Friday, July 25, 2008

Vocational and Technical Training

Vocational and technical training doesn't get much airplay on this blog. Probably because neither Tony or myself are familiar with how it works in Malaysia. But it is an important component of the education system.

The Star reported that the MOE was in the process of revamping its vocational and technical training programs. It didn't exactly say how it would be revamped or what was wrong with it now.

I say that vocational and technical education is important because not everyone should be expected to take the path of going to a university and getting a university degree. Some people prefer to take a non-academic path because this is where their passion and interests lies. As such, having a good vocational and technical training and education program is important to ensure that students who are inclined towards these sectors have a respectable channel to pursue skills in this area.

In Germany, for example, apprenticing with a mentor in a 'skills' industry is a perfectly respectable career choice. One of my favorite American comics, Jay Leno, sponsors a scholarship for auto-mechanics to McPherson college and he's mentioned on his show that many of these graduates make good money - more than $100,000 a year (which is about what recent MBA graduates earn).

In Malaysia, I don't think there are such channels. Making the pursuit of these skills (being a mechanic, electrician, plumber, carpenter, etc...) more respectable is one of the ways to reduce school dropout rates and to increase the skills and earning power of those who do not lean towards the academic arena.

Since this area is more or less a black hole for me, I was wondering if any of our readers who know more about this can write a post enlightening us on the state of vocational and technical training in Malaysia?


Anonymous said...

I completely agree that we need to explore avenues to provide more access and encourage more people to sign up to vocational and technical training programs. Instead of building more universities, the government should really look into building technical school or polytechnics instead.

I teach in a private university in Malaysia and i feel that it is quite clear that some of the students that are enrolled in our courses now are just not ready to accept instruction in a university level. Because of this, course material has to be dumbed down, and classes deteriorate into hand holding sessions where students expect the instructors to slowly walk them through every piece of material presented.

In the end, most of these students graduate without actually obtaining a real tertiary education (finally ending up as an unemployable graduate), and the good students also suffer because the intellectual discourse that is supposed to happen in classes never materializes. This is a truly unfortunate side effect of the governments drive to produce more graduates. Enrollment criteria into universities get lowered every year because of the competition to get students at all costs, so quality suffers even more.

Having technical/vocational schools will help bridge the gap from our secondary schools to universities. People who just want to learn the skills to make a living should be encouraged to sign up to these schools while those who are truly interested and are truly qualified for academia can pursue their studies in universities. These schools can also act as a stepping stone for those who are not yet ready for university, they can spend some time obtaining a diploma before making the leap.

Call me elitist, but i like the notion that entrance into universities should be reserved for those who are truly qualified and interested. Too many of our undergraduates now are not up to challenge and/or not interested.

Tiara said...

There is a strong stigma against vocational education in Malaysia - it's often seen as the last resort for those who weren't "good enough" to go to university.

Since when were universities BETTER? They're just different, is all.

In Australia (well, at least in Queensland) trade schools and apprenticeships have really strong value. There's a lot of avenues and resources to explore. At edufairs they have half of the hall to themselves and they look so cool!! Vocational education is given tons of respect in Australia; maybe we should follow their model.

Melvin Lim said...

Malaysia in specific DSD (Department of Skill Development) has to do a lot more to bring up the status of skill & vocational training. As been mentioned, it's still a stigma that only school dropouts or those who can't enter the academic pathway has no choice but to do vocational courses. Well, things are slowly but definitely changing, some vocational academies are reporting great student intake and yes, those who are trained at good & reputable vocational academies, their skill & qualification are recognised by the industry. Some of them have an easier pathway to Australia, UK... because of their skills!
Bear in mind too that these graduates can become entrepreneur faster (low capital in some trades like beauty, hairdressing...) compared to degree holders.
Well, should you all want a glimpse of certain vocational courses or info about DSD, drop by at or :-)

AJ7 said...

I think of the greatest mistake the MOE did was to close down the vocational schools. Not all students can cope with the academic stream. The MOE in the last few years have implemented vocational subjects such as Domestic Wiring, Landscaping, Catering in normal day schools. I would say the result has been quite encouraging. Students who were not able to do well in academic subjects were generally more interested in such subjects.

As a result, they generally do better in such subjects too at the SPM level. However, right now not all schools offer such subjects. A lot still need to be done by the MOE to introduce such subjects in more schools.

Shawn Tan said...

Since no one seems to have commented on the obvious, I thought that I should raise a point.

In the UK, it is possible for a person who started working on a factory floor assembling parts, to ultimately earn a C.Eng (chartered engineer) qualification through a structured vocational training programme. The engineering institute recognises that not everyone is suited for an academic (i.e. degree) path and provides an alternate system for people to achieve a "professional" standard of qualification. As a result, the vocational path is a perfectly respectable path of pursuit, allowing someone to earn a decent pay at the end of the day. I have personally met many C.Eng who started off this way.

I'm not exactly sure of how it is in Malaysia. If my memory serves, a person who wishes to be registered as a graduate engineer on the path to a P.Eng needs to hold a degree recognised by the BEM. A special exam is available for those who do not hold a recognised degree. However, I'm not sure how applicable this exam is for someone who may not have a degree at all.

If a P.Eng is closed to people without an academic qualification, then it is important to open it up to people who possess the suitable skills. This can be done through some sort of recognised certification system, which allows someone who has the necessary skills to gain entry to the system.

If it is possible for someone to gain a P.Eng through a vocational route, then it is important that this path be clearly marketed to everyone, not just to first year engineering students. This can hopefully remove the "stigma" associated with being technically trained with a vocational diploma.

Anyway, just my 2 sen.

Anonymous said...

If Australia has TAFE (Technical and Further Education Commission), does Malaysia has any similar body like TAFE?
I'm curious.

Anonymous said...

When it comes to vocational training, no one beats the German work-training programs.

But without an deep industrial economy, wasted over projects like Perwaja and Proton, its a pipe dream

veii said...

If you drive around Seapark, you would probably notice these boys in orange t-shirts. They are with the TOC - The Otomotif College. They're all trainee auto mechanics. Not sure about the accreditation, but it looks like a private vocational institution. They get featured in the education pages of the Star quite frequently now.

Anonymous said...

hello! i read your article and it was insightful. i am currently writing my master's degree thesis and was wondering why there are so many individuals who would like pursue such learning program.

i am somewhat enlightened with your article.

thank you.

Rafiq said...

I am seriously thinking of sending my sibling to a vocational school for getting real training.May be, it be Australia or Germany or Malaysia. How can I make it happen? Can anyone just help me with info> My kid hates reading. This is why.Any clue will be highly appreciated.Thanks and regards, Rafiq

Hear and Now in Malaysia said...

Came across this blog post when we were doing some research for our reading show on vocational skills/training. It provides some perspectives on vocational training in Malaysia with opinions of people who are facilitating this avenue of education. You can listen to it as:

And if you have any questions, comments or feedback just post on our facebook wall and we will get back to you:

Guoquan said...

I'm 58yo, semi-retired but would love to learn carpentry. Could anyone point me to that direction. Ray Cheng