Multi-layered benefits of research culture in the educational sector: A study of TVET and conventional institutes

Jan 31, 2023 | Issue 20


Research keeps the world updated. Researchers provide background to current trends and trace a pathway for a better and sustainable future. Research helps to produce new and up-to-date knowledge which is essential for growth at every level. Research and development can improve the credibility of educational institutes. A qualitative study has been conducted to understand the perspectives of educational institutes regarding the importance of research culture. The study involved four educational institutes: two conventional education institutes and two TVET institutes. The study reveals that research culture helps in the continuous development of the educational sector by producing up-to-date knowledge, adopting innovative teaching and learning practices, creating a link between industry and academia, and by adopting industry-oriented practices. The benefit of research is to produce an updated curriculum which, in turn, produces competent graduates to revolutionise industry and build a sustainable future. 

Keywords: Research, research culture, research in education sector, research in TVET.

1        Introduction

Research and development practices of a country determine its future growth, success, and capacity for innovation. A country’s sustainable tomorrow depends upon its practices of today. Nations that link research with goals can proceed towards a sustainable future in terms of economy, innovation, public policy, social and environmental upgradation. Globally, it is accepted that research and development are crucial for the development of a safe, resilient and sustainable future. According to the Institute of Statistics, the “proportion of global GDP invested in R&D has significantly increased from 1.61% in 2010 to 1.93% in 2020” (UIS 2022). The UNESCO Institute of Statistics stresses the importance of research and considers it to be related to a country’s GDP. The UIS encourages nations to increase their focus on research activities leading to development and innovation.

Research is based on knowledge, encompassing new ideas and innovative thinking (Sharma 2020). An individual with innovative ability can play a central role in conducting research and designing innovative practices based on his or her knowledge. According to the vision of UNESCO 2030, it is imperative for all states to promote sustainable, inclusive, diversified, innovative and green societies. This strategy is extremely important in relation to addressing the rapid changes posed by technology, culture, environment, lifestyle, and industrial demands (Tun & Juchelkova 2022). To this end, a vastly different approach is required in the education system, as education and training offer the fastest route to bringing about change. Nations must therefore incorporate research and development as integral elements of the education system. Research is as important in both conventional and mainstream education systems as it is in technical or vocational education systems.

Research in conventional education systems does not follow a regular pattern. In technical and vocational education, research is a relatively new phenomenon (Rauner 2009). Technical and vocational education is an important pillar of the Pakistan education system, with technical and vocational educational institutes presenting a parallel pathway to the young generation for them to progress in industry and secure opportunities. The role of the technical and vocational education system in creating a parallel pathway for technical education cannot be ignored. It brings industry and academia closer together, promoting skills development and creating employment opportunities for youth.

Pakistan is the seventh largest country in the world, with a total population of 225.2 million. The United Nations Population Fund Report (2017) notes that youth represents 63% of Pakistan’s population. The development and growth of the country is dependent upon its exports. The youthful population (63%) is Pakistan’s most valuable export resource. Therefore the government of Pakistan is putting enormous effort into skilling its young people. The development of TVET in Pakistan, with particular emphasis on the “Skilling Pakistan” reforms outlined in the National Skill Strategy (NSS) (2009-2013), and the progress of TVET reform support programmes (2011-2016) is the self-evident manifestation of the country’s efforts to develop a sustainable workforce (Ansari & Wu 2013).

Both the mainstream and the technical and vocational education systems of Pakistan are working vigorously to develop a trained workforce that can meet industrial demand not just locally, but internationally as well. Nevertheless, the ratio is relatively low compared to other countries in the South Asian region. With such a huge population, Pakistan has vast potential to understand market demands, train its youth accordingly and produce a demand-driven workforce. But all this can only be achieved by accelerating and investing in research and development activities. Research is one of the most neglected areas in the education system of Pakistan.

