I’ve got a piece in this month’s Insight Magazine where I talk about how I think we’re focusing too much on Vocational Training.

I think vocational training has its uses, of course. But we’re not funding much of it, and there are doubts that the money we spend is very effective (Why do we have to send students to South Africa to learn boilermaking and welding?). In a more broad sense, I’m concerned with the way we talk about vocational training as a solution for our education problems.

the role VT occupies in the national discourse has long outgrown its current scale or future potential. Looking at the way it is name-checked in every speech with even remote links to education, it is hard to shake off the impression that VT is viewed as a panacea for Namibia’s educational and economic woes. It is striking that, at the same time as the graduation rates of high schools kept declining, there has been more and more talk about vocational training. This juxtaposition leads to the impression that VT is supposed to make up for the dismal performance in secondary education.

The thinking seems to be: The kids aren’t reading and can’t do maths? Let’s teach them something to do with their hands. The prevailing attitude is expressed by the NPC when it frames vocational training as an alternative for “poorly performing learners in Grade 10 and 12”. However, this is no solution. VT needs to complement tertiary education, not replace it. In a functional education system, students pursue the paths that best fit their skills, making sure that their talents are maximised. Vocational training should be a specialised career path, reserved for those with particular aptitudes and interests in such professions and careers. Those with the talent for and interest in sciences, engineering, and so on, should pursue an education in those fields. Instead, vocational training is mooted as a last alternative for students doomed by a sub-par primary and secondary education, students who might have talents in other areas, which they cannot fulfill because the system has failed them.

The full article is on the website here.