E-Publication :
Solutions to ASEAN integration in vocational education
12:13' 4/8/2016

On 22nd November 2015, within the framework of the 27th ASEAN Summit ASEAN leaders have signed the Kuala Lumpur Declaration 2015 on the “Establishment of ASEAN Community” on 31.12.2015. The event has officially announced to the world about the formation of the ASEAN Community in 2015, a great achievement during the process of ASEAN integration for nearly half a century.
With the formation of the ASEAN Community, vocational education, as well as many other areas in Vietnam will have more favorable opportunities for development but also face many difficulties and challenges due to integration process with regional countries. Therefore, development requires solutions for  taking advantage of opportunities, overcoming challenges, helping Vietnam vocational education integrate into the region.
  1. ASEAN Community - Opportunity to develop vocational education
 The overall objective of ASEAN Community is building Association of Southeast Asian Nations into an intergovernmental cooperation organization which involves deepened cooperation on the legal basis of ASEAN Charter. ASEAN Community will be formed based on three pillars, namely the ASEAN Political – Security Community (APSC), ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC).
AEC community includes 10 countries with population of more than 620 million people of which 300 million people participate in the workforce. Three countries with the number of employees accounting for more than 70% include Indonesia (40%), the Philippines (16%) and Vietnam (15%). According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), after participating in ASEAN Community, the number of job in Vietnam will increase by 14.5% by 2025.
AEC community aims to create a single common market and unified production facilities, including free movement of goods, services, investment, capital and trained workers, thereby enhancing competitiveness and promoting common prosperity for the whole region; making it attractive to investors, businesses from the outside. Trained workers being abke to move freely is approved through mutual recognition arrangements (MRAs). So far, ASEAN has made agreements in 8 industry sectors (8 sectors are entitled to free movement), including: Technical services, nursing, architecture, surveying, medicine, dentistry, accounting and tourism. Also under the agreement, high-quality human resources (professionals and skilled workers), including human resources with professional training or university qualification or above, proficient in foreign languages, especially English, are permitted to move more freely.
Thus, the establishment of ASEAN Community will bring about the opportunities for development of vocational education in Vietnam.
Learners have more opportunities in learning and access to advanced foreign training programs, can easily find a job after completion of learning process, because the labor market does not embrace domestic market but also includes a vast market within ASEAN region. In addition, diplomas and certificates gained after training process are also recognized in other countries within the region paying the way for recognition by other countries in the world.
In addition, the ASEAN Community will create more opportunities for mutual cooperation between vocational education institutions; opportunities for learning, further training, exchange in order to increase the capacity of vocational teachers and managers; more foreign investment are going to be poured into vocational education..etc..
However, the opportunities are just theoretical if they are not seized and turned into actuality properly. Chances are objective and do not depend on subjective will of human being. So turning chances into reality does not come at ease. What is important for seizing the opportunity is to be aware of and overcome challenges.
2. The limitations of Vietnam's labor force - Challenges for vocational education
 Though being the third largest country in ASEAN Community in terms of workforce, an important factor for competition, but Vietnam’s labor force face plenty of limitations.
According to data from the Ministry of Labour - Invalids and Social Affairs and General Statistics Office, total size of workforce in second quarter of 2015 stood at 53.71 million people, of which trained workforce with diplomas or certificates only accounted for 20.6%. If the calculation of the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs is taken into account, trained workers, including formal vocational training, regular training, training organized at vocational training institutions, educational institutions involving vocational training, in enterprises, craft villages and vocational training organized by other organizations and individuals in overall accounted for 38.5%.
According to World Bank (WB), Vietnam is facing the shortage of skilled workers, high-level technical workers. The majority of employers said that employment is a hard work either due to the candidates lack of appropriate skills or the scarcity of workers in some specific fields. Regarding the quality of human resources, on the scale of 10 points, Vietnam only achieved 3.79 points; ranked 11/12 of Asian countries in World Bank's ranking. Meanwhile, the score of South Korea was 6.91; India, Malaysia and Thailand earned the scores 5.76; 5.59 and 4.94 respectively...

