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The Integration of Technical and Vocational Education (page 4)

Desta, Asayehgn, Ph.D.
Sarlo Distinguished Professor of Sustainable International Economic Development
Dominican University of California
March 02, 2012

Interviewer’s Conclusion


1.Significant development has taken place to improve access, including the expansion of technical colleges and the setting up of Brigades.  But the process is constrained by several factors, including the selection process, institutional structures, staffing, funding, traditional attitudes and perceptions of the work place. 

2.Community-based natural resources management programs are at a formulation stage.


1.The findings have uncovered  the naked truth that the institutions’ definitions of sustainable development are:

a. It is centered on improvements in poverty reduction, living conditions, education, job creation, heath and the environment;

b. The TVET institutions are making a contribution to the trainee’ awareness of sustainability;

c. While there has been some effort to include ESD in teaching and learning in the centers of excellence of TVET institutions, the process appears to be uncoordinated.


1.There is a great misconception  about sustainable development among TVET providers.

2. Currently TEVET curricula in Malawi do not explicitly cover sustainable development issues. Students feel that they could be self-reliant at the end of their training if initiatives were included that would sustain these students after training.

3. Sustainable development issues are introduced through best practices in work settings and construction project sites.

4. The construction projects have adopted environmentally friendly methods by using sun-baked bricks instead of fire-baked bricks.



1.A high proportion of the student respondents have identified right attitudes and responsibility towards sustainable development as one of the key factors that graduates need to live and work in a sustainable way.

2. Mostly academics indicated that technical knowledge of sustainability is of prime importance for  sustainable development.




The perceptions of students and the relevance ofacquired knowledge, skills, and attitudes, need to change to support sustainable development initiatives.


To make ESD more attractive, it is recommended that instructors should receive support in terms of materials, improved knowledge, suitable teaching methods, awareness in terms of joining professional bodies and carrying out research.


1.Curricular review and increased effort to incorporate ESD in all spheres of TVET;

2. Staff should attend capacity-building programs to empower them to deliver curricula effectively by comprehending ESD issues;

3. Establish effective links between the employer’s contribution and demands towards curriculum development and ESD;

4. The study reveals that there is a favorable attitude towards integrating ESD in TVET. However, the effectiveness of this integration will depend on the way barriers are dealt with. 


1. Sustainable development should be seen as the third wave of industrialization but dedicated trainers should be chosen to teach ESD, since some respondents mentioned that their future careers might be jeopardized by the teaching of this subject.

Conclusions and Policy Implications

With the emancipation of the Rio Conference of 1992 and the Johannesburg Conference of 2002, Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) has been regarded as the key component of implementing sustainable development. In particular, the Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) for entrepreneurs has been identified as a vehicle for the implementation of education for sustainable development. To assess the effective integration of ESD with TVET, four of the six case studies undertaken by UNESCO IN 2009 in Eastern and South Africa (i.e., Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, and Mauritius )were reviewed by the author to solicit information as to whether the objectives  of ESD have been achieved by the TVET programs.        

Despite the fact the ESD and sustainable development have become household words,  the studies reveal that the concept of sustainable development is vaguely understood. It has become very difficult to translate the concept into sustainable educational development. Thus, as unearthed by the investigators,the trainers in the four African countries, Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius have little or no  understanding of the concept of ESD.  Given the vagueness of educational sustainable development, the researchers were not able to develop indicators for assessing the implementation of sustainable development not to measure the impacts and outcomes of actions taken. Most of the respondents referred to ESD as an add-on-subject, as for example in Malawi, there is a “great misconception about sustainable development among TVET providers (Gamani, 2010).

Despite these problems and the little understanding and training in sustainable development, the managers, lecturers and instructors suggested to the researchers that TVET could be very relevant to thespreading ofsustainable education. Students, by and large, claimed that since the subject is nebulous and most of the instructors are semi-trained,their future careers might be jeopardized by adhering to a teacher-centered method of teaching. Instead, the students would have preferred modern integrative pedagogical methods that include learner-centered teaching that would adhere to reflective, experiential and practical-oriented methods.As succinctly stated by Munjanganja (2010), “improving the relevance of TVET programmes to the world of work seems to be behind the efforts to integrate ESD in TVET. …TVET is hampered by lack of expertise, lack of relevant learning materials, and lack of updated course, among other barriers.” Similarly, Dubois and Balgobin (2010) stated that,“though the concept of ESD was coined some ten years ago at the second UNESCO Congress on TVET in Seoul, it is unfortunate that up to now not much has been achieved regarding its inclusion in TVET, despite an action plan drawn up in 2004….There should be a training-of-trainers programme on how to implement ESD  incorporating:

  • An agreed definition of sustainable development;
  • The contents of sustainable development;
  • The methodology to integrate ESD IN TVET;
  • A pedagogical approach to the training of ESD;
  • Case studies.”

 Some policy implications that could be drawn for Africa from the four case studies with TVET programs are: 1) sustainable educational development needs to be enhanced through a strategic framework for the development of national policies; 2) sustainable development needs  to be operationalized to include social, economic, environmental factors and meet cultural standards; 3) the current teaching staff needs to be trained  and re-trained in pedagogy and current knowledge of ESD so that they can conceptualize sustainable development and apply  current pedagogical delivery methods for effective and efficient implementation of ESD in their training centers; 4) the teacher needs to be given further training to prepare the students to have internship while at school and encourage them to be effective entrepreneurs and be involved in productive employment after theygraduate;and 5) TVET schools need to be tailored for lifelong learning i.e.,  on-the-job training, and in worker upgrading and retraining that are vital for human capital investment and self-reliance purposes.  Otherwise, having TVET programs as a window dressing mechanism for graduate students with worthless qualifications is unproductive. To overcome the flooding of markets in Africa with all manner of cheap foreign goods and technology, TVET needs to be strategically developed and made competitive,“…as a  passport to a well-paid job or self-employment or higher education and not as an alternative educational opportunity fit only for dropouts, the less academically endowed or the poor” (African Union, January 2007).


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