|Learning to Compete: Education, Training & Enterprise in Ghana, Kenya & South Africa - Education Research Paper No. 42 (DFID, 1999, 122 p.)|
The previous chapter focused on the importance to enterprise development of learning-led competitiveness. It sought to show how enterprise development can be enhanced through a stronger focus on the contribution that learning makes to competitiveness. This chapter shifts the perspective to one of education and explores its role in supporting individual, enterprise and national competitiveness. In order to do so, it considers the relationship between current policies for basic education and the challenge of developing systems across the education sector to promote learning-led competitiveness.
3.2. EVIDENCE ON EDUCATION AND COMPETITIVENESS
We have already suggested in Chapter Two that education is an important contributor to enterprise health and to individual chances of achieving sustainable livelihoods based on self-employment. Moreover, from the side of educational research, major claims have been made about the role of education in increasing individual productivity (and, hence, competitiveness) (Jamison and Lau 1982; Birks et al 1994).
However, evidence about education - performance relationships is conflicting, even within the same survey across countries (Mead 1999). Moreover, it seems plausible to argue that education only has a major positive effect on individual and national productivity if it is supported by the overall trajectory of the economy. Equally, there is a danger in arguing that a little education can have a major effect, as has been too common (Birks et al 1994). Mead argues that the international evidence from enterprise surveys suggests that
while small amounts of education appear to have made little difference to enterprise profitability, going beyond a certain threshold (lower secondary in Zambia, upper primary in Kenya) was associated with substantial increases in enterprise profitability. In view of the standard problems of associating more education with more productivity (those who get more education are already more able and more highly motivated), these results may be important more for suggesting that a little education makes little difference, rather than as a way of bolstering the stronger but more dubious conclusion that a lot of education makes a lot of difference. (Mead 1999:67)
With the present level of evidence, it is dangerous to suggest that higher education levels in SMEs unequivocally lead to better enterprise productivity. Education and training probably are two of the more important inputs for productivity growth. However, they are likely to work best in combination with other inputs (e.g. experience - Mead 1999) and with a favourable environment. Equally, it is important to consider the likely implications of the growing levels of education in SMEs for the livelihoods of those who have only a basic education or none at all (King and McGrath 1998).
Although education does seem to be an important factor in enterprise success, it is not itself a sufficient condition for such success. Moreover, it is unlikely that a basic education alone will be sufficient to have a major positive impact on productivity or competitiveness.
3.3. A CURRICULUM FOR COMPETITIVENESS
Part of the problem with claims about the economic effects of education is methodological. Many studies of entrepreneurs' performance (and the same is true for earnings, fertility, etc.) have used measures such as "years of education", or over-aggregated educational stages: "primary", "secondary" or "technical training" (King and McGrath 1998) that ignore either whether students were actually present or were learning. As such, they have failed to take sufficiently into account the detail of what constitutes the actual individual education or training experience:
This minimalist use of education or training as an explanatory variable in discussing enterprise success neglects the political attention given historically in many African countries to deliberately altering the content of basic, secondary and vocational education. (King and McGrath 1998: 7).
In order to understand the economic effects of education better it is necessary to try to open the black box and consider the type of education provided. For this reason, the primary focus of this chapter will be on the question of how education can provide useful knowledge, skills and attitudes that contribute to individual competitiveness.
Internationally, there is a massive concern with developing what we shall term a "curriculum for competitiveness". Although this has been most apparent in OECD countries and in the "tiger" economies of East Asia, the three project countries all display a very understandable concern with improving the competitive content of their curriculum. Each shows different responses to this concern, which illustrate both the complexity of the debate and the obstacles that lie in the way of promoting learning-led competitiveness through schooling.
3.3.1. Knowledge for competitiveness
In Ghana, there are powerful national concerns with making education more attuned to the challenge of globalisation. This was explicit in the Vision 2020 report (National Development Planning Commission 1994) which stressed the importance of creative, problem-solving education for competitiveness.
It is also seen in the sphere of vocational and technical education where there is an on-going shift in emphasis towards pre-vocational and pre-technical at the junior secondary level and towards design and technology at both junior and senior secondary levels (Afenyadu 1997b; McGrath 1997b). Here Ghana seems to be reflecting best practice in technical and vocational education internationally in a concern to make the skills provided in school more relevant to modern workplaces, in both formal and informal settings.
