More and more, the importance of Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET) and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is being underlined by Government, through the Ministry of Education.
More and more, the importance of Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET) and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is being underlined by Government, through the Ministry of Education.

Promoting TVET and STEM education in Ghana - A contribution from Mastercard Foundation

More and more, the importance of Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET) and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is being underlined by Government, through the Ministry of Education.

To this end, various interventions, including the provision of infrastructure, equipment and reforms in the country’s technical institutions, from the Senior High Technical Schools to the Technical Universities, have been set in motion.

Strategically, government has outlined a plan to promote TVET by aligning all public TVET institutions, and has placed them under the Ministry of Education (MoE). Previously, these institutions could be found under specific Ministries such as Employment and Labour Relations, National Vocational Training Institute (NVTI) centers and various government organizations.

The need for TVET is underscored by the fact that varied kinds of courses in fields such as; agriculture, arts and culture, business, hospitality, commerce and management, engineering, industry, manufacturing and technology, building construction and security, are offered.

It is unfortunate, though, that, generally, TVET has over the years been considered among Ghanaians as meant for the below average student, who must undergo one vocation or the other having been unsuccessful in the “mainstream” educational system. Graduates of the Junior High Schools who find themselves learning how to sew, for instance, are mocked as having been enrolled into ‘Adepam’ (Sewing) Secondary School. Clearly, there is a need for a change in our national mindset to a realization that TVET is critical to our national development goals.

A report by Mastercard Foundation, makes the following observation: “Few pathways, if any, exist between TVET and general education in most African countries. TVET is often considered a dead-end choice, an option for those who failed in general education”.

Therefore, while it is refreshing that the Ministry of Education has decided to strengthen TVET at the secondary level as well, there is a need for a comprehensive strategy by Government as a whole, from the highest levels, to move Ghanaians away from the prejudices against TVET to a recognition of its importance.

In respect of Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), there is considerable prestige associated with these disciplines because of the recognition of the remarkable strides that technology is enabling mankind to achieve. The interrelationship between TVET and STEM will, therefore, need to be recognized as part of changing the national mindset about TVET.
TVET and STEM education should help address the disconnect between what is taught in the secondary schools and what is demanded by industry and employers, generally.

The reality in Ghana is that employers complain that the products of our educational system do not meet their requirements, while there are numerous graduates unable to find jobs - their numbers are rising exponentially. All hands need to be on deck to change this situation so that the products of our educational system can find gainful employment as they are trained in the skills employers need and are able to contribute to increasing national output.

Mastercard Foundation Preparing Youth for the Future of Work
In Ghana, after more than a decade working with the private sector and government to promote financial inclusion and education through its Scholars Programme, the Mastercard Foundation launched ‘Young Africa Works’, a 10-year strategy to enable 3 million young Ghanaians, particularly young women, to access dignified and fulfilling work by 2030.

The aim is to enable young people to acquire skills that are needed by businesses in growing sectors of the economy and strengthen the quality of education to prepare students for the world of work as well as scale digital training while strengthening technology-focused employment opportunities.

With barely eight years to the end of this strategic planning period, a survey conducted among Africa’s young population to ascertain the closeness to the attainment of the set objectives has revealed that African youth gladly welcome TVET and STEM as the way to go.

The report on the survey titled, ‘Secondary Education in Africa: Preparing Youth for the Future of Work’, indicates that, a significant majority of the youth in Africa leave the education system and start working before pursuing tertiary education.

According to the report, out of the 98% of young people who enroll at the primary level in Sub-Saharan Africa, only 9% make it to the university or any tertiary institutions, and only 6% graduate. It, therefore, highlights the role Secondary Education could play in preparing African youth for employment.

Most importantly, the report offers policymakers and other stakeholders in the education sector, practical options in the quest for custom-made, feasible solutions. Three of these recommendations, particularly caught my eye.

First, is the call for the provision of political vision and leadership at the highest levels to support and prioritise investments and policies to reform and innovate in secondary education.

In this regard, duty bearers are being urged by Africa’s youth to invest in creating a shared vision and buy –in to system reforms that expand the focus on skills for work in secondary education and, thereby, respond to the needs of the youth.

They should also enable implementation, through viable plans with clear roles and responsibilities for specific outcomes, accountability mechanisms and adequate funding. In addition, strengthening the capacity of ministries to translate inputs into outcomes through greater technical expertise, including the ability to use and analyse data, and overcoming political economy constraints are emphasized.

Secondly, the powers that be have been called upon to integrate seven key skills relevant to labour market needs into secondary education curricula and pedagogy.

The call to action is for them to a) strengthen STEM knowledge and skills through enhancing the quality of science teaching, increasing practical problem-solving activities and reducing gender barriers, b) expand opportunities for developing relevant technical and vocational skills through offering TVET courses in general secondary education, ensuring TVET courses include foundational, 21st century and digital skills and aligning technical and vocational courses to labour market needs and c) promote entrepreneurship and work–readiness skills through co-curricular-and or extracurricular courses, experiential learning and skills courses in business planning and management, financial literacy and work readiness.

Specifically, there is a call to ensure alignment between competency-based curriculum reforms, pedagogy and assessment systems, including reducing the number of high stakes examinations, greater focus on assessment of skills and conducting national assessments of learning to support teachers and schools that are falling behind.

It is worthy of note that these recommendations were made against the backdrop that, as the report puts it, “as African economies change, young people need knowledge and skill that respond to the trends and challenges shaping the future of work.” More importantly, the recommendations are based on information obtained from Africa’s youth.

It is also the case, per the report, that, “employers in both the formal and informal sectors increasingly demand workers with digital literacy and 21st century skills such as critical thinking, communication, creative problem solving, resilience and team work. A lack of 21st century skills is reported as an increasingly significant constraint to business growth and economic transformation. Developing those skills will also have positive effects for society overall, as the skills needed for work and those required for learning, personal empowerment, and active citizenship are increasingly converging.”

Evidently, reading this report and the recommendations, there can be no doubt that mainstreaming TVET and STEM education is urgently needed in Ghana.

Indeed, Ghana’s youth need 21st century skills to survive and make their country great and strong!

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