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VOCATIONAL EDUCATION CHARACTERISTICS IN NATIONAL
EDUCATION CONTEXT AS A HUMAN RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT
PLATFORM
Nur Endah Purwaningsih
University State of Malang

Abstract
Vocational education is part of the whole education system, but it also has specific
characteristics which differentiate it from other form of education. Those differences are (1)
vocational education curriculum specifically has characters that lead to shaping students’ skills
which related to the particular job; (2) vocational education has roles in preparing students to
work either independently (entrepreneur) or filling up an available job vacancy; (3) vocational
education is able to create alumni who fit with certain requirements of workplace as human
resource who has work competencies, has ability to adapt and has a high competitiveness.; (4)
vocational education is a platform in which a high quality of human resources are developed .
It is expected that alumni of vocational education can become a productive person who can
work as a middle level worker and has an ability to face work competition. Research in west
Java has shown that 5-10 % of vocational education’s alumni work as an entrepreneur and
other findings also suggested that SMK’s alumni (alumni of secondary vocational education)
were able to create their own workplaces and for others. About 15 % of SMK’s alumni aged
17-22 were able to open their own businesses.

Keyword: SMK = Sekolah Menengah Kejuruan (secondary vocational education level)

Background
Chapter 2 Verse 4 of The Regulation of National Education System explain that National
education aims to educate nation and develop Indonesian human resources completely i.e. religious
human being who supplicate to a Sole God and has good characters, has knowledge and skills, has
a perfect physical and mental health, has a perfect personality, independent and has sense of
responsibility towards his society and nation. Verse 10, education is conducted in two main
methods that are formal education and non formal education.
Formal education is classified into general education, vocational education, special education,
normative education, religious education, academicals and professional education. Vocational
education is an education that prepares its students to work in particular jobs (Chapter IV Verse
11).
One of the formal education institutions that prepare its alumni to have an exception in
workforce throughout vocational education is SMK. Part 3 verse 18, secondary education form
Sekolah Menengah Atas (SMA), Madrasah Aliyah (MA), Sekolah Menengah Kejuruan (SMK) and
Madrasah Aliyah Kejuruan (MAK) or other forms within the same level. SMK is secondary
schools established by the government to prepare young employees who skilful and are able to
correspond to industrial needs.
Recent advancements in education have entered a new era which is initiated by fast
innovation in technology which demanding a corresponding changes in education systems which
appropriate with workplace demands. Education has to reflect a process of humanization in terms
of actualization of all human’s potencies to become abilities that can be applied in everyday life of
people. Sudrajat (2003) said that the mainstream of educational process, whether it is an academic
or vocational education, is workplace either formal or non-formal sectors. The achievement level of
national development is affected by nation assets to optimize and maximize developments of
human resources. These attempts can be pursued through education, formal or non-formal. One of
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the formal institutions which prepared their alumni to be successful in workplace is vocational
education.
Vocational education is an education that prepares their students to be able to work in
particular job (Wikipedia.com). Vocational education which is developed in Indonesia is Sekolah
Menengah Kejuruan (SMK) which is designed to prepare student in the workplace and they
expected to manage to develop professionalism in vocational fields. Alumni of vocational
education are expected to become a productive human being that can work in middle level of
workplace and has an ability to face work competitiveness.

