Vocational Education: The Future of Reform


Looking around us today, one feels overwhelmed by the calamities we find ourselves entangled in, not knowing where or how to begin the road to reformation. There are so many areas, from economy to health, where deep and collaborative thought, intensive research, and arduous efforts are desperately needed; however, one key area that is at the heart of everything, and is definitely connected to everything, is education.

Although there are so many aspects that require attention, one seems to me the most pressing at the moment: vocational education. In fact, the size of the work force is considered among Egypt’s most important competitive advantages. According to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), the labor force was estimated to have reached approximately 27 million persons with an average of 400,000 university graduates per year (CAPMAS, 2012). This makes Egypt the largest workforce in the Arab world and the Middle East, and among the largest pools for university graduates in the world.

Nevertheless, it has become evident that the competency of university graduates is below the market requirements. As university graduates exceed public universities’ capacity, the quality of education is decreasing dramatically. Meanwhile, Egypt is continuously facing a shortage in technical expertise offered to non-university graduates, due to the low social status and lack of prestige connected to technical jobs (OECD & World Bank, 2010).

Over the decades, university education became everyone’s goal; anything short was deemed kind of a failure. Consequently, more and more university graduates cannot find jobs befitting their training and end up either having to concede to a job they are not really qualified for, or refusing to do so and ending up unemployed altogether.

To change the public’s perception, technical expertise has to be privileged in some aspects when compared to university education. In 1976, vocational education in Japan provided new technical knowledge not offered by universities. It changed the Japanese culture to believe in the possibility of gaining higher managerial positions and better technical skills through being enrolled in vocational rather than university education. Moreover, a legislation recognizing training schools that meet high standards of quality with a higher level of accreditation was passed. As a result, the number of special training schools increased from 893 schools in 1976 to 2,520 schools in 1980.

Similarly, in Brazil in 1996, the special law known as “Law of Criteria and Politics of National Education” was passed, creating vocational education schools within higher education institutions. The inclusion of technical schools within institutes of higher education led to a drastic change in perception, whereby the number of technical schools increased from 178 in 2000 to 612 schools in 2002.

Skills are vital for poverty reduction, economic recovery, and sustainable development. As a consequence, policy attention to Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is increasing worldwide. UNESCO is thus deepening its support for TVET as the cornerstone of education and training reform, and not the weakest link in education systems. Through its Strategy for TVET, UNESCO recognizes the indispensable role of TVET in development and particularly its importance in addressing youth unemployment, equity and income disparities, socio-economic development and, more broadly, quality of life challenges.

It is high time, prompt action is taken to remedy the image of TVET and to foster a new generation of well-trained, proud laborers who can redeem Egypt’s work force status locally, regionally, and internationally.




This article was first published in print in SCIplanet, Spring 2015 issue.

Cover Image by fxquadro on Freepik.

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