1.1        Research objective

Pakistan is a developing country, despite having a huge youth population and availability of natural resources. The reason for its underdevelopment is the lack of research culture and a dearth of innovative practices. The main objective of this research is to identify the importance of research culture for the teachers of conventional as well as technical and vocational educational institutes. Moreover, the study will analyse the benefits of developing and promoting rigorous research culture in the educational institutes of Pakistan.

1.2        Research question

What is the understanding and perception of the teachers of the educational institutes of Pakistan regarding research culture?

What are the benefits of introducing and promoting rigorous research culture in Pakistani education institutes?

1.3        Significance

This research is of enormous importance. The benefits of this research are multi-layered. The first and foremost benefit of this research is to produce the contextual knowledge which is necessary for any individual, organisation or country to grow (Quitoras & Abuso 2021).

The benefits of contextualising knowledge are enormous. Contextualised knowledge can help in understanding and implementing processes and projects. Contextualised knowledge is extremely important in the success and failure of any project.

Another important benefit to emerge from the promotion of research culture is the linking together of industry and academia. This linkage is crucial for any country to grow in a sustainable way. Industry needs constant support from the educational institutes to promote innovative practices. The relationship between industry and academia is a reciprocal one. Innovation in industry supports better practices in academia. Similarly, creative solutions in academia lead to better performance in industry. Research culture in academia helps to produce an industry-driven workforce by instilling industry-oriented skills and practices into students.

Another important aspect is that of the policymaker. Policymakers must understand the importance of research and development activities and encourage every educational institute to promote research culture. The policymakers can then use this research as a basis for the advocacy and implementation of research culture.

2        Literature review

The knowledge produced by all academic institutions should be collated and stored in one central location to support society’s continued development. At present, academic institutions’ accumulated knowledge is neither effectively maintained nor properly recorded. Further, knowledge or information created in academic institutions is often kept in the shadows and is referred to as “grey literature”. This information or knowledge would be valuable if submitted to record. Academic environments are a gold mine of knowledge, but they are poorly organised, which makes them less useful and leads to unnecessary repetition of actions (Quitoras & Abuso 2021).

Knowledge management is a valuable asset that must be handled effectively, according to Massa and Testa (2009). It is a dynamic force in the world’s constantly evolving commercial and social landscapes. Kidwell, Vander Linde and Johnson (2000) noted that knowledge begins with the collection of raw data or hard statistics. Researchers employ information technology and retrieval systems to sift through the data that has been created and stored in a variety of papers and databases. Information lacks value unless it is used and applied in conjunction with experience. Knowledge encompasses an employee’s knowledge and insights, and may be put to use in decision-making processes (Sadeghi Boroujerdi, Hasani, & Delshab 2020). It is intrinsic to the very nature of a company’s operations, down to its most fundamental systems and infrastructure, as well as its processes, teams, and personnel. The Japanese understand knowledge as referring to insights gained through cultivation of one’s whole character. In the context of a school, a teacher’s instructions are like data for a student; students gain information by processing and making sense of the data; once they have analysed this information, they have the knowledge they seek; putting this sought-after knowledge into practice leads to wisdom.

Human efforts, fostered by means of strong teaching and research practices, and the development of novel ideas in the field of study are the primary means by which new knowledge is created. All institutions of higher learning, from community colleges to research universities, actively seek for and contribute to new ideas in their respective fields of study (Dhamdhere 2015).

The Philippine Long-Term Higher Education Development Plan emphasises the significance of higher education research as follows: “research in priority disciplines and important areas must be conducted not only for enhancing instructional programmes but also for promoting innovations and technologies.” In order to fulfill its objective, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) actively promotes and enhances the research capacities of HEIs across the nation. This reaffirms the importance of HEIs as centres of knowledge creation via research and development, especially as it relates to meeting the demands of an ever-evolving workforce (Quimbo & Sulabo 2014).

