Sun | Sep 24, 2023

Technical, vocational education under scrutiny as HEART is reviewed

Published:Tuesday | January 25, 2022 | 12:08 AMAinsworth Morris/Gleaner Writer
An instructor at the HEART/ NSTA Trust’s Garmex Academy advises a student during class.
An instructor at the HEART/ NSTA Trust’s Garmex Academy advises a student during class.

The Jamaica Education Transformation Commission (JETC) has been instructed to lead an institutional review of the Human Employment and Resource Training/National Service Training Agency (HEART/NSTA) Trust by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, with the hope of improving the entity’s effectiveness in delivering technical and vocational education and training for capacity building.

This review should be completed in six months.

Within the last 10 years, the HEART/ NSTA Trust, which was established in 1982 and is the main institutional support for technical and vocational education and training (TVET) in Jamaica, has undergone numerous changes. That includes a name change and a merger with the National Youth Service, the Apprenticeship Board and the Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning.

Holness announced the institutional review during his address at the launch of The Reform of Education in Jamaica 2021 report last Thursday.

The report was prepared by the Professor Orlando Patterson-led JETC and Professor John Cowles of Harvard University.

Holness said: “As a follow-up to this report from the commission, I’ve asked that Professor Patterson and his team lead a comprehensive review of the organisation and output of the Jamaican education and technical and vocational training systems, including an institutional review of the HEART/NSTA Trust, and to recommend changes to improve its effectiveness.”

He added: “The review will look at the demand side of TVET, considering how to enable the Jamaican TVET system to better meet the needs of young people, employers, government policy priorities and the economy, as well as the supply side, considering how to build capacity and capability.”

Prejudices in education system

But the JETC has preliminarily pointed out in its Reform of Education in Jamaica 2021 report the shortcomings in the delivery of technical and vocational training in Jamaica, especially the prejudices that exist in the education system with the comparison between TVET and traditional academic subjects.

According to the report, “To many, technical vocational education and training (TVET) is not well understood”, and “almost universally, TVET remains the ‘poor relative’ of education systems, both in terms of perception and attention.”

The report also stated that “Jamaica has a great need for TVET education. The country is at an intermediate stage of demographic transition with its youth, 15-29, representing 29 per cent of the total population and 42 per cent of its working-age population. In spite of recent declining unemployment, the youth population still experiences high rates of un- and under-employment. Those youth who are employed are mainly in informal jobs, only a quarter in formal work. At the same time, the economy is greatly in need of skilled labour. This mismatch is a major brake on economic development. One obvious solution is the provision of technical and vocational training.”

The JETC recommended that “TVET should become an integral part of the traditional school system, there is the need to reconsider further the relationship between HEART and the schools, including the possible reallocation of resources between the two systems”.

Among the recommendations of the JETC for revamping TVET are:

* Full integration into the secondary-school curriculum;

* Rebranding TVET via a well-coordinated and aggressive marketing strategy;

*Improve the quality of training delivery by recruiting highly competent, qualified, motivated, flexible and creative teachers;

*Reposition TVET to facilitate and strengthen capacities for entrepreneurial development;

*Tailor TVET delivery for distance learning;

*Strengthen the framework for assessing the performance of TVET institutions;

*Include a component for agricultural vocational training, especially in rural areas;

*Include provisions for students with disabilities in the formal vocational education programme;

*Creating a national skills council.