Cover: Improving Technical Vocational Education and Training in the Kurdistan Region — Iraq

Improving Technical Vocational Education and Training in the Kurdistan Region — Iraq

Published Apr 24, 2014

by Louay Constant, Shelly Culbertson, Cathy Stasz, Georges Vernez


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Research Questions

  1. With the Kurdistan Region — Iraq enjoying rapid growth, how can secondary-level vocational education catch up to provide students with the skills private employers need?
  2. What are some of the experiences and programs of other nations that could be duplicated in the Kurdistan Region — Iraq with regard to technical vocational education and training?

As the Kurdistan Region — Iraq develops rapidly, it is creating jobs that require a solid education and technical skills. The government has launched an ambitious reform of basic and secondary education to increase its quality and has expanded opportunities for tertiary technical and university education. But expansion of secondary vocational education has lagged, leaving many students who cannot or do not want to pursue post-secondary education without the necessary preparation to compete in the evolving labor market and contribute to its economy. Enrollment in secondary vocational education has diminished in recent years, and graduates often have difficulty finding employment because their programs have not given them the skills required by employers. At the same time, employers complain that graduates from local general and vocational educational institutions do not possess the skills they need, and are said to resort to hiring foreign labor whenever they cannot find local graduates. As part of its sweeping efforts to transform education, the Kurdistan Regional Government asked the RAND Corporation to assess its Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) system. The findings suggest several recommendations for improving TVET, particularly at the secondary level. Rather than implementing all of these at once, the report suggests three phases (short term, medium term and long term) to allow for measured implementation.

Key Findings

Too Few People Enter Postsecondary Technical and Vocational Education

  • There is a perceived poor quality of the secondary- and tertiary-level Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) system.
  • Most graduates are unable to find jobs.
  • Most graduates are unable to matriculate from secondary-level technical and vocation to post-secondary education.

A weak relationship exists between TVET programs and labor market demand

  • Coordination across the system is infrequent.
  • Occupational offerings are too few and are not driven by labor market demands.
  • Curricula are often obsolete and provide for insufficient practical experience.
  • There are no uniform qualification standards by which employers can judge whether the program will adequately prepare students for employment.


  • Policymakers in the short term should collect and analyze data about labor market needs; establish governance and supporting structures for technical vocational education and training; set the vision and goals for the TVET system; initiate design of occupational standards, curricula, and student qualification requirements, with involvement of employers and other social partners; incorporate soft skills and practical learning into the school-based curriculum through workshops and internships; and set requirements for TVET teachers.
  • In the medium term, policymakers should draft and enact TVET legislation; align secondary and tertiary TVET curricula to support transitions for students seeking further education; expand vocational program offerings in new occupations, in consultation with employers; and design and pilot formal apprenticeship programs.
  • Over the long term, policymakers should expand apprenticeship programs if pilot efforts are successful; establish a process to review occupational course offerings and vocational education and training programs; design and establish guidance and counseling programs for students; and develop means to better prepare TVET teachers and counselors.

The research described in this report was sponsored by the Kurdistan Regional Government and was conducted in RAND Education, a unit of the RAND Corporation.

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