Why vocational colleges are not an option to transition to secondary education

A tutor during a practical lesson at Mpeketoni Vocational Training Centre in Lamu. PHOTO | FILE
Kennedy Buhere

The … youth needs to be empowered, and it can be done through good education and vocational training. –  M. M. Pallam Raju

The Cabinet Secretary for Education, Amb Amina Mohamed revealed that some 2,299 out of 130,000 students who had not reported to any secondary school had joined vocational colleges. The Cabinet Secretary expressed deeply felt reservations over this, saying vocational colleges are not the place for 12 or 13 year old children.

“Ministry officials will continue filing accurate daily returns on the status of reporting to schools until we attain 100% transition,” Amb Mohamed stated, during the kick of Last Mile Form One Admission Campaign towards 100 Percent Transition exercise at Parklands Arya Girls High School last week.

While the vocational option looks attractive to the roughly 2,000 2018 KCPE candidates who had joined form I by last week, they are not the most ideal institution for children at that age. They are not ideal from the perspectives of Educational psychology and philosophy as well as from the perspective of law.

It is the constitutional right of every Kenyan child to acquire free and compulsory basic education. The Government has for the first time since independence created opportunities for learners who have completed Primary Education cycle to have secondary education experience.  Most of these children are around 13-14 years.

In addition, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Goal 4 obligates States to ensure among others, that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes and to substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship.

The Government has—by dint of the Constitution and International protocol—is making massive investments expanding and modernizing of Secondary Education and Technical Vocational Training (TVET) to meet the aspirations of Kenyans and an industrial and technologically savvy world.

It does not therefore make sense to let children far below 16 years to join TVET. To gloss over this anomaly is to encourage Child labour which is prohibited in our laws and international conventions.  Early exposure to TVET means early exposure to work. Premature training entails depriving children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity. This is harmful to the children’s physical and mental development.

While opportunities to earn a living is a desirable ideal in every parent or guardian for his/her child,  pushing a 12-13 year old child into vocational training denies or undercuts whatever opportunities the child is likely to have in the unforeseeable future.

The ideal age of entry into Vocational Training in many countries with established Technical, Vocation Training is more than 14 years. It is around 18 and 20 years in some Western Countries.

In a literate society especially in an industrializing and technological one that is gripping into our political economy, ability to understand information and to communicate effectively is needed for personal development, for social interaction, for participation in civic life, and for lifelong education and for employment.

Secondary Education creates provides the perfect opportunities for learners  cultivate the knowledge, skills, personality, character and all that they need to cope with and manage a rapidly complex and changing environment.

The country must not be deluded. Primary education simply provides the foundation, the building block for education. Leaners acquire literacy, numeracy, creativity and communication skills. The skills developed or imparted at this level cannot be optimized by an individual or society. The skills imparted at this level are rudimentary. They are not sufficient to help a child to develop himself fully as human being. The child needs, at the very least a further two years of secondary Education experience to consolidate, and stabilize the skills and knowledge gained at Primary Education level.

Countries with established traditions of Vocational Education and Training expose their children to general education—either simultaneously as they train them into specific trades in secondary education or after completing an education equivalent to the one Kenya give students in High School.

Students who join vocational education and training in Australia, Finland and German, have had an exposure to the secondary education curriculum of one kind or another. This, in substance, means that students go into VET or complete VET with a General education before embarking on TVET.

Former Minister for Education Dr. J.G. Kiano General Education  in a speech during The Second Conference On Teacher Education 1968, as constituting: “bodies of knowledge that encourage mental development, those which encourage physical development and those which encourage the development of the soul or if you like the mind.”

The Report of the Fourth Commonwealth Education Conference 1968 at Lagos, Nigeria noted that although technical education is chiefly concerned with securing greater industrial, agricultural and commercial efficiency, it is also aims to produce better citizens and thereby fulfills a social as well as an economic purpose.

The 100 per cent transition to Secondary Education is aimed at laying a stronger foundation for social and economic purpose of education. The attainment of 100 percent transition means the country will have a corps of students who have the mental, physical, intellectual and moral foundation to effectively undertake courses in TVET and Higher Education institutions, but after having had a secondary education experience.

The Ministry wants to see TVET graduates who can follow instructions in TVET so well and be able to serve the needs of industry and technology with the required competences. This is the reason behind Amb Amana’s statements to the effect that “vocational college is not the place for 12 or 13 year old children.”

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