23.8%, Germany (20.4%), and Switzerland (22.9%).
Sofea also said she believes wages could be one of the contributing factors, among others, to youth not pursuing vocational education although not many studies specific to Malaysia have highlighted this as one of the main issues.
She said for instance, based on MOHE’s Graduate Tracer Study in 2020, findings show that the majority of TVET graduates’ monthly earnings (including allowances) only range between RM1,001 to RM2,000 across all levels.
“This means that some TVET graduates are still earning below the minimum wage of RM1,200.
“Even for TVET graduates with the highest qualification (degree level), 26.7% earn between RM1,501 and RM2,000.”
She said this is also far below the median graduate wage in 2020 of RM3,815.
“Hence, poor remuneration or low starting pay will likely come as one deciding factor for many students not to opt for TVET education,” she added.
Sofea said to tackle these issues, there needs to be a stronger and deeper public-private collaboration, which emphasises an industry-led curriculum with greater attention to emerging skills that are needed to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“Based on Unesco’s definition of TVET, it refers to a range of learning experiences comprising education, training and skills development that are relevant to the world of work.
“So, this means that TVET institutions are meant to produce skilled talents from the education system to fulfil industry requirements, thus, tackling skill-related underemployment in Malaysia.”
She said to realise this vision, the issue of mismatch between TVET programmes and industry demand needs to be addressed adequately.
She added that past research revealed that many employers remain unsatisfied with the skills demonstrated by TVET graduates, particularly language, communication, and critical thinking.
This article was first appeared on The Malaysian Insight on 24 December 2021.