BY DR. ARARYA HABTAI | SHABAIT
There is an organic relationship between education and development and at the heart of this relationship is human resources development. This is particularly so when it is becoming increasingly clear that the development of human resources, more than the availability of natural resources, has become the cutting edge in determining a country’s growth and prosperity.
Japan and Germany illustrate the ‘human capital’ dimension of development. Both countries have relatively few natural resources and both have relied heavily on the development of the skills, competencies and know-how of their work force.
Perhaps the most recent and impressive embodiment of the interface between education and human resources development is the case of Singapore. In Singapore, human resources development is recognized as a priority area since ‘the human dimension of competitiveness is a success factor in a modern economy’.
In line with this principle, Singapore has instituted long term structural changes in the economy focusing on the production of value added goods. To sustain these structural changes and growth, there is a comprehensive system of education and training geared towards the preparation of a productive, adaptable and flexible work force. Central to this system is the provision of high level special skills, a well balanced general education and opportunities for continuous retraining.
One of the most critical concerns in Eritrea today is the formulation of a strategy for poverty elimination, sustainable economic growth and human resources development. This strategy is expected to enable the county to pursue a policy of people centered development based on a judicious balance between social justice and capital formation in line with the principles of sustainable human resources development.
The broad principles underpinning the need for balance in national development were in fact articulated as early as 1994 in the government’s macro-policy framework (GSE, 1994). This framework focuses on growth with equity in the context of an open and properly regulated market economy in both agriculture and industry; human capital formation, with education and health as key inputs; and improvements of infrastructure and services. The framework also sets the strategic parameter around which medium and long term plans are being developed by sectoral institutions, including education and training.
The centerpiece of the short and long term plans is the initiation of an integrated development program within the context of the ongoing decentralization policy of the government. Essential components of this program include improving access to basic social services (primary education, primary health care, water and sanitation, shelter and housing); promotion of productive employment with special emphasis on income generating schemes; and redressing imbalances in social and infrastructural development.
Within the framework of integrated development, GOE policy clearly prioritizes education as a productive investment in human capital formation. Human resources development as a function of education is indeed affirmed in the revised National Education Policy(MOE, 2011:13): “Education in Eritrea is a fundamental human right and a lifelong process by which all individuals are given opportunities to attain their potential as all round citizens and to contribute to nation building.”
More specifically, the National Education Policy (NEP) spells out the following as the general aims of education in Eritrea:
- Fostering and sustaining a sense of unity, collective national identity and social justice.
- Preparing learners for productive life and the world of work.
- Developing an innovative and knowledge based society to facilitate economic and social transformation.
- Promoting science and technology along with the development of knowledge and understanding to conserve the environment and cultural heritage.
The need to use education as a tool for the realization of societal aspirations and for addressing national challenges emerges as the most overriding concern of the NEP. These aspirations and challenges cover the social dimension of education (promoting national cohesion; facilitating equity) as well as the economic dimension of education (developing a modern and knowledge based economy; fostering skilled and productive citizens). At the heart of these aspirations and challenges is human resources development.
Although human resources development is a shared responsibility, the education sector normally assumes greater responsibility through its various schooling and training systems. In the context of Eritrea, the Ministry of Education (MOE) plays a leading role in the development of the present and future workforce through its formal and non-formal education and training provisions. In practical terms, this is being implemented within the framework of a multi-pronged approach to the delivery of learning and training needs.
Early Childhood Care and Education
The government firmly believes that Early Childhood Development is an integral part of the wider educational process. To this end, the MOE has developing policies and strategies to support the growth and expansion of the pre-school education system. This support is being provided in the form of partnership involving families, communities and government institutions. Within the context of this partnership, government efforts have focused on providing early learning services to the most disadvantaged and educationally underserved areas in order to reduce equity gaps in access to school readiness facilities.
Providing “basic education to all” is an overriding concern of the Government of Eritrea (GSE, 1994:39). In line with this concern, the MOE has been making concerted efforts to expand basic education (primary and middle level schooling), particularly in remote and disadvantaged regions of the country. These efforts have created a situation where today 80% of primary schools and 72% of middle schools are located in rural communities. Within this framework, primary schooling has been identified as a cutting edge in the drive to achieve basic education for all because this cycle lays the foundation for further learning and for the sustainable development of human resources.
The provision of secondary education is necessary not only to meet the micro-level needs and aspirations of individual students, but also the macro-level needs and priorities of the society at large. Being the final phase of formal schooling, this cycle provides learning opportunities with a view of equipping students with the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to pursue further education or enter the world of work.
Within the framework of this provision, students are offered common core and optional learning experiences through available curriculum programs and activities. These programs and activities have been reviewed to include work related practical studies with relevance to national and labour market needs. In the context of an integrated and flexible curriculum of this nature, school leavers can have the option of either seeking employment or pursuing further studies in a less differentiated division between academic and vocational pathways.
Technical and Vocational Education
Currently, several governmental and non-governmental institutions are involved in the provision of technical and vocational education and training at high school levels. To mention a few, the Ministries of Agriculture, Health, Tourism, and Labour and Human Welfare as well as employers and employees unions organize various forms of vocational education and training for serving or prospective staff members. Other opportunities are offered by private training centers and organizations, although the scale of this provision is very limited.
However, by far the largest provider of technical and vocational education and training within the formal sector is the Ministry of Education. The MOE has long been offering technical and vocational education and training through its long standing technical schools and skill development centers. The scope of this provision is likely to increase with the full implementation of the National Framework for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (NFTVET). When fully operational, the NFTVET is expected to support the preparation of a more flexible and adaptable workforce within the context of a rapidly changing economic and technological environment.
Besides the formal vocational education and training sector, the informal sector plays an important role in the development of human resources. This sector encompasses a wide range of economic and capacity building activities that tend to be overlooked in statistics. In the Eritrean context, the process of informal skill training and transfer is often conducted in small scale manufacturing units, micro-enterprises, building and construction sites, trade and commercial establishments, carpentry and wood work and in all sorts of repair workshops and service providers.
Dr. Araya Habtai is a curriculum consultant at the Ministry of Education.