Proceedings of the 1st International Symposium on Skills Development for Poverty Alleviation

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The Asia Pacific region has its own unique features, distinctly characterized by the dynamic co-existence of developed and developing economies. Despite of its remarkable growth, however, a growing body of evidence also points to serious problems including a growing poverty incidence in developing economies, challenges to human resources development, and other related issues that require urgent action to help the region sustain its progress and make significant achievements in eradicating poverty.

“Development-oriented poverty reduction” with a view to strengthen the capacity of targeted population needs to be pursued. This aspiration is based on the outcomes of research trends on poverty and in line with research- based recommendations to develop national, bilateral and multilateral policies as enablers to address perennial problems related to poverty. 

In 2008, CPSC initiated an international discussion on Skills Development for Poverty Alleviation. Building upon interventions, experiences and projects initiated by international, regional and national communities across regions, The 2008 Manila Declaration for Skills Development saw the formulation of a 12-point strategy that highlighted the role that TVET plays in, and the opportunities attached to its sectoral approaches, to poverty reduction. The declaration, which gained the support and endorsed by 120-strong delegates from various organizations representing diverse sectors, countries and regions, was an essential contribution to ongoing initiatives in addressing poverty in accordance to the UN Millennium Development target of halving poverty by 2015 by supporting the set goals, one of which is to “commence massive capacity building for training of trainers in member countries for developing TVET skills needed for poverty alleviation.”

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The Colombo Plan Staff College for Technician Education (CPSC), along with partner organizations, has advocated skills formation and training through Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) as an effective platform to execute capacity-building approaches. This will be made possible by employing innovative strategies to build technical capacity of the human resources through technical teachers and other agents of development. This is imperative to address overarching issues such as poverty, gainful employment and decent work.

In support of the collective interest to take up Skills Development for Poverty Alleviation (SDPA), CPSC recognizes the need of TVET skills for addressing poverty alleviation in the Colombo Plan Region, particularly in developing member countries. This keeps in view that there is a need to augment capacity-building initiatives at varying levels and stages of development for poverty alleviation from country to country. Hence, TVET skills and knowledge needs to be seen from this angle of current education and training landscape in the region to inspire and influence the further development of coherent and acceptable actions for addressing poverty alleviation through TVET skills applicable in the region.

On these bases, CPSC, in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India (GOI) under the government’s Technical Cooperation Scheme, organized the International Symposium on TVET Skills for Poverty Alleviation. The symposium formally commenced the implementation of a two-year CPSC-India Flagship project for CPSC member countries, called the the Asia-Pacific Capacity Building Project for Technical Human Resources Development.

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The International Symposium on Skills Development for Poverty Alleviation (SDPA) served as a venue to exchange and share experiences, research results, creative ideas, innovations and new initiatives relevant to SDPA. It discussed practical models and frameworks including best practices in developing TVET skills for poverty alleviation in the CPSC member countries.

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Some sectors of a nation’s economy may remain economically deprived, despite the advancement and modernization of its economy. These sectors comprises the poor who has limited access to basic human services such as clean water, proper nutrition, health care, education and decent shelter and clothing.

Anywhere in the world, poverty is a major hurdle towards development that even the richest countries are taking into notice. Progressive countries keep on registering growth in their economies, but this growth does not spread to all sectors of the country. Poverty alleviation is yet to see a progress in the reduction of percentage of economically challenged households in the total population. In a 2005 report by the United Nations Development Program, over 1.2 billion people thrive on US$2.50 per day in the year 2005. The current figures suggest even higher numbers. With 1.7 billion people living in poverty, reduction efforts are being initiated by different organizations and governments.

Being aware of the recent figures on poverty and the current world scenario, the Colombo Plan Staff College (CPSC) has been undertaking projects and initiatives as a response to the global call to address poverty, particularly in the Asia-Pacific Region. Aligned with the United Nations’ (UN) Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of reducing halving poverty by 2015, CPSC initiated an effort to alleviate poverty through Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET).

Consistent with the adopted statements that form part of the Bonn Declaration, that states ...since education is considered the key to effective development strategies, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) must be the master key that can alleviate poverty, promote peace, conserve the environment, improve the quality of life for all and help achieve sustainable development.

… the symposium presupposes that if a person has skills that will make him employable, he will be able to start earning money and help his family along the way. By educating him with skills that are on demand in the job market, he is fulfilling his hope of alleviating himself from poverty, and at the same time participating in a concerted effort of nation-building.

TVET has the capability to build a nation by pushing its people towards efficiency and productivity, enabling them with skills that can answer the demands of employment. With employment comes a steady income, which can help alleviate poverty. Improvement of preacquired skills through continuing/follow-on TVET sessions will also ensure sustainability of opportunities that can be explored by a person. CPSC member countries take part in this endeavor through the implementation of TVET skills training in their respective countries. In this symposium, the member countries once again gather to share what they have so far done, and what must still be implemented in the near future.