Figure 1: Workforce qualification structure - 2015 (Source: MOLISA and GSO)

Findings from the survey of employers in 10 ASEAN countries conducted by International Labour Organization (ILO) also showed that businesses in ASEAN are now very concerned about the current shortage of skilled and qualified labor before the advent of the Asean economic community in 2015; nearly 50% of employers in ASEAN in the survey said that majority of workers graduating from high school did not have the skills they need; university graduates possessed useful skills but also do not meet the needs of businesses (in terms of both quantity and quality). According to ILO, due to uneven level of development, today skilled and highly qualified labor in ASEAN market tends to move to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. Remaining labor moving within ASEAN is either low-skill or no-skill labor.
Aside from labor quality, Vietnam labor structure also experiences plenty of shortcomings and growing risk of inadequacies. As of quarter II/2015, qualification level of Vietnam's labor force includes: 01 university or higher -  0.35 college - 0.65 Intermediate - 0.4 Primary (Figure 1). Meanwhile, direct labor (intermediate, primary level) shall make up larger proportion than indirect labor (university level).
Low rate of trained workers is one of the reasons leading to low labor productivity. According to an assessment published in 2014 by ILO, the labor productivity of Vietnam is ranked in the bottom group in Asia - Pacific and ASEAN: is equivalent to 1/15 that of Singapore; 1/5 that of Malaysia and 2/5 that of Thailand, that is when comparision to labor productivity of Japan, Korea, Australia, India, New Zealand ..., partners who have important agreements with ASEAN, has not been brought to the picture yet.
In addition, the preparation of knowledge, skills and attitudes and readiness to move to work in the ASEAN countries is not good. According to World Bank experts, the preparation of knowledge and skills; attitude and readiness to move to work in the ASEAN of Vietnamese labor is not high. In terms of language training in Vietnam, even in big cities, very few workers form Vietnam learn the languages of ASEAN countries such as Thailand, Laos, Cambodia ... Regarding the ability to use English, Vietnamese candidates score an average of 5.78 (on a scale of 0-9), falling into low average category; behind Malaysia (6.64), the Philippines (6.53), Indonesia (5.97).
The limitations and the weakness of human resources is one of the key factors affecting the competitiveness of the economy. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), in 2015 Vietnam ranked 56/144 countries and territories in rating, which saw an increase of 12 levels compared to 2014 but still ranked after Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia. According to the assessment, training and higher education remains Vietnam’s weaknesses for many years (Figure 2)

