work placement Programe-pilot stage
ministry of Education

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Gender has been one of the most notable factors causing inequality of opportunity in post compulsory (secondary) education in many countries. In Bahrain’s secondary education system, gender was considered as an important element in choosing track, namely, the Unified (Science, Literature & Commercial) track or Technical & Vocational track. These tracks were perceived as terrains for girls or boys according to their progression and nature of study. For instance, Commercial track was seen as a feminist arena although it attracts many male students. Perhaps it was due to its progression pathway since the school leavers of this track are either employed in white collar jobs such as banking, sales and so on, or enroll in business schools at universities which are also perceived as preferred places by females. On the other extreme spectrum, Technical and Vocational Education in Bahrain was restricted to boys only. There was general consensus in the Bahraini society that the nature of study in technical schools was tough and did not suit the girls physically as s it needed pure masculinity. Moreover, since the education system is not coeducational, it was thought that it was very expensive to establish a technical school for girls. Furthermore, the society in Bahrain would not accept girls to study engineering and progress to industrial fields, taking into consideration that such fields are male dominated. Female students also had neither the opportunity nor access to gain real experience and learn in the workplace. The curriculum, the society, and the labor market structure were the major obstacles that prevented female students from enrolling in learning in the workplace. The curriculum, regardless of being vocational oriented or not, used to focus on theoretical aspects and ignored the practical aspects, especially when it is related to female students. In addition, The Bahraini society is very conservative and many parents have their own apprehensions in allowing their female children to enroll in a vocational study leading to a profession where it is dominated by males. Moreover, employers as well depend on expatriate low-skilled workmen for reasons such as the low wages. They may find it difficult to recruit locals, especially females and some might not even accept to offer only work experience to female students. In order to change the concept of the society towards females, be it in educational field or workplace, There was a need for introducing an educational system which would give equal opportunities for the females in the field of vocational education and bring them on par with their male counterparts. MOE decided to include the females in the Secondary Vocational Education Project (SVEP). SVEP provided the right forum for female students to change their outlook and provided the right opportunities to show their talent and capability to the society and the labor market in particular. Presently the SVEP has included 4 Girls schools in the project introducing technical specializations to girls for the first time in the country and providing the girls opportunities of work place experience in the industries.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
In 2005, under the leadership of H.R.H, the Crown Prince – the Chairman of Bahrain’s Economic Development Board (EDB), an economic workshop was held and spotted that education is “one of the key priority reform areas”(EDB, 2006: p.23) to develop the country’s economy. Reforming education aims mainly at establishing “a system that delivers world-class standards of education... and courses and curricula that are relevant and responsive to 21st century employment and labor market needs”. The Ministry of Education embraced the idea and worked in collaboration with the EDB and an international partner from Australia, (Holmsglen Institute of Technology). The working group introduced two unique solutions to fostering the country’s economy via reforming education by giving the opportunity to females to undertake work placement and subsequently this work placement (Structured Workplace Learning) was considered as mandatory to graduate with the “General Secondary Vocational Education Certificate”. Since females were not adequately represented in the labor market, especially in the engineering fields, the second solution had been introduced to ensure equal opportunities for both male and female students without any gender bias. That is, opening the technical specializations for girls, staring with the “Computer Technology and Hardware”. This ensured gender parity in education and later in the labor market, which in turn was aimed at fostering the country’s economy by providing adequate opportunities for the female graduates in the labor market which would enable the females to show high technical skills, commitment to work and equal competence as males in different industrial sectors. The strategy of reforming the Secondary Vocational Education ensured the equality of opportunity and gave female students the chance to learn in the workplace. The strategy also opened the doors for opening up technical specializations to females in the vocational schools, and they proved to be competent in the workplace and in their studies at the university. It is now publically accepted that girls may work in many industries and engineering specializations such as Electronics and Electrical. In conclusion, the education reform achieved its goals in cultivating the wider economic development in the country by utilizing the enormous unexplored potential of the females.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
At the heart of reforming education is the equality of opportunity for all. That is, including female students in vocational education, and enrolling them in workplace learning. The initiative provided good opportunities for the female students to venture in to the technical areas such as Computer Hardware specialization which were only meant for male students. Female students who generally possess high cognitive skills had the opportunity to exhibit their talent through the practical skills which involved traits like trouble shooting of computers. Graduated female students provided sufficient skills through this initiative that after graduation they can be self-entrepreneurs. Such initiative was creative because it involved the parents in deciding appropriate workplaces for their wards, an activity that used to be carried out only by the MoE. That is, the Ministry helped in decentralization of work placement operations by involving the parents in finding work placements opportunities for their young female children which helped the Ministry to secure placements for almost all female students. This also eliminated the anxiety of parents and also reduced the behavioural problems in the workplace since students understood that they were supervised by the Industry Liaison Officers (ILOs) from the Ministry as well as their parents.

C. Execution and Implementation

 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. Human: 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. Technical: 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. Financial: 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.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
Opening technical and vocational specializations for female students and enroll them in work placement program brought many beneficial points to all stakeholders. Through these initiatives the Ministry of Education ensured that there was equal opportunity for all students regardless of their gender. For instance, all technical specializations and on-the-job training were restricted to male students only in the past. This would not have happened without transforming the society’s previous perception about the female and TVE in general, especially among the parents and the employers. In addition, such initiatives provide female students with real work experience as they are exposed to realistic workplaces. Employers’ perception about female students has changed only after giving them the opportunity to learn in the workplace and to exhibit their practical and employability skills. Some establishments offered employment opportunities for female students. Many employers who offer work placements stress that the given opportunities are mainly for female students since they perceive them to be more committed to work than male students. Furthermore, one of the notable advantages of work placement program for female students is the change in personality. Many female students who undertook work placement program became more self confident. The regular surveys conducted by the Ministry of education’s Industry Engagement Unit depicted that female students who finished their work placements become more committed to their practical and theoretical study and their performance improve. Teachers also perceived that the attitude of the female students changes positively after completing their work placements. Female Engineers working in the MOE had no choice other than teaching in the IT sections. With the inclusion of technical specializations in the girls’ schools, these female Engineers were able to apply their technical knowledge by teaching the Computer Hardware, Electrical and Electronic subjects. This not only gave them the job satisfaction but at the same time was helpful in having female teachers teaching female students in the girls’ schools. Female Industry Liaison Officers (ILOs) who were nominated to follow-up the female students while at the workplace were able to contribute positively in the development of the curriculum based on their exposure to industries. Important information on various trends and practices followed in the industries were disseminated by the ILOs to the Curriculum specialists in designing the most appropriate and relevant curriculum contents in the syllabus. The curriculum for the Computer Hardware for girls was so designed to ensure that the graduated students had the required eligibility criteria to gain entry into the Universities for further studies. This served as an encouragement for the females to think positively about joining this vocational programme. Female Teachers who were nominated to teach the Computer Hardware subjects had the opportunity to get trained in the related technical areas like Computer Networking and attain international certifications such as CCNA. This has further improved the quality of teaching and is benefitting the female students. This initiative has changed the perception of the society towards the role of females in with vocational areas and the also female students have additional choice of a technical field in choosing their career pathways. Encouraged by the success of this initiative, proposals are being worked out to include further technical specializations for females in the upcoming specializations such as Mobile Technology and Medical Equipment. The initiative is bound to improve the economic status of the females in the country and also contribute to the ongoing economic reforms in the country.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
Though the concept of Technical specializations for girl’s schools was not well conceived by the society in general, it has gained momentum and appreciable encouragement from the society after the implementation. Financial Sustainability Although the infrastructure of the initiative has been financed through the annual budget allocated to the Ministry of Education, it is expected that many large and medium size establishments, especially those who offered work placements for TVE students, will share the responsibility of providing the TVE schools with up-to-date equipment and training units. Economic & Regulatory sustainability When designing the framework for the Secondary Vocational Education Project (SVEP), it has been taken into consideration the nature of study in the field of “Computer Technology & Hardware” and the rapid changes that take place in this field. Thus, and to ensure the sustainability of the initiative, the studying plan (curriculum) was structured based on the current trend of the occupational standards and ensured that all occupational standards are reviewed at least once every two years by experts from the labor market as well as from the higher education institutions. Social sustainability The constructive feedbacks received from the labor market, offering TVE female students employment opportunities while undertaking their work placements, and the relatively high demand to re-enroll in TVE program for female students, gave indication that the project would be sustainable. Cultural Sustainability The concept of “Technical or vocational education is only male oriented” is slowly fading out and more and more parents are considering the options of suggesting the technical specializations for their female children these days. The industries/companies have been more accommodative for the girls students in terms of sufficient work placement opportunities. Institutional Sustainability Girl students in the Intermediate schools are given necessary information regarding Computer Hardware Technical specialization option they have and also given awareness of the course and the further career options. Curriculum is also planned in such a way that the students upon successful completion of the course, are eligible to apply for Universities to pursue their higher educational goals. Environmental Sustainability All the above-mentioned reveal that the society has changed and now has a positive perception about the female and vocational courses and about accepting and noticing that female could perform in the work place as best as the male. This has encouraged the Ministry of Education to replicate the same project in three more schools for female students. The “Computer Technology & Hardware” has also been replicated in another girls’ school. The Ministry of Education believes that the initiative of giving the opportunity of female students to study one technical program will definitely be followed by opening more doors for females in this field such as the specializations of “Biomedical Equipment” and “Mobile Technology”.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
It has been a satisfying experience for the MOE as it was possible to boost the morale of the female community in general by providing them the much deserved status in the society. All the efforts were worthwhile as the society is gearing in to change their concept about the participation of females in vocational schools and also the workplaces. There is an awareness developed in the labour market about the participation and availability of females in the vocational oriented fields. The lessons learned from implementing this initiative are: Customized Curriculum The curriculum used in the boys’ schools could not be replicated in the girls’ schools due to nonexistence of infrastructure like the Mechanical Workshops. The Curriculum had to be customized to cover the more relevant electrical oriented specializations for the females. Logistics The concept of opening Computer Hardware specialization in the Girls school was so enthusiastic that it was planned and started a little earlier than expected. There was not enough lead time in procuring quite a few logistical requirements to run the project like Training kits not delivered on time, Hardware labs not adequately equipped etc.,. However, these temporary obstacles were overcome by borrowing the required equipment from the Boys’ schools for a short time. Thus, we learned not to implement any project in haste, unless all the detailed plans are ready before commencing of the project. Teaching staff The majority of the female teachers selected for the “Computer Technology & Hardware” hold Engineering degrees. However, all of them lack the practical experience and some also lack the Project Based Learning (PBL) methods of teaching in the TVE schools. Moreover these Teachers were teaching mainly IT related subjects and not used to teaching the technical subjects in spite of having necessary technical knowledge. However, by enrolling them in intensive training sessions (daily-basis needs) just solved the problems, but may not help on a large scale. Yet again, it is learnt that the availability of teaching staff does not necessarily mean that they are ready unless they are highly prepared to work in vocational education settings. It is also learnt that what applies to male teachers in TVE field may not necessarily suit the female teachers. Female students: introducing a new and seemingly unconventional program or idea, especially when it is related to female students in a conservative society, has to be extensively reviewed before implementation. Also parents and employers (labor market) should be informed of all the details of the project prior to implementation so that they are prepared. The Career Guidance counsellors had to put lot of efforts in convincing the parents of the females to choose the technical specializations initially. Recommendations: • To provide good publicity to promote the public to encourage their female children to choose technical specializations in the girls’ schools. • To plan ahead ensuring sufficient lead time in procuring all the necessary infrastructure, equipment needed to roll on the project. • Recruiting Female Teachers preferably with practical experience or sufficient training to teach the students.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   ministry of Education
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Dr Mohamed Al Seddiqi
Title:   Director  
Telephone/ Fax:   +973 39741174
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   mohamed.alseddiqi@gmail.com  
Address:  
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