|Policy Development and Implementation of Technical and Vocational Education for Economic Development in Asia and the Pacific - Conference Proceedings - UNESCO - UNEVOC Regional Conference (RMIT, 1997, 520 p.)|
William Hall, NCVER
This is a summary of the paper presented by Dr Hall to the UNESCO UNEVOC regional conference.
Billions of dollars are spent each year on vocational education and training. Is that money being well spent? I doubt it, because vocational education is mostly locked into traditional ways of training, coupled with a straight jacket approach to curricula that is supposed to be 'standards' based. Such an approach has little to offer VET regional development.
Our system of training is mostly (either literally or metaphorically) 'bricks and mortar' based, with a heavy emphasis on the production of printed materials. This leads to inflexibility and a kind of permanency that is no longer relevant to our future needs. The attraction of the present, centrally imposed, approach is its conceptual simplicity and its ease of tight bureaucratic control.
There are four main conceptual challenges for trainers:
· industrial changes and communication changes and their impact on society
· environmental factors
· coping with the inappropriate market metaphor with its emphasis on competitiveness.
A possible way of dealing with these challenges is to plan strategically.
Humankind has lived through six industrial revolutions, moving from being a hunting and pastoral society to a post-industrial information/automation/communication society. Most generations have never experienced a single revolution; we are living through one right now. Most importantly, most people alive today will live through one, and maybe two, more revolutions. This rate of change is quite unprecedented.
The truism that 'the only stable thing is change' trips off the tongue, with no great understanding of the turmoil that will be caused when two more revolutions take place in the next 20-30 years. Our training structures must accommodate such rapid and extensive changes - presently they do not. They are designed for stability: the laughable 'solution' is the 'market' approach with its emphasis on competition. However, the approach we need to deal with these present and anticipated revolutionary changes is co-operation.
What are likely to be the next revolutions? I'll make two guesses: first, new materials; second, energy transfer.
Alongside the industrial revolutions have been the changes in communication. I do not believe that training managers have yet grasped the implications of (for example) multi-media, the CD, and the internet.
The internet is being used as a facile notice board or cheap post-box. Amazingly, printed books are actually being placed on the internet, which is a bit like sitting in front of a television set with the news being presented in visual morse code!
Used appropriately, multi-media challenges the need for 'bricks and mortar', removes the distinction between 'on-the-job' and 'off-the-job' training, and turns trainers into information retrieval specialists.
Interestingly, some one-to-one and small group training (apprenticeships!) will still be needed. Personal interaction skills will need to be taught with greater urgency, bearing in mind that personal interactions have dropped 50 per cent in people's lives over the past 30 years.
All of this gives new meaning to technical 'literacy', including the definition of literacy itself. Electronic digital delivery demands totally different ways of collecting, classifying, storing, disseminating and using information. The training challenges are enormous.
Most regional countries are caught up in one of two training cycles.
(These cycles are from an ILO/APSDIN report co-authored by Dr Hall and published by NCVER.)
Training of the right kind will help to break out of these cycles.
The market metaphor
If the definition of 'market' is restricted to 'giving clients what they need', then I have no quarrel with the term. However, it is taken to mean far more than this within the training context. Competition has become an end in itself, not just a means to an end. Anyone who challenges competition is regarded as a fool.
The (so-called, and I would claim spurious) 'market' is changing the region from low practical skill/low theoretical knowledge to high practical skill/low theoretical knowledge. We are moving from D to B in the matrix.
What we desperately need is to move from element D of the matrix to element A, not to B. (The matrix is based on an OECD paper.)
We will only succeed in using the industrial and communication revolutions to our advantage if we are in element A, and to do this we must plan strategically.
Alas, about 20 years of close contact with senior managers in industry and business, and with senior bureaucrats, has shown me that their goals are depressingly short-term and their view of training is narrow in focus. Also, their approach to management is bottom-line directed - which is the major complaint I have of the market metaphor being applied to training.
Strategic planning offers a way forward - so long as we remember that as soon as we produce a printed document titled 'Strategic Plan', then we have stopped planning strategically. The elements of strategic planning will be discussed.