School of Education - Centre for Researching Education and Labour (Journal articles)

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    Designing the future: youth innovation, informality and transformed VET
    (Environmental Education Association of Southern Africa (EEASA), 2023-10) Monk, David; Adrupio, Scovia; Muhangi, Sidney; Akite, Irine
    This article argues that Vocational Education and Training (VET) can be a valuable space to develop the innovation required to deal with the wicked problems of the world; however, radical and rapid transformation in approaches to VET is needed. While we use a case study from Gulu, Uganda, the findings can be applied more broadly. A new approach cannot be taken in isolation from other social circumstances, and desperately needs to include epistemic contributions both in relation to content and approach so that it bolsters and supports the initiatives, designs and dreams of the intended participants, especially women. We argue that epistemic injustice is a major limiting factor for environmental learning and innovation. We share potential opportunities from our research to shift towards a climate and socially conscious social skills ecosystem capable of designing a positive future.
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    Dynamic capabilities: axiomatic formation of firms’ competitive competencies
    (Elsevier, 2023) Mushangai, Dandira
    The capabilities concept is critical in understanding the competitive competencies of firms. Capabilities allow firms to sense, seize and reconfigure their resources in response to opportunities and threats within their environments. This systematic review reviewed a total of 37 Scopus database-selected peer-reviewed articles on capabilities, technology, innovation, and capability frameworks. The purpose was to identify and discuss firms’ capabilities and formation processes and effects on competitive advantages to generate an encompassing framework that overcomes the limited and fragmented nature of current capability frameworks. The study employed thematic content analysis and author-anchored keywords analysis which enabled the identification of several themes regarding capabilities and formation processes. The findings of the study were discussed under the following themes: technological capabilities; supply chain capabilities; networking, collaboration, interactive, coordinating, and alignment capabilities; organisational capabilities; and lastly systems capabilities. The study contributes to enlightening a body of firms’ capabilities theories and generated an encompassing interactive capabilities framework to guide researchers in understanding firms’ capabilities formation processes. The value of the study to the research community lies in emphasising the multi-level approach (macro; mezzo; firm level) and the virtues of combining tenets from different frameworks for a nuanced understanding of firms’ capabilities development. The study will be critical in guiding firms in building their capabilities, particularly the importance of open innovation networks and collaboration in reducing innovation risks and costs. The paper is important to policy makers regarding the institutions facilitating the interaction of international, national and firms level dynamics in propping and propelling firms’ capabilities development.
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    Education service delivery: the disastrous case of outcomes-based qualifications frameworks
    (SAGE Publications, 2007) Allais, Stephanie Matseleng
    International trends towards outcomes-based qualifications frameworks as the drivers of educational reform fi t in well with trends in service delivery and public sector reform. Education reform in South Africa provides a particularly interesting case study of this phenomenon, because of the very comprehensive outcomes-based national qualifications framework that was implemented shortly after the transition to democracy. Problems with the framework as a basis for education reform became rapidly apparent, and the system is now deadlocked in a series of unresolved policy reviews. A key to understanding this collapse is the role of knowledge in relation to education. The outcomes based qualification framework approach turns out to have very little to do with education, and in fact to have the potential to increase educational inequalities, particularly in poor countries.
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    Beyond ‘supply and demand’: moving from skills ‘planning’ to seeing skills as endogenous to the economy
    (2022-11) Allais, Stephanie Matseleng
    This article questions the notion of supply and demand of skills, and, accordingly, the rules and tools that have been developed for skills anticipation in South Africa. I argue that there is nowhere ‘outside’ of the economy where skills are produced. Rather, a society and an economy need to be seen as an organism, where skill formation is a complex set of moving parts. The concept of supply and demand is unhelpful to think about skill formation because it directs our attention towards specific moving parts in isolation from the broader factors that shape them. This explains why, despite the existence of extensive tools and institutions for skills anticipation, and numerous institutions for social dialogue and stakeholder engagement, researchers and policy-makers argue that South Africa has an inadequate supply of the skills that are needed in the workplace and concomitant skills mismatches. The article also presents more specific problems with the rules and tools, particularly in the way the systems and institutions for understanding labour market demand interact with the systems and tools for the supply of skills – especially those tools that govern and shape skills provision. It argues further that, whereas there are real problems with these rules and tools, and while they can certainly be improved, the broad goals that they are intended to achieve will not be attained even with better tools, but that different conceptual lenses are required instead.
