WITH high population growth rate, the workforce in Pakistan is growing faster than the economy leading to unemployment, particularly among the youth. Considering this fact, federal and provincial governments have identified Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) as a key element of any policy initiative that aims at improving socio-economic conditions, creating jobs and alleviating poverty.

Still, the TVET sector lacks the required competence and capacity to deliver professional training services to the workforce. According to the ‘TVET Reform Support Programme’ that began in April last year for five years, approximately 315,000 places are available in the formal TVET sector for some 950,000 labour market entrants each year. The statistics available with the programme show that less than six per cent of young people have acquired technical skills through the TVET system and of them only 2.5 per cent have received on-the-job training.

Commenting on the situation, Punjab Board of Technical Education (PBTE) Chairman Dr Muhammad Shafique told Dawn, “The available data means the competence level of the Pakistani workforce is too low to contribute adequately to enterprise productivity and competitiveness. It also means that Pakistan is not fully tapping into its potential youth dividend.”

Stating that employable workforce serves as backbone of the economy of a country and plays a pivotal role in poverty alleviation leading to the prosperity, Dr Shafique said the PBTE and the TVET Reforms Support Programme had joined hands to embark upon a joint venture to raise awareness among the public and stakeholders regarding TVET.

He said the PBTE had over 600 affiliated polytechnic institutes, almost half of them from the private sector. He said the board assessed that the public sector institutions’ principals and managerial staff would attend training and workshops now and then but such opportunities rarely come to the private sector. He said owners and managers of the private sector institutions, who are always in regular contact with the students and their parents, could serve as a very useful communication link in promoting the significance and importance of TVET.

In order to build capacity of private sector institutions’ owners, principals and senior faculty, Dr Shafique said, the board in collaboration with the TVET Reforms Support Programme, funded by European Union, Kingdom of Netherlands and Federal Republic of Germany, would launch a series of seminars and workshops. Initially, three seminars have been scheduled in Islamabad, Multan and Lahore. One was held on Monday while the other would be held on Nov 27 and Dec 3.

Some 250 participants from 300 private institutes attended the seminars on Monday which highlighted the role of private institutes in promoting TVET and impediments in this regard, role of effective management, importance of good management practices for effective and optimum utilisation of resources, resolution of issues and problems, role of quality assurance and E-reforms for TVET promotion, and concerns and issues of private TVET institutes.

Dr Shafique said he hoped the seminars and workshops would serve as a significant way for poverty alleviation and create more business opportunities for the TVET institutes as well.

*****

THE Seeds of Peace, an NGO dedicated to imparting leadership skills to teenagers from conflict areas required to promote tolerance, coexistence and peace, organised a three-day third “Mock Parliament” event at Crescent Model Higher Secondary School for Girls, Shadman Colony.

Up to 55 “parliamentarians” from 19 government, semi-government, and private schools of Lahore attended the “US Congress (House of Representatives)” sessions.

During the sessions, they worked in committees on economic policy, foreign policy on Middle East, foreign policy on Iran, foreign policy on Afghanistan, foreign policy on Pakistan and a committee on social issues.

The committees worked on different bills and presented in the US Congress. The US congress led by President (Jehan Noor Bano from Lahore Grammar School, Defence) passed only one bill dealing with continuation of US aid to Israel. The bill jointly presented by committees on economic policy and foreign policy on Middle East argued that the US aid to Israel should continue because it was a strong ally and any cut in aid might strain US-Israel relations that could actually might fall hard on US own economy. They also argued that the aid to Israel must continue because it was protecting US’ agenda in the Arab world.

LGS, Defence’s Khyzra Ahmad and Ushna Amer acted as Secretary of State and Envoy to South Asia.

Quratul Ain, a debater from the LGS and Seeds of Peace Alumnus from the year 2010, said the third continuous year of mock parliaments had related to the US elections and that how political systems worked in the US.

“In 2010, we simulated the Indian Parliament, whereas in 2011 we presented Mock Parliament of Afghanistan,” she said.

The third mock parliament was attended by US Consulate, Lahore, Public Affair’s Officer Ms Brinille Ellis, Seeds of Peace president Ms Almas Butt and Crescent School Vice-Principal Ms Wahid.

*****

The Beaconhouse School System (BSS) is organising a two-day fourth in a series of international conference on “The School of Tomorrow: Empowering Lifelong Learners” to explore a new vision of schools and the future of learning from a global perspective in Kuala Lumpur from Tuesday (today).

As “The School of Tomorrow” essentially suggests a move towards a more enlightened approach to teaching and learning, this year’s conference, with the theme of “Empowering Lifelong Learners” will be exploring and examining cutting-edge methodologies of learning and teaching and reconsider the role of school leadership and management in enhancing student achievement.

The conference also focus on transforming the learning experiences of children studying not only in private schools, but in schools at every level and, at the same time, to give educators the tools to empower students to take responsibility for their learning.

The conference will be addressing three streams: Teach, learn and inspire: innovative methods of teaching and learning; Early Childhood Education: yesterday, today and tomorrow; and Building learning communities: strategies for leadership, learning and collaboration.

These streams will incorporate different realms of learning including Project-based learning, new approaches to early childhood learning, alternative forms of assessment, learning communities, models of school leadership and professional development, emerging technologies across the curriculum, leadership for school improvement, and innovative methods of teaching and learning.

The organisers believe that various plenary sessions and workshops during the conference will provide ample opportunities for delegates to reassess their earlier beliefs of what constitutes progressive teaching and learning and explore the future of learning in schools.

In addition, the organisers say, the Master Challenge sessions have been specifically designed to explore and examine three questions pertinent to the Malaysian school context – How can individual’s needs be catered to in the classroom? How can assessment support learning? And, how can professional development programmes be made more effective.

The conference marks the 37th anniversary of the BSS. It had began organising international conferences in the year 2000 with the event coinciding with its silver jubilee anniversary.

mansoormalik173@hotmail.com

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