Yangchen C Rinzin

Most Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) graduates were deprived of the opportunity to upgrade their skills and knowledge in the absence of a qualification pathway.

Among the TVET graduates from 2016-2018 and 2013-2015 cohorts, only 30 percent had upgraded their TVET qualification while 70 percent did not, which lead to “dead-end learning”. This, according to the TVET Graduate Study, was mainly because of limited experience by graduates and most current TVET courses were unattractive.

The report is the result of a multi-cohort online tracer survey of Technical Training Institutes (TTI) and Institutes of Zorig Chusum (IZCs) launched yesterday.

Most of the 30 percent, who up-gradated their qualification, had completed the National Certificate level. Few (7-14%) studied further to obtain a diploma. Only 1-3 percent of these graduates managed to upgrade to university level through the formal education system.

“It showed that the most common pathway for qualification up-grade was through the government-funded national certificate level courses within the country,” the report stated. “The second highest was through self-financed.”

The number of TVET graduates who upgraded through the funding support from employers was insignificant, it indicated that employers rarely support up-gradation of qualification.

“Most employers were not keen to support skills up-gradation and education improvement of their employees,” the report stated. “This also indicates that employers expect the government and donors to support their human resources development programmes.”

However, TTIs and IZCs do not provide self-financed courses.

This is why about 5-10 percent of the TVET graduates had managed to study diploma, degree, and class XII programmes in the colleges and private TVET institutions on private funding.

Many TVET graduates during the survey expressed their aspirations to up-grade their qualifications even in the absence of a clear education pathway.

‘While the result is encouraging, the question is whether they will get the opportunities to do so,” the report stated. “The lack of clear TVET routes seems to be the reason why TVET system is not able to attract high-achieving learners and mentally prepared youth.”

When asked what qualification up-gradation the graduates aspire, many desired for diploma and degree. However, about 1,200 graduates wished not to seek any up-gradation because qualification up-gradation will not lead to any improvement in their job position.

Some shared that they might have to quit their present jobs and that their employers may not approve the proposals for further studies or training. A few also said that up-grading was useless, as they would not get training-related jobs while some said there won’t be any difference in the income.

The report also revealed that more than 50 percent of female graduates found it difficult to get jobs compared to their male counterparts, as most employers prefer male graduates.

The report recommended that TVET reform must revisit Bhutan Vocational Qualification Framework to give a clear path to up-gradation, make public TVET system agile to allow up-skilling, and rationalise technical job structure and position, pay, incentives and career progressions.

Meanwhile, the labour ministry also launched annual TVET Statistics of Bhutan.

It was to address issues related to inconsistent data collection which has led to unreliable data, duplication, gap and data fatigue among data providers and no effort was made to collect data from other public training providers (OTTPs). Most of the private training providers had weak data system.

The first annual statistics report contains comprehensive TVET statistics from 2003 until October 2019.

“TVET sector assessment had called for the need to improve TVET data management and its use for strategic planning, monitoring and evaluation in 2016,” the statistics report states. “However, it never materialised until this year.”

But this report is not exhaustive. Data were collected from eight TTIs and IZCs and 67 OTTPs, seven OTTPs did not resubmit the data after review, 17 OTTPs refused to submit any data, while three training providers were new, and seven were closed. Of the 115, 64 training providers are based in Thimphu.

The report was produced to serve as the baseline information for policymakers, planners, and managers of various institutions, government organisations, donors, private, NGO and corporate stakeholders and research agencies for TVET development and promote TVET research.

Some of the key proposals made are modernisation and overhauling existing data system in the TVET system like data cataloguing, need for data policy for data collection, and requirement of dedicated people with sufficient statistical knowledge and skills are to manage the TVET data system.

“Currently, there is no proper way of tracking the trainees after graduation, which is why decentralisation of the data collection system is required,” the report states. “Dropout and repetition data were not consistent and complete in both TTIs and IZCs and OTTPs.”

Training providers are also suggested to maintain the age records of their trainees so that official TVET age can be determined in the future.