THE Education Ministry should be congratulated and commended for giving a new boost to vocational education recently.
The ministry’s plan is for secondary schools to teach some basic vocational subjects now, or as and when facilities and qualified teachers are made available to them.
Present secondary vocational schools will be upgraded to vocational colleges in stages and they will offer certificate-level and, in the near future, diploma-level vocational courses.
Meanwhile, efforts will be made to advise and encourage more students to take up vocational studies.
This is a most interesting and benefiting development. Nevertheless, for this new worthwhile initiative to impact and to secure the best results possible, there is an urgent need for parents and students alike to change their mind-set, perception and esteem for vocational education.
That vocational studies are subservient, even inferior, to academic studies and that only those who are not “making it” in academic schools should move on to vocational schools are simply myths and misleading.
It is also wrong to presume that once enrolled in a vocational school, a student who is formerly disinterested and lagging in academic studies will suddenly become enthusiastic and fully engrossed in his vocational studies.
It is common knowledge that for many such “converts”, once their new found euphoria for practical sessions wears off, he or she will soon find it a burden yet to have so much to learn and to do in a vocational course.
In fact, vocational studies can be as demanding as an academic pursuit.
First, basic proficiency and competency in Bahasa Malaysia (BM) as well as English is crucial and a must. There are texts/work books to be read and instructions to be understood and followed thoroughly.
Vocational subjects, like science subjects, are very structured, have their own specific nomenclatures and are practical-based. Many trade and technical terms have to be learnt. Also, many manuals are written in English and therefore the need to master English to a sufficient level of competency.
Many students have shunned vocational schools not so much because of their lack of interest and inclination, but because of their poor confidence in and mastery of BM and English.
In addition, vocational students must be trained to communicate well so that they are able to explain and instruct in brief, precise and concise terms.
This is a trait that they must acquire before they engage in their vocation and career upon completing their study.
Second, besides harnessing cognitive learning, vocational students must also exhibit dexterity.
These are skills that are gifted and nurtured. For the less-endowed, hard training may compensate and fill the void.
Vocational training means working on a skill repeatedly until one gets it “perfect”.
And, there are the standard operating procedures (SOP) which have to be strictly adhered to lest safety be compromised. And, any experienced vocational practitioners will attest to the fact that they are “perfect” in certain mechanical or manual tasks because they have done it umpteen times.
“Practice makes perfect” is the axiom in vocational learning and training.
Third, the right attitude in learning is crucial. To be truly successful in vocational studies, one needs to be focused, determined, patient and persistent. One’s mind cannot be distracted when one is operating a machine.
Many practical and hands-on sessions are learnt patiently through trial and error. So, vocational studies help train both the mind and the limbs to operate methodically, systematically, and dexterously.
At times, the training can be time-consuming, energy-sapping and a test of patience. One needs a mind of steel to pull through.
Many who are trained in vocational studies advance in their careers to become efficient and effective supervisors, managers and controllers in their specialised fields.
They are excellent because they know their stuff, both in knowledge and in experience, in theory and in practice.
They are the assets to their organisations and continuously add value to them.
As we move towards achieving our Vision 2020, a nation of high incomes, skills and technology, vocational education should indeed play an increasingly important role in enhancing our human resources and capacity.
Kudos to the Education Ministry for a brave and timely initiative!
LIONG KAM CHONG Via e-mail
Source: The STAR Home Education Sunday 18 March, 2012