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Choose vocational education or face unemployment
Publication Date : 30-09-2013
Most of parents in Laos want their children to study at the highest level possible. For students living in a city, a bachelor's degree is seen as a pre-requisite for a good job and, even then, many strive for a master's or aim even higher.
Most people want to continue with academic studies after secondary school, or undertake vocational training. There's a widely held belief that the lower your qualifications, the harder it can be to find work and the less you'll be paid.
It's not an unfounded notion a look at the job advertisements in newspapers shows many employers are seeking candidates with at least a bachelor's degree. It means more and more people are aiming for a university education.
But from this year, as part of a push to improve the quality of higher education in Laos, the government has temporarily banned all private institutions from offering bachelor's degrees only the national, state-run universities will offer undergraduate places.
More than 44,400 students passed their final secondary school exams this year, but only about 10,000 will be accepted at the five universities in Laos.
Needless to say, competition is hot and those who miss out will be forced to look at other options.
Students and parents are worried and well-off families are considering sending their children abroad to study.
But with so many students gunning for the higher-paid jobs requiring degrees, the chances of finding employment after university may not be as high as many think.
On the other hand, demand is already high and still growing for workers with the practical skills a vocational education can offer.
If you're set on a well-paid office job, a degree is necessary. But in the interest of economic growth, Laos needs people with a wide variety of practical skills.
Foreign investors coming to Laos will look at the local labour force and what it can provide before they decide to spend their money. Laos has a young population, which is vital for a strong labour force and attractive to foreign investors.
But while quantity is important, it's quality and specific skill sets that the country needs. Good labour management may be a key factor in boosting business growth across the nation.
Each year thousands of students graduate from colleges and universities with the same knowledge and qualifications to compete for a limited number of positions, leaving many unemployed.
Other subject areas, like those taught at vocational training institutes, have a massive job market but few interested students.
Vocational schools aren't perfect – the subjects provided sometimes don't match the current skills needed, and better communication between institutions and the private sector is needed.
Surveys need to be carried out on skill shortages and made public to allow students to make an educated decision on where they are likely to find work after completing their studies.
To encourage more people to consider a vocational education, measures could also be put in place to guarantee work for students after graduation.