Challenges to VET Development
VET and its development face a number of challenges, some of which are more strongly embedded in the institutional configuration of the economy than others. An extensive discussion of VET ineffectiveness and its challenges extends beyond the scope of this chapter. However, reference is made to the challenges that are central to the problem and that have resulted in the perceived detachment of VET from the needs of the market. Policy makers need to prioritise an effective solution of these challenges to capture the potential benefits of an effective VET to different social and economic issues, including food security.
Ineffective coordination of development activities is amongst the major challenges to the system and its development. There are more than 24 public bodies responsible for VET development in Egypt and coordination of development efforts across these is negligible. This has resulted in the duplication of development efforts and competition for the already limited resources available for VET development (Bardak 2006). There have been attempts to minimise the fragmentation of the system, such as the initiation of the Supreme Council for Human Resource Development, to unify VET development efforts under one umbrella. However, the initiative which was proposed in 1982 and reactivated in 2000 did not result in any fruitful coordination or cooperation of VET bodies and stakeholders (ETF and World Bank 2006). Another more institutionally entrenched challenge is the relatively high levels of VET centralisation. The latter contributed to the marginalisation of important institutional actors to VET development. The state plays a central role in running VET; it is responsible for the design of VET programmes, its delivery and certification with little, if any, input from key institutional actors, such as workers and employers. This has deprived the system of valuable inputs to improve the system and reliable labour market information, both of which have contributed to the perceived detachment of VET from the demand of skills in the marketplace (e.g. ETF and World Bank 2006; World Bank 2007).
The Egyptian state’s tendency to exclude key institutional actors from VET and its development has historical roots. The Nasserist regime was antagonistic to workers as well as employers in the private sector and hence cooperation with these key institutional actors was dismissed as threatening to state dominance. This trend changed under President Sadat, who supported private sector development as part of his economic liberalisation policies or Infitah (also known as the Open Door policy) although the marginalisation of workers continued as part of state policies. However, unlike Nasser, the Sadatist regime did not give workers the same benefits or, in other words, broke the unspoken social contracts with workers which Nasser maintained under his regime. This led to further weakening of the voice of workers in the economy, especially with the co-optation of unions by the state, a policy that continued till the Mubrak era (Alissa 2007; Bank and Richter 2010). Business elites gained a stronger foothold under the Mubarak regime, especially after the World Bank/IMF ESRP and repressive policies towards workers were heightened. Ineffective state—employer—union cooperation negatively influenced VET as the system failed to represent the inputs and balance the conflicting interests of all institutional actors. It is thus not surprising for employers to perceive VET as irrelevant to their needs.
The marginalisation of workers, who are in the best position to advice on VET development needs at a grassroots levels, increased the irrelevance of VET. Curriculum development is largely divorced from reality and teaching relies on memorisation and rote learning with little, if any, emphasis on practical training. The deteriorating quality of the system and its graduates reinforced the widespread perception that VET accommodates failing students as a means of reducing social exclusion. The quality of VET was further affected by the limited financial resources available for VET which were significantly reduced by the shift in international donors’ investments away from VET and into basic education, as indicated earlier. These issues need to be addressed on a national level to enhance VET effectiveness and tackle the problem of inadequately skilled labour in agriculture and other sectors.