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    Why there is no technological revolution, let alone a ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’
    (Academy of Science of South Africa, 2023-03) Moll, Ian
    We are told by the powerful that we live in, or are about to live in, a Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Seemingly, this revolution is about deep-seated, rapid, digitally powered techno-scientific change. It is the age of smart machines; it is a new information technology (IT) revolution. However, in this article I suggest that examination of the history of technologies that are often held up to be proof of the 4IR, in fact shows that there is no contemporary technological revolution. The research methodology that I employ here is conceptual analysis and a focused review of literature on the history of particular technologies. An industrial revolution, as its three historical instances have demonstrated, is the fundamental transformation of every aspect of industrial society, including its geopolitical, cultural, macro-social, micro-social, economic and technological strata. It certainly entails a technological revolution, but it is more than just that. In this article, I am not concerned with the broader ensemble of socio-economic changes – it seems increasingly clear that the ‘brave new world’ of the 4IR is not really happening – but simply ask the question: is there currently a technological revolution? The answer seems to be that there is not.
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    Scientific revolution, industrial revolution, technological revolution or revolutionary technology? a rejoinder to Marwala and Ntlatlapa
    (Academy of Science of South Africa, 2023-03) Moll, Ian
    No abstract available.
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    Why skills anticipation in African VET systems needs to be decolonized: the wide-spread use and limited value of occupational standards and competency-based qualifications
    (Elsevier, 2023-08) Allais, Stephanie
    The shift from manpower-planning to labour market analysis and skills anticipation has been analyzed since the 80 s in this journal and elsewhere, with the aim of improving. Insights into how education can contribute to economic growth and development. This paper considers recent trends in policies for skills anticipation and curriculum reform in Africa, with a focus on technical and vocational education and training (TVET) systems. The data consists of 2 continent-wide surveys of a range of TVET stakeholders, document analysis of skills and TVET policy as well as industrial policy where available online, and 21 in-depth interviews with key role players and experts in 13 countries. Our research found considerable activity developing pre-determined rules and tools that don’t work in their own right, and are inappropriate for African labour markets because they are not used in formal work, and have little engagement with informal work. A set of ‘rules and tools’, such as occupational standards, qualifications frameworks, and part qualifications/ modularization, is promoted by international organizations. These pre-developed and uniform solutions continues to dominate policy agendas. We found considerable focus on developing and (to some extent) using these rules and tools for forward planning, system improvement, and curriculum design. Most noticeable was a strong emphasis on competency-based qualifications, which are described as a tool for skills anticipation as well as curriculum reform, drawing on employer input into skills requirements. There is considerable focus on employer-identified skills needs as the tool for both understanding current and emerging economic demand for skills as well as medium to longer term skills needs. The dependence on employer-specified competencies means there is little engagement with the reality of informal work in the African context—other than strong rhetorical emphasis on entrepreneurship as an add on in curriculum design. Amongst other problems, the ‘rules and tools’ which are being implemented in many countries start from an idealized vision, and are more preoccupied with their own internal logic than the systems with which they are dealing. The rules and tools present a level playing field for individuals and for countries, constrained only by a lack of skills, and a world view in which everyone could come out on top.
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    Will skills save us? Rethinking the relationships between vocational education, skills development policies, and social policy in South Africa
    (Elsevier, 2012-09) Allais, Stephanie
    This paper examines experiences with ‘skills development’ in South Africa to contribute to broader debates about ‘skills’ and the relationships between vocational education and development. Numerous policy interventions and the creation of new institutions and systems for skills development in South Africa are widely seen as having failed to lead to an increase in numbers of skilled workers. I analyze some of the underlying reasons for this by considering South African policies and systems in the light of research in developed countries. The dominant view in South African media and policy circles is that a skills shortage, coupled with an inflexible labour market, are the leading causes of unemployment. This has led to a policy preoccupation with skills as part of a ‘self-help’ agenda, alongside policies such as wage subsidies and a reduction of protective legislation for young workers, instead of collective responsibility for social welfare. Skills policies have also been part of a policy paradigm which emphasized state regulation through qualification and quality assurance reform, with very little emphasis on building provision systems and on curriculum development. The South African experience exemplifies how difficult it is to develop robust and coherent skills development in the context of inadequate social security, high levels of job insecurity, and high levels of inequalities. It also demonstrates some of the weaknesses of so-called ‘market-led’ vocational education.
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    Educating for work in the time of Covid-19: moving beyond simplistic ideas of supply and demand
    (South African Comparative and History of Education Society (SACHES), 2016) Allais, Stephanie; Marock, Carmel
    This article describes how the Covid-19 pandemic has been particularly negative for skill formation in South Africa but, at same time, there are high expectations for the technical and vocational education and training system to support economic recovery and individual livelihoods. We argue that many policy recommendations for how education can meet these expectations are trapped in a narrow and mechanistic notion of supply and demand. The knowledge and skills required to do work are not developed somewhere outside of the economy, and then ‘supplied’ to meet labour market ‘demand.’ Skill formation is embedded in a range of different economic, social, and political arrangements and systems. Policy notions of ‘supply and demand’ of skills also underestimate how the ability of education to prepare for work is shaped by the ways in which work is organised. We argue that both researchers and policymakers need to think about vocational skills development programmes within industry sector master plans that drive economic recovery. We provide ideas of how policymakers can think about education and work more holistically, and argue that the key move is away from market-based regulatory models and towards models focused on building institutional capacity.