However, the major strides made by Ghana in reversing the educational crisis of the 1970s, reforming its education system and in addressing concerns with making the curriculum more competitiveness-focused need to be balanced against practical realities. The existence of a large number of community schools seems a particular block on attempts to achieve a skills-focused curriculum, given their serious resource weaknesses. There have also been serious concerns about the very low attainment levels experienced at the end of the basic cycle. These stand at less than 10% for both English and Mathematics (Ministry of Education 1996; Quarcoo 1997). As a government spokesman has noted,
quality of education in many Ghanaian schools is insufficient to impart sustainable literacy and knowledge, skills and habits required for full social and economic participation in society. (Quarcoo 1997: 71)
These quality weaknesses are threatening the future of the Ghanaian reform and there is a danger that enrolments may fall. This provides a backdrop to a proposed evaluation of the success of the Free and Compulsory, Universal Basic Education (fCUBE) reforms (Ministry of Education 1996) and it remains to be seen whether this will result in a leaner curriculum, as has been proposed in the case of Kenya below.
A lean curriculum is argued for in the case of much of Africa by a number of agencies. This is partly on pragmatic grounds. Given the poor state of many African education systems and the likely limits to improved quality and resourcing, it is argued that it makes best sense to concentrate on providing the core subjects with adequate quality. These subjects tend to be an "international" language (typically and increasingly English), Mathematics, Science and a "national" language. Part of the argument for the bulk of time and resources being given to these subjects is that the first three elements are the only really important subjects needed in the era of globalisation. This assumption is based on the contention that rapid technological change means that students do not need technical skills and knowledge across the traditional range of subjects but high levels of literacy, numeracy and scientific knowledge in order to be able to shift between tasks.
This argument is currently being played out in Kenya. Since the mid 1980s, Kenya has been working with the 8-4-4 system (Ministry of Education 1984)1. This was designed to encourage students to be more self-reliant and self-employment oriented and features a strong emphasis on practical subjects. However, the system has been widely criticised. What evidence there is on the system regarding knowledge acquisition suggests that performance has been poor. Crucially for the lean curriculum argument, the average marks in English, Mathematics and Science are very low (Republic of Kenya 1998). The Kenyan education debate is largely agreed on the problems of an overstretched curriculum. Moreover, the system is characterised by poor facilities. Thus, the need to move towards a lean curriculum seems eminently plausible. This focus has also led to the beginning of a discussion of essential learning needs, as discussed at Jomtien (World Conference on Education for All 1990). However, as yet, there is little in the way of detailed investigation of what this means in the Kenyan situation and what might be the constraints to its achievement.
1 The numbers reflect the years of study that should be needed in primary, secondary and tertiary (university) education. The 8-4-4 system, as it is commonly known in Kenya, can also be characterised by a concern with greater self-reliance on the part of both school and student, including a focus on preparation for self-employment.
A lean curriculum was recommended in the 1998, Master Plan for Education and Training (Republic of Kenya 1998). Its central recommendation was for curriculum reform centred on a reduction of examinable subjects to four (Mathematics, English, KiSwahili and Science). The concern that the 8-4-4 curriculum was too broad was also evident in the Totally Integrated Quality Education and Training (TIQET) proposals of 2000 (Republic of Kenya 2000). Strikingly, when other countries are showing an increasing interest in education's role in enterprise promotion, this report called for the removal of business education from the primary and secondary curricula.
At the core of the debate about the nature of the curriculum is a disagreement regarding the type of learning needed for the new world-of-work. Those proposing a lean curriculum (though this is at most implicit in the Kenyan policy process), as noted above, argue that the rapid technological change of globalisation requires schools to develop future workers who have basic generic skills in literacy, numeracy and science (World Bank 1995). However, this is countered by those proponents of a unified system of education and training. They argue that what the market actually requires are individuals who are both technically and intellectually competent (de Moura Castro and de Oliveira 1994). In this view, the market is undermining the old academic - vocational divide and an opportunity exists to create a genuinely general education.
