Progress has been made in recognizing the value of core skills for the world of work, building them into curricula and ensuring some measure of professional development for teachers and trainers.
A report published some years back has looked into six different countries (1). The report presents some main findings when it comes to the curricula and the core skills in Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET). You can read about different countries.
In Australia, the review of units of competency and course curricula is embedded in the endorsement and continuous improvement processes approved by the National Skills Standards Council (NSSC). However, while the introduction of successive new frameworks has on each occasion generated research in the area, the impetus for the introduction and monitoring of these frameworks has been influenced more by political imperatives than by a desire to monitor and evaluate alternative approaches to generic skills development. Consequently, beyond the extensive pilot evaluation in the 1990s, there has been very limited monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness of generic skills initiatives at the government policy level.
In Chile, there is no national agreement to integrate core competencies into the curriculum. To date, no monitoring and evaluation system has been implemented for initiatives at either the secondary or tertiary level. One step towards this was the trial incorporation of the ICT test into the SIMCE assessment system. In the first trial, half of all secondary students did not achieve a minimum level pass. In the realm of informal education, training courses carried out in programmes run by the National Employment and Training Service (SENCE) do not include evaluation components but only provide assistance in gaining access to the diploma.
In India, the absence of any formal form of reporting on core skills delivery or testing has resulted in the absence of a system of monitoring or evaluation. Though certain private initiatives have been initiated, they are too recent to effectively monitor and evaluate results. Stakeholders feel that an effort should be made by the Directorate General of Training to incorporate a stand-alone scheme of core skills delivery and testing using internationally approved methods. This feature, if embedded as a separate test within a learner’s overall assessment, will encourage students as well as teachers and training providers to put more emphasis on raising the employability of students across a range of different occupations.
In Jamaica, although there have been improvements in the identification and inclusion of core skills in the TVET curriculum and occupational standards, there is no evidence from the quality of graduates that training in these skills is consistently or increasingly effective.
In Malawi, monitoring and evaluation tools for all occupations, including core/fundamental skills, have been developed. TVET institution managers were involved in the training workshops on delivery, supervision, monitoring and evaluation that led to the development of these tools. However, the question of monitoring and evaluation specific to core/fundamental skills, especially in industry, has not been adequately addressed. To date, there has been no monitoring and evaluation of the national implementation strategy. The challenges of monitoring and evaluation are compounded by poor data management systems in public colleges and poor monitoring of private TVET providers.
The Philippine TVET system is facing increasing pressure to be responsive and competitive in the global market. It is having to adjust its programmes and standards to meet the diverse and constantly changing needs of the global economy. In its desire to make 20 basic competencies more relevant and responsive to the demands of the major industrial sectors, TESDA commissioned the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization Regional Centre for Educational Innovation and Technology to deepen its existing basic TVET competencies. The recommendation on basic competencies has not yet been published by the TESDA board, and thus remains to be implemented.
Core Skills Integration
It is clear that in none of the six countries has a comprehensive approach to core skills integration been achieved. While Australia undertook the most comprehensive development process and has various mechanisms in place by which core skills are integrated into qualifications and competency standards, the lack of standardized national assessment and reporting has led to a piecemeal and ad hoc approach. Such fragmentation is also a feature of the other countries reviewed, perhaps with the exception of the Philippines, where a form of national reporting through institutional assessment means that at least those institutions delivering programmes based on TESDA training regulations are required to assess and report on core skills achievement.
It is apparent from the research that the absence of national assessment and reporting significantly limits the extent to which core skills are meaningfully addressed in the delivery of training. The absence of a coherent approach not only to defining core skills but to ensuring their inclusion in qualifications, standards and curricula limits the extent to which they are addressed through delivery, assessment and reporting.
Improve the Quality and Relevance
While developing countries face numerous challenges in seeking to improve the quality and relevance of their TVET and skills systems, it should be recognized that an explicit focus on core skills in delivery and assessment practices provides the opportunity for broader improvements in the quality of teaching and learning that take place in institutions. The same teaching and learning strategies that are required to develop communication, teamwork and problem-solving skills will also improve the quality of technical skills developed. The clear implication is that an explicit focus on the delivery and assessment of core skills should be given priority in pre-service and in-service teacher and trainer development programmes. While the case studies identified some initiatives that are already taking place, there are no mandatory requirements for teachers and trainers to undertake professional development in the delivery of core skills.
These six case studies have demonstrated that in both developed and developing countries, much remains to be done to ensure that TVET and skills systems adequately develop the core skills that can so profoundly enhance the employability of learners and job seekers.
(1) Laura Brewer and Paul Comyn: Integrating core work skills into TVET systems: Six country case studies, International Labour Organization (ILO) 2015
Lucubrate Magazine September 2019