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One more shot at improving TVETs

So the Class X cut off point will remain much to the disappointment of many students.

This is the decision of the ongoing education conference where experts are discussing education issues. The government has pledged, to do away with the Class X cut off points to enable as many students to get to Class XI, when running for government. The pledge will not be fulfilled, but the government has listened to expert advice. This is a credible decision.

What is even more credible is the option decided at the conference. A fourth stream, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) will be added in Class XI and XII from 2020. Attention to TVET is what Bhutan needs at the moment.

Despite recognizing TVET more than a decade ago, not much has been done to improve the quality or the image of TVETs. The irony is that we are still dependent on hired hands to fix even a tap when our youth are struggling to find jobs.

Getting into Class XI will not guarantee a student job. This is seen from the thousands of Class XII dropouts who are even applying for jobs meant for Class X graduates. Some parents are regretting for taking loans to fund their children’s pre university studies only to see them not get to university or jobs.

What the government could do is build the image of the TVETS. Graduates with technical skills will get jobs. That is one area where we lack human resource. What we need is thousands of mechanics, carpenters, masons, electrician and plumbers. It is said that at any given time there are 50,000 expatriate workers in the country. Out of that we can safely assume that 10,000 are skilled workers.

There is also money in the sector. Taking advantage of the lack of local skills, Bhutanese are paying through their nose to expatriate workers even to fix a broken switch.

If we are to encourage our youth to join our TVETs, the quality should improve. Volunteers from abroad working with the TVETs are shocked at the state of our TVETs. They point out that machines and materials used to train are outdated leading to mismatch. Some even question the competence of the trainers.

Because of these reasons, we see our TVET graduates working in, for instance, hotels when they studied plumbing. The mismatch is known to our policy maker, but they have not found a solution.

The new government’s decision is a welcome breather. We hope they will go beyond what is discussed at the conference and give one more push at improving our TVETs.

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