In a sense, this is what Kenya has been trying to do through its use of practical subjects, and this has been a widespread policy trend across Africa. Whilst authors such as de Moura Castro and de Oliveira are concerned explicitly with the new challenges to education and training in a period of rapid change in technology and work organisation, their arguments in many ways reinforce the view of many African policymakers. Policies such as 8-4-4 arose out of concerns that a basic academic education might lack the necessary content to promote widespread sustainable (self) employment. However, it is clear that there have been major problems in realising the ambition of a truly general education.
The new South African system, based on Curriculum 2005 and the overarching National Qualifications Framework, is explicitly concerned with creating a unified approach to learning that is built on the premise of globalisation (McGrath 1996; Department of Education 1997a and b). However, here too there are very major resource constraints that could undermine implementation. In 1997, 24% of South African schools lacked water; 57% had no power and 13% had no toilets (Department of Education 1997d: 7). Moreover, a massive retrenchment programme has led to the loss of a disproportionate number of well qualified and experienced teachers.
There is merit in grounding education policy in concerns about resource limitations and a sense of what is readily achievable. There is also worth in focusing on the major outcomes that the economy and society will require from education in the future. It appears that the core of the challenge of a curriculum for competitiveness is finding a way of combining these two perspectives in a satisfactory manner.
3.3.2. Skills for competitiveness
Educational thinking in the OECD countries in particular in the 1990s has seen a growing focus on the acquisition of skills as well as knowledge (McGrath and King 1997). However, it is important to note that the notion of skills being used is far broader than in its traditional usage. In this new discourse, the term skill is expanded to include a range of "core", "generic" or "transferable" "skills" such as communication, problem-solving and team work.
Clearly, the core focus of a poverty eradication approach to skills is a focus on the skills necessary to lift people out of poverty. This includes generic skills for employability and lifelong learning, as well as skills for self-employment and income generation. At a further level, it can be argued that there are a number of additional skills necessary for broad-based economic growth. These could include skills for better productivity when employed; skills for innovation and problem solving; and skills for entrepreneurship. In looking at such skills, it is important to consider the considerable impact of globalisation and Post-Fordism on skill needs.
Looking more holistically, the skills for competitiveness would expand to include higher level skills necessary for development planning and implementation. These would include skills for running privatised industries, skills to develop sector strategies and skills to generate and maintain genuine partnerships with donors at the policy and implementation levels.
These debates are relatively recent, however, and there is, as yet, only limited sign of their influence on African systems of education. Mindful of the lean curriculum arguments, rehearsed above, it is important to consider whether these elements of a new view of "essential learning needs" are beyond the capacity of the majority of schools in Africa. If this is the case, then it will be important to consider how best provision can be facilitated and by what modalities.
This issue of complementarity emerges from our Ghanaian data. Successful young entrepreneurs in our sample typically have a complete schooling plus formal technical training and apprenticeship to a small scale artisan (Afenyadu 1998b). Afenyadu's discussions with master craftsmen suggest that the school system makes an important, but incomplete, contribution to the development of the skills deemed necessary in the workplace. Senior secondary school students think that their institutions are delivering on subject knowledge, science and technology and business skills but that they still need further preparation and experience before moving into sustainable (self) employment (Afenyadu 1998a and b).
The new skills outlined above are evident in Ghanaian policy reforms. Both the 1987 and 1992 reforms sought to stress creativity and production-orientation. In the 1992 reforms, there was a clear concern with globalisation pressures (Afenyadu 1997a). This led to a powerful new emphasis on "employable skills" such as literacy, numeracy, problem solving, creativity and adaptability.
As noted above, part of the focus of the Kenyan 8-4-4 system was on developing practical skills, with a particular objective of facilitating transitions to self-employment (Ministry of Education 1984). Kerre and Oketch (1999) and Nishimura and Orodho (1999) point to largely favourable student opinions about the adequacy of preparation for both wage and self-employment. However, the view of artisans is more mixed (King 1999). Whilst some do think that 8-4-4 has been important in changing attitudes towards work of students, others are very sceptical about the quality of technical preparation by the 8-4-4 system, noting that many schools had very poor resources for teaching any technical skills. There are also persistent claims of students coming to artisans to buy items to submit for practical examinations. It is also worth noting that Kerre and Oketch's (1999) survey of school students' attitudes reveals that large numbers claimed not to be doing any practical subjects more than a decade after their intended insertion into the heart of the curriculum.
