Why TVET is the preferred path for today’s students

A trend is emerging in the field of education in Kenya, with a surge in students choosing technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges over traditional universities. This shift has piqued both curiosity and concern among the public. Increasing numbers of eligible students are now opting to enroll in technical colleges, leading to a significant increase in enrollment figures for these institutions.

In 2021, data from the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) revealed that over 15,500 candidates who scored C+ and above in the 2020 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) opted to pursue diploma and certificate courses, such as plumbing, in technical institutions.

Learners opting for TVET colleges

In the same year, a total of 10,707 candidates snubbed degree courses despite meeting the minimum qualifications, instead choosing to pursue studies in technical courses. KUCCPS statistics show that 4,840 learners opted to join Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) centres, choosing to do courses that can earn them jobs.

“We even have graduates, including lawyers, who are flocking to our college to study nursing,” a lecturer at Kenya’s leading medical training institution told Maudhui in confidence.

The trend has ignited debates and discussions, raising questions about the reasons behind this shift in educational preferences. A pivotal factor contributing to this movement is the distinctive approach that technical colleges offer.

“These new breed of learners are attracted by the global appeal that these courses are garnering, meaning one can go to work in greener pastures abroad,” the lecturer explained.

Unlike universities, technical colleges place a strong emphasis on practical training and hands-on learning in specific fields. The classrooms in these colleges are equipped with labs that simulate real workplace environments, providing students with a tangible experience in their chosen professions.

The career-focused curriculum ensures that students graduate with the skills and expertise needed to excel in their chosen fields from day one.

Another key aspect fueling the preference for technical colleges is the entry requirements. Unlike universities, technical colleges do not require students to study a broad array of subjects before delving into their specialized coursework. This tailored approach allows students to immediately immerse themselves in subjects aligned with their career aspirations.

Moreover, many students emerging from the high-stakes environment of the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations harbor apprehensions about the rigorous demands of university education.

The perceived difficulty of university courses and the fear of failure drive some students to opt for technical colleges, where they believe the practical and hands-on approach will better suit their learning styles.

Interestingly, the perceived value of university degrees has undergone a transformation. Today’s job market appears to favor graduates with diplomas and technical skills, often due to the practical and applicable nature of the education they receive.

Read also: Why Gen Z no longer want to be teachers

High cost of university education

The prevalent notion is that diploma holders possess a deeper understanding of the job market and are better equipped to navigate its challenges. In contrast, degree holders may possess theoretical knowledge but lack the practical expertise demanded by employers.

Financial considerations have also played a significant role in shaping this shift. The escalating cost of university education has led many prospective students to seek alternative paths.

In a country where economic struggles are a reality for a substantial portion of the population, the high price tag associated with university education can be demoralizing. As a result, many are turning to technical schools as an affordable and viable means of acquiring education while honing their skills.

The generational shift towards the Gen Zs and millennials has also contributed to the rise of technical education. The need for swift financial independence has driven many to embrace hands-on skills that offer immediate income-generating opportunities.

Technical college graduates often venture into self-employment, leveraging their entrepreneurial skills to create businesses that generate sustainable income.

The unique schedule of technical colleges has also played a role in their appeal. Unlike universities, technical colleges often run programs year-round, allowing students to complete their studies at an accelerated pace. This structure contrasts with universities, where long holidays and breaks can sometimes slow learning.

The surge in enrollment in technical colleges signals a broader shift in Kenya’s educational landscape. As students prioritize practicality, relevance, and cost-effectiveness, technical education has emerged as an enticing alternative to traditional university pathways. With the world changing at a rapid pace, the time has come to recognize and embrace the transformative potential of technical education in shaping the nation’s workforce for a dynamic future.

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