A new ACER research study aims to produce a comprehensive empirical analysis of the existing systems for financing technical and vocational education and training in seven Pacific Island countries.
The study – of Vanuatu, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Tonga and Fiji – has been commissioned by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), and is being conducted by ACER in association with Austraining International and leading consultants.
As well as producing case studies of the seven countries, the project will identify technical and vocational education and training (TVET) financing issues across the region, and identify options to make future financing more efficient and effective at both national and regional levels.
Project director and ACER Teaching, Learning and Transitions Research Director, Dr Phil McKenzie, explained that effective TVET systems are essential for developing the skill base that countries need to advance their economies; and building and maintaining these systems requires an investment by governments, employers, individuals, and external agencies.
‘In order to maximise the returns it is important that this investment in skills is effective and efficient,’ said Dr McKenzie. ‘Collecting and analysing financial information is an important component of management and accountability arrangements.’
At present, Pacific Island countries generally have only limited capacity to collect and analyse financial and other data on TVET provision. The development locally of skills needed to do this, and local capacity to research and report on policy implications, are therefore an important aspect of the study.
According to Dr McKenzie, the scale and maturity of the TVET systems, and the structures, finances and resources that support them, reflect the diversity in the economic and social circumstances of the seven Pacific Island countries.
‘It is critical to understand the funding mechanisms and resource allocation models, which are currently being used in the seven national TVET systems,’ Dr McKenzie said. ‘For example, the manner in which TVET budget preparations are approached from an intra-governmental perspective will enable a more comprehensive understanding of the robustness of the financial and procurement management systems for providing TVET.’
At the national level, the logistical issues faced among the seven Pacific Island countries in terms of transport, communications and information technology often combine with factors such as scale, remoteness and resource inadequacies to become significant barriers to TVET delivery and graduate employability. Each of these factors can influence the role and positioning of TVET in training individuals and interacting with the labour market and, in turn, how the TVET system is financed and resourced.
By working closely with the seven countries concerned, the study aims to help inform decision-making about key policy issues, such as what forms of TVET can be provided efficiently domestically, and what forms are better sourced by distance education mode or by sending students overseas.
Research into funding and resource allocation
Collecting and analysing financial information bears directly on policy development relating to funding models. Key research questions examine who should pay for training and in what proportions, institutional arrangements, governance structures, and tailoring training programs to meet the needs of specific groups, such as new entrants to the workforce and the disadvantaged.
To address funding mechanisms and resource allocation as well as logistical issues, the research will work with local TVET stakeholders and researchers to:
- identify current public and private sources of capital and recurrent funding for TVET and relevant expenditure from each source;
- identify where expenditure is directed, taking account of participation from a gender perspective and the associated distribution mechanisms;
- identify TVET outcomes provided for funds allocated, including a comparison of the costs of TVET training between different types of providers, fields and levels of training, duration, mode of delivery, and geographic location; and
- assess strengths and weaknesses in different contexts of different financing mechanisms used; as well as financing mechanisms that are more likely to ensure financially sustainable national TVET systems.
The study is scheduled to run from April 2012 to March 2014, and the seven countries will be involved over two stages. Stage One fieldwork is taking place in 2012 in Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea. Stage Two fieldwork will occur in 2013 in Fiji, Kiribati, Solomon Islands and again in Papua New Guinea.
The research is built on ongoing TVET stakeholder engagement, and on contributing to local capacity. ■