The Kenyan case is one where technical subjects have been stressed in the curriculum at least on paper. However, the system has been far less explicit about the newer skills we have discussed above. Indeed, even the new policy proposals of the Master Plan are largely stuck in older debates about the role of skill provision in schooling and the integrative thinking of TIQET is far from fully worked through. It is entirely appropriate for the new policy to react to the weaknesses of 8-4-4 by pointing out the arguments against vocational schooling. However, there is a danger that its use of rather old sources is indicative of a failure to grasp current and future challenges.
The South African contention is that a curriculum for individual and national competitiveness needs to escape from the academic - vocational dichotomy. Instead, it ought to focus far more explicitly on the skills that will help insertion into the global economy. Curriculum 2005 is explicit about the challenge of developing meta-learning: the ability to learn how to learn. It places considerable emphasis on a series of "critical cross-field outcomes" (see Box 3.1.). The focus on skills for competitiveness in these outcomes is clear. It is, moreover, a notion of skill that has its roots in the new concept of generic skills rather than in an older form of technical skills.
Box 3.1. Skills for competitiveness in South Africa's "Curriculum 2005"
The seven "critical cross-field outcomes" are:
1. Identify and solve problems in which responses display that responsible decisions using critical and creative thinking have been made.
In addition, there are a series of other generic outcomes and specific "learning area outcomes". The latter focus on the key skills (and to a lesser extent knowledge) that are expected to be the outcomes of learning under the Curriculum 2005 system. The generic outcomes are as follows:
1. reflecting on and exploring a variety of strategies to learn more effectively
Source: Department of Education (1997a: para. 3.1).
It is significant that these generic outcomes include an outcome focused on "developing entrepreneurial opportunities". In spite of the emphasis in all three countries on the importance of an enterprise culture at the level of overall development policy, there is a surprising little evidence of its presence in schools.
In Ghana, such a focus is almost entirely absent. In Kenya, business education has been a part of the curriculum at both primary and secondary level and has had a significant enterprise emphasis (King 1996). As we will show below, this seems to be quite a popular subject with students. However, it receives very little attention in the Master Plan and has been recommended for dropping by TIQET. In South Africa, the presence of enterprise in both generic and specific outcomes points to its apparent importance for the new curriculum. However, in the light of the slow implementation of Curriculum 2005, it will be some years before it is possible to do much in the way of evaluation of this approach. Nonetheless, in the meantime, it is possible to comment briefly on the wide range of efforts that have been taking place in recent years to build enterprise education onto the existing curriculum (Visser 1997). Whilst there has been considerable effort, Visser notes the lack of coordination and the duplication of efforts that have occurred.
Part of the problem that Visser identifies is the lack of a coherent view about the nature of enterprise education. In some programmes, it is primarily a question of a portfolio of business skills to be acquired and then utilised in the world-of-work: education for enterprise. For others, it is about inculcating knowledge of and positive values to enterprise through a discrete subject or programme: education about enterprise. For a further group, it is about total transformation of the curriculum and school to make the whole learning experience enterprising: education through enterprise (Visser 1997). These can be complementary approaches but too often a vagueness about what is meant by enterprise education undermines support for it and implementation.
However, just as we have argued that learning for competitiveness is a difficult challenge for education systems in many African countries, so there is a danger in assuming that enterprise education can be easily implemented. Learning to be competitive or enterprising will be difficult as it will require changed cultures of teaching and school management. It cannot be expected that it will have major effects without a supportive environment external to the school. Both a competitiveness and an enterprise focus must temper their vision with detailed consideration of the possibilities for and constraints on students being engaged in entrepreneurial or competitive activities after leaving school.
3.3.3. Attitudes towards competitiveness
Positive attitudes towards competitiveness are also a central theme of policy trends globally. Documents such as Ghana's Vision 2020 (National Development Planning Commission 1994) are full of concerns with creating the right attitudinal culture for development.
In Ghana, our research indicates that staff and students in educational institutions are aware of the importance given to the private sector and self-employment. At the student level, this is reflected in shifting demand for subjects. Students surveyed seemed particularly to value the subjects that formed the core of their specialist stream at senior secondary school level (King and Martin 2000). Indeed, when asked which subjects they felt were lacking, they tended to choose additional subjects relevant to their stream.
