I can still remember, May 2, 2016, which marked the day for the Mayday celebration and launching of the National Employment Policy, Strategy and Implementation Plan (2015-2018) by the former President, Ernest Bai Koroma, at the Miatta Conference Centre.

 

Speaker after speaker rose to deliver something that would hopefully resolve the general unemployment problem of the indigenes, especially the youth.The private sector was identified or implied by all speakers alike, as the engine of both economic growth and development, with emphasis on demand-driven technical, vocational education and training system for youth empowerment. This reminded me of the practical nature and structure of the German technical, education and training system during my student days in Germany (13 years in Germany)…German dual and vocational system, is the backbone of the German economy!

Why is the German dual vocational system so good or the most successful in the world?   The label “made in Germany” represents a symbol of quality. This first-class seal of approval, backed by the quality of products themselves, has contributed to the lasting success of Germany’s exports.  Also, Germany’s unique vocational training system (the composite learning of a profession by doing at the middle class level) is frequently named as one of the reasons for the country’s competitive strength.  One need not be surprised at this.  We observe that other countries are increasingly trying to replicate this distinctive German model.  Based on results and experience gathered during my studies in Germany, I can class the dual vocational and training system as the best or the most effective in the world. There is empirical evidence for this rhetorical claim. Sierra Leone can emulate this system in theory and make it feasible in practice.  

The dual training scheme is the most common form of vocational training in Germany.  The combination of in-company training and vocational school offers an ideal mix of theory and practice; and has gained a lot of international recognition.  Over sixty (60%) of all young people in Germany attain their qualifications in the dual system of vocational training.  A lot of countries are looking at Germany’s dual education system closely right now.  But not very long ago it was subject to a lot of criticism, especially in Germany itself.  However, many things have changed, and in the mind-set too. With or without t crisis of nature, the German economy is relatively stable and remains sustainable.

In Forums such as the European Union or the G20 states, the German model is now being discussed in a completely different way than it was 20 years ago.  This is a big shift, not only due to factors such as high unemployment or youth unemployment in many European countries, but also as a result of the country’s capacity for innovation (German tops the list in Europe) or competitive advantage.  Germany has weathered the world economic crisis quite well and, of course, the explanation for this is that the vocational training has played a crucial role.  Germany is the largest economy and has the largest population in Europe. Sierra Leone is geographically small but potentially it could be an economic giant. The resources, both natural and humans, are enormous.

One may be curious to ask what the strengths of the German dual vocational system are.  First of all, it is not a state system but one that came from the economy. However, it is the state that provided the vocational and training environment.  In the middle Ages, the guilds used to train their own apprentices, and then during industrialization, the idea spread across the whole of the economy.  At first, the companies organized this form of training themselves.  Then the state said, “if you want to train young people, let’s integrate it fully”.  That is why vocational schools still teach general educational subjects as well- German, Mathematics, English, French, Biology, Physics, and so on.  So, this all comes from the business sector:  Companies need trained workers.  But as I have already said, the state has also been involved for several decades, and the pinnacle was the Vocational Training Law in 1969.  The state, acting as a framework, regulates training in both vocational schools and in the companies themselves and ensures it is consistent throughout in Germany.  If Sierra Leone is to replicate and adopt the German Dual vocational system, it needs appropriate industries (in its own way, form and level) in an empowered private sector, right environment, planning, and corresponding vocational training Law.

How does the dual system function in details?  The German system is based on five key elements.  The first element is: collaboration between state and the economy, which ensures the dual system’s qualitative success. There should be separation between state and government, so that progressive redundancy would prevail in our practice of political governance. This is heavily lacking in our country. The economy includes institutes such as Vocational Education and International Training, Germany Trade & Invest, and the German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (IHKs), which has over 80 institutions across the entire Germany.  This means, that the system can ensure consistent training quality standards, which is an unbelievable advantage, as worker mobility and a flexible labour market are needed, all the way from the north-most city of Germany, for example, Flensburg down to the south-most city of Freiburg. 

The second key element is on-the-job training.  It is believed in Germany, that in-company training must be integrated into the work-process itself, because this is how companies can ensure they have skilled workers when they need them.  The national system means an employer in Kailahun or Daru (east) can have every confidence in hiring someone who did training in Kalangba or Rokulan (north), because the training is the same.  For a while, let us digress to demonstrate the importance of practical training.  For instance, if a graduate in Electrical Engineering cannot distinguish the two opposite poles of a battery, how can he or she then install the new pre-paid meter system?  Almost every German university graduate must have gone through an on-the-job-training.  In Sierra Leone, everyone wants to earn an Oxford-type degree or occupy a white-collar job.  Some do get it after all.  But the folly of the matter is that some do not deserve them, for they have not worked for it in the rightful way (haraam). That is a point of inflection for self-destruction and an undue degree of painful depletion in our financial and national resources!  If our nation with the economy continues to be made up of and occupied by such dummies or sorry to “academic idiots”, then our economy would hardly land in the take-off phase.

So, we see that standardization of the syllabus nationwide is an important factor in itself.  The widespread acceptance of vocational education and training quality standards in the society is the third key element.  Germans look closely at their standards and adapt them continuously. How old are our operative syllabuses?

The fourth element is extremely important that is, training the trainers at both companies and vocational schools.  Theory and practice have to mesh throughout the duration of the training to achieve the best results.  The Germans have worked very hard to formulate qualifications and teaching regulations for work-process oriented training. 

The fifth key element is institutionalized research and advisory services.  It is always necessary to look at what is actually happening:  does the training still meet the needs of the economy and the companies and industries themselves?  It is a process of an on-going evaluation.  It is to be kept in mind that the dual system generates competitiveness and innovative capacity, and on-the-job-training essential to the dual system’s success.

Let us look inwards into ourselves. Our country imitates perhaps methods and procedures adopted by the Asians Tigers in successfully accomplishing their own piece of work.  We could do similar things with appropriate adjustments as we go along.  Indeed a high demand on the private sector development and empowerment….a mixture of import substitution and export promotion!  However, to export one must be industrious and productive.

This analysis has shown that the success of German companies and economy may not spring from one single source, but from a rather complicated bundle of interrelated factors, most of which may be hard but not impossible for Sierra Leone to imitate!  Where there is a will and desire, there must a way. Let every Sierra Leonean and foreigners resident in Sierra Leone bring forth their idea to appropriate authorities for the common good and benefit of our nation. Being a die-hard partisan alone takes us nowhere, based on experience. If a government fails due to the attitude of its citizens, then that country and its citizens would have failed too, irrespective of the government in power. I piety the development partners in their tremendous effort, for they pay more attention to economic growth (of course, a prerequisite for economic development) rather that to economic development (economic growth accompanied by appreciable structural change and economic redistribution).

May Allah provide us with the will, wisdom, guidance that would move this nation to higher heights and sustainable structural change.

Allahumma-Aameen!

on 20 May 2018