Quality technical teachers are paramount to delivering quality technical education. Teachers are the main instrument to produce competent technical human resources equipped with adequate skills and ready to undertake the work or start their own business as entrepreneurs or become self-employed. Quality technical teachers are hard to find. This is the reality, but even we teachers are unable to accept this fact and claim to be competent teachers. Either the ego or the fear of change prevents us from accepting this reality.
In recent years, politicians have talked a lot about technical education and securing their politics. They continue to strive to develop technical schools despite many challenges related to providing quality technical education, developing quality technical teachers with 21st century skills, and creating opportunities for adequate jobs in the market. Consequently, technical education has not been able to attract a significant portion of the young population or deter them from leaving the country and effectively engaging with industries to create employment opportunities.
Increase the number
Industries openly say they are comfortable working with non-Nepali technicians and operators because they have the “skills” required by the industry. In terms of “attitude”, they are easier to handle. Despite efforts to address these anomalies by thoroughly analyzing the underlying causes, politicians are only interested in increasing the number of technical schools in the country, which is just a waste of public funds and ruins the future of Nepalese youth. This is why, even with over 90 years of experience in technical education, we have not been able to establish and stabilize an appropriate, results-oriented system.
The history of the skills dates back to the Lichchhavi period. However, the formal start of technical education dates from 1930 when an engineering school was established to provide vocational training. We can take the example of Singapore when we talk about technical education and economic development. Singapore became an independent country in 1965 and took a leap forward in economic development focusing on technical education and industrialization. We need to learn from the experiences of others and make changes in our existing behavior and attitude. Primarily, our approach served petty political interests and satisfied personal interests.
Under the Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT), there are 63 constituent schools, 572 community schools that provide technical education, 42 partner schools, and 429 private schools. Together they are 1,106 in number. The irony is that the enrollment rate in technical education is less than 75% of available places. This shows that there is underutilization of the available capacity. In 2013, without considering this scenario, the Ministry of Education launched parallel programs as a technical stream in community schools, and the number of such schools reached 484. Here, two crucial questions arise: Do these schools have adequate technical teachers and the atmosphere required for technical education? And do the teachers currently involved in technical education have the necessary qualities? Quality technical human resources cannot be produced without quality teachers.
A discussion has started in the country for the implementation of a technical teacher licensing system. Technical education experts raised a crucial question at a forum, “Where are the teachers?” Current teachers lack industry experience, and people in industry lack knowledge and pedagogy. Integrating industry experience, knowledge and pedagogy into one person to make a quality teacher has been a huge challenge; therefore, a vision guided by patience and realistic planning with measurable results is an essential requirement to solve this problem.
The technical teacher licensing system can be introduced based on skills and can be graduated in three or four levels. The Technical Teacher Licensing System helps to onboard technical teachers through a plan. The authority will have information on their level of competence, which helps to design training according to the needs and appropriate means of providing training for the continuous development of technical teachers. It also opens up a career path, from level 1 to level 3/level 4, and helps to improve social image and thus helps to attract competent people to become technical teachers. This will be an excellent mechanism for distinguishing certified (trained) specialist teachers from uncertified (untrained) ones. To put in place a system for this change, the government should express its commitment and allocate a budget for the first years (three to five years).
It would be beneficial for the government to insist, support and facilitate technical schools, both public and private, to obtain certification from the Asia-Pacific Accreditation and Certification Commission (APACC). With participants from 17 member countries including Nepal, the Colombo Plan Staff College convened an international conference on accreditation and certification in December 2004, establishing APACC. This certification ensures that our technical schools are equal to comparable institutions in the region and possess specific quality standards as defined by the accrediting agency. APACC offers five different awards, ranging from bronze to platinum, based on independent third-party assessment. The authorities of the CTEVT must think responsibly and act accordingly for the accreditation of the technical schools that depend on it.
Intervention at the political level
The implementation of the technical teacher licensing system also requires alignment with the national qualification framework; and for effective implementation of the framework, a good understanding of purpose and significance is needed. Most of them are again likely to resist these kinds of changes. Therefore, the national qualification framework and licensing system for technical teachers needs to be incorporated into law, i.e. the long-awaited new education law. For this, the leader of technical education in the country, the CTEVT, must take the lead, be proactive and advocate.
Positive reforms in technical education are essential to the overall economic development of the country as they help increase the competitiveness of industry and create job opportunities, thereby reducing unemployment and contributing to overall GDP. Therefore, a positive, conscious and planned reform in this sector naturally requires high-level political intervention and strategic moves based on an applicable timetable and measurable results, which remains a great challenge in our context.