This was one of the most amazing sessions that Knowledge Village had prepared for us since it's inception I guess. The speakers were charged, as well as the attendees; everyone was full of life and the discussion had touched everybody's life. Why?
Well let's start from the beginning, we must define vocational education. If you ask the ordinary man, he will say that vocational means Plumbing, carpentry, welding, mechanical, automotive, electrical, builders, painting, panel-beating, boat building. Basically any study that involves making things or repairing things. Of course this is true, but we can add to this list the following:
As you can see this is not an exhaustive list, as we can add to it any course that involves making things, repairing things, and doesn't depend on a lot of theoretical learning.
On the other hand what is academic learning? This involves subjects like humanities, art, science, health and so on. But even in these subjects there could be a fine line to distinguish between vocational and academic learning. As even subjects in the humanity fields like psychologists, they need to have practicums prior to completing the programme and qualifying.
Let's get back to the subject, why do people look down at vocational education? Are these jobs minute? Are they not fulfilling and are actually linked to things that we all need everyday? Shouldn't these jobs be part of every school curriculum? (of course they are part of all western countries school curriculum but not the middle east, we used to have industrial schools in the 70s and 80s but those got abolished). Presently some of the courses mentioned above are taught in higher colleges of technologies and not in universities.
Why do we always prefer our kids only go to universities? We look down at polytechnics or institutes of technologies, but when we ask someone if they want to join Massachusetts institute of technology (MIT) they jump and say yes? Well, why then when it comes to our ITs or polytechnic we start to hesitate?
We need to re-educate the masses. We need to have sessions in schools, ministries, government officials, television and radio to provide information about these courses and explain their importance in our life and to our kids. People should remember that we all have potentials and aptitudes, some of us require pedagogical teaching styles that differs from others, some think on the right side of their brains and some on the left, some have intelligence in certain areas, and some have inclinations that are not available in academic settings.
Also we need to have a minister or two who had been in polytechnics, that way we can point to them and say, look, these two had attended polytechnics and are leading their respective ministries.
Last but not least, we need to have national qualifications authority that actually insists on having vocational education blended into our school curriculum.
Good luck to all of us (those that have an interest in this field) as its a battle that needs to start sooner but not later.