King and Martin (2000) also found that the vast majority of secondary students surveyed considered self-employment to be one of their preferred work options on finishing their education and that as a first choice it ranked comparably with public sector or private sector employment. Moreover, boys' identification of possible self-employment opportunities reflected a concern with high value niches where scientific and technological skills are often crucial. This included private medical practice, fashion designing, computer engineering. Concerns with exporting were particularly evident amongst girls. Design skills, creativity, networks and a risk taking attitude were seen as key components of a self-employment strategy. There was a consistent trend across both genders to specify occupational aspirations that were in close relationship to the courses being studied. Thus in the elite Achimota College, agricultural stream students reported aspirations such as horticulturist, landscape architect, soil scientist. In the general arts stream of the same school, however, typical aspirations were towards becoming a lawyer, judge or solicitor (52% of replies), administrator (10%) and diplomat.
Afenyadu (1998a) argues that aspirations towards self-employment could be even higher if they were not constrained by a realistic view of the further training that would be necessary in many cases before students can successfully insert themselves into sustainable and competitive market niches. This is also supported to some extent by the evidence gathered by King and Martin as part of this project. Kibera (1993) takes a similar line in Kenya. Students in her sample cited insufficient capital and skills as reasons for not going to self-employment.
Kerre and Oketch's data (1999) shows that the long-term aspirations towards entrepreneurial activities are relatively healthy in Kenya. Based on first choice of occupation only, some 20% of primary students were intending to engage in such activities when asked to look 20 years into the future. At secondary level, looking six to ten years into the future, girls' second most popular choice would be to become businesswomen. At twenty years, the desire for business is 14% and this is now the most popular first choice of both genders.2
2 However, 14% represents a considerably smaller proportion of total responses than was seen at primary level. Therefore, it is necessary to address why business is now the modal choice but a choice of a smaller percentage than at primary level.
Whilst there appears to be some attraction towards entrepreneurial activities amongst Kenyan school students, there does seem to be greater reticence about the desirability of some of the traditional jua kali trades, such as carpentry and lamp making. This fits well with our overall argument that the attractiveness of small enterprise activities lies in higher value niches rather than saturated mass markets.
The 8-4-4 education reform of 1984 was an attempt to make curriculum more pre-vocational. As such, it had a powerful focus on positive attitudes to manual work and self-employment. This can be judged successful to the extent that student attitudes regarding the importance of technical and vocational subjects have been shown to be quite positive (Nishimura and Orodho 1999). However, there is little evidence that the changes in curriculum under 8-4-4 have had a major effect in shifting aspirations towards productive self-employment from either this survey or own research. There is no evidence, as yet, that can suggest a similar process in Kenya to Ghana with regard to student aspirations towards high value self-employment. In the light of the current Kenyan curriculum debate (see above), it is worth reflecting on the more positive attitudes found in Ghana where there has been a very deliberate policy of curricular specialisation at the senior secondary level. It appears that the Ghanaian specialisation has combined with local economic and social factors to produce a positive student aspiration towards high value self-employment niches. Whether such a combination can be promoted elsewhere is less clear.
Notwithstanding our evidence about more positive attitudes towards self-employment, it is clear that there is a continued high preference for apparently more secure employment in large firms or the public sector in the Kenyan data (Kerre and Oketch 1999; Nishimura and Orodho 1999). This probably reflects the fact that the small enterprise sector, even at its most dynamic, is still quite seriously pressed by economic conditions and seems to offer large rewards only for hard work, and then for limited numbers of entrepreneurs. The weakening of the formal economy cannot be assumed to lead unproblematically to higher aspirations towards self-employment. What may be happening, from both the Ghanaian and Kenyan data, is that attitudes are becoming more positive but that this will lag behind economic trends until there is more unequivocal and persistent evidence about the attraction of small enterprise employment. Where desire to move to self-employment remains limited, students are also possibly reflecting a realisation that a basic (or even secondary) education is not sufficient for sustainable self-employment.
