The Ministry of Education in Uganda is fronting reforms in technical and vocational training in a bid to regularize skills development and acquisition of competencies that are relevant to the job market.
The reforms wound in the country’s first-ever Technical and Vocational Education and Training-TVET policy, seek to harmonize institutional frameworks, and create an employer-led system that is flexible to the changing market demands. It also brings the informal sector on board.
In the new reforms, the admission system into technical institutions will be broadened to focus on competences than academic qualification. For instance, someone with skills and competences in a particular field will be assessed and awarded an equivalent document, which can allow them to master their skills at a higher level.
According to Alex Kakooza, the education ministry permanent secretary, the current framework has not addressed the shortage of practical skills required in the economy for income generation because it mainly emphasized the acquisition of academic certificates instead of the requisite skills and competencies needed in the world of work.
Kakooza says with the reforms, they will be flexible, work-oriented, and embrace practical delivery approaches.
With the shifting assessment, private sector players will also be allowed to conduct training. In this way, any skills employer can apply to train people at his facility who can later be assessed based on the competence acquired.
For example, the hotel owner may decide to create a training unit at his hotel. Instead of going to a training institution, students can enrol at the hotel and get hands-on training and skills needed in that particular sector.
Brighton Barugahare, the assistant commissioner education, and policy analysis department notes that if implemented, the reform will enable the employers to lead the Technical and Vocational Education and Training by directly imparting the employable skills and values in their students on a hands-on basis. However, to do this, employers will have to have accredited trainers.
Mark Kirya, an employer in the manufacturing and hospitality sectors, notes that the new policy is long overdue as the current training framework is producing theory experts who can hardly do practical work. He, however, cautions that poor implementation of the policy will ruin the concept.
In the same development, the reforms will create multiple pathways that will facilitate transitions between secondary, post-secondary, and tertiary education including flexible admission procedures and guidance, credit accumulation and transfer, bridging programs, and equivalency schemes that are recognized and accredited by relevant authorities.
The transition flexibility will be achieved through the establishment of Skills Development Centres (SDC), Vocational Training Institutes (VTIs), Technical including Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Colleges (TCs) and National Polytechnics (NPs) and a National Technical University (NTU).
Barugahare, says the proposed hierarchy will allow people to grow their skills to and attain higher learning in their core areas of competence and unplug the obstacle that has been limiting students in TVET to take on their fields of study as they the switch from TVET to University Education.
Available documents indicate that in 1998 Professor Eriabu Lugujjo, a seasoned academician observed that although Uganda had recognized the need to adopt TVET to produce proficient workers and make education more responsive to the social and economic requirements, there were gaps brought up by the lack of a coherent policy to link such education and training to industry
In 2008, the government set up the BTVET Act of 2008 to among others, promote and coordinate technical training; establishment of the institutional framework for the promotion and coordination of BTVET; establishment of the Uganda Vocational Qualifications Framework; financing of BTVET, and for other related matters.
However, these were never operationalized partly due to overlapping mandates with other institutions; lack of an institutional framework; lack of clear establishment procedures for BTVET Institutions; lack of transitional provisions for the existing Institutions among others challenges.