| 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
Enrolling female students in the workplaces was part of a broader strategy of reforming Secondary Technical Education in Bahrain. Thus, the activities carried out were for work placement program for both genders, but with emphasis on female students since they had been enrolled in such program for the first time. This initiative was divided and carried out into three main stages. The procedures had been developed by the Ministry’s Educational specialists in collaboration with the international partner and most of the work had been done by the Ministry’s specialists because of their past experience in the work placement since it has been implemented for boys since 1996.
Stage 1: Reviewing the existing work placement program. This included actions of researching trends in the local labor market and comparison with international countries.
Stage 2: Introduction of a new on-job-training (proposal). At this stage, the information and feedback received from different employers had been taken into consideration to improve the existing Work Placement Programme (WPP). The employers’ concerns about including female students were also taken into account. The new proposal for work placement had been prepared with consideration to opinions from both the employers and the parents.
Stage 3: Implementation and evaluation. This was the most difficult stage as the Ministry of Education had to prepare all the resources in a relatively short time. The most crucial activities were placing the female students, and the daily follow up. The evaluation took place immediately at the end of the program and some improvements had been made such as accepting some work placements obtained by parents to reduce their anxieties.
Opening technical specializations for female students was a later stage of reforming the secondary technical education which had started in 2007. In 2010 the initiative of opening technical specializations for female students started and the project was divided into three main phases where some of them would be repeated such as building capacity of female teachers.
Phase 1: Deciding a technical specialization for female students (2009-2010). With reference to studies about labor market needs and skills gap in Bahrain and after consultations from the UNESCO experts, “Computer Technology & Hardware” had been chosen.
Phase 2: Preparation (2010-2011). Most of the work had been done at this stage. The concerned team in the Ministry began to prepare proper infrastructure in a girls school selected previously. Along with, the Ministry prepared tendering for supplying the required materials/tools and equipment. Simultaneously, the Ministry formed focus groups from its educational and curriculum specialists to adjust the curriculum plan and prepare the teaching materials. At the same time, the Ministry started internally recruiting teaching staff and immediately enrolled them in professional development programs prepared and delivered by experienced teachers from TVE boys’ schools. Concurrently, the concerned TVE educational specialists had started promoting the new specialization in some intermediate girls’ schools to attract female students.
Phase 3: Implementation (2011-2012). The third phase of the initiative commenced by intensive promotion targeting female students and their parents, then recruiting some female students as pioneer group. At the same time, intensive in-house training took place weekly and on-need to female technical teachers.
| 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The EDB is one of the key stakeholders, and reforming TVE was a key priority reform of set of initiatives of the EDB to fostering Bahrain’s economy. The EDB’s roles were mainly sponsoring the Secondary Vocational Education Project (SVEP), monitoring it and providing advice where necessary.
Boys’ TVE schools helped in establishing the workshops for ‘Computer Technology & Hardware’ in girls’ school by lending them most of the required equipment and assigning teachers to set up the workshops.
Labor market establishments are important stakeholders to this initiative. Their assistance helped in the success of this initiative in many aspects. They assigned highly qualified employees to work with the Ministry’s curriculum specialists to review the Occupational Standards and suggest the technical activities that suit the female students.
Many establishments offered support to the Ministry’s initiative and helped re-structuring the work placement program and offered suitable placement opportunities for girls. They also assigned female workplace supervisors (where possible) for female students to ensure that they are comfortable while undertaking work placement. They also helped in developing logbooks for both students and supervisors. Large size establishments allowed our students, especially females, to use their staff transportations, which reduced the cost of transport.
Parents played crucial role especially in finding suitable work placement opportunities for their female children. Some shared the responsibility of providing their own transportation to and from different workplaces which had a reduction in transport cost.
TVE teachers, including female teachers (Industry liaison officers ILOs) who followed up female students in the workplace, and devoted their own time to offer support.
Other Ministry of Education Directorates assisted in success of this initiative by giving the priority to the SVEP, especially the Directorates of Human Resources, Financial Resources, Curriculum, Professional Development, Materials and Supplies, Services, Planning and Educational Projects, and Information Systems.
| 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The Ministry responded to the proposal of the EDB to reforming the Secondary Vocational Education and the EDB funded the (SVEP) in the initial stage, then the Ministry of Education allocated its own internal budget to run it as a program.
The human resources for implementing the new technical specialization for female students were all from the existing Ministry’s employees.
Female technical teachers had been rehabilitated and prepared to teach in vocational schools. The Centre of Excellence for Technical and Vocational Education in the Ministry prepared and conducted the training sessions for all TVE teachers and focused on female teachers.
Experienced male teachers had been assigned to deliver “need-based training” sessions for female technical teachers to prepare them to deliver their subjects excellently.
Teachers and students in boys’ technical schools’ did some of refurbishments and carpentry works in TVE girls’ schools.
Highly qualified employees had been nominated by some labor market establishments to participate in reviewing the occupational standards and helped in developing teaching materials.
The Ministry’s curriculum and educational specialists worked in developing the curriculum, liaised with all stakeholders, and arranged and conducted many training sessions for all TVE teachers.
For the “Computer Technology & Hardware”, the Ministry planned to accommodate 30 students and 4 teachers divided into two workshops. The infrastructure had been built and prepared by local hands from the Ministry and most of the materials had been supplied by Boys’ technical schools.
15 Electronics trainers had been borrowed from Boys’ technical schools and kept in the school
15 Electrical exercises’ boards had been made by Boys’ technical schools
4 Network Trainer Kits manufactured by a Boys’ technical school
Hand tools (for 30 students) donated by Boys’ technical schools
Technical drawing boards (30) manufactured by Boys’ technical schools
12 workbenches had been manufactured by Boys’ technical schools (technical schools managed to re-use woods for such works)
Computer clusters; the girl school arranged the timetable to utilize the existing clusters in the school.