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    Claims vs. practicalities: lessons about using learning outcomes
    (2012) Allais, Stephanie
    The idea of learning outcomes seems to increasingly dominate education policy internationally. Many claims are made about what they can achieve, for example, in enabling comparison of qualifications across countries, improving the recognition of prior learning and improving educational quality. The claims made for the role of learning outcomes rest on the assumption that outcomes can be transparent, or that they can capture or represent the essence of what a learning programme or qualification represents. But in practice, either learning outcomes are open to dramatically different interpretations, or they derive their meaning from being embedded in a curriculum. In both instances, learning outcomes cannot play the roles that are claimed for them. I draw on insights from South Africa, where learning outcomes were a major part of curriculum and education policy reform. I suggest that outcomes cannot disclose meaning within or across disciplinary or practice boundaries. They did not enable the essence of a programme to be understood similarly enough by different stakeholders and they did not facilitate judgements about the nature and quality of education and training programmes. Learning outcomes do not carry sufficient meaning, if they are not embedded in knowledge within a curriculum or learning programme. But if they are thus embedded, they cannot play the roles claimed for them in assisting judgements to be made across curricula and learning programmes. The notion of transparency (or even, a more moderate notion of sufficient transparency) which proved unrealisable in practice is the basis of nearly all the claims made about what learning outcomes can achieve. In addition, the South African experiences demonstrated how outcomes-based approaches can distort education and training programmes, and lead to practical complexities, which are a direct consequence of the need for transparency, and its impossibility, and not (although this was probably also the case) the product of ‘poor implementation’ in South Africa.
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    Designing research in environmental education curriculum policy construction, conceptualisation and implementation as exemplified by Southern African examples
    (Environmental Education Association of Southern Africa (EEASA), 2005) Dillon, Justin; Ketlhoilwe, Mphemelang; Ramsarup, Presha; Reddy, Chris
    There is increasing dissatisfaction at many levels with existing environmental education curricula in southern Africa. The resulting change and innovation is opening up possibilities for innovative research into the construction, conceptualisation and implementation of the curriculum. However, researching the curriculum offers a range of challenges to those engaged in critically examining processes and practices quite different from those faced in the past. This paper examines a series of key issues and dilemmas in the field of curriculum research in environmental education using cases contributed by active researchers in the area. In the light of the researchers’ experiences we posit a series of propositions that might reduce barriers and constraining forces faced by academics working in the area.
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    Building capacity for green, just and sustainable futures – a new knowledge field requiring transformative research methodology
    (2020) Rosenberg, Eureta; Presha Ramsarup; Sibusisiwe Gumede; Heila Lotz-Sisitka
    Education has contributed to a society-wide awareness of environmental issues, and we are increasingly confronted with the need for new ways to generate energy, save water and reduce pollution. Thus new forms of work are emerging and government, employers and educators need to know what ‘green’ skills South Africa needs and has. This creates a new demand for ‘green skills’ research. We propose that this new knowledge field – like some other educational fields – requires a transformative approach to research methodology. In conducting reviews of existing research, we found that a transformative approach requires a reframing of key concepts commonly used in researching work and learning; multi-layered, mixed method studies; researching within and across diverse knowledge fields including non-traditional fields; and both newly configured national platforms and new conceptual frameworks to help us integrate coherently across these. Critical realism is presented as a helpful underpinning for such conceptual frameworks, and implications for how universities prepare educational researchers are flagged.
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    Crediting worker education? insights from South African experiences
    (2021) Allais, Stephanie
    This paper explores South African experiences in using formal credentials in worker education. In specific, it analyses the value and use of the outcomes-based, unit standards-based qualifications registered on the South African national qualifications framework for “trade union practice.” Creating formal qualifications for worker education programmes was hotly debated for many years in the labour movement. The paper finds little evidence of positive achievement of the creation of a formal qualification route for trade unionists. The main stated reason for the introduction of the formal qualification route was to support the educational and labour market mobility of union activists. There is no evidence of this to date, and the paper argues that the design of the qualification makes it unlikely to become a possibility. The existence of the qualification has facilitated funding for worker education, but a greater success would have been to convince public bodies to fund worker education according to its intrinsic logic. The paper also finds that to date the negative consequences that many unionists predicted in these debates have not arisen. However, this seems to be in spite of and not because of the qualification model and may be attributable to the strength of the single provider of the qualification.
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    Competency frameworks in the South African public service: the wrong magic bullets?