CPSC member countries take part in this endeavor through the implementation of TVET skills training in their respective countries. In this symposium, the member countries once again gather to share what they have so far done, and what must still be implemented in the near future.

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The symposium aimed at convening delegates from member countries who are actively involved in the implementation of TVET. The symposium was expected to provide avenues for:

  • exchanging experiences and best practices in TVET skills among member countries;
  • generating learnings from presentations and discussions;
  • identifying and examining the issues and challenges that each country experience in developing and implementing TVET skills; and
  • discussing practical models and frameworks, innovations and new initiatives relevant to Skills Development for Poverty Alleviation.

Outcomes of the symposium would include, but not limited to:

  • Symposium Proceedings and Conclusions
  • Strategies for successful implementation of TVET skills through different programs that are based on the unique demands of each country
  • Networking among member countries and institutions represented

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The symposium gathered 76 speakers and delegates. With a common goal to further the growth of TVET skills in their respective countries, delegates gathered from countries including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Fiji, India, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines and Thailand. International organizations and academic institutions were invited to share insights and frameworks in poverty alleviation. They include the Asian Development Bank (ADB) with headquarters in Manila, Philippines; UNESCO Regional Centre in Bangkok, Thailand; and the Hong Kong Institute of Education.

Government agencies implementing poverty alleviation strategies were also represented in plenary discussions, including the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) through its former officials and key government entities represented by the CPSC member countries. Country presentations were made through focal ministries/agencies including: the Pacific Association of TVET (Fiji), National Institute of Technical Teachers Training and Research (India), Department of Polytechnic and Community Colleges Education, MOHE (Malaysia), Millennium Challenge Account (Mongolia), Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training (Nepal), National Vocational and Technical Education Commission (Pakistan), Department of Education (Papua New Guinea), Department of Education (Philippines), Department of Technical Education and Training, Ministry of Vocational Training and Youth Affairs (Sri Lanka), Office of the Vocational Education Commission (Thailand), and the Directorate of Technical Education, Ministry of Education (Bangladesh).

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The Symposium ended with formal presentation of summary and conclusions drawn from the presentations and discussions. The closing program was facilitated by Prof. Shyamal Majumdar, Director General, CPSC and chair of the organizing committee; Dr. Rupert Maclean, former Director of UNESCO-UNEVOC International Center in TVET and Chair Professor, HKIEd; and Dr. Rajesh P. Khambayat, CPSC Faculty Consultant and Coordinator of the international symposium.

Upon the symposium’s conclusion, it was highlighted that poverty reduction is the number one challenge in the region. If poverty reduction is not taking place, whatever growth rate the region achieves will not be inclusive. It had been apparent that meeting the MDG goals is equivalent to achieving sustainable development and social cohesion. Thus, the fight against poverty needs a “multi-dimensional approach.”

From the presentations made and experiences shared, it can be deduced that there are significant commonalities among countries across the region in the way TVET is regarded. Consistent with these commonalities, organizations supporting development initiatives to improve poverty face varying degrees of scenarios upon which their sectoral approaches are based.

As summarized by Professor Majumdar, the common challenges faced by the region are:

  • Poor image of TVET
  • Limited Access to TVET
  • Inadequate Quality of the TVET Programs
  • Absence of a Regional qualification network
  • Limited approach to sustainable development
  • Weak Public-Private community partnership in TVET

With regard to the specific initiatives undertaken by the region in the area of skills for poverty alleviation, the following conclusions were also summed up by Professor Majumdar from the two-day discussion:

  • Short Modular Employable Skills must be linked to employment requirements and provide skills that will enable the person take further studies.
  • ICT skills must be utilized to assist in propagating TVET skills for poverty alleviation
  • Advocate social entrepreneurship, as it creates self-employment and employment opportunities for other people.
  • Generic skills must be developed as they are the foundation for any educational course, whether it be technical, vocational or higher education.
  • Focus on and prioritize the marginalized and disadvantaged sectors of the society
  • Explore different modes of delivery -- non-formal, informal and alternative learning system, with different modalities such as radio, digitized content, internet -- to ensure that those in hard-to-reach areas are given access as well. xiv TVET SPA 2010
  • Pre-technical and vocational

The sharing of experiences and ideas proved to be a healthy venue for assessing poverty in the region, and checking on the initiatives being undertaken to alleviate this. It is of particular importance that all of the ideas generated and reported during the two-day symposium be implemented in the respective countries. The discussions that transpired particularly on the best practices have given each delegate a different perspective of TVET, which may serve as an inspiration in formulating their own programs.

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