Whilst it is important not to overstate the ability of the school to change attitudes towards self-employment, there does seem to be an improvement here. The clear specialisation of the Ghanaian senior secondary system appears to have a significant orientation effect and this needs to be considered in other national contexts. Students' interest in self-employment also appears to be closely related to their perceptions of the extent to which school has prepared them for self-employment. Quality, relevance and certification seem to be areas that the education system can address in order to improve students' attitudes towards work in high value self-employment niches. This targeting of high potential niches is also important. Whilst attempts to prepare and orient students to self-employment per se may be of some use, the challenge is in targeting the self-employment orientation more sharply towards learning-led competitiveness.
If education systems in Africa are to contribute more effectively to national attempts to respond to globalisation, then it is important that attention be paid to the construction and delivery of a curriculum for competitiveness. Whilst current attainment rates and resourcing levels are poor, the challenge of competitiveness cannot be ignored. Strategies need to be developed to address both the pressing problems of poor educational performance and the longer-term challenge of education for learning-led competitiveness.
The challenge of learning-led competitiveness suggests the need to continue to look critically at arguments in favour of a lean curriculum concentrated on core subjects. Whilst, literacy and numeracy will continue to be vital to individual, enterprise and national development, education systems must take greater account of the other key elements of knowledge and skills for development in the context of globalisation. A broader curricular vision will be difficult to implement, but it is an essential element of national strategies for competitiveness and poverty eradication.
There is evidence of increasing self-employment orientation of school students in our project countries. Efforts in this area need to focus on preparing and orienting students for high value niches. Quality, relevance and certification all appear important in promoting such an orientation. The possibility of orienting students towards sustainable self-employment through curricular specialisation should be kept in mind when the nature of the curriculum is being debated.
3.4. UNIVERSAL PRIMARY EDUCATION AND EDUCATION FOR COMPETITIVENESS
Achievement of universal primary education (UPE) by 2015 is one of the two education-related international development targets.3 As such, it is at the core of international development cooperation for education. However, it is important to consider the relationship between efforts to achieve this goal and this project's concern with education for competitiveness.
3 The other is gender equality in primary and secondary enrolments by 2005.
It is clear that a curriculum for competitiveness needs to be operationalised in order to have any impact. If education for all can be achieved and it can be in the form of a learning experience that enhances personal, enterprise and national competitiveness, then it will have a major impact on development in our project countries and elsewhere in Africa.
However, it should be noted that delivery of universal primary education in Africa as a whole by 2015 is far from certain. 16 African countries had falling primary enrolments in the first half of the 1990s, although Uganda and Malawi are examples of major enrolment increases in the mid to late 1990s. By 2015, on current trends, 75% of those out of school globally will be African. The serious enrolments' shortfall in African basic education shows a massive gender imbalance, with two-thirds of those not in school being girls. Globally, 42 million less girls are in school than boys (Oxfam 1999) and seven out of the ten countries with the worst proportions of girls to boys in primary schooling are African (Brazier 1999).
The average African child entering school in 1999 was likely to get between four and six years of education, according to current trends. Their counterparts in an OECD country could expect an average of 15 to 17 years (Oxfam 1999). Even if current quality was high, it is inconceivable that children in Africa on average would learn as much valuable knowledge, skills and attitudes as their OECD counterparts in a third of the time. If education is an important contributor to development, then this appears to disadvantage Africa's development hugely.
It seems clear from the evidence surrounding enrolment and retention that both quality and cost factors are crucial to improved attendance (Ridker 1997; Oxfam 1999; Stromquist 1999). We have argued that a curriculum for competitiveness is a necessity not a luxury. However, it is apparent that it must be focused on efficiency and tightly controlled costs, as well as proven outcomes, if it is to be successful. Where schooling is perceived as improving in quality and is affordable, then there is likely to be an enrolment increase.
We have made it clear already that a curriculum for competitiveness must necessarily look beyond the confines of universal primary education. The strength of the Jomtien vision of education for all (World Conference on Education for All 1990) was that it stressed the basic learning needs of all, whether in school or not, and sought to link these, although less than comprehensively, with the world-of-work. It is essential to learning-led competitiveness that a commitment to universal primary education should not detract from a focus on all the necessary elements of skill and knowledge that are vital to development.
