Paulina Quintao – The Timor-Leste Coalition for Education (TLCE) has expressed concern over the Ministry of Education's policy to turn several high schools into vocational schools due to the lack of qualified teachers and proper equipment for practical activities.
TLCE National Secretary Jose de Jesus said although it was a good initiative, the government needed to address several issues in order to strengthen the policy's implementation.
"The ministry should first conduct a viability study on the transformation of schools in terms of the human resources," he said at his office in Kaikoli, Dili. "[Schools] should have [proper] facilities before being transformed."
He said TLCE believes the policy was simply a response to political necessities, as it does not reflect the reality on the ground and has also been poorly implemented.
He cited the Hera Technical School as an example, which is housed in a well-designed new building, but has no facilities for students to conduct practical activities.
Meanwhile, national MP Agostinho Lai called on the government to roll out the policy in stages rather than establishing schools in all the municipalities at once.
He said the education sector continued to face several significant challenges, particularly in terms of the lack of qualified teachers, infrastructure and learning materials.
"We don't have any teachers in general high schools and now we are establishing more vocational schools in the municipalities," he said.
He said six vocational schools had been established in Ermera municipality, but they still faced many problems in the teaching and learning process.
To ensure education standards at existing vocational schools, he urged the government to take responsibility for maintaining facilities, providing proper equipment and recruiting qualified teachers.