    (South African Association of Public Administration and Management (SAAPAM), 2023) De Clercq, Francine
    Debates around how to transform the public service to contribute to a professional, ethical, and capable developmental state have intensified around the world. There are a range of interventions that seek to manage and improve the public service employees' performance and ensure that they have the competencies required. A key mechanism to assess competency is through Competency Frameworks (CFs), which were introduced in many public services in the 1990s.This article argues that the ways CFs are defined and implemented in the South African public service have severe limitations in dealing with the relatively poor performance of the public service. It shows how and why CFs are not being implemented as intended. After a desktop review of how and why CFs developed and are used by various public services, interviews were con-ducted on the basis of a purposive sampling with twelve key public service stakeholders to investigate the nature and use of competencies and CFs in the South African public service (Senior Management Services (SMS), Middle Management Services (MMS), Financial Management (FM)). A two hour-long seminar discussion was also conducted with about 150 national and provincial department officials on the nature, purpose and conditions under which CFs could work and add value. Finally, more supporting documents were consulted as they were recommended by the participants. The research findings point to the fact that, while CFs are supposed to help develop the human resource value chain, what is happening in reality is something different. The reason for this lies partly in the frameworks themselves but also more importantly in the context and environment in which they are supposed to be implemented. Ultimately, the CFs will not achieve their intended purpose if there is a lack of departmental ownership of them and if they are not located in an enabling and conducive environment. This article notes that the existing institutional arrangements and context of the state administration restrict the use and potential of CFs. It concludes with the argument that, with specific enabling and conducive arrangements and environment, slightly differently formulated, CFs could contribute to their intended purpose
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    Children’s use of iPads to document their own visible learning L’uso dell’iPad da parte dei bambini per documentare il proprio apprendimento visibile
    (2023) Phakathi, Nelisiwe; Moll, Ian
    This ethnographic study explores the use of iPads in the documentation of visible learning by children in a Reggio Emilia-inspired classroom. We report and draw on research conducted with nine- to ten-year olds in a Grade 3 class in the school, situated in Johannesburg, South Africa. “Visible learning” is a key theoretical concept in the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education. It envisages a collaborative pedagogy in which children, along with their teachers and parents, document and reflect on their own learning as it happens, thus maximizing its internalization by the children. The study investigates the affordances of iPads in actualizing the documentation of visible learning. The results show that iPads afford young learners with complex ways in which they can document their learning, also ensuring that the technology does not impose itself on them in an artificial manner. The article identifies an emerging language of description of the pedagogical affordances of iPads.
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    Why the South African NQF failed: lessons for countries wanting to introduce national qualifications frameworks
    (Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2007) Allais, Stephanie Matseleng
    This article examines the South African National Qualifications Framework as a case study of a particular approach to the design of qualifications frameworks, which revolves around the specification of learning outcomes separate from educational institutions or programmes. It shows how an outcomes-led qualifications framework was seen as a desirable policy intervention by educationalists and reformers across the political spectrum, as outcomes were thought to be a mechanism for improving the quality and quantity of education as well as its relevance to the economy and society, for increasing access to education, and for democratising education. All these claims are based on the idea that outcomes statements are transparent. The article demonstrates that outcomes-based qualifications cannot provide the clear, unambiguous, and explicit statements of competence that would be required for everyone to know what it is that the bearer of a qualification can do. This lack of transparency leads to a further specification of outcomes. This in turn leads to a downward spiral of specification, which never reaches transparency, and an upward spiral of regulations, which is also caught in the logical problem of the downward spiral of specification. This model is not just unnecessary, but could in fact undermine the provision of education. The article suggests that while this type of model appears attractive particularly to poor countries, it is in these countries that it is likely to do the most damage.
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    Labour market outcomes of national qualifications frameworks in six countries
    (Taylor and Francis Group, 2017) Allais, Stephanie
    This article presents the major findings of an international study that attempted to investigate the labour market outcomes of qualifications frameworks in six countries – Belize, France, Ireland, Jamaica, Sri Lanka, and Tunisia, as well as the regional framework in the Caribbean. It finds limited evidence of success, but fairly strong support for the frameworks. The continued popularity of qualifications frameworks as a reform mechanism seems to be symptomatic of the ways in which transitions from education to work are in flux in many countries, coupled with the fragmented and complex systems of vocational provision in some of the countries. Even where such systems are not overly complex they have weak and possibly weakening relationships with work. Insufficient differentiation of different types of frameworks by policy makers obscures these factors, leading to misleading ideas about what frameworks can do in general. Extending existing typologies for the analysis of qualifications frameworks the paper argues that the French framework, where labour markets were the most regulated and collective bargaining had the widest reach, had the clearest relationships between qualifications and work. However, the qualifications framework did not seem to be the cause, but rather the effect of such relationships