Technical Training Institutes play a crucial role in social and economical development of the country.But today, the TTIs image, standards and values remain elusive. Often viewed negatively by society, joining a TTI is considered a last choice, and those who pass out from there are considered dispensable in our system.
One should think that what makes an effective and responsive TTI system? We need to understand the social, economic and cultural background of our country when it comes to TTIs. We need to know how people perceive the system, its image and how the graduates are seen once they are out in the job market.
The greatest challenge for TTIs today is remaining true to its mission while keeping in mind the employability of the graduates, personal development, opportunities for further education, career development, public acceptance and image.
Ultimately, the effectiveness of our technical institutes would be measured by its impact on the social and economic development of the nation. In this respect, the government should heavily invest in education and training, not only in the universities and polytechnics but especially, vocational and training institutes.
During the 70s Singapore understood that traditional trading, commerce and service alone could not provide sufficient jobs for the number of school leavers in a growing population. The overall strategic plan of the government then was to diversify and accelerate economic growth through industrialization.
During the early phase, the government gave priority to primary and secondary education, including technical education and training so as to lay the basics of vocational and technical skills.
As the natural aspiration of school leavers and their parents is for a university degree, the challenge is in managing expectations and maintaining high standards at all levels while responding to the diverse interests, aptitude and needs of school leavers.
Therefore, the Singaporean government created top notch, well designed education hubs understanding that to attract trainees, the structure of the institute needed to be good, thereby generating a certain pride to learn in these institutes. Having well managed, well organized, neat institutes meant that learning in a technical institute becomes an informed choice, not the last resort for the trainees.
Sadly some of our TTIs in Bhutan look like community schools with limited facilities; forget about our institutes, like the Khurthang TTI, built in places prone to glacial lake outbrust floods. In 2004 a portion of the Ranjung Technical Training Institute was washed away in a flood. A 13-feet long wall was built, but one is quite skeptical whether this mitigation measure will work.
Recently,I visited an Institute,where the girls hostel was really packed. It accommodated almost double the capacity. Cupboards and wardrobes were dragged outside to make it more spacious. An instructor there said that instead of working on new curriculums for the TTIs it will be wise if the government could improve the infrastructure of the institutes first. The Sershong Institute of Civil Engineering is still running in huts with poor facilities.
If there are good facilities then surely our school leavers would take pride in joining the TTIs and considering blue collar jobs.
To make the TTIs more efficient and attractive, Singapore merged all small campuses into three major regional campuses. The campuses today educate more than 75,000 trainees.
Thus, to change our perception toward TTI learning, the government needs to create the enabling environment.
(The writer, a reporter with The Bhutanese, covers the ministries of labor and works and human settlement)