Access to Technical and Vocational Education in Africa
The only survey on access to formal TVET worldwide was conducted by the UNESCO Institute of Statistics in 2006. This publication provides recent statistics on technical and vocational education enrolment in Africa as a percentage of secondary school enrolment (see Box 14 below). Certainly, these statistics only show part of the whole picture because enrolment in formal TVET reflects only a small percentage of the total participation in training, neglecting the other TVSD modalities. Consequently, comparative data on TVET systems are difficult to compile.
Despite the shortcomings in the coverage, reliability and comparability of these data, the statistical tables reported in UIS/UNESCO (2006) and in UIS/UNESCO’s 2007 Global Education Digest provide the clearest picture yet of what national-level data currently exist to describe access to formal TVET programmes within traditional education centres in Africa by ISCED level and type of subsequent education or destination, gender and age.
TVET provision in formal education systems takes place at the lower secondary (ISCED Level 2), upper secondary (ISCED Level 3), and post-secondary non-tertiary (ISCED Level 4) level, as well as through the provision at the first stage tertiary level (ISCED Level 5). Owing to the shortage of data available at ISCED Level 4 and Level 5, the present assessment focuses on total secondary enrolment, which includes ISCED Level 3 and ISCED Level 4.
On the basis of the percentage in total secondary enrolment of technical and vocational programmes in 2005, African countries can be grouped in three categories as shown in table 11. The first group encompasses 10 countries re-ordered according to ranking scores: Rwanda (36 per cent), Cameroon, DRC, Egypt, Libya, Congo, Mauritius, Benin, Algeria and Mali (10 per cent) all with a proportion of TVET enrolment in general secondary education with 10 per cent or more. The second group has a proportion of TVET enrolment in general secondary education between 5 per cent and 9 per cent. This group of 10 countries includes Burkina Faso (8 per cent), Burundi (8 per cent), Djibouti (8 per cent), Mozambique (8 per cent), Tunisia (8 per cent), Botswana, Morocco, South Africa, Cape Verde and Togo (5 per cent). Finally, the third group of 15 countries includes Mauritania (4 per cent), Uganda (4 per cent), Niger, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Zambia, Chad, Eritrea, Gambia, Kenya, Lesotho, São Tomé and Principe, Senegal, and Sudan (1 per cent).
While enrolment in technical and vocational programmes is quite high in North Africa (averaging 22.95 per cent of total secondary school enrolment between 2001 and 2005), the vocational education sector generally occupies a much smaller - if not marginal - position in school systems in countries in sub-Saharan Africa (5.2 per cent between 2001 to 2005 with a falling trend since 2003) compared to the OECD countries in the same period (18.6 per cent) and other developing regions, such as Latin America (11.6 per cent) and South East Asia (9.5 per cent). For instance, the percentages of technical/vocational enrolment (PTVE) of high-growing South East and East Asian countries such as South Korea (19 per cent), China (18 per cent), Indonesia (16 per cent in 2005), Singapore (13 per cent in 2005), Thailand (18 per cent in 2006) were still dwarfed in 2006 by most OECD countries such as Australia (70 per cent), Austria (62 per cent), Belgium (68 per cent), Czech Republic (65 per cent), Finland (40 per cent), Italy (59 per cent) and Norway (49 per cent).
The low proportion of students enrolled in technical/vocational programmes signals stagnation and overall poor public training capacity. As highlighted later, the system fails to absorb many primary schools graduates. In addition, many vulnerable young people have no financial means to access to formal TVET. Formal TVET is seriously under-funded, and in turn the obsolescence of the equipment and weak managerial capacity affect the quality of training programmes. Low enrolment is partly due also to the perception that it leads only to low-status occupations and forecloses access to higher levels of education. Pupils who enrol in this kind of education are considered to be those who have failed in general education. This results in a contradiction between the generally negative public image of TVET and the strategic role it is supposed to play in economic and social development. There is therefore a need to make school based TVET seem less of a dead-end.
If this general picture is gloomy, it is even worse for girls. Gender inequalities in TVET reflect the lower enrolment rates of women in secondary education generally. Countries where women account for fewer than 15 per cent of TVET enrolment include Eritrea, Ethiopia, Malawi, Namibia, Niger and Uganda. For this group of countries, the share of TVET enrolment in overall secondary enrolment is less than 5 per cent, and the proportion of girls is low not only in technical and vocational education but throughout the entire education system. In other countries in 2005, such as Botswana (38 per cent), Chad (40 per cent), Mauritania (38 per cent), Mozambique (30 per cent), and Senegal (40 per cent), the proportion of girls in TVET stood at about 30 per cent to 40 per cent. In only a few cases does the proportion of girls enrolled in TVET come close to 50 per cent. In Benin, Egypt and Kenya the proportion of girls enrolled in TVET in 2005 reached 43 per cent, 45 per cent and 46 per cent, respectively.
A major challenge is managing the flow of students graduating from primary school. The Primary Gross Enrolment ratio (GER) in Sub-Saharan Africa surged from 82 per cent to 97 per cent from 1999 to 200541. This expansion in primary education is producing enormous pressures on the relatively small secondary and vocational systems of many countries. Secondary and vocational schools struggle to absorb the large number of youths completing the first cycle, while the poor quality of students is reflected in high drop-out rates from secondary school, and the failure of many students to gain employment. In parallel with the higher enrolment rates, the number of early school leavers is also increasing. The challenge of many countries is therefore to rehabilitate and maintain the existing infrastructure and simultaneously to expand it in order to accommodate an increasing number of students at all levels. At the same time governments should envisage more flexible and alternative structures to primary schools, and provide pre-vocational skill training or pre-apprenticeship skill training for early school leavers.
It is important to improve the link between formal and informal TVET, in order to allow students who drop out of school to learn a trade to re-enter the formal vocational school system to upgrade the skills acquired on the job, either on a part-time or full-time basis. Similarly, regular vocational-school students should be able to acquire relevant practical skills in the informal sector. More attention is being given to diversified approaches to education which include technical and vocational subjects, in line with the needs of the labour market.
Seventeen countries in SSA have presented draft, comprehensive, sector-wide education plans for 2015. Selected country examples of the main targets, and policies for 2015 regarding the expansion of vocational education and skills are listed below:
- In Ethiopia, the government plans to increase its admissions to technical and vocational education from 103 708 (2005) to 312 826 (2010) and 624 095 by 2015. Furthermore, 3 300 classrooms and workshops will be built while an additional 4,500 TVET teachers will be hired. Moreover, new standards and programmes for technical and vocational education are being put in place.
- The Gambia and Ghana, which exhibit a PTVE of 1 and 2 per cent, respectively, have committed to a 50 per cent increase in the number of technical and vocational education institutions. Mauritania with a 4 percent PTVE has engaged in a reform to offer opportunities for skills training adapted to labour market needs.
- Mozambique has an 8 per cent PTVE and in 2005 launched a pilot reform to increase participation in secondary and technical and vocational education.
- Rwanda, which exhibits the highest PTVE, at 36 per cent, has plans to increase the number of Technical and Vocational education institutions by 50 per cent by 2015.
- In 2006, South Africa started rehabilitating and expanding its “Further Education and Training” colleges and the national objective is to reach a million students by the school year 2014-2015, compared to the current 276 000.
- In Tanzania despite no official PTVE records has committed to enrol 30 000 full time and 35 000 part-time and distance-learning students in technical and higher education by 2008.