Revitalizing Sri Lanka’s Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission (TVEC) – A Call for Comprehensive and Timely Reform
Posted on February 8th, 2024

By Sarath Wijesinghe President’s Counsel (LL.M (UCL London)), former Ambassador to UAE and Israel, former Chairman of the Consumer Affairs Authority, President of the Lanka Ambassador’s Forum – United Kingdom, Solicitor in England and Wales

The tertiary and vocational education sector plays an important role in shaping the socio-economic landscape of any nation, and Sri Lanka is no exception. However, it can be observed that the efficiency and effectiveness of Sri Lanka’s Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission (TVEC) have come under scrutiny due to various inefficiencies within its framework.
The TVEC serves as a cornerstone in the nation’s educational endeavors, overseeing the tertiary and vocational education sector’s regulatory framework. Established to ensure the quality, relevance, and efficiency of educational programs, the TVEC is vital in in shaping the skills and competencies of Sri Lanka’s workforce. As a primary entity in the area of human capital development, TVEC’s mandate extends to accrediting institutions, updating curriculums, and facilitating partnerships between academia and industry to meet the evolving demands of the global economy. Here, we strive to highlight several critical areas where key reforms are urgently needed, emphasizing the importance of adopting a holistic approach to revamp the TVEC.
In essence, the necessary transformation of Sri Lanka’s TVEC is not just about rectifying isolated inefficiencies but requires a comprehensive, multi-dimensional approach. By acknowledging and rectifying key shortcomings within the commission, embracing change and prioritizing education
reform, Sri Lanka can better harness its human capital potential and enhance its competitiveness on the global stage.
First, it can be observed that addressing the stagnation in updating syllabuses and curriculums is paramount to enhancing the quality of vocational training. In today’s fast-paced and dynamic job market, educational programs must remain agile and responsive to industry demands. By regularly revising and modernizing syllabuses, the TVEC can ensure that graduates are equipped with the latest skills and knowledge needed to excel in their chosen fields. This proactive approach not only enhances the employability of Sri Lankan graduates but also leads to innovation and entrepreneurship, driving economic growth and prosperity.
Establishing comprehensive collaboration and partnerships between the TVEC, industry stakeholders, and educational institutions is essential. By actively engaging employers and industry experts in the curriculum development process, the commission can ensure that vocational training programs are aligned with current market trends and industry needs. This collaborative approach not only enhances the relevance and effectiveness of vocational education but also strengthens the link between education and employment, reducing skills gaps and unemployment rates.
One of the critical reforms needed within the TVEC is the implementation of a probation period before immediate suspensions. Currently, the absence of such a mechanism leads to rash decisions that can have detrimental effects on educational institutions. Instituting a probationary period would allow for a fair assessment of an institution’s performance, providing an opportunity for improvement before resorting to drastic measures. This proactive approach not only fosters a culture of continuous improvement but also ensures that the commission’s actions are fair and just, ultimately bolstering the credibility and stability of the education system.
Moreover, investing in technology and infrastructure is crucial to modernizing Sri Lanka’s vocational education sector. By leveraging digital tools and resources, the TVEC can enhance the delivery of educational content, facilitate remote learning opportunities, and reach a wider audience of students. Additionally, upgrading physical infrastructure, such as vocational training centers and laboratories, is essential to providing students with hands-on learning experiences and practical skills development. These investments not only improve the quality of education but also enhance the overall learning environment, fostering creativity, innovation, and collaboration among students and faculty.
Furthermore, promoting lifelong learning and skills development is necessary to ensure the long-term success and resilience of Sri Lanka’s workforce. By offering continuous training and upskilling opportunities, the TVEC can empower individuals to adapt to changing job market dynamics and pursue new career pathways. Additionally, promoting a culture of lifelong learning creates a mindset of innovation and agility, positioning Sri Lanka as a hub for talent and expertise in the global economy. The critical bottleneck in the operations of Sri Lanka’s TVEC stemming from the shortage of resources and personnel is a multifaceted challenge that demands immediate attention. The inadequacy in the number of assessors and administrative staff has profound repercussions, manifesting in prolonged delays in accrediting institutions and issuing
certifications. This bottleneck not only frustrates the aspirations of students eager to enter the workforce but also obstructs the seamless operation of vocational training centers, thereby impeding their capacity to contribute effectively to the nation’s economy.
The shortage of resources and personnel within the TVEC can be considered to have created a domino effect in the country, amplifying the inefficiencies inherent in its operations. The backlog in accreditation processes not only undermines the trust and confidence of stakeholders but also undermines the credibility of vocational education in Sri Lanka. Both existing as well as previous students of affected institutions are left in limbo, uncertain about their educational and career prospects due to the protracted delays in obtaining necessary certifications and the reputation of the institutions from which they obtained their qualifications. Moreover, vocational training centers, deprived of accreditation, are constrained in their ability to attract students and secure funding, further exacerbating the resource crunch and perpetuating a cycle of underperformance.
Addressing the resource constraints faced by the TVEC is imperative to improve its efficiency in accrediting institutions and issuing certifications as well. This involves recruiting and training more assessors and administrative staff to expedite accreditation processes and reduce delays. Investing in capacity-building initiatives and providing ongoing professional development opportunities can enhance the competency and effectiveness of TVEC personnel, enabling them to handle the increasing workload and meet the growing demands of the vocational education sector. Furthermore, streamlining registration procedures for institutions offering foreign qualifications is crucial to eliminating unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles and facilitating the integration of Sri Lankan graduates into the global workforce. Local regulatory bodies ought to take steps to recognize credentials issued by reputable international bodies without imposing localized and inefficient requirements, thereby enhancing the efficiency of the accreditation process and promoting greater mobility and recognition of qualifications on an international scale. This streamlined approach not only benefits individual students by expanding their opportunities for further education and employment abroad but also strengthens Sri Lanka’s position as a competitive player in the global knowledge economy.
