A technical and vocation education and training (TVET) study in Malawi has found that 48 percent of secondary school students get encouragement from their teachers to pursue TVET studies while 52 percent do not get any encouragement to pursue TVET studies.
The study, entitled Skills for Employment, was an applied reaserch project done at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) with funding from a Canadian organization called International Development Research Centre (IDRC).
With this finding, LUANAR challenges Malawi youths to demand TVET career guidance and counselling, according researchers, Masautso Chimombo and Mayamiko Kakwera, lecturers in the Faculty of Development Studies.
"Rather than sending staff from headquarters to provide career guidance and counselling services directly to secondary school students, TEVETA, government and other stakeholders should build the capacity of selected secondary school teachers in career guidance and counselling in general and TVET CG&C in particular, " the study says.
"This will result in each school having their own sustainable and always-available internal CG&C services.
Government should introduce and make CG&C a compulsory subject in all secondary schools in Malawi.
"TVET CG&C services should not target just the secondary students and other out-of-school youth. Rather, parents, guardians and secondary school teachers should be targeted in such efforts if negative perceptions about TVET are to be eradicated.
"All government secondary schools should start offering TVET subjects so that students should get inspired by their hands on experience with TVET skills and also by their TVET teachers. Government, TEVETA and other stakeholders should make available in secondary schools IEC materials on TVET career guidance and counselling."
The study finds that up 29 percent of secondary schools students interviewed get warned by their teachers that if they do not work hard, they will get poor grades at MSCE and end up doing a TVET course.
"This warning from teachers implies that TVET is for failures with poor grades in their secondary school leaving certificate. FGDs with secondary school students revealed that in nearly all schools, there are no structured career guidance services to students.
"It is teachers who irregularly talk about career options after secondary school studies. However, we learnt that secondary school teachers often encourage students to go to universities where the teachers did their studies and because none of the teachers studied a TVET course. No one encourages the students to pursue TVET courses. "
The study quotes one female student who participated in in the research at Mpamba CDSS as saying: "It's like the teachers are in competition. They all promote specific universities where they studied. Most of them were at universities or Domasi College of Education. No teacher talks about TVET colleges."
Parents play a very important role in influencing the career choices of their children and the study says only 48 percent of secondary school students get encouragement from their parents or guardians to pursue a TVET career.
This means that more than half of secondary school students are not encouraged by their parents or guardians to pursue a TVET career.
"Such finding was also corroborated by results from focus group discussions. A student from Kabuthu CDSS who participated in an FGD said that parents encourage them to start looking for employment immediately after completing secondary school education. To find out why parents do not encourage their students to pursue TVET courses, FGD with parents from Kabuthu reveals that as parents know TVET courses are good.
"We know technical colleges like Namitete and Lilongwe but all these technical colleges require money as school fees. We are very poor people here. We can't afford to pay for TVET studies of our children. That is why we do not encourage our children to pursue TVET," one parent is quoted as saying.
For those parents that encourage their students to pursue a TVET course, FGDs revealed that they do so because nowadays it is not easy to go to university due to high competition and therefore TVET is a realistic and achievable target for their children.
In addition, they also said that with high unemployment, those who study TVET can easily venture into self-employment, unlike their university counterparts.
"Teachers and parents play a very important role in shaping the career plans and ambitions of secondary school students. It is very important that teachers encourage students to pursue TVET courses by telling the students some of the strengths and advantages of that comes with pursuing a TVET course.
"The finding of this study that most teachers and parents are not encouraging secondary school students to pursue TVET courses is very worrying and requires urgent intervention by government and its partners," the study says.