The Ancient Greeks debated the relevance of philosophy, knowledge, and education to practice. The practical proposition was that the guards of the ideal city should be trained in music and gymnastics and that their education would be grounded in the principles of justice, truth, and reason as presented in Plato’s Republic. Plato and Aristotle made a crucial difference between technical reason and practical reason. Techne, as defined by Plato, is “the sort of craft knowledge necessary for the practical activities of constructing things, like carpentry or construction” (however, the idea of episteme, another form of “knowledge”, may be confusing since it overlaps with the concept of techne). Aristotle first articulated the essential contrast between techne and phronesis (Backman & Barker 2020). He outlined knowledge that was more varied and dependent on contact with other people than techne, for example, in the case of professionals whose job entails praxis in public areas. The Sophists favoured a value-neutral approach to imparting skills, whereas Socrates had argued for the non-didactic transmission of ethical principles (Preus 2007). The ancient Greeks had already defined not just the value of schooling and of technical and practical reasoning, but also the division between the two. The significance of education as a field of study and growth in the history of human civilisation is undeniable. In contrast, education did not become a recognised academic field in universities until the twentieth century (Nair & Munusami 2019).

Recently, the problem of practice-focused research has been brought up in the UK’s Research Excellence Assessment (RAE) and now REF, particularly in connection to education research. The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a crucial tool for assessing the quality of research throughout the United Kingdom’s higher education system and academic fields. Research outputs are rated in the REF on a scale from 1 to 4 stars, with 4 stars representing research of the highest possible quality. Though the percentage of education research outputs judged to be world-leading was roughly in line with that of other social science ‘units of assessment’ (subjects or fields as defined within the REF), the percentage of education research outputs receiving lower grades (2*, 1*, and unclassified) was significantly higher than in other areas. Education also had the lowest percentage of higher education institution employees that participated in the REF among all evaluation units (as indicated by Higher Education Statistics Agency returns). Whilst the value of outputs rated below 3* is recognised in the quality descriptors of the REF, the funding mechanism for research does not apportion funds to institutions [quality-related (QR) research]. Several researchers (Wyse et al. 2018) have found this to be the case.

Those who work in the field of education conduct studies with the goal of influencing policy and practice for the better. Knowledge continuum, in which researchers, policymakers, and practitioners all interact continuously along a cycle encompassing three communities and three dimensions (knowledge creation, mediation, and application), is directly related to evidence-based practice, the goal of which is to increase the use of research findings in the work of the professions. Each of the three groups and each of the three aspects of knowledge-based policy and practice interact with one another in complex ways. As part of its mandate to foster the development of a knowledge-based society, the Education Law of 2011 acknowledged the vital role that universities and other research organisations play in conducting and disseminating educational research (Akaslan & Law 2011)

Many studies report that practitioners in every field place more weight on the opinions of their colleagues and their pre-existing practices than they do on research evidence. This suggests that the research-practice relationship is not straightforward, but is mediated by personal experience, the existence of a shared knowledge environment, and organisational cultures. The organisational context and prevalent social interactions are more important than individual differences in determining how study results are implemented (Kratochwill et al. 2013). However, the objectives and interests of the end users will change, and there may be a shift in the type of information they require to guide their actions. According to McIntyre (2005), in order for research to meet the needs of educators, it must do three things: (1) produce a better understanding of the realities of classroom teaching and learning; (2) provide clear recommendations to classroom teachers that will enable them to improve their practice; and (3) make sufficient sense to teach (McIntyre 2005). Not only that, but professionals and policymakers must limit themselves to the role of “consumers” of information. Together with other experts (like researchers), they may contribute to the development of new understanding. By including practitioners in the research process, academics might better bridge the gap between theory and application. A number of researchers have attempted to formulate proposals on how to bridge the gap between research and practice: the need to build better lines of communication between researchers and practitioners and the need to encourage practitioners to get more involved in the research process (Ion & Iucu 2014).