It can be said that the limitations of Vietnamese labor is becoming a burden and the challenge for vocational education because the functions and tasks of vocational education is training labor for national economy. Therefore, it is required that vocational education should exert efforts to develop appropriate solutions, directions for the coming period in order to integrate deeper into ASEAN community.
  3. Solutions to the integration of vocational education
 To address the limitations of labor to meet integration requirements, the implementation of Decision No. 2448/QĐ-TTg dated 16th December 2013 by the Prime Minister on approving the scheme on International integration in education and vocational training until 2020, the Ministry of Labour - Invalids and Social Affairs is preparing for the implementation plan of the scheme with a number of tasks, solutions as follows:
  First, develop institutions, mechanisms and policies of vocational education in alignment with the trend of integration
 - Sign agreements recognizing the diplomas and credit transfer and skills between Vietnam and ASEAN countries;
- Develop mechanisms and policies to encourage investment; expand the autonomy of vocational training institutions; develop mechanisms and policies to promote the socialization of vocational training activities to meet the requirements of international integration; encouragesdomestic and international businesses and organizations to participate in international-standards training and retraining;
- Accelerate the reform of administrative procedures in the field of vocational training, create favorable environment for domestic and foreign investors to involve in vocational training.
 Second, complete the network planning of vocational educational institutions for international integration
 Restructure the network of vocational training institutions; review and assess the progress of the integration of 45 schools invested to develop into high-quality schools and vocational schools planned for key ASEAN-level and international-level occupations; review ASEAN-level and international-level occupations that have been planned in the secondary schools and colleges.
  Third, implement and apply the national qualifications framework
 - Implement the national qualifications framework in accordance with ASEAN Reference Framework that has been approved; develop learning outcomes compliant with national qualifications framework with reference to the competency standards of regional and international countries. Promote the formation and development of credit transfer system, implement recognition of diplomas and credit transfer between countries in ASEAN region and the world;
- Develop national skills standards recognized by regional countries; perform skills appraisal and recognition of skills between Vietnam and other countries in the ASEAN region.
  Fourth, improve the quality of vocational training approaching regional and global standards
 - Innovate the programs in order to achieve the level of developed countries in the region and the world; improve capacity for the teaching staff, especially with respect to professional competence, pedagogy and foreign language according to international standards;
- Promote English training in vocational training institutions making sure vocational learners form communication ability for work; high quality- program graduates are capable of working in other countries in ASEAN region and the world; develop training programs of specialized English and a number of other national languages in ASEAN region; application of information technology in vocational management and training activities;
- Enhance vocational accreditation according to regional and international standards, encourage accreditation of the schools and programmes carried out by internationally reputable accreditation organizations;
- Develop plans on organization of training of 8 vocational fields that have been recognized by ASEAN agreement (Dentistry, Nursing, Engineering, Construction, Accounting and Tourism);
- Implement and sign cooperation programs with FDI enterprises operating in Vietnam for supporting vocational training institutions and students in enhancing skills; organize consultation meetings with FDI enterprises on the demand for highly-skilled workers;
- Select a number of vocational fields and partners to negotiate and implement skills assessment and certification (firstly in the field of Tourism, followed by Automobile technology, Welding, Information technology, Construction..etc..);
- Actively participate in ASEAN skills competitions and world skills competitions;
- Pilot and replicate transferred programs using international standards;
+ Accredit and recognize conditions of quality assurance according to the standards of transferer countries (program standards, teacher standards, facilities and equipment standards; English standards towards both teachers and students);
+ Transfer training technology; conduct pilot training using transferred programs;
+ Assess and offer certificates from transferrer countries (students are granted 2 diplomas: Diploma from Vietnam and from that of transferrer country);
+ Perform replication of transferred program after 2018 in high-quality schools.
  Fifth, enhance domestic and foreign investment in vocational training
 - Mobilize financial resources to ensure meeting the requirements of international integration in vocational training. State budget combined with other sources of funds are used for the construction and supply of equipment for vocational schools with the view to attaining international level; secure funding for implementing the transfer of programs with the regional, international level; provide training and retraining for teachers, managers abroad through the Scheme 371 approved by the Prime Minister (Decision No. 371/QĐ-TTg dated 28th February 2013 and Decision No. 1820/QĐ-TTg)
- Mobilize financial resources from other countries and international organizations to contribute to the missions of training, retraining and raising the level of human resources, providing additional equipment to vocational training institutions, conducting exchanges of teachers and students, students from Vietnam and other countries; mobilize from organizations and individuals at home and abroad for the training of highly qualified workers.
- Financial resources for plan implementation come from the target program, the ODA sources and other resources.
Thus, one can view the ASEAN Community as both opportunities and challenges for all member states. Vocational education as all other sectors in Vietnam is not immune from those scopes of influence. With an important role in the training of human resources for the development of national economy, with the aforementioned solutions forthcoming vocational education will certainly capture the opportunities, overcome challenges, integrate well into ASEAN Community contributing to building Vietnam into a country with advantages in human resources./.
1. ASEAN (2015), the ASEAN Economic Community, Website: http://www.asean.org/communities/
2. ASEAN (2015), the ASEAN Framework Agreement on mutual recognition Arrangements, Website: http: //www.asean.org/communities/asean-economic-community/
3. ADB, ILO (2014), the ASEAN Community 2015: Managing intergration for better jobs and shared prospesrity;
4. MOLISA, GSO (2015), Vietnam labor market update, No. 6, Quarter II, 2015;
5. The Ministry of Labour - Invalids and Social Affairs (2015), the draft plan on the implementation of project of international integration in education and vocational training until 2020;
6. The World Bank (2014), Vietnam Development 2014 Website: http://www.worldbank.org;
7. WEF (2015), The Global Competitiveness Report 2015-2016, Website: http: //www.weforum.org/reports/global-competitiveness-report-2015-2016
8. Decision No. 2448/QĐ-TTg dated December 16, 2013 by the Prime Minister on approving the scheme of international integration in education and vocational training until 2020;
9. The National Assemly (2014), the Law on vocational education, National Political Publishing House – The Truth, Hanoi
Dr. Vu Xuan Hung – Director of National Institute of Vocational Training
The paper was published on The Journal of Employment & Life, No. 75, January 2016


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