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Is Vocational Education a Solution for Myanmar’s development?

For many young people in Myanmar, they start with High School and studying for a bachelor degree at a university or a college, and then, they start working. It may look like simple steps but it takes at least thirteen years to go through this route; ten for matriculation and at least three for a degree. But the question is, “Is it always the same for everyone?” Unfortunately, for some, it does not work like that for many reasons.

As the country is rapidly developing, some sectors like agriculture, energy and mining, tourism, financial sector, infrastructure, manufacturing, and telecommunications, need a large number of workforce. These sectors are creating new jobs in the country’s labour market. For example, the insurance industry has been liberalized, and foreign firms are coming into the country and some have already started their operations. And yet, there is not enough skilled labour force.

Also, the government is trying to attract more Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) into the country by deregulating, and by creating more industrial zones. There may be tens of thousands of jobs which need to be filled within a few years. As a result, vocational education has become a solution to create a skilled workforce in order to meet the industry’s needs.

But, there are already come challenges. In 2018, according to a report by Labour Department of the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, more than 200,000 people left Myanmar to work in other countries and many of them had vocational training courses. Therefore, it is also a challenge to keep skilled labour from leaving the country in search for better opportunities.

Benefits of Vocational Education

According to “Soufflearning”, vocational education and training (VET) has a lot of benefits for employees. They can have better chances of employment, higher earning levels, increased job satisfaction, improved flexibility and mobility and lifelong learning. It is clear that Vocational Education and Training is good for employees, but how about for the community, the environment, and the country?

VET actually differs from traditional education since it focuses on building the specific skills for specific jobs. It makes the individuals to be trained in practical skills required for different job activities. It may not be a perfect solution but it helps with making education more relevant to manpower development.

“Graduates are having a hard time finding work,” said Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor, during a and vocational training workshop held by the Ministry of Education at the Myanmar International Convention Center II. “The countries that value vocational education are developing rapidly while Asian countries, including Myanmar, do not value vocational education, but they do to university or college education,” she added.

Some of Asian Countries like Japan, Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand have fairly developed their vocational education systems. According to www.asia.fnst.org, there are a number of reasons why countries should invest more in vocational education. 

Skill Development in Informal Sectors

Informal sectors usually employ unskilled labour, most of who do not have an education beyond high school. They usually have poor family backgrounds where work is a must-do thing to have a flow of income into their home. Vocational education can ensure that knowledge and skills of these workers meet the level industrial standards. This can lead to higher productivity and also help transfer of skills between the informal and formal sectors.

Improved Quality of Products and Services – It is simple – the more VET is developed, the more improved the knowledge and skills of workers, and the more improved the quality of products and services. 

Increases in Private Sector Investment in Training

Already, there are many vocational training centres, schools, and institutes across the country. For example, Singapore-Myanmar Vocational Training Institute (SMVTI) is creating opportunities for its students to work as interns in Singapore. Dual Tech, one of the well-known private vocational training centres, has courses on different skills for different fields.

Governments, businesses, and students play their roles in vocational education training. However, some people hold the view that the government should not engage themselves in VET as it can affect the quality of training. The reason behind this is that most of the governments are not able to provide quality training needed for the employees of companies and organizations. Companies themselves know better what kinds of skills are needed in their organizations.

Access to Labor Markets

People who could not finish traditional education for some reasons have more chances to find jobs with vocational education since VET can train them to develop specialized skills. In this way, vocational education can provide access to labour markets both locally and abroad. This can help reduce unemployment and also produce enough amount of skillful workers for the developing industries of the country.

Technological Innovation

Since vocational training focuses on developing specialized skills and knowledge, industries can enjoy the benefit of technological innovation, which comes from vocational education centres through government support. It is found in countries with advanced economies like Japan, South Korea, and Singapore where governments actively support technological innovation and this produces skilled labour force for tech-related industries.

Government Eyes Vocational Training for Development

The government has been developing vocational education for quite some time. Currently, there are 68 technical and vocational education departments (DTVE) opened under GTC / GTI / GTHS / polytechnic schools, 192 training schools opened by the Ministries, and 12 private training schools. Besides, some organizations like Samsung and Coca Cola also run vocational courses around Yangon and Mandalay Myanmar be on the path to economic growth if VET can be developed in the right way as mentioned by the State Counsellor, who said, “the countries that value vocational education are developing rapidly.”