A focus on UPE runs the risk of focusing too tightly on the quantitative measures of getting children into schools and thus missing the bigger picture of what their education is for. Several of our research papers (Afenaydu 1997a and b; King 1997; McGrath 1997a and b and 1998a, b and c; Oketch 1997) argue that education policies should be far better grounded in an understanding of what is happening both across the sector as a whole and trans-sectorally. Currently, planning in the education sector is insufficiently based on an understanding of the issues in other sectors or on national development strategies more generally. Clearly, this is very challenging for capacity weak ministries in Africa. Equally, it is an area to which international cooperation agencies need to pay ever more attention.
Universal primary education (UPE) may be most likely achieved where costs are controlled tightly and quality can be seen to be improving. This suggests it should be tied more clearly to a consideration of curricular content and its relevance for development. Thus, UPE and a curriculum for competitiveness should be seen as complementary strategies. However, an important lesson from a learning-led competitiveness focus is that considerable attention must also be paid to increasing access to post-basic learning opportunities.
3.5. CONCLUDING COMMENTS
There has been too much emphasis in educational research on simple linkages between education and the economy. In reality, such relationships are highly complex. If this research is taken together with evidence from SME surveys, it is possible to suggest that a considerable amount of education may have some significant impact, but that a partial, or even complete, basic education cannot be shown conclusively to have such an effect. The broader lesson, and that a tentative one, seems to be that the development of sustainable livelihoods in competitive market niches requires basic education to be built upon by other inputs of knowledge and skills, and by other non-educational inputs and environmental factors.
What is of particular interest for this report is the international focus on the development of a curriculum for competitiveness. Whilst this inevitably will take individual national forms, these seem to have a common framework that blends together attention to knowledge, skills and attitudes. The challenge of globalisation for education systems points to the importance of further developing such approaches.
Nonetheless, it should be remembered that a curriculum for competitiveness is only one aspect of a holistic approach to education. Education is not, and should not be, solely about developing competitiveness or entrepreneurship. Rather, the overall challenge is to find an acceptable way of balancing these needs with other cultural, political and social objectives that are equally legitimate. The discussion of these, however, is outside the remit of this report.
Thinking about a curriculum for competitiveness also points to the need to think holistically at the intra-and inter-sectoral levels. Education for competitiveness implies that the education system is planned, managed and delivered in ways that reflect a close understanding of the broader contexts of education and goals of development. As we noted in the introductory chapter, this requirement is likely to be onerous both for national ministries and development cooperation agencies. Nonetheless, it is an imperative that must be addressed. At a less ambitious, but still challenging, level, it is important that the education sector be seen as a whole sector. As we have shown, there is a danger in the emphasis on basic education that it will be forgotten that basic education can provide only some of the necessary skills and knowledge for sustainable livelihoods and enterprise development. Far more policy attention needs to be addressed to the way that basic education can be supported by and, in turn support, the other modalities of provision, both within and outside the education sector.
The challenges of enterprise and competitiveness in education systems are complex ones and simple answers should not be expected. The argument that a lean curriculum is all that it is feasible to provide is a powerful one. However, if learning-led competitiveness is to be part of the core of national responses to globalisation, as much of the literature suggests, then it is not possible to focus education within Africa more narrowly than elsewhere in the world. Undoubtedly the challenge of developing and providing a rich learning experience in many African contexts is very difficult. However, if it is not done then African countries and peoples will fall even further behind in the race to reap the benefits of globalisation and to avoid its worst problems.
Whilst being ambitious about the challenges that must be surmounted, it is important to remain honest about the constraints faced. All three countries researched can be seen as taking positive steps towards a curriculum for competitiveness, but significant weaknesses remain. Policy uncertainty, as over the status of the Master Plan and TIQET in Kenya, serves to undermine the efforts of both educators and students. Implementation weaknesses are evident in all three countries and must be addressed in the planning phase of both new programmes and revisions of existing models. Resource constraints also affect all three countries, even the relatively wealthy South Africa.
The Ghanaian evidence on aspirations is suggestive of some degree of ability of the school to change attitudes towards self-employment, apparently as a result of curricular specialisation. However, students' interest in self-employment appears to be closely related to their perceptions of the extent to which school has prepared them for self-employment. Quality, relevance and certification are important areas here. The challenge in promoting a self-employment orientation among students is in focusing this more sharply towards learning-led competitiveness. This issue will reappear when we turn in the next chapter to look at training and its contribution to competitiveness and labour market insertion.