There is a long history of scholarly research at the world’s top universities. Faculty members at HEIs have shown a continuous pattern of research productivity alongside other aspects that contribute to the process, indicating that they see research as an integral component of their duties. However, universities in the poorer world have generally maintained their traditional roles of providing excellent classroom instruction while devoting less resources to research (Sanyal & Varghese 2006).

Implications for research policy might be drawn from faculty members’ assessments of the current research culture on their campuses. It takes time to foster an environment conducive to study (Salazar-Clemeña & Almonte-Acosta 2007). It requires deliberate preparation and a persistent drive for improvement. Faculty members at universities have identified the following points as essential to fostering a culture of research and increasing productivity:

  1. adequate time for research
  2. a firm commitment to the research mission
  3. faculty participation
  4. conducive group climate, working conditions, and organisational communication
  5. a faculty development programme
  6. a research infrastructure
  7. decentralised research policy
  8. adequate funding for research
  9. a transparent institutional policy designed to maximise research outcomes.

The importance of innovation and development is not hidden from anyone. Innovation can be the result of either educational efforts or experience – or both. The role of knowledge and research is crucial for innovation. Developed economies and the educational system of developed countries are spending huge amounts of funds on promoting innovation through research and development. The current study aims to understand the benefits of strengthening research culture in the academic institutes of Pakistan.

3         Research Methodology

Qualitative research investigates and delivers more in-depth insights into real world issues. Fundamentally, qualitative research deals with open-ended questions such as “how” and “why”, whose answers are difficult to quantify. The first step towards a successful qualitative study is to set a goal or objective. One of the reasons to choose qualitative design for this study is its ability to describe human behavioural patterns and processes that cannot be quantified. The purpose of this study is to explain the importance and benefits of research culture in educational institutes. The primary focus of this study is to understand the perspective of educational institutes regarding the promotion of research culture. Four educational institutes were selected for this study, including both conventional and TVET educational institutes in Lahore. The data was collected from the heads of the institutes as well as the teaching staff. The sample for this study was selected by using purposive sampling technique (Sharma 2017).

Purposive sampling is a non-probability sampling technique often regarded as subjective or selective, in which researchers use their own discretion when selecting participants for the study according to the needs of the researcher. In this particular study, participants were selected on the basis of availability, their level of knowledge and experience.

Qualitative study uses several different approaches to conduct data. According to Alshenqeeti (2014), the interview is one of the most important methods to acquire in-depth knowledge about the research problem and enrich the level of understanding about the research context. To this purpose, a detailed, semi-structured interview format was used. Semi-structured interviews are useful when the researcher wants to collect open-ended data. The format enables the researcher to explore the beliefs and thoughts of the participants related to a particular topic or to dig deeper into private or sensitive issues. Data was collected from private and public schools of Pakistan within a specific time frame, hence the study is cross-sectional. Notes and interviews were transcribed accordingly with NVIVO software, which was also used to analyse the data. The thematic analysis technique, one of the most popular techniques for analysing qualitative data (Clarke et al. 2015), was deployed. Nodes and sub nodes are produced during thematic analysis by studying the data, and later combined to create significant themes.

3.1        Ethical consideration

In a research study, it is crucial to protect the participants by observing ethical standards. Due to the extensive length of the research process, ethical questions have a special resonance in qualitative studies. All candidates were made aware of the methods and objectives of the study in advance. Interviews were recorded with the consent of participants. Interviewees were never pressured to provide answers to any specific questions. Any inquiry or action that would have offended the interviewee was avoided.