Discussion
Mahfud (2010) said that it is undeniable that vocational education contributed to develop and
increase people’s economy. Related to this, Carr and Hartnett (2002) wrote “ the paradigm of
vocational education is economic; to contribute to the generation and modernization of industry
and so advance the economic development and the growth of modern society”. Competitiveness of
a nation is affected by knowledge and skills of their workers which can be achieved through
improvement in education and training, especially vocational education. Trained and skilful
workers will add value to the product produced and indicated by improvement in productivity and
production cost reduction, better quality of product and faster returned investment.
Likewise, vocational education is also believed as a key factor in economic development in
some countries especially developed countries as said by Wilkins (2001), “vocational education is
one of the key factors in ensuring economic development, competitiveness and social stability in all
countries, both developing and industrialized”. This is based on the believe that the successful of
vocational education in producing skilful worker is an important part in human resources
development in providing provision of knowledge and skills that further needed by the students.
Vocational education is part of the whole education system, but it also has specific
characteristics which differentiate it from other form of education. Those differences are (1)
vocational education curriculum specifically has characters that lead to shaping students’ skills
which related to the particular job. These skills have been facilitated by SMK’s curriculums that
are differentiated into normative, adaptive and productive groups. Curriculum used by SMK is
KTSP arranged by education units according to SI and SKL and based on guidelines made by
Badan Standar Nasional Pendidikan (National Education Standardization Bureau); (2) Vocational
education has roles in preparing students to work either independently (entrepreneur) or filling up
an available job vacancy; (3) SMK is one of institution which created alumni who fit with certain
requirements of workplace. Workers which are needed is human resources who have work
competencies, have ability to adapt and have a high competitiveness. Demand of having alumni
who fit with job requirements need to be set as the base to divine vocational education’s goals.
SMK as one form of vocational education, as suggested in verse 15 UU SISDIKNAS, SMK is a
secondary education which prepared student to work in specific jobs.
Based on education needs perspectives and accessibility workplace/ industry, at least there
are 3 challenges for SMK in regional and national context i.e. (a) implementation of educational
programs and training need to focus on empowerment of local potency along with optimization link
with partner institution. (b) Implementation of the curriculum has to be flexible according to
current trend and development in technology so then the competency achieved by the students
during and after study programs has a high adaptation ability. (c) Education and training program
should be oriented to master learning which involving active participation of the stakeholders. An
attempt to provide SMK which meets public demands, SMK has to play its proper roles and
functions.
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REGULATIONS RELATED TO VOCATIONAL EDUCATION
1. UU Number 20 in
2003 about National
Education Systems
Chapter II Verse 4 National education aim to educate nations and
develop Indonesian human resources.
verse 10, education is conducted in two main methods
that are formal education and non formal
education.
Chapter IV Verse 11 Vocational education is an education that
prepares its students to work in particular jobs
2. PP Number 19 in
2005. Education
National Standard
KTSP KTSP in basic and secondary level is arranged
by education units according to SI and SKL
and based on guidelines made by Badan
Standar Nasional Pendidikan (National
Education Standardization Bureau);
3. PP No. 8 (2012)
about KKNI Chapter
I Verse 1 Sub verse
2,
Learning
Achievements
Ability achieved from internalization of
knowledge, attitude, competency and
accumulation of work experiences.
Verse 4 Sub verse 1 Learning achievement which is reached
through education or work training is approved
by certificate.
Qualification Level
Verse 5 KKNI
Alumni of secondary level at least at the level
equal to second qualification level
Qualification level 2 1. Are able to finish one specific task
using tools and information and
procedures that is commonly used and
also shown measured level of quality
under supervision
2. Has knowledge on basic operational
and knowledge in specific workplace
so then is able to choose available
problem solving for common setback.
3. Taking responsibility on their own job
and can be given responsibility to
assist others

