Monday July 28 2014

Vocational skills crucial for development

By Paul Amoru

The Daily Monitor recently published a lead letter by Mr Charles Walakira (Technical institutes should focus on imparting practical skills to learners) that caught my attention. I salute the author’s commitment to promoting skills acquisition.

However, the material substance of the letter was severely skewed and largely distorted facts on Business Technical Vocational Education and Training (BTVET), levels of technical education and training and the functions and roles of different actors that cover the training delivery, quality assurance and examinations/assessment.

In trying to define what he called the major objective of technical education, the author veered off to the dangerous fallacy that has for long associated technical and or vocational education as a last resort and for failures.

He wrote “…most of the trainees who enroll in technical education opt for it after either failing to qualify for secondary education or because of lack of tuition fees to continue with formal education.” This sort of notion is unhelpful and is to blame for the soaring unemployment problem among young people who continue to shun technical education to pursue university courses that render them unproductive.

It should be noted that trainees who take the technical education route also have an equal opportunity to progress academically and attain highest academic awards.

The author further alleges that the Uganda Business and Technical Examinations Board (UBTEB) is “mostly focusing on the theory aspect”. This is inaccurate. Examinations under UBTEB, unlike assessments under Directorate of Industrial Training, are based on the approved curricula developed by the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) and programmes approved by the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE).

To take the example given by the author, the curriculum of Motor Vehicle Mechanic Course includes papers assessed by UBTEB and with a highly practical orientation as per the NCDC Community Polytechnic Curriculum 2008. The papers examinable are five and not seven as claimed in the article.

Contrary to the letter, the management and administration of examinations in the BTVET sub-sector were greatly fragmented before UBTEB was established.

This led to the proliferation of certificates and qualifications within the BTVET where many certifications were being awarded by various bodies and individual training providers.
UBTEB has already harmonised over 80 per cent of these programmes.

UBTEB is further moving to enhance skills and hands-on approaches in the way students are taught and examined. The UBTEB examinations offer a pathway for employment and career development where someone can progress and acquire higher qualifications such as degrees, masters and PhDs.

Among ongoing innovations, UBTEB has extracted the practical elements of the syllabi, which now constitute a Project Paper and has greatly enhanced the teaching of practicals in institutions.

UBTEB, therefore, believes that higher technical and vocational skills are crucial in enhancing competitiveness and contributing to social inclusion, decent employment and poverty reduction.

Paul Amoru,
Public Relations Officer, UBTEB