The girl school used their old computers for students’ experiments. The Directorate of Information System in the Ministry also supplied the school with some old-dated computers for students’ exercises.
The total cost of establishing the technical specialization in a girls’ school is estimated to be USD 26,500 but had reduced because of the utilization of the existing internal resources.
The cost of preparing female students for work placement is estimated to be USD 235 per student, and this is part of the budget allocated to the Directorate of Technical and Vocational Education in the Ministry. This includes the insurance, gear, transportation, follow-up and cash allowance for a period of 3 to 4 Weeks. This budget is estimated and administrated by the educational specialists in the TVE and financially controlled by the Directorate of Financial Resources in the Ministry. This amount is reduced up to third depending on the number of students who use their parents’ transports or the staff’s transportation per training batch.
| 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
Most successful outputs were:
1) Breaking the barriers for females joining technical education that was considered as male arena, and successfully implementing the work placement program as part of the initiative.
2) Opening new employment opportunities for females, especially in private sector. This came as a result of the remarkable attitude shown by the female students during their work placements. That is, they showed high discipline, time control, and capability to deal with emerging issues without much fuss.
3) Large number of work placement opportunities is offered to female students. This is as a result of the Strong cooperation between the Ministry of Education and key personnel in the large national organizations which was intensified through the meetings of the Technical Education Advisory Committee. This also reflected in sharing the responsibilities of monitoring the initiative and helping in solving any emerging problem during the implementation, and offering to provide the schools with training equipment. The true benefit of this cooperation will be recognized more clearly when starting new technical specializations for females in the future.
4) Giving the opportunity for female students to exhibit their talents and capabilities. Encouraging female students to plan, arrange and execute exhibitions in lively and crowded places such as the shopping malls came as a result of introducing the Project Based Learning (PBL) in delivering the specialized subjects in the TVE schools, and including the “End of Year Exhibitions” as part of assessing students’ performance. Consequently, many initiatives were offered to girls’ schools to demonstrate in large shopping centers with assurance to provide them with the maximum help to bring success to their effort.
5) Providing a pathway for female students graduating from technical stream to higher education in engineering fields related to their secondary study. This is a strategic initiative toward securing highly qualified female technical teachers, and may also inspire many other girls to follow their footsteps in choosing different technical courses in the future.
| 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
A ministerial decree was issued to establish the “High Advisory Committee for Technical & Vocational Education” chaired by a senior person from a private establishment. The main roles and responsibilities were to provide all kinds of support and to monitor the TVE. The support from this committee ranges from reviewing the occupational standards through focus groups of specialized personnel from the industry, to support in providing high quality work placements to TVE students via their networks. Some employers suggested some improvements in some occupational standards and requested meetings to amend the deficiencies.
In addition, a follow up team of highly experienced educational specialists team was formed to moderate the teaching/learning processes in TVE schools from quality perspective. This is done through regular field visits to TVE schools to ensure that all Occupational Standards are covered and evaluated properly as planned. The team conducts three main visits to all schools, namely; Pre-verification, Mid-verification and Post-verification. The follow-up specialist team also identifies the training needs for teachers and logistics required for each school and delivers some training courses.
The Directorate of TVE also assigned industry liaison officers (ILOs) to regularly visit students in the workplace (at least once a week) and these visits are intensified for female students to be daily visits in some workplaces. Such visits to workplaces provide the TVE with many constructive feedbacks. For example, the TVE worked in collaboration with representatives from some establishments to modify the students’ and supervisors’ logbooks. Moreover, the workplace supervisors identified many strong points and drawbacks and the TVE took immediate actions toward these feedbacks. At the end of each training batch, two key stakeholders (students and workplace supervisors) are surveyed through quality assured questionnaires. Many amendments to the work placement program took place due to feedback received from workplace supervisors such as the modification to the logbooks.
The TVE also established quality assurance offices in all TVE schools and it currently covers the teaching / learning aspects. The main duty of these offices is to monitor, verify and ensure that the prescribed curriculum contents are appropriately delivered in the schools.
| 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
Several obstacles were encountered during the implementation of the project such as:
• Lack of experienced teachers
For the Computer Technology & Hardware, the project had encountered many critical obstacles ranging from resources to acceptance by society. Finding highly qualified female teachers was one of the major problems of the project. The lack of outstanding female teachers persuaded the directorate to rebuilding the capacity of the existing female teachers (who hold engineering degrees) by offering them in-house need-based training on weekly-basis.
• Lack of infrastructure for the specialization
The second main difficulty was that the girls’ school lacks the proper infrastructure for such specialization and could not be prepared in a short time. To overcome this obstacle, all the logistics needed had been borrowed from boys’ technical schools (which are well equipped) to start the project.
• Publicity and promotion
The third obstacle was promotion of the project and convincing and persuading both female students as well as their parents to enroll in this project. Many visits have been made to girls’ intermediate schools. This has resulted in securing 14% of the admitted students to the school that the project had been established in.
• Work placement for females
The forth and most crucial problem is the work placement. It was difficult to convince parents that their female children would undertake work experience in different workplaces normally dominated by males. Also finding suitable work placements for female students, especially in the engineering field was a major challenge because the labor market was not prepared for it. To overcome such barriers, parents were consulted and persuaded to find suitable work placements for their female children. This helped to secure suitable placements for the female students and ensured that parents were satisfied because they had participated in finding the most suitable work placements for their children.