According to Djohar (2007: 1295-1297), characteristic of vocational education are: (1)
education which is aimed to provide workers. Therefore, their alumni should be able to assimilate
with the workforce, (2) justification of vocational education is the actual need of workforce in
industry, (3) The successful of vocational education is measured by two criteria i.e. students’
success in school and out school. The first criteria covers students’ success to meet curricular
requirements whilst second criteria indicated by alumni performance in the workplace; (4)
Vocational education has sensitivity/ responsiveness to the development of workplace. Therefore,
vocational education has to be responsive and proactive to the development of science and
knowledge and concern more on adaptation and flexibility attempts to face upcoming careers of
students; (5) Work stations and Laboratories are the main investments in vocational education, to
achieve perfect condition that imitate the real-life working stations; (6) Corporation between
industry and vocational institution should inline with high demand in relevance among vocational
education and industry.
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In reality, SMK is still a second option after SMA; therefore students in SMK are those who
can enter SMA. Nazar and Wicaksono (2008) suggested that student from SMP assumed that SMA
is better in terms of flexibility in work and possibility to engage in higher education. SMK alumni
are thought to go directly to work market and not to the high education institution.
In 2007, young generation aged 15-24 was about 44 millions and half of them have already
entered work market. But only 1 in 4 that enter that work market in unemployed. One of
government attempt to reduce unemployment and low-quality employees is to produce alumni who
can work through developing secondary education especially SMK. Regulation of National
Education Department is to increase number of SMK though proportion programs in 2010 which
targeted the ration of 50:50 (SMK :SMA) and further 67: 33 in 2014. Realization of these targets is
to develop some strategies i.e. (1) students ratio, (2) numbers of SMK students (3) numbers of
SMK (4) developments of SMK’s students (5) numbers of SMK’s teachers by 2010. Those steps
were written in the roadmap of Direktorat Pembinaan SMK 2010-2014.
One study conducted by Demography Department of FEUI (2009) had showed that SMK’s
expansion was determined by the SMK themselves. The public interest in SMK is affected by
SMK’s images, competency of SMK’s alumni, workplace acceptance of SMK’s alumni and
capacity of SMK’s alumni to opening business and the relevancy of SMK’s graduated to use local
potencies. In another word, public interest would be improved if SMK manage to increase their
quality. Strategies to develop SMK is to make better of the inputs such as facilities, improving
number and quality of teachers and curriculums, collaborate with DUDI in terms of improving
curriculums and acceptability of alumni in the workplaces, improve students qualification (not only
those who cannot enter SMA), and advocating regulation to support SMK development.

Five Strategies in Developing SMK
First, to create better images for the SMK through brochures, pamphlets, TV, and directly
go to SMP to offer scholarship. For the end-use of SMK’s alumni involving DUDI and competency
grading, internships and developing curriculum. Second, improving quality of SMK through
improving infrastructure, and supporting equipments in line with advancement in information
technology used by DUDI and improvements in quality and numbers of SMK’s teachers. Third,
relevancy of SMK with DUDI needs. Development of SMK with the national perfectives to meet
competencies that support industry. For instance, the need of experts in computer and pharmacist
that would further develop, therefore SMK should put their priority on them. Developments of
SMK with local perspectives in which SMK is established base on local needs. According to local
potencies mapping, SMK’s alumni should need to accommodate the need of their local industries.
Forms of collaboration with industries are to provide internships to SMK’s students. Four,
Coordinate with the government to accommodate SMK development. Persuade PEMDA (local
government) to allocate 20% of APBD for education sector to improve SMK. Five,
Entrepreneurship ability of the headmasters in establishing partnership with DUDI to accommodate
internship programs (PSG) and to provide workplace for the alumni. This entrepreneurship is
needed to sell SMK and its products. For example, every SMK’s products exhibitions should invite
DUDI, government and DEPDIKNAS. Demand on vocational education should follow link and
match policy i.e. continual changes from the old way education method to the new one focused on
development of human resources.

