Bring back old BDTVEC programme

I CONGRATULATE my colleagues, the YB X-DTE (Ex-Department of Technical Education Pensioners), who organised a reunion which was published in the Borneo Bulletin on December 10, 2018.

I regret to have missed the event.

The reunion visit to Jefri Bolkiah Campus by former instructors and students show how close the college is to them.

During their era the workshops would be noisy with falling spanners, grinding of machines, sound of hammering and high tone voices of instructors.

Unfortunately, those noises cannot be heard anymore. It is sad to see the workshop having no activities, where students are supposed to do hands-on activities.

The visit and the statement made by my old friend in the news report inspired and urged me to write this letter hoping it can be an eye opener to the Ministry of Education (MoE), and for the benefit of the young generations interested in the technical and vocational education (TVE).

I would like to bring up a letter ‘Are we really that ignorant about technical education’ by Tech Know How on May 14, 2014 and a news report ‘Rational for change in Brunei’s Technical and Vocational Education Part I’ by Department of Technical Education (DTE) on May 17, 2014, published in the Borneo Bulletin.

I could have responded to these articles at that time but I didn’t. The reason was that the tone of the writers portrayed themselves as an authority figure not willing to accept any comments, views or advice from anyone.

In the first letter, the writer highlighted that BDTVEC programmes were not as good as Industrial Skills Qualification (ISQ) proposed by the Prime Minister’s Office to MoE. The writer also stated that BDTVEC graduates were not employable and the instructors lack industrial experience.

The writer challenged to conduct a survey on the employability of the BDTVEC graduates.

It has been six years since ISQ programmes were introduced at IBTE Mechanical Campus and Tech Know How challenged us to conduct a survey on the employability of BDTVEC programmes.

It is the right time to audit or review the whole programme in line with BDTVEC policy.

I wonder if there are any surveys done showcasing programme contents, staffing, equipment, the graduate whereabouts and graduate performance.

When we talk about industrial attachment of our students, we expect them to be able to adapt themselves to the world of work in which there are rules and regulations they have to observe, discipline and work ethic to be practiced, safety and cleanliness to be kept in high standard and have the ability to work as a team.

Hands-on experience is the skill you obtain by applying your trade or technical knowledge to practice. This can only be gained and developed by constant practise.

For example in the case of arc welding one must have the ability to combine his eyes and hands to produce an arc, and must know the science of heat and metal to produce a weld.

Almost all of the earlier groups of our local instructors have worked in industry and had hands-on training before they were sent to the UK for more training and Certificate of Education. It is unfair to say that they don’t have working and hands-on experiences.

A news report by DTE published in the Borneo Bulletin on November 12, 2013, stated “…There are employers who come to us for recruitment which is different from the past, where everyone was sending their CVs to employers. This shows the industry is confident in our level of training. Thus, it is important to continue making our training relevant and up-to-date with the current environment, through collaboration between government and industry….”.

As mentioned earlier, employers would go to DTE to recruit students.

This means that they would have data on the number of workers the private sector would need.

From this, DTE should be offering programmes that the industry need.

Surprisingly, there are a number of programmes – such as Vehicle Body Repair and ISQ programmes – no longer offered by DTE, even though there are still hundreds of foreign workers still working in the private sector.

When asked by the public why such programmes were no longer offered, they answered that there is no industrial demand.

We should not forget of the localisation programme initiated to replace the foreign workers in the private sector.

The actual reason why those programmes were discontinued is that there are no more hands-on instructors to teach the practical side since almost all senior instructors have retired.

Why do we have to change the system which produced good results and has proved to meet our national needs?

If we find weaknesses in the old system, why don’t we improve them with the help of our local experienced staff and not from foreign consultants?

We spend millions of dollars on staffing and providing equipment to the contractors conducting the training for the ISQ-PLM project and what benefits do we get out of it?

The contractors receive the money and equipment leaving hundreds of students not knowing where to go.

About 50 years ago in the early stage of its development, TVE was established to provide skill training to students who left the schools system at form three (Year 9 in the present system) and to keep them away from loitering and getting involved in unwanted things.

By providing them skill training it was hoped they will be able to join the job market.

Similarly in the present time, if school dropouts are not given any training or skills, it can create an unskilled labour force.

It is sad to see how restrictive entering TVE is. The situation worsens as buildings in IBTE Sultan Saiful Rijal Campus were closed due to unknown reasons, which reduces the capability of offering courses and hence the recruitment of students.

This is the result of accepting to follow a system which was not thoroughly studied of its suitability to our needs.

Do understand that I am not disputing the quality of other programmes such as ISQ or City and Guilds, or saying that BDTVEC is the only programme which will ensure employment to its graduates.

The beauty of BDTVEC is that it was established as a statutory regulating and awarding body, and created through experiences and observations of almost 10 years, not by picking up a programme from the shelves of a foreign system.

It not only prepares the trainees or students for job markets, it is also an alternative route to higher education as well as lifelong learning.

Let us be realistic in our comment and statement on a system which proved to be successful in producing highly skilled and educated citizens, and established by our own local people who are not experts with PhD but as team workers with HND.

Being a small and independent state we should be proud of with what we have achieved and to have our own TVE system.

Based on the above statement, I urge the MoE to consider reviving the old system and should MoE need any assistance I am sure there are a number of retired officers who are willing to assist.

– Warga Emas Brunei TVE