Tailoring TVET for Special Needs Students' Success
Rebecca Rajaemdram | The Star
MALAYSIA. The Star (17 December 2023) - Technical and Vocational education and training (TVET) is crucial in enabling marginalised groups to earn a living.
Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia Faculty of Technical and Vocational Education lecturer Prof Dr Razali Hassan said TVET can improve the quality of life for special needs students by equipping them with practical skills that are directly applicable to the workforce.
“By gaining marketable skills, these students can enhance their employability, achieve greater financial independence, and experience a sense of accomplishment and self-worth,” he told StarEdu.
While these students may face unique challenges, he said, they can engage in a wide variety of TVET courses such as carpentry, electrical work, automotive repair, culinary arts, computer programming and graphic design, with the right support.
They can even master soft skills such as teamwork, communication, problem-solving, and time management but courses that involve significant physical or cognitive demands may need to be approached with careful consideration, he added.
“Skills or technical work that depends mainly on a specific ability may not be suitable for every student.
“For example, art and design using multimedia technology, which depends on visual fitness, hearing fitness and cognitive ability, is not suitable for those who are completely blind and those who have low-functioning learning disabilities.”
In some cases, however, the equipment and the working area can be modified or adapted to cater to the different disabilities, said Prof Razali.
“Students with high myopia or limited vision, and high-functioning learning disability are still capable of picking up art and design with the right aid, environment, and properly trained teachers.
“These skills are also practical for deaf students,” he added.
He said whether a course is suitable for a disabled youth is determined on a case-to-case basis.
Courses that are deemed risky and dangerous will not be suitable for the disabled, he said, adding that the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework is a good reference.
“We have to look at the individual’s interest and also their abilities to perform the specific task related to the skills,” he said.
Prof Razali said upon obtaining a TVET qualification, students can pursue various career paths, including employment in industries such as hospitality, information technology, manufacturing, and healthcare.
Some may even choose to start their own businesses or work as freelancers in their areas of expertise.
“Earnings can vary widely depending on the specific field and level of expertise, but TVET graduates can generally expect to earn a competitive income based on their skills and experience,” he added.
Prof Razali said higher education institutions can encourage more special needs students to take up TVET by providing targeted support and resources.
This includes creating accessible learning environments, offering specialised counselling and support services, providing adaptive technologies and tools, and collaborating with organisations that specialise in supporting special needs students in vocational education.
He said facilities for research and development (R&D) into attracting special needs students to TVET should be built to encourage more research in this area.
“R&D can play a crucial role in advancing educational practices, improving outcomes, and enhancing the overall support provided to these students,” he said.
As of Jan 31, there were 637,537 disabled individuals registered with the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry. Of this, about 156,000 are between the ages of 19 and 35.
Worldwide, the International Labour Office shows that people with disabilities comprise 15% of the global population.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include a target of ensuring equal access to vocational training at all levels for persons with disabilities along with other vulnerable groups (Target 4.5).
On Dec 4, former Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said more disabled students would be allowed into polytechnics, beginning with the 210 seats this year.
He said currently, only those who are hearing- and speech-impaired are allowed into polytechnics, but more spots would be opened up to accommodate any disabled student who can perform physical work and carry out practical training.
Speaking at the launch of the Polytechnic Transformation 2023-2030 programme, he said he hoped the ministry could offer more places to those who qualify via the various special pathways in the next three to five years.
Under the 12th Malaysia Plan, the government, said the Human Resources Ministry, was focused on transforming the TVET delivery system and increasing its attractiveness as an additional and viable education pathway.
A special entry route for vulnerable groups such as the disabled, B40 group, and indigenous communities, is also being provided to increase TVET enrolment under the Higher Education Ministry.
“The Higher Education Ministry is also in the works to develop a special route for Islamic religious students in Tahfiz and Maahad schools to participate in various TVET programmes under it,” said the Human Resources Ministry in a statement to StarEdu.
“The government recognises that TVET plays a crucial role in preparing the workforce with the necessary skills and competencies to meet the needs of the country’s growing economy,” it added.
But it is not just the disabled who can benefit from TVET, said Malaysia Research Institute for Vocational Education and Training (MyRIVET) Innovation, and Consultation deputy director Assoc Prof Dr Lai Chee Sern.
The elderly, he said when speaking on the Enhancement of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)-related generic Skills in TVET, also stand to benefit from mastering skills.
“Skills can become outdated. Lifelong learning is crucial particularly for vulnerable groups who will need to constantly reskill and upskill so that they are able to upgrade themselves and secure a decent job,” he said during the Skills for Prosperity Programme in Malaysia on Sept 29.
During the closing ceremony of the event, International Labour Office chief technical advisor Dr Junichi Mori said while Malaysia has made great strides in access to TVET, it still has a long way to go to ensure gender equality, social inclusion, continuous career progression, as well as core skills, including STEM skills.
Stressing the need for policies that support vulnerable communities, particularly women, he said while there are no barriers for entry, there are other unconscious barriers we need to overcome.
We need to have conducive and safe learning within TVET institutions for communities with special needs. Meticulous planning with a focus on accessibility, and an unwavering commitment to inclusivity are imperative. Attention, especially to accessibility, is crucial to ensure that physical infrastructure of the institute caters to individuals with disabilities.
This involves installing ramps, lifts, wide doorways and accessible bathrooms to create an inclusive environment. Incorporating universal design principles in the layout of classrooms, labs and workshops is also important. For example, flexible furniture that is moveable and adaptable allows for easy rearrangement of the classroom layout to accommodate different learning and mobility needs.
This approach ensures access to a diverse range of learners.
Kota Kinabalu Industrial Training Institute
The disabled need moral support and the opportunity to work so they can support themselves. We need more direct approaches to get disabled students into TVET. This means visiting their homes and making sure they are fit to be enrolled in the course. We welcome disabled students as long as they are willing to learn but they must be able to read, count and write.
Muhammad Anuar Omar, Aimi Academy chief executive officer and Youth Transformation Club president
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