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

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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.
Vocational education and training, Africa, Skills anticipation, Donors and development agencies, Competency-based training, Occupational standards
Stephanie Allais, 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, International Journal of Educational Development, Volume 102, 2023, 102873, ISSN 0738-0593, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijedudev.2023.102873.