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The transformative power of TVET in alleviating poverty

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TVET contributes significantly to the reduction of poverty in Malaysia. Photo by Rob Lambert - Unsplash

By: Dr. Rulia Akhtar

Education stands as a crucial element in addressing worldwide poverty. It is universally acknowledged as the cornerstone for the technological, economic, social, and political advancement of nations. Countries across the globe acknowledge the necessity of incorporating practical and functional aspects into education, where the acquisition of skills and the development of competencies lead to increased productivity, fostering societal development, and elevating the per capita income of individuals. Nevertheless, diverse forms of education exist, and employing vocational education as a strategy to diminish poverty holds significant importance. Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) emerge as pivotal components for nurturing a workforce equipped with skills essential for the contemporary job landscape, aiming to alleviate poverty levels, as outlined in Goal 1.

Dr. Rulia Akhtar

TVET is a systematic and targeted approach to learning with the aim of making individuals highly efficient in specific occupations and economic pursuits. This method expeditiously equips individuals to join the competitive workforce, enhancing their skills to adapt to the swiftly evolving technological landscape. Vocational training enables individuals to acquire specific skills tailored to various job types, particularly those in technical or trade-based fields such as electrical work or sewing.

According to UNESCO, a robust and high-quality TVET program represents a viable educational pathway capable of fostering sustainable empowerment. It is recognized as a potent force driving the productive sectors of an economy, serving as a key element in poverty reduction and empowerment, ultimately contributing to enhanced social and economic productivity and competitiveness.

Poverty can take many different forms. These include not having enough money or resources to support oneself, hunger, malnutrition, illness, lack of access to necessary services and education, high rates of illness and death, homelessness, and poor, dangerous, and damaged surroundings. Additionally, social discrimination and exclusion contribute to the multifaceted nature of poverty. Vocational and technical education is frequently characterized as an educational form designed to prepare individuals for employment in specific occupations or occupational groups. The cultivation of skills through vocational and technical education is now consistently emphasized as a top priority by education ministers in both developing and developed nations. Consequently, countries worldwide are actively working to promote TVET.

In Malaysia, there are more than 1,000 TVET institutions, with 506 of them being public institutions. Malaysia has diligently undertaken measures to advance sustainable development through TVET education and is committed to continuing these efforts. TVET assumes a crucial role in fostering sustainable development within Malaysia, serving as a vital component in addressing the skills gap by aligning education with industry needs. This approach results in the creation of a skilled and adaptable workforce, enhancing Malaysia’s global competitiveness and attractiveness for high-quality investments.

The Ministry of Education claims that TVET programmes were created in response to industry needs and to further economic growth in line with technological advancements, global workforce mobility, globalisation, and the knowledge-based economy. TVET education plays a major role in creating a skilled labour force, which is in line with Malaysia’s goal of becoming a developed country.

TVET stands as a crucial platform for attaining sustainable development, with an emphasis on achieving the Quality Education goal outlined in SDG (Goal 4). Malaysia has diligently taken steps to fulfil its sustainable education development goals, with the Malaysian Economic Planning Unit spearheading sustainable development initiatives for the country. The increasing demand for TVET is driven by its unique ability to empower students for job independence, distinguishing it from other streams reliant on specific job openings in the government, private sector, corporate sphere, or industries.

In Malaysia, more than 90 percent of graduates from TVET programs are readily employable. Over the years, TVET graduates have become highly sought after because of their comprehensive capabilities and skills across various fields, surpassing those of university graduates in certain aspects. Their significant contributions, both direct and indirect, have played a crucial role in the development of Malaysia, particularly in the context of poverty reduction. The pivotal question arises: how does TVET education play a crucial role in alleviating poverty in Malaysia? TVET addresses a spectrum of economic and social challenges, including:

TVET programmes are intended to teach individuals practical and job-specific skills. It helps people gain the skills they need to get jobs and make a living by offering training in a variety of fields such as manufacturing, agriculture, construction, and services. This raises income and reduces poverty.

Second, it increases employability by preparing individuals for jobs that are in demand in the labour market. As Malaysia’s economy grows, there is an increasing need for a trained labour force, and TVET programmes can help people meet this need. As a result, there’s a better chance of landing a job and staying out of poverty.

Third, TVET not only gets students ready for wage labour but also promotes entrepreneurship. Several TVET programmes offer training in entrepreneurship and business management to empower individuals to start their own businesses and generate income. This may be an effective long-term plan to fight poverty.

Fourth, a wide range of individuals can access it, including those who might not have otherwise been able to pursue higher education. Being inclusive is essential for reducing poverty because it provides a different path for people to improve their abilities and financial opportunities.

Fifth, Malaysia is a diversified country with both urban and rural areas. TVET programmes can be tailored to the specific needs of different regions, which can lead to the creation of jobs in rural and underserved areas and encourage more balanced economic development. This reduces poverty by narrowing the income gap between rural and urban areas.

Ultimately, and perhaps most significantly, TVET contributes significantly to the reduction of poverty in Malaysia by giving individuals the knowledge and abilities needed to obtain employment, fostering entrepreneurship, promoting regional development, and ensuring inclusion. By investing in and expanding TVET programmes, Malaysia can effectively combat poverty and promote social stability, sustainable economic growth, and social development.

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The author is a Research Fellow at the Ungku Aziz Centre for Development Studies (UAC), Universiti Malaya.

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