BY DR ARAYA HABTE | SHABAIT
Further and Higher Education
This is an overarching academic and professional education and training provision leading to the award of certificates, diplomas and degrees. The Government recognizes higher education as a key level in the education system. To this end, several new Colleges, Schools (Orotta School of Medicine, Law School etc.) and the Eritrea Institute of Technology were built to offer 1st degrees (and Graduate Studies in certain cases) in various fields of vital importance to the development of the country. The existing tertiary level institutes /colleges are making steady progress although much needs to be done to expand and improve them.
The Concept Paper for the Rapid Transformation of the Eritrean Education System (GSE, 2002) indeed envisages purposeful and substantive public investment to enhance expansion of these institutions. Producing skilled human resources and conducting essential and applied research will thus remain important functions of higher education institutions.
Another important innovation at this level was the launching of the Center for Vocational Training (CEVOT) in Sawa. The Center now offers a two-year vocational training program in areas such as surveying, construction, accountancy, materials management, carpentry and metal work. Graduates from CEVOT are expected to supply intermediate manpower skills in a variety of needs, although access routes are available to those who wish to pursue their studies in the institutions of higher education.
Adult and Non-Formal Education
Adult and non-formal education is an organized learning channel outside the conventional formal school system. It serves a variety of learning needs for different groups of youth and adults in the population. An effective program of adult and non-formal education has a strategic value in the development of human resources. The provision of adult education in Eritrea includes literacy and post literacy programs. At the end of the first phase, participants are expected to attain basic levels of literacy and numeracy. The main thrust of literacy provision at the second phase is the consolidation of previously acquired skills, and the preparation for vocational and enterprise training in an area of need or interest. Adult and non-formal education also covers education for out- of- school children, continuing education, e-learning as well as skill training provided by various organizations.
Within the parameter of adult and non-formal education, literacy is an important development tool. Currently, the rate of literacy in Eritrea is estimated to be 76%. This is an encouraging trend with the potential to influence social and economic transformation. At the micro-level, literacy offers individuals access to the knowledge and skills necessary to understand their environment and improve the quality of their lives. At the macro-level, literacy is a pre-condition for sustainable increase in national productivity and development.
Challenges and Opportunities
Linking education to human resources development is a challenge and creating an enabling environment for the linkage to be more meaningful and sustainable is equally challenging. For the purpose of this paper, an attempt has been made to examine three focal concerns (preparation of teachers/trainers; provision of localized training; development of accreditation and qualification). The challenge in this context is to turn these concerns into opportunities by reinforcing the match between education and human resources development.
Preparation of Teachers and Trainers
No education and training system can rise above the level of its teachers and trainers. The quality and effectiveness of any education and training system will, to a large extent, depend on the nature and success of teacher and trainer training programs. In the Eritrean case, the commitment to offer quality basic education for all and to enhance skill and technical training as strategic routes to human resources development cannot be realized without an adequate supply of competent teachers and trainers. The search for competent teachers and trainers should of course start at the recruitment stage, and this should be followed by an effective provision of pre-service and in-service teacher and trainer development programs at the training stage.
The provision of continuous professional development is an important dimension in the development of human resources. In addition to the normal provision of opportunities for further education and training (both inside and outside Eritrea) aimed at upgrading the competence and professional qualification of education and skill training staff, it is now necessary to think in terms of entitling all employees in the Education and Training Sector (ranging from office clerks, teachers/ trainers and the senior management staff) to an in-service or on-the-job training. Within the framework of this arrangement, each staff in the Education and Training Sector could possess a Training Action Plan, setting direction and providing clearly identifiable targets and rationalizing the resources to achieve them. The Training Action Plan may have two components, training directly related to professional development and training geared towards personal development.
Provision of Locally Based Education and Training Programs
The most important influences on the quality of education and training systems and much of the resources needed for improving them are located at the local level. Educational and training policy makers often focus on decisions and programs at the national level. But in practice, it is teachers, trainers, along with learners and local communities who shape the development of schools and other educational and training institutions. Efforts to improve the education system and to upgrade the quality of schools and training centers require a great deal of work in local communities. To achieve that and to maximize local contributions to human resources development, there will be a need to decentralize aspects of the provision of education and training services.
In the Eritrean context, decentralization as a mechanism for transferring certain level of responsibility and authority to regional administrations has been operational since enactment of Proclamation No.86 in 1996. Within the framework of this law, regional administrations have been empowered to take decisions on a wide range of education and human resources development issues in consultation with local communities. As a point of departure, the identification of the human resources development needs of personnel working in the local and community based administrations was vital indeed. The next step involves the designation and development of education/ training centers to meet the needs of clusters of local administrations at sub-regional levels. When fully operational, these centers could provide venues for localized in-service training, workshops and other human resources development activities.
The Development of a National Framework for Accreditation and Qualification
To streamline the process of determining competency standards reached by multiple learning providers and multiple paths to education and training, there will be a need to develop a National Framework for Accreditation and Qualification (NFAQ). The importance of this mechanism is underlined in the government’s macro policy (GSE, 1994:40): “Official recognition and / or professional accreditation of skill and academic attainment will be awarded only after undergoing government established certification procedures”.
A central feature of the NFAQ initiative would be to facilitate the move towards the integration of education and training and the establishment of a mechanism through which all learners will receive accreditation for their learning, irrespective of the setting in which such learning takes place( e.g. public/ or private; formal or non-formal). This system is intended to generate coherence across the conventional divides of education and training by facilitating the portability of credentials from one setting to another. Access to and progression through the system (or parts of the system) can be achieved through the satisfactory completion of clusters of learning competences or training modules.
The Ministry of Education has done some work in this area but more work is required to articulate competency standards since they are the essential building blocks of qualifications. These standards are expected to underpin the quality of work at every level which may also include national targets for education and training. They are also expected to support the development of a culture of lifelong learning through sustained progression within the educational and training system.
Dr. Araya Habte is Curriculum Consultant at the Ministry of Education.