Hands-On Approach to TVET Teaching

TVET graduates must be able to perform hands on actions. Knowing about things is interesting. Knowing how to do things is the only way to get an entry level job.

Hands-on Training.

TVET systems based on engineers talking about technology is as useless as a piano school with no pianos. In many countries, engineers have practical hands-on experience using the equipment within their technology. In others, engineers cannot imagine getting their hands dirty. Nothing in their experience at university has taught them how to do anything but eat lunch and write exams.

If this type of engineer is the basis of your TVET system, you simply must find a way of hiring skilled practical technicians for every lab and shop or your graduates will be virtually useless to employers.

We once worked with an extremely competent technical trainer who felt that any suggestion that he actually get his hands dirty teaching students how to weld or use a lathe was an insult to his professional status.

He gave the example of an English engineer who on a development assignment in Africa had suggested that our friend helped him repair a lathe. Our friend looked at us with his hands open and out knowing that we would sympathize with the insult given to him by the English engineer.

To our credit, we did not offend our friend but we have never forgotten that as an example of why engineers trained in theory based systems are dangerous in TVET systems.

German engineers come on a project ready to dirty their hands. English engineers come on a project with dirt to their elbows. Korean engineers of even the most senior level come with practical skills who would shame the rest of us.

Philippine engineers because they’ve often worked hands-on in the Middle East or on ships elsewhere often have amazing practical skills. But engineers who have no international experience often have very little to offer students practical hands-on experience.

Some TVET teachers are afraid to let the students use the equipment for fear that once the equipment is broken, there is no budget to repair it or in some cases, no one would know how to repair it or there would be no spare part available.

This is still the reality in many countries. So most of the time, they demonstrate the use to the students who only get the chance to look and see but not use the equipment.

It is very dangerous to generalize but in some cases, engineers teaching in TVET really think that using the slate is beneath them.

In Myanmar, for example, the Ministry of Industry follows a 70%-30% ratio  between practical and academic. But not all Ministries offering TVET are on the same ratio. Most follow a 70 – 30 ratio but 70% for Academic and only 30% for practical or hands-on. In some countries, even if the curriculum says so, the reality in the classroom does not make students do hand-on work.

So much still needs to be done to retrain the teachers or, if this is not possible, to get teachers with hands-on experience. Or, maybe, partner with industry who would be interested in training students in hands-on work in their factory.

In TVET, hands-on is a MUST.

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