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Innovating ICT in TVET within the Development Discourse: the Imaginable and the Real

(by UNESCO Bangkok, ICT in Education)

Innovating ICT in TVET within the Development Discourse: the Imaginable and the Real

© Flickr/Georgia Southern

Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is drastically recalibrating itself in the development agenda. It is indeed seen as a huge and well-deserved comeback to the education agenda, considering that TVET was not explicitly mentioned in the Dakar Framework for Action (for the interested readers, reasons for this exclusion can be found in the 2015 GMR Report). Apart from the increasing focus on TVET from the civil society, such as OECD’s review of TVET in 17 countries (2010) and ILO’s recommendation (2004) on human resource development, one of the major drivers to this change have been the rapidly advancing ICTs that have transformed the world of work and demanded for new skills development. On the other hand, ICTs have provided hope for equal opportunities for the marginalized groups who require further skills training not only for their income generating activities, but also for their general well-being and rights to lifelong learning.

Indeed, the “Shanghai Consensus” concluded from the 3rd International Congress on TVET in China in 2012 the pertaining issues in TVET, recommending further integration of ICT in TVET in order “to reflect the transformations taking place in the workplace and in society at large” (UNESCO, 2012). Since then, UNESCO, together with the UNESCO-UNEVOC International Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training, a dedicated UNESCO institution for TVET, have been making efforts in building a consensus on leveraging the potential of ICTs in transforming TVET. We focus on three approaches to using ICTs in TVET: 1) ICTs for expanding equal access to TVET; 2) ICTs for improving the quality of teaching and learning in TVET; and 3) ICTs as sources of rethinking to enhance the relevance of current TVET curriculum.

Some of the grand benefits of ICTs in TVET in improving access include, for example, students being able to participate in online training courses anytime and from any place, diminishing the challenge for working people. The introduction of quality open educational resources (OER) and massive open online courses (MOOCs) have also created an opportunity for students in challenging contexts to reach their educational goals through multiple and flexible pathways.

ICTs can also be used to enhance quality of teaching and learning experiences. The recent development of ‘interactive e-content’ has the potential of enriching students’ learning experiences: ‘virtual simulation’ can supplement classroom learning where actual practices might be expensive, unavailable, and potentially risky. As stated by Maclean and Wilson, these new demonstrative and practical routes to learning through ICTs have been claimed as ‘phenomenal’ (2009, p. civ). Through enhancing teaching and learning experiences and making it relevant to skills needs, ICTs in TVET can help students develop higher order thinking and transversal skills needed for this changing world of work (Majumdar, 2011).

This leads to the third faucet of ICT in TVET as an impetus for transformation of skills development: ICT as a source for rethinking the relevance of current TVET practices and curriculum. The rapid development of technologies demands education stakeholders to properly predict the competencies that will be needed in the decades to come, and to adequately prepare students for the jobs that do not even exist today. A recent finding from GSMA on the global youth unemployment rate (12.6%) being three times higher than the adult unemployment rate (4.5%) raises a great sense of urgency to transform education systems to better equip the youth for today’s and tomorrow’s job market. In the report, the youth attribute their unemployment to their lack of skills and experiences, more so than lack of jobs. In this regard, augmenting learning experiences by engaging students in authentic project-based activities and connecting them with well-established subject experts in the industry are of fast-growing relevance in the innovative use of ICT in TVET. Being remotely linked with local or international experts, students can engage in deeper and more practical experiences with relevant professionals in their respective fields throughout their learning journey. This has the potential to facilitate collaborative learning, which is considered as one of the key competencies in today’s world of work.

However, despite these promising factors of ICT in expanding access and improving the quality of TVET, various challenges remain in locating and understanding the full and appropriate role of ICT in the TVET agenda. Some of the contributing challenges include the scarce data collection and its utilization in informing policy development in TVET, aside from the lack of rigorous and scientific evidence that measures the impact of ICT in TVET. Additionally, making monitoring and evaluation at the national level of high priority has yet to take place (Veal, 2013; cited in UNESCO, 2015).

Related to that, a lack of knowledge base in understanding the dynamics between ICT and TVET pedagogy is another challenge. Questions such as how integration of ICT in TVET can enhance learning and teaching, what factors mediate or hinder successful integration, to what extent and how teaching quality can be accounted for such integration remain at large. An effort to enrich the knowledge base will be a direct response towards recommendation 4 of the Shanghai Consensus (UNESCO, 2012), which is, “improving the evidence base”.

Additionally, one of the biggest concerns in using ICT in TVET calling for critical examination lies in its possible worsening of the inequality between the more and the less privileged. This is much related to the long standing debates, whether TVET itself is reproducing poverty, stratifying society, replicating socio-economic structure, unable to promote intergenerational mobility and also widening gap by providing low tiered education compared to higher education (Pavlova and Maclean, 2013, p. 44). The question is then whether the integration of ICT in TVET actually contributes to the digital divide. The way new technologies are emerging rapidly and quickly becoming integrated in TVET in the developed world, will developing countries be able to keep pace with or be able to invest significant resources as it requires? Will it not further widen the skills gap among young people in these countries? These issues need to be placed at the central focus in TVET policy discourse in general, and ICT in TVET in particular.

Finally, there should be a systematic mechanism to recognize learning and skills development, regardless of channels, i.e. formal, non-formal and informal learning. Without a doubt, technologies enable boundary-free lifelong and life-wide learning anytime and anywhere. The next step would be for policies, regulations and quality assurance frameworks to be in place to equally recognize skills and knowledge acquired through diverse channels.

In order to respond to some of the knowledge gaps in ICT in TVET discussed above, UNESCO Bangkok is currently conducting a research study entitled “Beyond Access: ICT-enhanced Innovative Pedagogy in TVET in Asia Pacific”. The study aims to take stock of and document innovative practices of harnessing the potential of ICT in TVET in the Asia-Pacific region, explore ways to improve the pedagogical relevance of TVET to meet the changing skill needs of a digital society, and to provide policy recommendations for the innovative use of ICT and the ways to increase quality of teacher training in TVET. The preliminary findings from this study will be shared at the Asia-Pacific Conference on Education and Training (ACET) to be held from 3-5 August 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The final report of the study will be available by the end of this year (2015).

In this edition of the newsletter on ICT in TVET, we hope to feature the innovative future of this field through the rapid expansion and effective use of such technologies. Among current programmes and projects, readers can learn more local projects in countries such as the Philippines and its eTESDA Network, or Romania and eInclusion, collaborative projects between Bangladesh and Korea, or those that specifically focus on the marginalized communities in Latin America. Under news and events, readers can get acquainted with the large upcoming TVET conferences. In resources, the list of TVET databases, MOOCs, e-Forums, and training opportunities are provided. Finally, under new publications, readers can get acquainted with the latest papers from international development organizations, such as OECD, World Bank, UNICEF, or UNESCO.


Contact info: Miron Kumar Bhowmik,; Jonghwi Park,, Auken Tungatarova,



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(eds.), International Handbook of Education for the Changing World of Work (pp. xxiii-cxii). Springer Science & Business Media.

Majumdar, S. (2011). Emerging Trends in TVET in Asia and the Pacific Region: CPSC’s

Response. In S. Majumdar (ed.), Emerging Challenges and Trends in TVET in the Asia-Pacific Region (pp. 3-17). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Pavlova, M., & Maclean, R. (2013). Changing Rationale Behind the Process of

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Veal, K. (2013). If data is not wisdom than non-data certainly is not. NORRAG News, 48(13-14)