Eleven years after the overthrow of the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, vocational education in Libya is in difficulty as a result of years of war and civil fighting.
The repercussions include the closure of dozens of vocational education institutes, the suspension of studies in some programs, and a decline in the number of students. Most of the shrinkage occurred between 2011 and 2018.
There are now about 520 higher and medium vocational institutes throughout Libya, all of them under the direct supervision of the Ministry of Technical and Vocational Education. The higher institutes have 48,679 students enrolled in disciplines such as health and safety, water affairs, transportation, medical technologies, and marine sciences. That number compares to a total university student population of over 402,000.
In an interview with Al-Fanar Media via Zoom, Issa Al-Jadi, advisor to the minister, blamed deteriorating security conditions for the closures, as well as “the weaker curricula that weakened the opportunities for graduates of these institutes to enter the labour market.”
Al-Jadi said the expansion of private universities and colleges “without specific controls” was the main reason for the drop in the number of vocational students. Official estimates indicate that there are 74 private universities in Libya, and 14 public universities.
Maritime Institute Looted
The six-year civil war which ended in 2020 disrupted the country’s ports and damaged the shipping industry. As a result, the number of students at the three maritime vocational institutes decreased.
Khaled Al-Duhair, director of the Higher Institute of Marine Science Technologies in Sabratha, told Al-Fanar Media that his institute was looted and some of its facilities were damaged.
He also said that political divisions led to a fall in the number of students joining the institute from outside Sabratha. In the past, 50 percent of the total student intake was from outside the city. Today it is 9 percent.
The uncontrolled expansion of private universities is the main reason behind the decline in the number of students in vocational institutes, says Issa Al-Jadi, an adviser to the Minister of Technical and Vocational Education.
The institute, the oldest public maritime training school in the country, was established in 1998. It has about 1,000 students in seven scientific departments. But its branches in Zuwara and in the city of Al-Khums have only 45 and 90 students respectively, Al-Duhair said.
He said the reasons for the small numbers were not security only, but also the lack of accreditation of the academic certificate that students hold after graduation. The Ports Authority considers graduates “vocationally incomplete” due to “incompatibility of educational curricula” with the standards of international maritime organisations, he said.
According to Al-Duhair, the Ministry of Training and Vocational Education has tried to solve the problem by signing an agreement which grants the Ports Authority the right to design curricula for the institute’s maritime navigation and mechanical engineering departments.
In return, the Ports Authority will recognize the institute’s certificate, awarded after three academic years. The certificate, approved by the ministry, says graduates have obtained a higher diploma in disciplines such as port operation, marine navigation, and mechanical engineering.
Stereotypes Hold Back Female Students
The number of female students at the same institute has shrunk to about 300. One of them, Salwa Salah El-Din, told Al-Fanar Media that this was due to “the absence of practical application in most of the academic courses.”
She added that Libyan society has a “stereotypical view” of women students and a belief that “job opportunities do not suit them, especially after marriage.”
The Ports Authority is helping to update curricula at an institute of marine science technologies, in the hope of strengthening trust in its certificates.
Al-Jadi said the Ministry of Training and Vocational Education planned to restore institutes and colleges that were damaged in recent years and to modernise their courses.
“We are working on developing curricula periodically in line with the vocational and knowledge development that the world is witnessing,” he said.
A vocational advisory committee has since last year been reviewing and evaluating the status of existing scientific departments to bring them in line with the vision of the ministry and the requirements of the labour market, he added.
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Al-Duhair said the development of vocational education in Libya should follow three main tracks in partnership with government agencies. These tracks are: providing a labour market for graduates; enhancing practical or field training for students; and training teachers so that “vocational education institutions in Libya can obtain international accreditation certificates, which will help graduates enter the labor market.”
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