Twenty six practitioners in TVET from 8 Pacific countries met in Tonga to discuss how national priorities could be met through ODFL in TVET. The participants came from Ministries, NGOs, FBOs and TVET institutions throughout the region. It was designed to work through a process of considering the issues involved in introducing more flexible and blended and technology enhanced approaches to education along with an analysis of national and regional needs and priorities in TVET.
Providing sufficient access to good quality technical and vocational education and skills training (TVET) has long been a challenge for Pacific Island nation governments. Young people and adults have few opportunities to acquire skills through formal or non‐formal programmes, although the importance of skills for employment, self‐employment, and income generation creates a key objective for TVET systems in the region to broaden coverage and expand the quantitative and qualitative output of skills to meet economic requirements.
Objectives of the Forum : • deliberation on the TVET context of Pacific countries and national priorities • discovery of development partner programmes and priorities • discovery of flexible and blended learning and its contribution to national challenges • potential for provision of TVSD for the informal sector • discussion on collaboration and sharing of learning resources and the value of open education resources (OER) • planning activities to improve access and quality in TVET particularly for the informal sector.
The Forum was opened by the Honourable Minister for Education, Youth and Women Affairs, Dr ‘Ana Maui Taufe’ulungaki. It was facilitated by the COL Education Specialist, Ms Alison Mead Richardson and Mr Brad Beach from GippsTAFE in Australia. Sessions were facilitated by a range of different Pacific presenters and stakeholders in TVET, including: • Development partners – COL, AusAID, NZAID • PATVET • Secretariat of the Pacific Community – Community Education and Training Centre • University of the South Pacific – RCCCE and Centre for Flexible Learning • Latter Day Saints Church Schools in the Pacific
Driving and resisting forces for change to more flexible approaches in TVET were identified and discussed. Various models of flexible learning were presented and contextually relevant approaches identified. Online methods of collaboration were discussed and the challenges of stable internet were acknowledged. Regional TVET priorities were presented and national priorities identified. Each Institution/organisation made a presentation on their current profile and readiness for adopting flexible and blended approaches to TVET.
Agreement 1 Expansion of TVET in the Pacific region is needed and ODFL approaches could contribute to both development gains in Pacific countries and to COL’s objectives. It was agreed that Pacific countries need a new paradigm for thinking about TVET as the traditional methods have not made it possible to reach everyone who needs skills training.
Agreement 2 A more flexible and blended approach, using technology would be a good place to start to address the challenges of lack of access and quality in TVET. It was noted that the informal sector is important for economic development and livelihoods but has been neglected in terms of skills training.
Agreement 3 Video is an important medium for effective skills training but there is a lack of technology to support the use of video and a lack of skills to develop it. It was noted that there are existing video OER which should be identified and collated to enable sharing. COL will support capacity building in the area of video materials.
Agreement 4 It was agreed that AusAID and COL would discuss opportunities for future collaboration in TVET sector support in the Pacific, in particular how COL might contribute expertise in the area of flexible and blended approaches to learning for AusAID programmes.
Agreement 5 Online communication is possible in the Pacific but a stable service remains a challenge in most countries. The suggestion was to set up a group space for the Pacific on the INVEST Africa online Community Learning Network to see if the communication method can work. At a later stage, if the technology proves workable and the people use the platform to communicate, COL can establish an online platform for the Pacific region.
Agreement 6 There is a wide variety of relevant TVET OER available and that the Pacific partners will access these as a first step when considering new flexible course development. It was noted that capacity will be needed to help teachers to identify suitable and relevant OER, how to evaluate them against their curriculum and how to adapt and integrate them.
Agreement 7 It may be economically and technically advantageous for the Pacific region to share an LMS as in the TAFE system in Victoria, Australia. The new COL Regional Centre could assist in setting this up.
Agreement 8 It was noted that the CETC will cease offering the CCD after 2013 and the distance version of the programme is to be developed by RCCCE and CFL at USP. COL should continue to support RCCCE to develop this important programme which is valued by many countries in the Pacific region.
Agreement 9 The collaborative work in expanding flexible learning opportunities in TVSD in the region will be known as Pasifika FIRST ‐ denoting Flexible, Innovative and Responsive Skills Training. Participants concluded that the way ahead will not be easy but the discussions held in the Forum were long overdue and now they have a much clearer of what is possible. They agreed that the time is now right for TVET providers in the Pacific to harness the potential of technology and more flexible approaches to provide for people who are currently without skills for livelihoods.