4        Analysis

The purpose of this research was to understand the perspective of teachers and educational managers regarding the acceptance and promotion of research culture. Moreover, the study highlights the benefits of introducing research culture into the educational institutes of Pakistan. The respondents of the study included participants from both conventional and technical or vocational education systems of Pakistan. Participants were unanimously of the opinion that research culture is vital for the sustainable growth of any country and imperative for innovation, development and a sustainable future. The four basic themes to emerge from the data were:

4.1        Knowledge creation

Knowledge creation is one of the primary reasons to promote research culture in Pakistan. According to participants, one of the reasons that Pakistan is not in the league of leading nations is the lack of contextualised knowledge. One major reason for the failure of our social projects is the lack of contextualised data. Every country and society has different needs, but education is a basic human right and something that every individual must have access to. The forms and provision of education and cultural requirements can, however, differ from place to place. Therefore, it is imperative that any social decision-making processes must first take into account the contextual information, culture, requirements, available technology and general acceptance of the society. As one of the participants said:

Our major projects fail, are considered controversial or do not yield the expected results because we lack insight into the realities on the ground. The models we implement are imported.

A lack of knowledge creation is one of the major reasons why educational institutes in Pakistan are uncompetitive. It is clear that large numbers of Pakistani students cannot excel in practical fields and are unable to produce ground-breaking results, due in no small part to their non- involvement in research activities. Students and professionals rely on knowledge that is already available or look to western case studies, without even considering local factors. This leads them to solutions that are neither grounded in the realities of their own country nor fit for purpose. One of the participants noted:

Our industry is not booming because we do not look for original knowledge. We always try to replicate things and even replications require common sense. You cannot just implement whatever may be happening elsewhere in the world.

The broad education sector of Pakistan is underperforming. One reason for this is the inordinate focus on obtaining and awarding degrees. Institutes and teachers are not training students to focus on real time solutions for industry, but concentrate instead on grades and passing exams. This lowers the overall quality, impact and usefulness of the education system. The lack of research culture in the education system of Pakistan ends up producing an average product, substandard ideas and information. As one of the participants responded:

“In industry, we need ideas and innovation, but our young graduates are either unaware or afraid of producing new knowledge.”

Educational institutes can play a ground-breaking role in the creation and dissemination of knowledge by promoting research culture and fostering an aptitude for research in their students.

4.2        Innovation and development

The backbone of innovation is research. Experience, exposure, the trial and error method, luck – all these factors can prove influential in the pursuit of innovation, but nothing can replace the importance and credibility of the research process. The advancement of science, the economy, industry, and a variety of other sectors have been significantly boosted by the research that has been conducted at academic institutions all around the globe. Research supports new discoveries and developments which lead to significant transformations in the world and to the way we live. Over time, the industrial process becomes obsolete. The environment and market demands are changing every day. Educational institutes need to play their part in preparing a workforce with the skills and abilities needed to meet the demands of the market. The significance of research culture in the process of innovation has been well documented. Developed countries around the world focus on establishing links between industry and academia through research institutes. These institutes are especially designed to promote the process of innovation and development in industry. A prevalent research culture in the educational sector can make a valuable contribution to uplifting industry by providing new ideas, developing creative solutions to existing problems and so forth. As one respondent noted:

“I am a hybrid entrepreneur. I work both in academia and industry. The only thing that can link academia and industry is innovation through research. Our educational products are so obsolete that they cannot even meet the demands of industry.”

Developing and commercialising new ideas, establishing new procedures, or modifying a company’s revenue model are all examples of research & development and innovation. Efforts made over time can be seen to play a positive role in ensuring that business will continue to be successful and profitable. Research and Development (R&D) can be a primary factor in driving better levels of productivity, quality, and innovation in the goods and services that a business provides. This argument is validated by the observation that major corporations are devoting enormous resources to research and development.

It is believed that research institutions or research activities in an educational institute play a crucial role in helping businesses to innovate. They serve as knowledge providers by disseminating scientific findings to companies and opening doors to a world of information. Competence in the form of a competent workforce is another service that educational institutes’ research culture can provide to companies, complementing the fresh knowledge they generate via their academic research efforts and the expertise of their own graduates and staff. University spin-offs may initiate or encourage a structural shift that will address and alleviate innovation deficits. As an added bonus, research facilities provide access to foreign databases and libraries. This enables local students, staff and businesses to become more aware of what is happening in the world and find useful ideas or applications. As one of the respondents said:

Whenever a little support and encouragement is given to students, they always come up with the most innovative and creative ideas. Our students lag behind in the world because of the inefficiencies and lack of support from the institutes.”

