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Regional Perspective on Transferable Skills in TVET


There is overall agreement that transferable skills are relevant now more than ever to foster human, economic and social development. However, how to define them in TVET polices and how to impart them in practice? Are these skills teachable and measurable? What are the initiatives and experience for nurturing these skills in the region?

These were some of the key questions discussed at the UNESCO-RCP research workshop on transferable skills in TVET which took place on 26th October at Tongji University in Shanghai, China. The workshop brought together senior education officials, academics and TVET practitioners to discuss transferable skills in TVET policies, particularly policies dealing with TVET teacher education, and their practical implementation.

The backdrop for the discussions was the ongoing collaborative research on transferable skills in TVET which will give a regional perspective on the global debates on transferable skills in education. Researchers and practitioners from twelve different countries in Asia and the Pacific presented initial findings of their country studies and discussed challenges in incorporating transferable skills into TVET.

To tackle these challenges, the workshop participants agreed, all relevant TVET stakeholders need to be involved in defining transferable skills in national policy and curriculum frameworks. There was an emphasis on the need for clear guidance from the policy level, beyond rhetoric, in order to overcome the currently weak implementation of transferable skills in teaching practices across the region.

At implementation level, TVET teachers are unclear, unprepared and, in some countries, unwilling to take on the responsibility of developing transferable skills in their TVET students. A lack of appropriate TVET teacher training and support, together with ambiguity in appropriate teaching methods are only a few reasons that seem to prevent the implementation of transferable skills in teaching practices.

In the discussions surrounding occupation-specific differences, there was general agreement that different occupations may require emphasis on different types and levels of transferable skills. It was also noted that the type and intensity of these skills would vary at different levels of the same occupations.

Despite these complexities, strengthening the acquisition of transferable skills in TVET is important for all countries and various stakeholders. Policy makers are interested in further advancing their countries’ economic development and creating social cohesion. Employers seek qualified and capable employees who can contribute to securing their businesses’ success in a rapidly-changing global economy. And parents are interested in their children’s all-round development that will help secure a better future life and prosperity.

The workshop also gave an interesting insight into the cultural dimension of imparting transferable skills. In some countries of the region, morals and values play an important role and could be considered an essential part of transferable skills. This skills dimension however adds to the complexity of defining, teaching and assessing transferable skills.

One of the main outcomes from the workshop was the recognition that more research on transferable skills is needed. The ongoing UNESCO-RCP research will contribute to advancing the debate on transferable skills among academics, and more importantly among policy makers. It will form a basis for further research and result in policy recommendations.



For more information, please contact Gwang-Chol Chang [gc.chang(at)] at the Education Policy and Reform Unit.

Written by Barbara Trzmiel [b.trzmiel(at)]

Related links:

• Transferable Skills in TVET Programs

• TVET Teachers and Transferable Skills 

 • Regional Cooperation Platform for Vocational Teacher Education in Asia (RCP)