Tuesday, October 25, 2011

ISETs a local development engine.

After the 14th of January, it became obvious that among the several socioeconomic priorities, regional development, especially of the interior regions, is the most pressing priority. Nevertheless, identifying priorities is only a necessary step, but far from being a sufficient one! Indeed, devising the appropriate impacts-driven strategies to achieve the desired goals and outcomes, let alone providing the needed funds, is the main challenge.

Today, it is fully admitted that education in general, and technical training in particular, could play a key socioeconomic development role on the national as well as local levels. Luckily, the Tunisian higher educational infrastructure is quite evenly spread all over Tunisia, with one ISET in each governorate. These institutions, once restructured to respond to a wider local mission, could be key socioeconomic leverages for the development of their respective region.

Due to lack of experience, short vision and thus insufficient mission design, the ISETs ended up more like dwarfed engineering schools, rather than technical institutions anchored to their regions and integrated in their different development dynamics. Consequently, this expensive infrastructure, turned into a burden by producing mainly unemployable graduates, rather than responding to the immediate local needs by providing a range of educational and training services. Moreover, ISETs are almost completely decoupled from the university system as well as the vocational one, making of them a last resort for high school graduates.

To fully leverage this valuable infrastructure and make of it a local development asset, it is proposed to widen its mission and couple it intelligently to the rest of the educational and training systems along the lines of successful institutions such as the American Community Colleges.

In order to achieve the above goals, it is necessary to benchmark the ISETs against the Community Colleges while taking into consideration the socioeconomic contexts of the two countries, especially the pressing short and medium terms needs of Tunisia.