4.3        Industry oriented practices

Landing a job can be one of the main motivating factors in pursuing an education. For young graduates, finding employment is highly dependent upon the skill set they possess. Lacking industry-relevant skills can present a major obstacle. Students are the ultimate product of the educational institute and it is the responsibility of every educational institute to equip them with the requisite knowledge and skills. Involving students in research activities fosters the development of skills required by industry.

The underlying benefits beyond developing a research culture in educational institutes and engaging students and staff in research activities include the development of critical thinking skills, which sharpen the analytical ability of the students, and the involvement of students in innovative activities etc. The skills mentioned above are prioritised in industry. One of the respondents said:

“Technical and vocational education is all about developing an industry-oriented workforce. Every industry these days wants employees with higher analytical and creative abilities.”

According to literature in this field, the success of educational institutes depends upon the following key aspects: “curricular aspects, teaching-learning and evaluation, research, consultancy and extension, infrastructure and learning resources, student support and progression, and governance, leadership, and management” (Aithal & Kumar 2015). Research activities help students to develop the capacity to identify problems, perform needs analysis, invent new and sustainable products and find solutions (etc). These skills are highly valued by industry. The employability rate of students with these skills is generally high. In today’s increasingly competitive environment, universities must also maintain a competitive edge to attract and retain students. Institutions need to raise the bar on service quality if they want to remain profitable in the face of rising competition. Higher education institutions today are under pressure to rethink their educational models and increase the value of every facet of their service in response to shifts in students’ expectations and the nature of work they will be involved in after graduation, demanding the requisite levels of knowledge and expertise for employment. Improvements in quality and productivity may be achieved through the adoption of new ideas and methods.

As one respondent said:

“Without research activities, an educational institute is incomplete, because they cannot provide what is required.”

4.4        Updated curriculum and teaching practices

Teaching practices and curricula are the foundation of a strong and successful nation. Academic research has a strong role to play in updating the curriculum. The old curriculum and outdated teaching practices reduce the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the educational institute. Therefore, it is imperative for the educational institute to engage their staff in research activities to understand and introduce an updated curriculum and teaching practices as followed around the world. Research activities help the educationalist to explore recent events in any field. This will consciously or subconsciously broaden their horizons and help them to update their teaching practices and methodologies.

As one of the respondents said:

“I graduated 12 years ago. If I do not engage in research and upgrade my knowledge, how will I teach updated material to students?”

 One of the famous quotes about research is “standing on the shoulders of giants.” Research activities support the constant upgradation of the curriculum and teaching material. An updated curriculum in our local institutes will help students to excel at a faster rate, eliminating the obsolete practices of the institute, industry and society as a whole.

5        Conclusion

The purpose of this research was to understand the perception of educationalists regarding research culture. Moreover, the study looks into the benefits of promoting research culture in the educational institutes of Pakistan. To this end, data has been collected from both the mainstream and technical education systems. The findings of this research were overwhelming. The analysis clearly confirms the findings are in accordance with the existing literature. The educationalist in Pakistan is of the view that research culture is imperative for the growth and development of Pakistani students, industry and country as a whole. The implementation of research culture will help to generate contextualised knowledge. Contextualised knowledge supports better planning and implementation of projects. The role of research culture plays an essential role in building a link between industry and academia, as well as helping to prepare a workforce with industry-oriented practices. An updated curriculum and revised teaching methodologies are also among the benefits of promoting research culture in educational institutes. Future researchers can use this study in the next phase as a basis to identify the barriers to promoting research culture in educational institutes.


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  • Institute of Administrative Sciences, Punjab University

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