TVET reform to reap demographic dividend

TVET to be renamed Bhutan Innovation and Technical Education

Yangchen C Rinzin 

Reforms in technical and vocational education and training (TVET) will aim at reaping the nation’s demographic dividend through a workforce that is “future-ready with hands-on and hearts on attitude.”

The soon to be autonomous agency’s larger national goal is to take in 4,000 students after the first Gyalsuung cohorts complete by 2023.

The Chief Executive Officer, Kinga Tshering said that while working on the transformation strategy, it was revealed that the majority of the problems identified was the image of TVET.

It was also found that TVET lacked infrastructure, capacity building and skills acquired from the institutes were not relevant in the market. This is why the transition team is working on a strategy based on four strategic reform areas focusing on four Ps – place, people, product, and promotion.

Reforms in TVET would also see place expansion, meaning it would target to have 500 vocational graduates, 20,000 students, and 100 domestic and international industry linkages with TVET.

“The strategy also includes training 100 lecturers and instructors,” the CEO said. “The reform will also look into eight new courses in digital technology, online retail and energy sectors and image promotion.”

The office also plans to prototype overall strategies in the upcoming Bhutan Innovation Hub at the Thimphu Technical Training Institute.

Kinga Tshering said that after a successful prototype, the strategy would be rolled and scale-up implementation to other training institutes.

Amidst the Covid-19 situation, Kinga Tshering said that the situation had prompted the transition team to reflect on some of the fundamental issues even in the TVET reform strategy.

The CEO said that the Covid-19 pandemic had given them the opportunity to look into reforms and implement some of the policies to employ youth in sectors like construction, health and education. The team has already carried out reform strategies like curriculum frameworks, transformation actions plans and international collaborations.

The CEO also said that media strategy is one of the key elements to promote the image of the TVET system because there is a general lack of awareness and opportunity of the vocational system.

“Even news on TVET in media has always focused on issues of a low image of vocational jobs and mismatches of jobs. There were a lot of initiatives taken by the ministry initiating international collaborations, including students pursuing diploma and engineering degrees.”

The team consists of four full-time workers, a CEO assisted by about 10 officials from the labour ministry whenever required.

Kinga Tshering said that one of the suggestions is to rename the future autonomous TVET as Bhutan Innovation and Technical Education to encompass the need to eventually link hands-on skills.

“It will also link hands-on skills to business, innovation and entrepreneurship. While training content is solidly backed by technical education and STEM subjects. The result will be mushrooming of highly skilled self-employed entrepreneurs.”

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering in a press released issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said that TVET reform would refine the relevance of education and respond to skill demand in the market, including solving unemployment issues.

“The way to build Bhutan falls in the hands of the Bhutanese, as the fear of coronavirus limits our options to rely on foreign workers. But it is also the reality that what TVET offers is the way forward for socio-economic development of the country beyond Covid-19.”

There are less than 1,000 students in the vocational training centres across the country.

About 15,000 high school graduates join colleges. Statistics have shown that the number of unemployed graduates is higher by 40-50 percent.

Once the service conditions, legal framework and Standard Operating Procedures are ready, the TVET sector will be delinked from the labour ministry.

As a significant leap in reforming the TVET, the transition team was officially formed under a new CEO on March 17.

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