This year vocational training schools are facing declining enrolment numbers due to fierce competition from universities, who are opening their own vocational schools and extending the enrolment season in order to attract more students, the General Department of Vocational Training has said.
There are more than 450 vocational schools, and nearly 900 centres with more than 800 training courses. It was expected that 1.9 million students would enrol at these institutions in 2012. However, the impact of university enrolment policies has meant that this figure has reached only 1.1 million so far this year, about 60 per cent of the target.
According to Pham Vu Minh, office manager of the department, universities have an unfair competitive advantage as they offer qualifications – such as bachelor diplomas – that are more prestigious for employers.
Minh also recognised that vocational training schools have not been efficient in spreading information about the education and benefits they offer. “Schools and relevant agencies should enhance their communication with students graduating from high schools and secondary schools in order to give them some career direction. Otherwise we will end up with a situation of having too many teachers and too few students,” he said. A 2010 survey from the Viet Nam Institute of Educational Sciences (VNIES), showed that 85 per cent of students graduating from high school wanted to study long-term courses at a university; with 56 per cent willing to re-take college exams the following year if it was necessary for them to enrol into this kind of higher education. Only 8 per cent said they were seriously considering a vocational training programme.
This year, the deadline for university enrolment has been extended until December 11, giving many students the opportunity to wait for their final exam results and make a decision about their future. Statistics show that vocational school is often their last choice.
Tong Minh Ha, a student at the Vocational Phu Chau College, said “I could not pass the university entrance examination, I had to choose this school because I don’t want to be unemployed in the future.”
The vice-headmaster of Phu Chau Vocational Training, Cao Gia Nuc, has confirmed that the vocational centres (which operate in the northern provinces of Thai Binh and Lao Cai, as well as in Ha Noi and HCM City) are struggling. “We have enrolled only around 300 students, which is about 40 per cent of the number we were hoping for this year. We are facing many difficulties.”
As the school is privately run, it does not get any financial support from the state budget. With the number of paying students low, there is a lack of money available for investment in building facilities, student activities, and the building of professional programmes to entice students in the future.
Nuc said these private schools would be more effective with some government support.
Mac Van Tien, director of the National Institute for Vocational Training under the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, said that vocational schools must focus on acquiring investment. He acknowledged that improving the quality of vocational training was the requirement of both business and society.
He added that while currently more than 70 per cent of students graduating from vocational schools found work or were able to become self-employed, continued innovation and improvement were needed to raise standards even higher, allowing graduates to meet the increasing demands of businesses and the labour market.
Tien called for the Government to support vocational schools more strongly by creating policies and framework to help them secure investment and thrive.