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Is secondary education more beneficial than vocational training?

By Vision Reporter

Added 11th February 2007 03:00 AM

THE decision by government to leave out vocational and technical education from Universal Post Primary Education Training (UPPET) has generated a heated debate.

THE decision by government to leave out vocational and technical education from Universal Post Primary Education Training (UPPET) has generated a heated debate.

By Carol Natukunda

THE decision by government to leave out vocational and technical education from Universal Post Primary Education Training (UPPET) has generated a heated debate.

While the Government defends its decision saying resources are limited, critics argue that the benefits of technical or vocational training far outweigh that of secondary education.

But what difference does it make in terms of the jobs they access?
“The jobs accessed by both Primary Seven and Senior Four leavers are not well paying jobs, unless they are able to create the jobs themselves,” says a 2006 policy discussion paper on UPPET, commissioned by the Uganda Child Rights NGO Network.

The paper says UPPET resources should have been committed to BTVET instead of secondary education “which still leaves the graduates less capable of adding value to society and the economy at large.”

The paper, “Narrow the Gap, Widen the Focus,” claims Business, Technical, Vocational Education and Training (BTVET) produces Ugandans that are equipped with applicable skills which add value to the wider society and economy.
It states further that secondary education is not a panacea, to unemployment, as it does not provide for technical and vocational subjects.

“The current secondary education package does not prepare and pass out students who have a level of formal reasoning, problem solving skills and occupationally relevant content and applications of knowledge to enable them access the global economy and neither can it enhance the capabilities on which development depends.

“To enable students become job creators, the education curricula must be fully vocationalised so that after S.4, students have employable skills,” the paper notes.
Experience also shows that households that cannot afford primary education may not be in a position to afford secondary or tertiary education.

The paper says if technical training was incorporated into the education system, students would be equipped with higher levels of skill, knowledge and understanding to take responsibility in their area of specialisation.

“Introduction of UPPET in this manner does not and cannot effectively serve as a poverty eradication strategy as it does not address the issue of increasing the number of wealth creators,” it adds.
Namirembe Bitamazire, the education minister, however, defends the decision. She says BTVET will be incorporated into the system when funds become available.

Those who concur with her say it is worthwhile to invest in secondary education since an S.4 leaver would be more employable than a P.7 leaver.

Yusuf Nsubuga, the commissioner for secondary education, also says UPPET will increase equitable access and participation at the secondary education level, which is crucial for development.
He explains that the transition rates from primary to post primary education has been moving between 46% and 50% of only those who actually pass P.7 and are eligible.

“It is well-documented that secondary education contributes significantly to economic, social and cultural development,” says Nsubuga. He added that secondary education is the bridge between primary and higher education.

“It is important for training teachers and administrators of primary schools. The products of secondary education influence the quality of primary education as well as tertiary and higher levels,” he adds. “It also trains mid-level technicians and other professionals. It has a dual purpose of providing the higher levels with qualified and competent students as well as preparing students for the world of work,” Nsubuga remarks.

It is no secret that there is a general public stigma towards vocational training, perhaps explaining why the Government decided to consider secondary education instead of BTVET.

Statistics show that of an estimated 348,489 primary seven graduates, 3.44% join business, technical or farm schools compared to 97% who join secondary schools.

Some parents think vocational institutions are not smart enough for their children.
“Those institutes are for failures!” says a 40-year-old businessman, adding: “Why should I have my son there if he has excelled and has been admitted to a secondary school?”

“After P.7, the child is still too young to do woodwork,” argues Andrew Kironde, a parent and teacher. “But if it were at S.4, I would consider the decision because of the child is mature.”

30-year-old Mukisa, a mother of five, says: “In many cases the technical schools are affordable for an average parent. The courses last a short time compared to six years in secondary school.”

In his 2003 paper, ‘Secondary Education in Africa,’ Eng. Francis Okinyal, the commissioner of BTVET, notes that there is an almost total absence of private sector and community involvement in the provision of technical training.

More so, construction of a fully-fledged vocational institution in a rural setting is higher than an average secondary school. According to the 2006/07 ministerial statement presented to Parliament by Bitamazire, setting up classrooms and workshops in a BTVET institution is estimated at sh600m, while an average secondary school in a typical rural sub-county costs sh30m.

Aggrey Kibenge, the spokesperson in the Ministry of Education, says: “We shall still pay a threshold of sh7m per academic year to each of the 46 BTVET institutions enrolling P.7 leavers and a variable tuition fee of sh68,733 per trainee, per academic year.”

Kandyomunda says the Government should prioritise the establishment of a government-aided BTVET institution in every sub-county in the country. This can be done through encouraging partnerships with the communities and the private sector through grant-aiding mechanisms, purchase and supply of equipment and staffing.

Some education officials interviewed for the UPPET policy discussion paper suggested that vocational training should be introduced within the existing secondary schools since the training or BTVET institutions are few.

Is secondary education more beneficial than vocational training?

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