Sunday, October 01, 2006

State to focus on vocational schools to cut joblessness

National News - September 26, 2006
Adisti Sukma Sawitri, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

In anticipation of an increasing number of job seekers with high school diplomas, the government plans to build more vocational schools across the archipelago.

The education ministry is allocating Rp 357 billion (US$38.9 million) this year to improve training facilities in vocational schools and build about 2,600 new schools by 2009.

Currently some two-thirds of the nation's schools are regular schools and the other third are vocational. By the end of 2009, that ratio could be leveled or even reversed.

"Building more vocational schools is important because the students can have better job opportunities than those who attend regular schools," the director of the Education Ministry's vocational schools program, Joko Sutrisno, told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

According to a recent International Labor Organization (ILO) study, about 66 percent of teenage dropouts aged 17 to 18 are jobless, while 53 percent of those aged 19 to 20 are unemployed.

Those rates are far higher than the 10.4 percent rate for the total population aged 15 to 65.

While he argued vocational schools were pivotal in reducing unemployment, Joko acknowledged that the government could not provide a sufficient number of the schools due to high building and maintenance costs.

He said establishing an information and technology school could cost up to Rp 5 billion, about five times more than a regular school.

"We need help from the private sector but they seem to pay less attention to these programs," he said.

An educational planning expert from the National University of Jakarta, Mochtar Buchori, said the unemployment problem among youth was not only about limited budgets but also about the less-favorable image of vocational schools, including the perception that universities favor graduates of regular schools.

That makes teenagers reluctant to enroll in such schools, Mochtar said.

He suggested that vocational school officials and the ministry should promote the schools' image, emphasizing that attending vocational school improves one's employment prospects.

"We must abandon the old paradigm that the end goal of going to school or college is to get an academic degree. Children know that knowledge and skills are the reasons people go to school," he said.


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