New dimension integrated from link and match policy has to fit with SMK curriculum
orientation (Dirjen Pendidikan Dasar dan menengah, Direktorat Pembinaan Sekolah Menengah
Kejuruan 2005; 37-39) i.e. changes from supply driven to market demand. With this demand
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driven, it is expected that business and industry worlds will involve more in deciding and pursuing
vocational education because of their needs in employees. In reality, workplace involves because
educational process determine quality of alumni, evaluation education results, workplace also
determine the acceptability and measurability of vocational educations. One of the applications of
demand driven is in developing curriculums which should be done through synchronization and
applied in Pendidikan Sistim Ganda programs (Double Education System). By doing
synchronization in curriculum, SMK education is expected to be able to imitate condition in
industry and also has relevancy and high flexibility with real-life demand. Through this
synchronization, it is expected that school can determine skills and performances needed by the
industry.
Changes from school based program to dual based program go in line with link and match
policy suggesting vocational education to be conducted in two places. Half of the program is
conducted in school (theories and basic practical jobs) and half is conducted outside the school that
is productive skills are achieved through learning by doing principles. Learning by doing practice
will given skills and values which is difficult to obtain in school namely formation quality
knowledge, market knowledge, and competitiveness knowledge, value added knowledge and
professionalism.
Changes of general learning systems to competency based learning, is made to guide
learning process to those skills oriented capabilities. This competency based system has lead to
changes in vocational curriculum which now is in competency packages.
Changes from Narrow based to Broad based is part of link and match policy. New system
which is based on human resource, quality knowledge and competitiveness adapting principles
suggesting that it is impossible to create a good quality and high competitiveness human resources
without a strong base. Therefore, students should be given strong basic abilities that act as a value
add so then they can adapt to advancement of technologies and strengthen their ability in
mathematics, science, English and computers. This new system should create strong base that
allowed SMK’s alumni to adapt changes in workplaces.
Changes from formal to flexible systems are involving multi entry, multi exit principles.
With the changes from supply driven to demand driven, from school based program to dual based
program, from general learning systems to competency based learning, needing flexibility that
allows internships and multi entry multi exit. These principles allow students who have had special
ability (do to competency based programs), to be able to get jobs, even if they left schools. If they
want to continue their schools, the school should give them a chance even giving them appreciation
and acknowledge their skills which they obtain from their works. On the other hand, dual based
program also need internship management according to industry’s schedules which would be
different from school’s schedules.
Changes from systems that do not take into account previous experiences into systems that
acknowledge the prior learning, vocational education should manage to appreciate those
competency obtained by someone. This systems will motive many people who have already had
particular competency for instance from work experience that they want to achieve certain
acknowledgement as their foundation for ongoing education and training. For SMK should provide
methods of measurements to test someone’s competency from wherever and however ways they
got it.
Changes from system that separate education and vocational training to system that think
them as a whole, has package their method of education into vocational competency packages,
which make it easier to recognize and appreciate vocational education and vocational training
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programs. This new system requires competency standardization which can be achieved through
education, training or even work experiences supported by students’ initiative to learn.
Changes from terminal to sustain system, new system still wants new graduates to work
directly so then they can become productive workers and give return to SMK. New system also
admits that many SMK alumni have potencies which can develop much more after they work.
Therefore, these alumni have to be given opportunity to continue their study in higher level of
education (for instance Diploma), through an articulation that appreciate competency obtained from
SMK and from previous works. To achieve acculturation system, a bragging program should put
in place to ensure basic knowledge of alumni who have done prior jobs so then they are ready to
enter high education level.
Changes from center management to private management (decentralization), this private
management is aimed to given opportunity to local government (province) or even schools to
decide their own operational policies within national policies frameworks. National policies are
limited to certain strategic steps to allowed stakeholder to improvise and innovate. SMK
reformation should stress more on increasing self-esteem of the schools therefore they can make
right steps which based on accountability principles and given appreciation to those who should be
appreciated and punished those who do not.
Changes from solely depend on government’s budget to self- proficient. In line with demand
driven to dual based program, reformation school management, and development schools’
production unit, new system is expected to support self proficiency in SMK and government’s
budget can become supporting sources. This system is expected to allow SMK to think and act
more economized.
To create skilful and professional workers in SMK, appropriate inputs should be obtained.
These inputs namely students, teachers, curriculum, teaching methods, infrastructures, and policies,
environmental inputs including families, schools, and society. Learning process in schools is the
main factor in determining students’ success as expected by the government and department.
In doing so, schools will be affected by students as the main characters in learning process so
then the goal can be achieved. Learning achievements according to PP No. 8 in 2012 about KKNI
chapter 1 verse 1 sub verse 2, are skills achieved from internalization of knowledge, attitude,
competency, and accumulation of job experiences. Verse 4 sub verses 1, learning achievement
which is reached through education or work training is approved by certificate. Competency
certificate is an acknowledgement of learning achievement through education or training. Learning
achievement trough education with multi level qualivication (verse 5) , in KKNI, SMK’s alumni is
a graduate of the lowest education level equal to second level which has qualification i.e. (1) are
able to finish one specific task using tools and information and procedures that is commonly used
and also shown measured level of quality under supervision; (2) has knowledge on basic
operational and knowledge in specific workplace so then is able to choose available problem
solving for common setback; (3) taking responsibility on their own job and can be given
responsibility to assist others.
Output expected from SMK’s alumni is a professional worker who is independent and can
become an entrepreneur, s able to work in industry, government’s offices, and business and even
can continue study; alumni that are ready to enter workforce and develop professionalism attitudes
in vocational areas. Alumni are expected to become a productive person and manage to work in
middle level and are prepared to face work competition.
Currently SMA graduates are more than SMK graduates therefore it is difficult for them to
enter workplace because SMA alumni are directed to more general knowledge. As for SMK alumni
are trained to master skills which are needed by the industry and business. This leads to increase in
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unemployment number which is worsen by global economy crisis. Until mid 2008, there have been
nine millions people or 8.39 % of total Indonesian workforce who are not working. Almost two
third works in informal sectors with low wedge and no appropriate protection. Thus one available
option proposed by the government is to increase number of SMK therefore it is expected to
provide human resources who are ready to work.
Waulat (2009) suggested that number of alumni underemployed is a parameter to measure
successful of learning process in school; to achieve optimal outcome multi level steps should be
undertaken to measure level of achievements. Akbar (2008) said that outcome can be seen from:
(1) number of students given scholarship; (2) number of students worked in industry; (3) number of
students who received certificates and scores over 300; (4) number of students have business; (5)
number of student given loans. Research in west Java has shown that 5-10 % of vocational
education’s alumni work as an entrepreneur and other findings also suggested that SMK’s alumni
(alumni of secondary vocational education) were able to create their own workplaces and for
others. About 15 % of SMK’s alumni aged 17-22 were able to open their own businesses. These
numbers is not significantly different than those from SMA. Depdiknas has pointed out that SMK
alumni are not in worker level. Therefore, they added entrepreneurship subjects in SMK’s
curriculum.

