Rethinking of voctech education
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
THE Ministry of Education (MoE) is currently reforming its technical and vocational education system to produce more skilled graduates. The changes include the restructuring of seven existing technical and vocational institutions to operate at two new “mega campuses”. The ministry had unveiled plans to transform technical and vocational education in its White Paper, or blueprint that outlines the changes that will be implemented over the next five years.
The White Paper stated that the first “mega” or central campus will be built by 2018, and will house the new Brunei Technical Education (BTE) headquarters.
BTE will replace the Department of Technical Education and will operate as a new post-secondary institution.
The Brunei Times spoke to Dr Chin Wei Keh, director of Technical Education, on the progress of the reforms since the announcement was made last June.
BT: How successful has the revamp of technical and vocational education been since its relaunch?
Dr Chin: The transformation of technical education is a long journey. It will take us the next five to seven years to restructure and rebuild a new “competency-based” training system, including the building of two mega campuses.
We are working towards the implementation of our transformation plan especially focusing on the six areas of change proposed in our white paper and upgrading plan:
1) Course restructuring
2) Expanding apprenticeship options
3) More progression opportunity
4) Upgrading the training environment
5) New scheme of teaching service
6) Renaming DTE and vocational institutions
However, there are early successes with the oil and gas industry and the Energy Department at the Prime Minister’s Office (EDPMO).
The Energy Industry Competency Framework (EICF) was launched in July 2013, and there are 772 students enrolled in EICF programmes.
Out of the 772 students, 273 are enrolled in Higher National Technical Certificate Programmes, 43 enrolled in National Technical Certificate programmes and 456 in Industrial Skills Qualification (ISQ) programmes.
A total of 613 students have been awarded Conditional Offer of Employment. The first batch of ISQ students will be graduating in November this year.
BT: Do we see more students joining these voctech institutions now?
Dr Chin: Data showed that the enrolment trend has increased. However, the key challenge here is not just increasing the size of the intake. It is also about improving the employability of graduates who are job ready with the relevant skills and values that employers need.
In our course restructuring efforts, the curriculum team is working closely with employers to better align the technical, methodological and social competencies for skilled occupations in the major sectors.
BT: Is there still a prejudice among students and parents in pursuing voctech education? If so, how can we break this?
Dr Chin: Mindset cannot be changed overnight. The change will be gradual and an integral part of the transformation. It will be built upon the success in the various changes that the transformation will bring about. The change in mindset and public perception of the Institute of Brunei Technical Education (IBTE) will depend very much on the graduates’ success.
I believe that all stakeholders have an important role to play. They can support and help in championing the cause of vocational and technical education. I invite the media to join hands with us in breaking through this stigma.
BT: How important is technical and vocational education in building the country’s future?
Dr Chin: It’s very crucial and our transformation is about maximising the potential of every Bruneian especially those who are more inclined towards hands-on activities. For our nation to progress, we need to ensure everyone will play their part in contributing to the nation’s growth.
BT: Apart from those joining the oil and gas industry, what other areas can these students work in to support nation-building? Are there other ministries or departments working with MoE to formulate courses for these students, apart from EDPMO?
Dr Chin: We are working closely with Tourism Department, Ministry of Communications, AiTi as well as Ministry of Development to understand the skilled manpower demand and projection of different industries.
BT: What are your expectations of these voctech graduates once they enter the workforce?
Dr Chin: Our graduates should be job ready. We are working hard to ensure the training we provide is as authentic as possible so that our graduates can be of value and respond appropriately in the real working environment. At IBTE, we also focus on life skills and developing life-long learners.
In regards to this, we are also looking into expanding our continuous education and training to cater for those in the workforce who want to upskill or reskill themselves in line with the changing work environment.
BT: What are the current challenges and how does MoE plan to deal with them?
Dr Chin: In any transformation there will be challenges. I strongly believe that it is important to stay focused on our mission and have the right vision to guide our transformation forward. With the perseverance of our staff and support of our stakeholders, our goals can be achieved.
The Brunei Times