Stop stigmatizing Vocational Education

KUCHING: Vocational education should not be stigmatised as an option for dropouts because skilled workers are key to steering Malaysia towards developed nation status.

Minister of Education, Science and Technological Research Dato Sri Michael Manyin Jawong stressed that parents should instead motivate their children to go for vocational training.

According to him, as early as the 1970s, vocational education became stigmatised as the option for dropouts who failed to excel in public examinations.

“At that time, people thought that you’re there because you’re a dropout, so vocational school was not very popular. Our education system is academic-centric and does not emphasise skills training,” he said during the Kuching Vocational College’s awards presentation ceremony yesterday.

“This is why today we are so far behind in terms of skilled workers compared to other developed nations.” Manyin said Malaysia only has a 7 per cent skilled workforce at present compared to South Korea’s 96 per cent, Germany at 80 per cent, the United States at 75 per cent, and China at 45 per cent.

“Malaysia has only 7 per cent, so how do we compete with the world? So we don’t talk about the 4.0 industrial revolution. We are now still at 2.0 industrial stage,” he lamented.

Manyin pointed out that in the next five to 10 years, about 80 per cent of jobs would be science- and engineering- or skills-based.

He also quoted a projection that 1.5 million jobs in Malaysia would require skills training by 2020.

“Our education system is too exam-oriented and in Malaysia, people are embarrassed to tell others that ‘I’m a plumber’ or ‘I’m an electrician’. In Germany, they don’t ask you what degree you have, but what skills you have,” he added.

He stressed that with the right training, skilled workers could even earn more than those in other sectors.

“Get the correct training and you will be the future of Malaysia. When we reach 4.0 industrial revolution, those with degree qualifications might not be able to get jobs but with specific skills, you will be competitive and employable.

Let vocational training be the first choice for our boys and girls. Tell the world that you have skills, that you can be more productive than others,” he said.