Learning from German precision

By Heirete Yibaleh

Sheldon Lee Cooper, a fictional character from the hit CBS television sitcom The Big Bang Theory, has genius level IQ, but displays an almost total lack of social skills, a weak understanding of conventional humor, and difficulty recognizing irony and sarcasm in other people.

However, he is also known for his remarks that are considered to be a combination of intellect and humor.

My bowel movements run like a German train schedule,” he said in one of the episodes describing how good he is.

The reference made by Cooper regarding German precision can be considered as a seamless description of what Germany and Germans are—adept and meticulous engineers.

Known for household names like Mercedes Benz, BMW and Volkswagen, German engineering is in the champions’ division of the entire industry. As an example, this country maintains its great reputation as the top exporter of machinery and industrial equipment.

The quality is always superb and the skill shown is great. Craftsmanship is combined with quality engineering to achieve widely acclaimed and high-performance products.

That is what the Ethiopian government hopes to learn from the European powerhouse.

The partnership between Ethiopia and German has a history of over 40 years. Currently, the German government is supporting the country in education and sustainable rural development, which are priority areas and part of the development program of the Ethiopian government.

One education program, which is expected to play a great role in the economic development of the country, is the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) program. The program received support from the German government from initial planning to implementation stage about 10 years ago. The German technical cooperation, represented though GIZ, has supported Ethiopia’s TVET system reform by developing occupational standards and assessment and human resource development.

During the inauguration of the new building of the Federal TVET Agency on April 21, 2016, Shiferaw Shigute, Minister of Education, said that Germany can be taken as a model country and underlined its rewarding assistance in implementing the outcome-based and demand driven TVET system in Ethiopia.

This building is said to be an example of the EthioGerman financial cooperation. The Federal TVET Agency building accommodates around 120 federal TVET Agency employees and allows the Ethiopian government to save high annual rent, which can be used for in the educational sector for priority areas.

Joseph Most, team leader at IP Consult , which is engaged as an implementation consultant in the second and third phase of the Ethio-German program for the reform of TVET, said that this building is part of the phase two implementation plan of the program which is about to be finalized.

When looking at the figures, implementation reports indicate that the German financial cooperation, which is represented through KFW, has supported 38 TVET institutes with EUR 10 million from 2007 to 2010. In the following years, from 2012 to 2016, 11 TVET institutes and the construction of three buildings were supported with an amount of EUR 10 million. The aim is to improve the quality and quantity in the TVET and higher education in Ethiopia. Under this, seven TVET lead cluster institutes in six regions, the agriculture TVET College in Wukro and three institutes of technology will be supported. ''The objective is to create an outcome-based TVET system that gives a chance to anyone with standard competence to qualify for a certificate,” Most told The Reporter. As an example he said that a construction worker, who has been working for 10 years on the area and has the right expertise and competence due the experience attained through the years, can go to the Center of Compliance (COC), and tell the people there about the competence he has, be assessed and can qualify for a certificate.

“The TVET program will play a great role in the country’s plan to be a middle income country by 2025 and the transition from agricultural to an industrial economy.  The 70/30 rule we have in the TVET programs now allows trainees to get a 70 percent practical and 30 percent theoretical training and this plays a great role in creating well skilled and qualified industrial professionals,” he said. All the teachers and deans I meet know this rule and are working hard to meet the target,” Most told The Reporter. He indicated that it will eradicate the complaints about TVET graduates not being qualified for the octal work field.

Elaborating this point further, State Minister of Education, Teshome Lemma, told The Reporter that the 70 percent of practical training that was carried out in schools and workshops is now being carried out in actual industrial work places supported by the industry worker and trainer. ''The vocational trainings have five levels. Levels one and two are for workers that work under the inspection of supervisors. Levels three and four are for the supervisors and experts that inspect and guide workers under levels one and two. These personnel also have the skills and knowledge of the first and second levels. Level five is for what is known as technical managers,'' the State Minister told The Reporter.

''These levels have their own level of knowledge, skill and level of understanding. These levels of trainings are given based on the curriculum. Trainers and trainees work to attain the specifications of the respective levels,” Teshome said.  After the completion of these stages different assessments are made by the trainer and an external assessor. He said that now the assessments are not only for the trainees but the trainers as well. “This is to make sure that we have well qualified trainers,” he said.

Explaining about the demand driven nature of the program, the State Minister said that training areas, disciplines as well as the level curriculums are aligned to the demand and need of the economy and industry and is complimentary to the development plan. ''We don't just give trainings simply because there is an available trainer, training center or equipment rather we train people after realizing and understanding what the economy and industry demands.'' he said.

“We didn't blindly pick Germany or it’s not because the country wanted to support us. We formed the cooperation because Germany has a great experience in this area and they are the best in the world,” the State Minister said while commenting on the Ethio-German cooperation. He said that the German government's support never stopped starting from the initial stages of the program and also has a plan to work together in the future as well.