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15 Aug 2012

New Trends in International Cooperation in TVET

By Kenneth King and Robert Palmer.                                                 

Despite the rise in interest in technical and vocational education and training (TVET) world-wide there has been little corresponding analysis of international cooperation in the sphere of technical and vocational skills development. This will shortly be rectified by the forthcoming UNESCO World TVET Report and by the Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report (GMR) of 2012 which will focus on skills development, particularly for the more marginalized young people.

While we wait for these reports to materialize, we can provide a first account of the scale and character of international funding of TVET, drawing on data derived from the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) creditor reporting system (CRS), in the case of DAC donors. There is no equivalent data source for non-DAC development partners; Aid Data does provide a relatively rich (though not complete – e.g. there are no Chinese data) resource for TVET projects, though this reports only on TVET commitments whilst the OECD-DAC reports on both disbursements and commitments.

Funding for what kind of “TVET”?

With both DAC and non-DAC funding sources, a critical first concern has been to define the scope of TVET, at different levels, and in different locations. The data sources have made certain assumptions about the position of vocational training and technical education in relation to levels of basic, secondary and higher education. These make it difficult to know whether forms of TVET and skills development taking place outside the formal education system are being adequately captured.

Funding for TVET is reported on under numerous different CRS codes; in addition to the CRS code for ‘Vocational training’, there are (at least) 16 other CRS codes that have a training element to them, including for example: ‘Basic life skills for youth and adults’,‘Advanced Technical and Managerial Training’, ‘Employment policy and administrative management’ and ‘Education Facilities and Training’ – to mention just 4 others.

It would certainly be useful to have more accessible data on ODA to TVET. As TVET becomes increasingly important in the priorities of development agencies, it may be useful for the OECD-DAC to reconsider the coding system currently used so that TVET could to be searched as an overall category with a series of sub-categories.

Thus what is clear from both the OECD-DAC and Aid Data sources is that a narrower (‘Vocational training’) or broader definition of TVET makes a considerable difference to the analysis of funding.

1 billion dollars

Over the period 2002-2009, ODA from DAC disbursements to TVET increased threefold, from US$230 to 668 million. However, as was noted above, this is based on a restricted notion of TVET (as defined in the CRS as “vocational training”); a figure of US$1 billion (2009) might be more accurate if a broader definition of TVET is used including basic skills and advanced technical/managerial education. And if we add in agricultural education and training, as well as the numerous TVET-related elements that are reported on under the many CRS codes, the figure goes well over US$1 billion.

…and Germany takes the Gold Medal

The largest donors to TVET in absolute terms since Seoul have been Germany, the European Union, the International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank, France, Spain, Japan, Australia, Belgium, Netherlands and the Republic of Korea. Together, these top ten donors account for over 80% of ODA to “vocational training”.

On the non-DAC side, India was by far the largest donor whose projects were captured by Aid Data.

New Developments?

The TVET sector is not a newcomer to resource mobilization through what has become termed ‘innovative financing’. There are several obvious examples, including public-private partnerships and industry levies. Since the start of 2010, the issue of innovative financing for education has started to take more prominence in global discourse; however, as yet this discourse has not addressed specific mechanisms that might be more suited to TVET, or included TVET as a potential beneficiary of non-sector specific mechanisms such as a proposed levy on global financial transactions.

Beyond financing, there are many other initiatives and innovations in TVET for which external development partners have been responsible. The sheer variety of these may be one of the factors that makes the targeting of aid to TVET more challenging, as does the diversity of national traditions in both the aiding and receiving countries. This is why importance should be attached to the concept of the enabling environment for TVET at the country level.


This blog is based on a background paper on ‘New Trends in International Cooperation’ for the UNESCO World Report on Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET).


Kenneth King is the Editor of NORRAG News. He is an Emeritus Professor at the School of Social and Political Studies, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. Email:

Robert Palmer is a member of the NORRAG team. Email:

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