Conclusion
To reach National Education goal that is to educate nation and develop Indonesian human
resources completely, especially in SMK, appropriate inputs and programs are needed. These
inputs namely students, teachers, curriculum, teaching methods, infrastructures, and policies,
environmental inputs including families, schools, and society. Learning process in schools is the
main factor in determining students’ success as expected by the government and department.
Moreover, recently SMK has made many changes before and after UUSPN No.20 in 2008.
Vocational education is part of the whole education system, but it also has specific
characteristics which differentiate it from other form of education. Those differences are (1)
vocational education curriculum specifically has characters that lead to shaping students’ skills
which related to the particular job; (2) vocational education has roles in preparing students to work
either independently (entrepreneur) or filling up an available job vacancy; (3) vocational education
is able to create alumni who fit with certain requirements of workplace as human resource who has
work competencies, has ability to adapt and has a high competitiveness.; (4) vocational education is
a platform in which a high quality of human resources are developed.
It is expected that alumni of vocational education can become a productive person who can
work as a middle level worker and has an ability to face work competition. Research in west Java
has shown that 5-10 % of vocational education’s alumni work as an entrepreneur and other findings
also suggested that SMK’s alumni (alumni of secondary vocational education) were able to create
their own workplaces and for others. About 15 % of SMK’s alumni aged 17-22 were able to open
their own businesses.


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Tahun 2005
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Djohar, A. (2007). Pendidikan Teknologi dan Kejuruan. Dalam Ilmu dan Aplikasi Pendidikan.
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