The systematic organisation of education in Fiji and the range of regional bodies that are located in Suva provided the basis for interesting discussions of developments and lessons learned. Background to Timor Leste
Timor-Leste is a country in transition from conflict to stabilization and development, and from low income to a medium- income status, supported chiefly by oil and gas revenues. The medium-term outlook is for gradual growth and improvement in social conditions.
The country's population is approximately 1 million with more than half below the age of 18 years of age. The population is growing at 3% per annum and there are approximately 16,000 new entrants into the labour force each year.
Literacy levels within the population still present problems particularly in rural areas. This poses major challenges for programs aimed at poverty reduction and skills development in the labour force. It also underscores the importance of adult education programs.
The other major implication is the prospect of rapid growth in the labour force. The labour force was estimated at about 290,000 in 2004 and is projected to rise to 400,000 or more by 2015, at an annual rate of growth of at least three percent a year. This projection assumes that the labour force participation rate – provisionally estimated at about 59 percent in the census – remains unchanged. If the participation rate rises to 75 percent – the level that prevailed in the 1990s in East Timor, the labour force would exceed 500,000 by 2015. Creating productive employment opportunities for a net increase in the labour force of between 10,000 and 20,000 people a year in the decade ahead and upskilling the population to take advantage of the opportunities will pose very significant challenges.
Change and growth in the education sector has been significant since independence in 2002. Despite rapid population growth, net enrolment figures in primary education have increased from 0.75 to 0.85 from 2004/05 to 2007/08. Still, a large number of young and adult Timorese remain without adequate basic education to support their participation in Timorese economy and society and access to life opportunities.
Education in Timor-Leste has evolved through four distinct periods: Portuguese colonial rule until 1975, Indonesian occupation (1975-1999), the United Nations Transitional Administration for Timor-Leste (1999-2002) and since May 2002, the independent Government of Timor-Leste.
Immediately following independence the focus was to develop basic education. More recently attention has turned to TVET. In its Education Strategy 2010-2025, the Government of Timor-Leste has established key goals to have universal completion of basic education by 2025, gender parity in education access and management by 2015, and eradication of illiteracy among all age groups by 2015.
Overview of TVET in Timor Leste
There are 2 layers of TVET in Timor Leste. The Ministry of Education has Technical High Schools and the "non formal" sector provides the bulk of industry and life skills training.
The MoE is responsible for the running of 19 Technical Secondary Schools throughout Timor Leste, some of which are Ministry Schools, some are church based and the agricultural colleges sit within the Ministry of Agriculture. These schools run parallel to the General Secondary schools with students aged 16 to 19 years and nominally deliver to a Certificate 4 level of industry training.
Within the MoE schools there are currently over 35,000 students attending General High School with the ambition of moving into University. The Technical High Schools have a student population of 4,000 and no higher level of training available within the MoE. The Minister of Education has announced that he believes that this ratio needs to be reversed and has an ambitious plan to develop greater numbers of technical high schools and "encourage" students into these schools and along a vocational training path. Part of this plan is to develop a Polytechnic system providing advanced training primarily in industry sectors critical to the development of industry in the country.
The "private" training sector is made up of a large number of Training Providers, 170 at last count. This sector is primarily made up of NGO, church and donor funded training organisations however there is an increasing number of "independent" providers which are managed by boards of directors made up of local community members. The Training Providers in the private sector deliver training at every level from basic life skills through to Diploma. Definition of qualification level is still difficult as the Timor Leste National Qualification Framework is currently passing through the legislation process and therefore is not yet able to be applied to existing training provision.
This private sector is regulated by the Secretariat of State for Vocational Training and Employment (SEFOPE) with the National Labour Force Development Institute (INDMO) providing regulation, quality assurance and structure to the training system via Training Organisations registration process and the research and framework for the development of qualifications.
Although relatively young, INDMO (established in 2008) has made significant progress towards developing the TVET system for Timor Leste.
Current Situation and Developments:
The Timor Leste National Qualifications Framework: The Ministry of Education developed the TLNQF in 2009 and is currently finalising the legal structure for it implementation. INDMO is moving ahead with the process of matching existing qualification against the NQF and setting out the registration process for future courses.
Industry Sector Analysis: In order to develop relevant industry training packages for Timor Leste INDMO has undertaken this process in a number of industry sectors and will continue the process with all industry sectors. This process involves significant consultation with industry stake holders with the creation of Industry sub Commissions being one of the next steps in the process.
Industry sub commissions: These sub commissions are being established by INDMO to provide advice on skill development/facilitating linkages between enterprises industry and vocational training providers.
Training provider accreditation: At present this process is merely registration but standards are being developed and will be implemented over time.
Development of national qualifications: flowing from the Industry Sector Analysis, utalising the sub-commissions the development of qualifications and training packages is underway in the 4 critical industry sectors of hospitality & tourism, construction, agriculture and education and training. Other industry sectors will come on line as these are completed. The development of the TLNQF has been a critical factor in this process.
Data collection: data is currently being collected by both the Ministry of Education and SEFOPE. The data collected by the MoE is not yet beyond post compulsory level however it is planned for this to happen. Ideally there will be one single data collection process over time.
Paid work placements: There is general acknowledgement of the value of work experience. Through SEFOPE there is a funded program of "paid work placement" for students in some programs. Although not particularly structured and mainly only at the end of the course the program delivers reasonable results and there are moves to make it more rigorous. The critical issue for work placement in Timor Leste is the lack of industry in which to place TVET students.
Polytechnics: The Ministry of Education has plans for a number of Polytechnics throughout the country focusing on different industry sectors starting with Hospitality & Tourism, then Engineering on the coast where the gas and oil fields are being developed, then agriculture and others down the track. This level of training has not yet been clearly defined but will probably deliver training from Certificate 1 through to Diploma level.
Upgrade of Technical High Schools: although there are 19 of these schools, those run by the Ministry of Education are of poor quality. Plans are in place for these to be upgraded and new schools bought on line to cater for the planned increase in student numbers.
TVET is now very much on the agenda of in Timor Leste. The Ministry of Education is committed to growing its capacity to deliver Vocational Training through the senior secondary and higher education levels and the private sector is providing a wide range training opportunities to the community.
The focus at all levels is now to introduce structure and standards to the vocational education sector to ensure that the training which takes place in the future will provide industry and the community with the skills needed for growth. Quality training which meets the needs of industry and sits within a comprehensive framework is essential for Timor Leste to take advantage of economic growth and to take the population to greater prosperity.
Timor Leste does not have all the answers nor does it has all the policies in place to magically transform the community into a fully skilled nation overnight, but steps are being taken and achievements are being made. For one of the worlds newest nations much has been achieved since 2002 and everyone is aware that there is still much to be achieved in the future.