Vocational training plays a key role in bridging the gap between the classroom and the workplace. The government of Bahrain has created pathways that allow students to focus on technical or professional skills at a number of points in their education, as well as when they leave school. Citizens can access financial support to pay for training and entrepreneurial activity.
TECHNICAL SCHOOLS: For students who are more interested in practical skills than academic study of the arts or sciences, the Bahraini school system offers the opportunity for 15-year-olds to pursue technical study at secondary school. Secondary education is not compulsory in Bahrain and students must successfully complete their time at intermediate school to qualify for a place in the technical track at a secondary school. This route has been particularly popular among boys. The most recent Ministry of Education (MoE) data shows that while some 24,853 students enrolled in government secondary schools with a general curriculum in 2014/15, a total of 6666 chose a technical curriculum. The number of boys in the general state secondary schools was 9296, less than half the total, while they numbered 5983 at the public sector technical schools, greatly outnumbering the number of girls on this track.
TRAINING INSTITUTES: The focus on technical education extends into adulthood, with more than a hundred private training providers in Bahrain offering courses to adults. These are either licensed by the MoE or the Ministry of Labour and Social Development (MLSD). In 2005 the Directorate of Training Institutes Affairs (DTIA) was established to regulate, inspect, evaluate and license training providers and their courses. Training providers are also inspected and assessed by the Education and Training Quality Authority (BQA) through its Directorate of Vocational Reviews. In a report published in December 2015, the DTIA reported it had licensed 132 training institutes offering courses in administrative and commercial subjects, as well as technical and vocational skills. There were 61 centres focused on management and administration, 25 delivering communications and language training, 21 teaching IT and 14 training people in health and occupational safety. There were three vocational institutes for beauty, two each for aviation and catering, as well as individual centres offering courses in engineering, technical instruction, computer applications and tourism.
The most recent data, which was for 2014, showed more than 17,000 people were attending training institutes: 8000 were studying management and administration, over 3000 were enrolled in computer application programmes and 1500 were studying occupational health and safety. Students signing up for the courses are able to judge the efficiency and relative strengths of programmes by accessing reports produced by government inspectors. The BQA has assessed 95 vocational centres licensed by both the MoE and the MLSD. In the second assessment cycle, 14 were judged to be inadequate, but in the third, which was partially completed in 2016, three of these had improved their achievement, with one assessed as satisfactory and two rated as good. A number of training centres were judged to be outstanding in both cycles of inspection.
TAMKEEN: A key government body devoted to ensuring Bahrainis can access affordable training and finance for business ventures is Tamkeen. Its focus is on empowering citizens with knowledge, skills and funding to improve the ratio of nationals in the workforce, also referred to as the Bahrainisation rate.
In the first half of 2017 Tamkeen granted BD2.3m ($6.1m) to 3600 Bahraini individuals to gain basic skills certificates, with 70% of the funding devoted to women. A further BD3.1m ($8.2m) was spent supporting 2000 Bahrainis in obtaining professional certificates: with 852 qualified in business, law or administration, 642 in ICT, 228 in education, and 76 in engineering, manufacturing and construction. Tamkeen also operates a business incubator also supported 35 enterprises in the first half of 2017, of which 25 were start-up companies.
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