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“Technical and Vocational Education and Training in Cote d’Ivoire: problematic privatization and a framework to be redefined”, by Eric Lavigne.

The Pathways to Education and Work research group from the University of Toronto has published its report entitled “Technical and Vocational Education and Training in Cote d’Ivoire”. The study assesses, negatively, the results of privatization of education on technical and vocational education and training (TVET), calls for more public participation, and lays out the argument for an approach focused on the full development of individuals.

This case study is part of a large comparative study financed by Education International on the TVET situation in seven countries: Germany, the United Kingdom, Argentina, Australia, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia and Taiwan. The study compares these education systems and assesses the degree to which they give individuals the means to flourish and achieve fulfilment, and, in this way, participate in supporting social justice in these countries.

The report attempts to replace the human capital approach with the productive capabilities approach as a tool for analyzing and developing TVET around the world. The human capital approach has inspired a good number of TVET reforms in developing countries. This approach recommends economic development through the implementation of programs to better serve business interests. The human capital approach assumes economic development is an essential condition for individuals to flourish, placing the needs of the market above those of individuals and society.

By contrast, the productive capabilities approach is inspired by the the work of the economist Amartya Sen, winner of the Nobel Prize for economics, and the philosopher Martha Nussbaum. The human capabilities approach frames economic development as a consequence of the development of human freedoms rather than a condition for them. These freedoms include the freedom to participate in political life, the freedom to access trade and commercial markets, the freedom to participate in social life, including access to health and education, and the freedom to live securely. In this approach, economic development is no longer a priority. It is a consequence of the establishment of the essential conditions for human freedoms.

In Côte d’Ivoire, various public policies have been guided by the human capital approach, leading the country’s government to open TVET up to the private sector. Our study of the TVET situation in Cote d'Ivoire sheds light on the consequences of this approach and shows that it is high time to rethink TVET using a framework for analysis and development focusing the concerns of decision-makers on individual freedoms.

In Cote d’Ivoire, about 60% of TVET students go to private institutions. This large proportion corresponds to a desire to establish a system in order to 1) respond rapidly to changing business needs; 2) offer training of a quality equal to or better than public training, but less costly to the State; and 3) respond to learners’ needs by offering them training leading to jobs.

But the study shows that the private sector does not meet these expectations. In fact, the private sector largely operates in the large urban centers; it offers only courses requiring modest investment, such as those associated with bureaucracy and accounting; it recruits a large proportion of the teachers from public establishments, which means they have to divide their time between two training centers; and it demands high tuition fees from its students. So, in rural areas, what are known as “heavy” industrial courses as well as students from poor backgrounds are ignored because they are not profitable enough. At the same time, business needs are not taken into account, nor are those of individuals or society.

To reframe TVET, we propose revisiting the problem of matching education and jobs from a different angle. Too often, discussions about TVET revolve around supporting economic development. In these discussions, the role of the State is to establish measures to maintain the prosperity of business, particularly by ensuring a flow of qualified workers sufficient for currently available jobs. This formulates matching training to jobs as a static responsibility, where the supply serves an immediate demand.

Similarly, the problem of matching training to jobs casts business in a passive role, as a recipient, failing to acknowledge that business not only shares some of the responsibility for matching them, it also has the duty to adapt to the supply available, for example, offering induction training for its workers or ensuring the constant development of their skills. In the same way, it is easy to forget that a business reaps the rewards of the training given to its workers. TVET benefits the trained individuals, of course, as they have access to better jobs, but the business also benefits from the presence of this workforce, as does a well-educated, well-employed, peaceful society.

Framing the matching of training to jobs in this way makes the need for business participation clear in order to define training needs, draw up programs, cover training costs and provide access to state-of-the-art equipment. Business must also take part in training its workers for the jobs of today and those of tomorrow, as well as for progression towards management posts. Redesigned in this way, matching training and jobs becomes a responsibility shared by individuals, the State and business, working together to develop productive capabilities.

We briefly mentioned productive capabilities in the introduction. These capabilities inply from the idea of human capabilities the reframing of economic priorities to stress individual and social priorities, but the approach concentrates on TVET issues, notably participation in the labour market, access to education and social inclusion. From this point of view, the role of TVET, with the support of the State and business, is to prepare individuals for careers, but also to allow them to progress in their jobs or in a group of connected jobs by imparting knowledge that goes beyond their immediate needs and aspirations. TVET must also allow a continuous school pathway of complete training that meets the entry demands for higher level courses all the way from primary school to university. TVET must not under any circumstances be structured as a system leading only to employment. Of course, this also requires a review of the entry conditions for many of the courses. Finally, TVET must provide its students with the means to make a positive contribution in their workplace and their immediate social environment. For this reason, the TVET curriculum must not be stripped of more general content like ethics, critical thought or communication simply because the job market does not explicitly demand them. General knowledge touches all areas of social life and contributes to individual development.

The productive capability approach also acknowledges the multiplier effect that TVET establishments have on their surroundings. These establishments not only provide courses, they are institutions that acknowledge and respond to local needs and participate in the social and economic development of their localities. The productive capabilities approach also acknowledges the vital role played by TVET teachers. As our study shows, their knowledge of the sector and their commitment to their students and to the aims of teaching, particularly in terms of social integration and the fight against poverty, offer hope. The success of TVET in Côte d'Ivoire comes through the participation of its institutions and actors and through giving them the recognition that they deserve.


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Eric Lavigne

Eric is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto. His recent work focusses on higher education leadership and management, organizational politics, and the link between education and work.

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