In addition to these reforms, taking further steps to establish greater collaboration and partnerships between the TVEC, educational institutions, industry stakeholders, and international accrediting bodies can further enhance the quality and relevance of vocational education in Sri Lanka. By harnessing the collective expertise and resources of all stakeholders, the commission can develop more innovative and industry-aligned educational programs, thereby better preparing students for success in the global workforce.
As has been observed, one of the most significant hurdles facing the TVEC is the effectiveness of its staff. Insufficient training, resources, and capacity-building initiatives can undermine the competency of personnel and hinder their ability to perform their duties efficiently. Deficiencies in staff effectiveness can lead to delays in accreditation processes, errors in certification issuance, and overall inefficiencies in the functioning of the commission. To address this challenge, it is imperative to invest in ongoing professional development programs tailored to the specific needs of TVEC staff. These programs should encompass a wide range of topics, including regulatory compliance, industry trends, technological advancements, and customer service skills.
Additionally, implementing performance evaluation mechanisms can help identify areas for improvement and ensure that staff members are held accountable for their performance, thereby enhancing overall efficiency and effectiveness within the commission.
The requirement for institutions offering foreign qualifications to also re-register with the TVEC poses additional challenges that need to be addressed as well, as such institutions are already registered with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other bodies such as the British Council in order for them to have been accredited by foreign vocational qualification issuing bodies. One of the primary concerns is the rigid approach to course duration, which overlooks the importance of competency-based learning and hampers the flexibility needed to accommodate diverse student needs and abilities. Unlike in foreign countries where the length of a course may vary based on individual student progress and mastery of competencies, Sri Lankan institutions are expected to adhere strictly to their own prescribed timelines. This inflexible approach not only undermines the quality of education but also restricts the ability of institutions to tailor their programs to meet the needs of students effectively.
Moreover, the outdated nature of the Tertiary and Vocational Education Act of 1990 presents a noteworthy obstacle to the commission’s effectiveness. The legislative framework governing the operations of the TVEC has not kept pace with the evolving needs of the education sector, thereby hindering its ability to adapt to changing circumstances and address emerging challenges. Revising this legislation is essential to ensure that it reflects contemporary educational standards, promotes innovation, and fosters collaboration between different stakeholders, including academia, industry, and government. This process should involve comprehensive consultations with relevant stakeholders to identify areas for improvement and develop a legislative framework that is conducive to the advancement of tertiary and vocational education in Sri Lanka. In other countries, the legislation and governance are developed constantly in order to assist the progress of its citizens. For instance, in the United Kingdom, government ministries, such as the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Trade, Ministry of Food, Ministry of Agriculture, and various state institutions, play a direct role in regulation, mirroring the functionality of bodies like the Rail Regulator and other regulatory entities in the UK and Europe. Another notable example is the Philippines, where a significant portion of the population are overseas workers who bring in substantial foreign revenue to the country as a result of their progressive regulatory bodies streamlining the process. However, the effectiveness of regulators in Sri Lanka remains a subject of doubt.
In today’s digital age, the integration of technology is paramount for enhancing educational delivery, streamlining administrative processes, and fostering innovation within educational institutions. However, the TVEC’s inadequate IT infrastructure and the lack of proficiency among its staff in utilizing digital tools and methodologies hamper its ability to support the development of Sri Lankan institutions effectively. Investing in IT infrastructure and providing comprehensive training to TVEC staff in the use of digital technologies is essential to overcome this barrier. By harnessing the power of technology, the TVEC can improve communication and collaboration with educational institutions, streamline accreditation processes, and provide valuable resources and support to foster innovation and excellence in teaching and learning.
Furthermore, the arbitrary suspension of institutions by the TVEC has far-reaching consequences that extend beyond administrative measures, impacting the lives and futures of students and tarnishing the reputation of affected institutions. Abrupt suspensions deprive existing students of the opportunity to complete their education and obtain certification from the awarding body, causing significant disruption and uncertainty. Moreover, the reputational damage inflicted by unofficial announcements of suspensions on social media platforms such as Facebook exacerbates the challenges faced by suspended institutions, making it difficult for them to regain trust and credibility even after addressing the issues raised by the TVEC.
To address these issues, the TVEC must adopt a more transparent, fair, and collaborative approach to suspension processes. Providing written notices to institutions outlining the reasons for suspension, allowing sufficient time for them to address identified issues, and offering support and guidance throughout the remediation process are essential steps to minimize the adverse impact on students and institutions. Additionally, the TVEC should refrain from using unofficial channels such as social media to announce suspensions and instead adhere to established communication protocols to ensure fairness, accountability, and consistency in its actions.
In conclusion, the key points addressed here are as follows:

