Azlan Othman

OFFICIALS from ministries of education, labour, and vocational training in all of the 11 Southeast Asian countries, as well as heads of the specialist institutions for the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation (SEAMEO), will convene in Brunei Darussalam today and tomorrow.

They will discuss the current situation of technical and vocational education and training in Southeast Asia, while developing strategies to improve regional cooperation and harmonisation.

With the theme ‘Strengthening Efforts Towards TVET 4.0’, the 5th High Officials Meeting (HOM) on Southeast Asia Technical and Vocational Education and Training (SEA-TVET) will determine and plan regional directions and strategies to advance the quality of TVET in Southeast Asia.

The Philippines-based Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) has actively supported TVET since it was tapped by SEAMEO, to lead a research on competency certification for agricultural workers in Southeast Asia, to promote TVET in agriculture.

Headed by Dr Glenn B Gregorio, SEARCA is one of the 26 SEAMEO specialist institutions, some of which will be represented in the 5th HOM on SEA-TVET. Dr Gregorio is among the 60 participants of the high-level meeting.

The SEARCA study showed that TVET qualifications in the region are prevalently accorded through competency certification systems, that are now being integrated into national qualifications frameworks linked to the ASEAN Qualifications Reference Framework (AQRF).

SEARCA reported that the AQRF is designed to support and enhance each ASEAN member state’s (AMS) national qualifications framework by enabling comparisons of qualifications across AMS in terms of recognition, promotion of lifelong learning, facilitation of learner and worker mobility, transparency, and quality assurance.

Dr Gregorio said the AQRF’s emphasis on the recognition of non-formal and informal learning would benefit agricultural workers, as they acquire skills and knowledge largely through non-formal and informal learning modes provided mostly by agriculture extension services systems. However, the SEARCA study also showed that “while the AQRF is expected to support and enhance the individual national qualifications framework (NQF) or qualifications system of the AMS, these NQFs are in varying stages of development and implementation, with some being fully developed and functioning NQFs while others have barely started.

“This disparity in NQFs may be addressed during the 5th HOM on SEA-TVET, which intends to develop strategies to improve the regional cooperation and harmonisation for the region,” Dr Gregorio said.

He said the recommendations of the 2018 high-level regional workshop that validated the SEARCA study can still be relevant in the discussions at the 5th HOM on SEA-TVET. The four-point recommendation that SEARCA presented at the 4th HOM on SEA-TVET held in September 2018 were as follows:

First, the need to encourage TVET institutions to increasingly assume proactive and transforming roles in assessing, validating and certifying skills and experience gained through non-formal and informal modes within a lifelong learning framework.

Second, competency certification systems should be strengthened and expanded to cover recognition of non-formal and informal learning.

Third, TVET institutions must be encouraged to pursue partnerships and alliances with a broader range of stakeholders.

Lastly, there is the need to promote support from regional TVET networks and international cooperation.

Also expected to participate in this year’s high-level meeting are officials from the ASEAN Secretariat; the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)-Bangkok; SEAMEO Secretariat; Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ); and research and government agencies from Japan, Korea, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

Together with officials from the Ministry of Education, the Brunei delegates will include representatives from the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism, the Ministry of Development, the Federal Institute for Vocational Training (BIBB), Bahrin Mohammad Associates and EcoBumi Arkitek, as well as educational institutions including Politeknik Brunei, Institute of Brunei Technical Education and Universiti Brunei Darussalam.