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Conventional approaches to vocational education and training (VET) globally are inadequate to meet either present or future needs. They are based on assumptions about VET being inferior to academic education and that only those who cannot get into academic education would pursue vocational learning. They assume that formal vocational learning is the only or main form of vocational learning and that formal VET graduates will transition into formal sector jobs concentrated largely around metals, motors and manufacturing. None of this is true. In Africa, most people are working and learning in informal settings. Many have a powerful vocational impulse. Even many of the poorest are using digital technologies for their learning. Moreover, a focus on skills to produce more is pushing us further and further beyond the boundaries for the safe operating of this planet. In response, this book focuses on social skills ecosystems in which a range of actors come together to negotiate skills needs, including in informal and rural settings and in the production of skills for the maintenance and replenishing of the natural resource nexus. This focus highlights the complexity of interactions in local and horizontal relationships between actor-citizens in a place and the often top-down and disabling actions of states trying to do development to subject-recipients.
This chapter continues the broadening of the social ecosystem approach by looking at the experiences of young people as they seek to move through life, work and learning towards better imagined futures. This is approached through examining the literature on transitioning from learning to working. It is important to note at the outset that this account of transitioning is different from the just transitioning one introduced earlier in this book. However, it is important to locate the transitioning individual within a wider just transitions framework if we are to break out of the current productivist assumptions of the dominant literature and practice.
Summarizing the arguments of the book, this chapter reviews the effort to expand the social ecosystems for skills model. It considers some limitations to this approach. It then considers implications for vocational education and training (VET) policy and practice. Finally, it points to a new language for thinking about VET policy and practice.
This chapter introduces the main themes of the book. It justifies a concern with how the current policy and practice orthodoxy is not working despite the efforts of educators and learners. It is driven by a realization that the futures for which vocational education and training (VET) is intended to prepare people are ever more precarious at the individual, societal and planetary levels. And it is motivated by a sense that while better futures are possible, VET is poorly positioned to respond to the new skilling needs these will require. It introduces four cases from two Anglophone countries, Uganda and South Africa.
The book provides an immanent critique of the current state of VET and what underpins it being this way, and a vision of what a future, better VET might look like based on emerging visions of a better world and the first stirrings of new VET practices that are aligned with this vision. Thus, the book is intended to be part of an opening up of a new phase of VET research.
This chapter focuses particularly on the mediating role of the university, in close connection with vocational institutions and informal community actors, in developing an inclusive approach to vocational education and training (VET) through an expanded social ecosystem for skills model. It draws upon lessons learnt from the Alice and Gulu cases on community-based approaches to establishing an expanded skills ecosystem approach to VET in Africa. The main question guiding this chapter relates to the possible mediating role of the university to enhance a regional expanded ecosystem for supporting quality vocational education that is also relevant to its context, including emergent possibilities to build skills and livelihoods linked to just transitions.
Eighty per cent of Africans work in the informal economy. This chapter considers the highly informal, unregulated and often marginalized contexts that form the majority experience of living, working and learning. Situating the praxis of horizontal learning within these very normal contexts of informality demands renewed analysis into the questions of how horizontal learning is facilitated, by whom, with what resources, and why. This is explored through two empirical case studies offering distinct lenses on to the informal sector. In Gulu, the current dynamics of learning and inclusion among informal traders at a local market and in a set of food and clothing initiatives are considered. In Alice, the reflection is on an intentional effort on behalf of established, formal institutions to explore new approaches to teaching and learning through support of expansive informal learning in the context of food growing.
This chapter documents the evolution of skills ecosystem research and outlines a way of expanding the approach. The chapter contributes to the wider project of transforming VET for a transformed economy, society and environment. After tracing the emergence of skills ecosystems within the Anglophone north, the chapter draws on critical realism to help shape a conceptual and theoretical framework that avoids succumbing to reductionist conceptualizations of vocational skill formation. It explores the potential of conceptualizing skills ecosystems as a complex phenomenon that can be resolved into their separate yet related and emergent components so as to identify and relate the various mechanisms as different levels of reality that enable and constrain local skills ecosystems. This allows for the development of an expanded model that sees these interactions in a multiscalar, spatiotemporal way.
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The transition to more just and sustainable development requires radical change across a wide range of areas and particularly within the nexus between learning and work.
This book takes an expansive view of vocational education and training that goes beyond the narrow focus of much of the current literature and policy debate. Drawing on case studies across rural and urban settings in Uganda and South Africa, the book offers a new way of seeing this issue through an exploration of the multiple ways in which people learn to have better livelihoods. Crucially, it explores learning that takes place informally online, within farmers’ groups, and in public and private educational institutions.
Offering new insights and ways of thinking about this field, the book draws out clear implications for theory, policy and practice in Africa and beyond.
This chapter provides a brief historical overview of skills development in Africa. After a brief consideration of the powerful and multifaceted colonial legacy, it tracks three dominant trends in vocational education and training (VET) systems and reform since independence. The combination of the strong presence of the colonial legacy as well as these three moments of VET reform have led to the current state of VET on the continent as weak, fragmented and littered with haphazard projects and reforms. It is from this point that a new approach must be built.
Vocational teachers are at the centre of complex social ecosystems, albeit often without adequate resources and recognition. The skills ecosystem literature to date does not engage with the concept of vocational teachers and their role, positionality and agency within the skills ecosystem. Vocational teachers should be playing a broader mediating role within the skills ecosystem and are central to any reimagining of vocational education and training (VET). The chapter reviews typical narratives about low-quality vocational teaching and the challenges vocational teachers often face in contexts such as South Africa and Uganda. It shows how subsequent trends undermined the notion of the vocational teacher, drawing on more recent work to argue for a broader version of this notion. The case examples then provide the basis for the discussion of the possibilities (or otherwise) for vocational teachers as mediators. The chapter argues that an expanded notion of vocational teachers needs to be reimagined and embedded horizontally and vertically within the skills ecosystem to facilitate learning that aligns with the broader aims of VET Africa 4.0.