Absence of Probation Period in the Tertiary and Vocational Education Act (No. 20 of 1990)
The current legislation lacks adequate provisions for instituting a probationary period before immediate suspensions, leading to hasty decisions without allowing institutions time to rectify alleged issues.

Outdated Syllabuses and Curriculums
Despite being crucial in generating foreign revenue through vocational training, TVEC’s failure to update syllabuses and curriculums hampers the quality and relevance of education provided.

Shortage of Resources and Personnel
Insufficient staffing and resources within TVEC lead to significant delays in assessing and accrediting institutions, particularly affecting those offering National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs).

Inefficient Accreditation Process
TVEC’s accreditation process for vocational training institutes lacks efficiency and adequate speed, resulting in delays and setbacks for institutions dependent on their approval.

Localized Requirements for Foreign Qualifications
TVEC’s insistence on additional and localized registration for institutions offering foreign qualifications poses challenges, especially regarding the duration of courses, which should ideally be competency-based rather than strictly timed based on local standards.

Lack of IT Adequacy
TVEC’s inadequate IT infrastructure impedes the development of Sri Lankan institutions, hindering their ability to keep pace with technological advancements and educational innovations in the world.

Unfair Suspension Practices
Abrupt suspensions of institutions by the TVEC disadvantage existing students who are unable to obtain certifications from the external reputable awarding bodies, causing reputational damage to both current and graduated students. Ideally, the TVEC should provide written notices and allow sufficient time for institutions to rectify issues before resorting to suspension.

Lengthy Upliftment Process After Suspension
Institutes suspended by TVEC face prolonged periods of upliftment due to staff shortages within the commission, preventing them from resuming courses and negatively impacting their short-term and long-term reputations.

Unofficial Announcement of Suspensions
TVEC’s use of unofficial channels, such as Facebook, to publish suspensions causes irreparable damage to institutions’ reputations before they are given the opportunity to address issues, leading to prolonged consequences even after resolutions are reached.
Reimagining Sri Lanka’s Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission is thus not merely a matter of addressing isolated inefficiencies but requires a comprehensive and progressive approach. By implementing reforms such as establishing probationary periods, updating syllabuses regularly, addressing resource shortages, and streamlining registration processes, the nation can unlock the full potential of its human capital and propel itself towards sustainable growth. Critical issues such as staff effectiveness, legislative framework modernization, IT adequacy, and fair suspension processes demand urgent attention. Investing in staff training, revising outdated legislation, enhancing IT infrastructure, and ensuring transparency in suspension procedures are vital steps to ensure an environment conducive to educational advancement and innovation.
With concerted efforts and strategic reforms, Sri Lanka can position itself as a global leader in tertiary and vocational education in the future, empowering its citizens with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in the 21st-century economy. The time for action and change is now, and by embracing the necessary changes rather than being constrained by shackles of outdated systems, Sri Lanka can pave the way for a brighter, more prosperous future for the generations to come.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.



Copyright © 2024 All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress