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Linking skills to needs with non-state actors – lessons from the 2021/2 GEM Report

By Francesca Endrizzi, Global Education Monitoring Report and
Pooja Gianchandani, UNESCO–UNEVOC (Expert on loan from GIZ)

Non-state actors are involved in all aspects of education. But for some levels of education, their presence is more evident and even necessary. Technical and vocational education and training (TVET) is commonly associated with private and economic stakeholders. Both formal and informal TVET are co-dependent on various private and non-state actors’ involvement for quality, effectiveness and relevance of training. Where on- and in-the-job practical learning is an inherent feature of training provision, employers’ contributions to its design and financial sustainability are becoming increasingly important and desired.

As part of its mandate to monitor and report on SDG 4, the 2021/22 Global Education Monitoring Report on non-state actors in education reviews a wide range of stakeholders and their activities across all levels of education, dedicating a thematic chapter to technical, vocational and adult education. The report’s call – Who chooses? Who loses? – invites policymakers to evaluate the potentials and limitations of non-state engagement in the provision, regulations, governance and financing across all education levels from an equity and quality perspective. Chapter 8, in particular, examines non-state involvement in the design, delivery, and funding for technical, vocational and adult education. It provides insights on challenges as well as reflections on improving public and private sector cooperation for TVET.

Initial TVET is mostly public but non-state actors have helped expand its provision in partnership with the state or through autonomous initiatives. In consolidated public TVET systems, they have ensured training responsiveness to changing labour and economic demands, also through provision-oriented public–private partnerships. In emerging markets, private providers have complemented vocational education systems and even substituted for filling skills gaps, such as in Tanzania.

Yet, non-state actors may obstruct or encourage equity in TVET. In richer countries, enterprises, which make the final selection of apprentices, may contribute to perpetuating discrimination towards specific groups of students, particularly those with immigrant backgrounds. In poorer countries, tight entry requirements and inadequate provision mean the few places in formal public TVET tend to be taken by urban, relatively well-off youth, as it occurs in South Asia. Non-governmental and civil society organizations have conversely set up training systems reaching out to the most marginalized.

Continuing skills development is mostly provided by private employers. In Europe, employer-sponsored job-related training increased between 2007 and 2016, reaching around 85% of non-formal job-related training. Employers interviewed across six countries within the World Bank's STEP Skills Measurement Programme also reported preferring on-the-job training over external programmes provided by formal public or private providers.

While private businesses continue providing and adjusting knowledge and skills in the labour market, continuing TVET fails to reach everyone. In low-income countries, only one in four enterprises provides training. Household and small firms are less likely to offer training than bigger enterprises, and entry educational attainment is still one of the most influential determinants of continuing learning.

Quality is also at stake if quality assurance mechanisms are not fully implemented. In Bangladesh, only one in four non-state institutions has recognized the national qualification framework as a skills development model. In Uganda, only one in four private training providers registered and was thus subject to the country’s quality assurance mechanism, as the process was considered too complex.

Despite the substantial engagement of non-state actors in skills development, funding remains below optimal level. Training represents less than 2% of firms’ total labour cost in Europe. Targeted incentives, for example through levy-grant programmes, remain consistently lower than the incentive to draw required skills directly from the labour market. Governments also encourage individuals to take part in training by covering direct or indirect costs. In Singapore, over half a million students have benefited from a US$365 per student credit to be spent on skills and training participation in the resident workforce.

A more extensive overview of the findings on the thematic chapter on technical, vocational and adult education from the 2021/22 Global Education Monitoring Report - Who chooses? Who loses? will be presented and discussed during a joint event co-organized by UNESCO-UNEVOC and the GEM Report team in June 2022. For more information on the event, follow updates on the TVET Forum and the GEM Report blog.

Download the full report and summary from the Global Education Monitoring Report website.

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