The Changing Demands of the Twenty-first Century: Challenges to Technical and Vocational Education

1.1 The twenty-first century will bring a radically different economy and society with profound implications for technical and vocational education (TVE). TVE systems must adapt to these key features which include globalization, an ever-changing technological scenario, the revolution in information and communications, and the consequent rapid pace of social change. The implications of these transformations include the increased mobility of labour and capital, uneven impacts upon rich and poor, and emerging market economies in both rural and industrial sectors. The knowledge-based society which these changes are bringing offers exciting new modalities for education and training.

1.2 These social and economic trends predicate the need for a new development paradigm which holds a culture of peace and environmentally sound sustainable development as its central features. Accordingly the values, attitudes, policies and practices of TVE must have their foundations in this paradigm which will encompass inclusiveness and wider access, a shift to human development needs and empowerment for effective participation in the world of work. Its focus must be on the needs and potential of the individual in society. TVE has a crucial role to play in this new paradigm by providing skills for all and should include the poor, the excluded and the unreached so that education remains an accessible basic human right. The universalization of TVE and the learning skill it imparts would enhance access to education for all citizens of the world. A new holistic approach is required so that education for the twenty-first century will include all domains of learning incorporating general and vocational education to enable the learner of the twenty-first century to launch into a lifelong continuum of knowledge, values and attitudes, and competences and skills. The ultimate goal of such an approach would be the creation of a learning society.

1.3 TVE systems must therefore be reformed to give life to this new paradigm by achieving flexibility, innovation and productivity, imparting the skills required, addressing the implications of changing labour markets, training and retraining the employed, unemployed and the marginalized with the objective of achieving equality of opportunity for all in both the formal and informal sectors of the economy.

1.4 There must be a new partnership between education and the world of work to address the need to develop a synergy between the sectors of education and industry and the various other economic sectors, to foster the development of generic competences, the work ethic, technological and entrepreneurial skills, and for imparting human values and standards for responsible citizenship.

1.5 There is a need to introduce the required changes in a manner suitable for each country so as to empower and engage human beings in the context of the new paradigm with TVE as a common key focus of the reform process.

1.6 The prerequisites of the TVE response to the new paradigm include appropriate societal values and attitudes, embracing the new technologies, making new policy and financial commitments, and taking account of local, regional, and global opportunities and concerns. The sheer magnitude of the trends of the twenty-first century demands a political commitment and bold policy responses which are both regional and international.