Preparing students to reach their full potential: More focus on technical education as Seychelles moves to 11 years of mandatory schooling in 2016
School children in Seychelles eager to go back to school in January 2015 after a 6-week break. As of 2016, compulsory schooling in the island nation will move from 10 to 11 years. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Seychelles’ decision to extend the period of compulsory education from 10 to 11 years is aimed at increasing the number of graduates in the more 'technical fields' so as to better address the current human resources need of the country.
“We intend to valorize technical education within the 11-year framework; that is our goal,” the Special Advisor to the Minister for Education Selby Dora, told SNA in an interview.
It was on June 29, in his National Day address that the Seychelles President James Michel announced that Seychellois students have to go through 11 years of compulsory education as of 2016.
“This will better equip our youth for post-secondary education, equip them better for the world of work, and help them become better citizens,” said Michel.
The Indian Ocean archipelago of 115 islands with a population of around 90,000 people has had a system of free education since 1981.
Although the education system provides for 6 years of primary schooling, followed by 5 years of secondary education, currently free compulsory education is for 10 years meaning until secondary 4. The new measure will mean that compulsory education is up to Secondary 5.
Dora said this will be included in the Education Act, 2004 which is currently being revised so that it harmonizes with the Tertiary Education Act, 2011. Amendments to the education act will be presented to the National Assembly for approval later this year so as to be ready for the new measure to be implemented in 2016.
According to the Ministry of Education, at least 10 percent of students were opting to leave school at the end of their mandatory 10 years of schooling.
Figures reveal that in 2014, for example, there were a total of 1,374 students in Secondary 4 combined across the 10 secondary schools on the main islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue and that 124 chose not to proceed to secondary 5.
The problem though, according to Dora, is that the current policy prompted a fair percentage of students, usually those gifted technically, to leave school without being prepared to join the world of work.
“A few joined apprenticeship schemes, but most of them ended up doing nothing.”
The education ministry of the tiny island nation estimates that the students’ population comprises of 60 percent students who are rather technically gifted, compared to 40 percent with stronger academic backgrounds.
With the extension of compulsory education by one year to include secondary 5, the Ministry of Education is therefore considering a review of the school programme to better meet the needs of the diversity of learners.
One of the ways of doing that will be through the strengthening of the Technical Vocational Education & Training programme (TVET). The programme was introduced in 2011 following educational reforms to capture potential dropouts.
The Ministry’s Director General for Curriculum, Assessment and Teaching Support, Dr Odile De Commarmond explained that selected students follow a special programme when they reached S4 where they spend 3 days at school to improve their literacy and numeracy skills. The students spend the two remaining school days obtaining more practical skills either at organizations that partner with the education ministry or post-secondary institutions more focussed on vocational training.
For those who proceed to S5 they spend two days at school and the remaining days learning practical skills.
De Commarmond noted that the number of students choosing to discontinue their studies at the end of secondary 4 would have doubled, had it not been for the programme.
Figures made available to SNA based on the TVET cohort of 2013-2014, indicate that of the 155 students who enrolled, 105 or 68 percent completed the programme in 2014.
It also shows that 94 or 85% of students completing the programme were able to proceed for further training either at post-secondary institutions or through apprenticeship schemes run by the island nation’s labour ministry.
“It [the TVET programme] has yielded some positive results…we plan to expand the programme with the extension in mandatory schooling,” said De Commarmond.
“What we had was the TVET phase 1…with the new measure we will reinforce the programme and move on to phase 2 so as to diversify to also include more students who are technically gifted but with a good academic background as well. We have a good number of such students who do not want to pursue an academic career.”
With a targeted 100 percent of students pursuing their studies up to S5 level as of 2016, the education ministry is also aiming to increase the number of students that get to pursue further studies at the different professional centres in the country.
“Those who are good technically can follow courses at HND level [Higher National Diploma] for example and those who are good academically can go to SALS [School of Advanced Level] for example and end up at the University. We need graduates across the board in both technical and academic fields,” said Dora.
The Seychelles education ministry has said that it will be benefitting from the support of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization (UNESCO) during the coming 6 months so as to be ready to start implementing the new measures in 2016.
Dora said that few countries offer 11 years compulsory and free education adding that this puts Seychelles in a strong position within the Knowledge-based Society concept.
The 11 years of compulsory education Seychelles will be implementing is also more than the 9 years called for at UNESCO's World Education Forum held in Incheon, South Korea, in May this year.
The call made to governments worldwide followed concerns that the world is far from achieving education for all and the number of out of school children that keep increasing.
In a report published last year, UNESCO said that Seychelles is the only country in Africa that has thus far already fully achieved education for all, in line with the six Education For All (EFA) goals set out by UNESCO for attainment in 2015.
There are 33 public schools and three private schools in the archipelago and Seychelles also began to offer domestic tertiary education following the establishment of the University of Seychelles in September 2009.