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close this bookSchool Enterprises: Combining Vocational Learning with Production (UNEVOC, 1998, 64 p.)
close this folder3. Conclusions and Guidelines
View the document(introduction...)
View the document3.1 Rough typology of school enterprises
View the document3.2 Structures of school enterprises
View the document3.3 Organisation of learning
View the document3.4 Competency profile, learning outcomes and learning goals
View the document3.5 Curricular processes
View the document3.6 Teaching staff
View the document3.7 Regulatory framework of school enterprises
View the document3.8 External relations
View the document3.9 Impact of school enterprises
View the document3.10 Financial options for school enterprises
View the document3.11 Mixes of private and public roles
View the document3.12 Factors that may enhance school enterprises

3.4 Competency profile, learning outcomes and learning goals

Skill components of vocations in school enterprises vary in their degrees of general and specialised applicability, and in the depth of both the general and the specialist components, which might be conceptualised in terms of the time taken in acquiring those skills.

General competencies are applicable in several contexts. Practical skills are functional skills, not primarily vocational skills in the narrow sense. They serve both to facilitate more specialised learning and adaptation. Generalised skills are either generally applicable or relatively specialised: practical skills and general competencies at a personal level of awareness are generally applicable; on the other hand, an understanding of the world of work: for example, an understanding of the structure and processes of work, its technologies, its relation to production, or its economic, cultural and political context have a more specific applicability. In practice, one finds a correspondence between generalised skills and vocational skills.

General components of vocational skills have direct relevance to work. Many of these are actually ‘process skills’ whereby the product is of lesser importance than the way the trainee goes about doing things: for example, the scientific approach to occupational trades, the ability to identify problems and explore solutions or to plan and execute one’s work.

Generalised components of technical and vocational skills include:

1. Communication skills: these are of ever rising importance in all countries in today’s world;

2. Entrepreneurial competencies: organisation of a small workshop, material acquisition, price calculation, bookkeeping, product marketing;

3. Cognitive skills: technical knowledge, theoretical knowledge, linguistic skills, mathematical skills, natural sciences which are directly applied and required in practice;

4. Social competencies: co-operation and interactive communications at work, the ability to handle structural and behavioural conflicts and the ability to settle conflicts; ability to establish vertical and horizontal contacts within the structure of the enterprise as well as outside the enterprise;

5. Organisational competencies (managerial capabilities) include understanding the management structure and work organisation of the enterprise;

6. Occupational problem solving (job performance): possible only by means of learning to integrate various techniques, social processes, various workplaces, various social relations, various management and administrative functions (job scheduling, job evaluation, insurance, health) and various production and entrepreneurial skills.

‘Workplace instruction’43 is the term used to describe the need in the modern workplace for basic competencies such as oral communication skills, adaptability skills, development skills, collaborative skills and leadership skills. Although the context within which this term has come to be used is modern industry and its role in supporting education in basic competencies, school enterprises have a similar role to play in promoting basic skills (reading, writing and computation), collaborative skills (interpersonal relations, teamwork and negotiation); communications skills (listening and speaking); development skills (building confidence, motivating, setting goals and planning) and, finally, adaptability skills (resourcefulness and creative thinking).

43 Carneval, A. P. et. al., 1990

The competency profile, i.e. the mix of generalised and vocational skills, imparted by a school enterprise ultimately depends on the form of learning adopted. Ideally, once the aims of the programme have been clarified, these should be translated into a range of specific skills, knowledge, understanding and attitudes which the programme can help to develop. A critical step in the design of the curriculum would be to identify, on the basis of a broader conceptualisation of employment related skills, the desirable range of skills and knowledge outcomes, then to operationalise these in terms of the learning situations pupils would need to get involved in. For example, the awareness of factual method is better achieved through the vocational course method. On the other hand, the project method is more suited for the use of information to solve new and unanticipated (not in the text) problems. Apprenticeships are a good way to acquire application skills, i.e. to learn to apply factual information.

Skill-level scaling needs to be based on duration and depth of training in both generalised and specialised components of vocational skills. This approach is different from the one that has been followed in diversified prevocational education programmes: first, to decide to have a new subject, then, to specify what to put into it.

In many countries, a great weakness in curriculum development agencies is their lack of ability to come to terms with the non-technical transferable competencies, and insufficient scrutiny of how to promote behaviour or attitudes such as problem-solving, team work or adaptability. The major requirement would be not only more resources but a fundamental change in teaching-learning processes: general capabilities are taught in the context of work processes, rather than the two being seen as belonging to separate locations and levels of the vocational training and education system. The priority here is not to introduce a separate subject, such as ‘enterprise education’ giving an academic treatment of enterprise and business topics, but rather to define non-technical competencies - inculcation of initiative, risk-taking, self-reliance, perserverence, identifying and solving problems - in relation to actual schemes of production for the market in the schools. Skills like designing and problem-solving can only be adequately developed if pupils have opportunities to be directly involved in such activities. Given the constraints of schools, this provides a special challenge to curriculum planners and teachers. Its neglect would greatly affect the credibility of programmes combining education with production.44

44 Hoppers, W. and Komba, D., 1996

Offering vocational training in school enterprises is far more than buying tools and machines and hiring some instructors. It requires the creation of an environment which nurtures the learning process.45 It also entails transmitting the values contained in occupations. Vocational education is not tools or market production, just as academic education is not books. Cleaning the shop and oiling the machines should be part of the ritual of good workshops. This liturgy of cleaning is a means to transmit the values of the occupation. Trainees in school enterprises may begin by producing something rough and poorly finished, but they are expected to be perfect. Those who fail to understand this point cannot understand why ordinary teachers will never become good teachers. Most of the problems and dysfunctions of vocational and technical education result from not creating this non-material environment. Case studies point to the attempt made in school enterprises to create an ethos of cleanliness and perfection which is proper to the particular trade and technical skill. School enterprises have the important goal to teach students the value of social goals in addition to imparting production skills.

45 Castro, C. de Moura, 1988

On the whole, evidence shows that school enterprises constitute a meaningful setting for the development of basic skills and knowledge, particularly with regard to the planning and executing of small economic activities and the understanding of technologies and production processes. Such outcomes have been possible in institutions with good leadership.

In recent years, much international attention has been given to the contribution of ‘key qualifications’ or generalised capabilities in vocational preparation. It has been argued that in a rapidly changing environment, schools should promote the development of generalised capabilities that are in built into vocational skills. It is not the development of technical skills alone but the development of generalised capabilities that are a basis for future productivity, adaptability and equity. It is here that the emphasis on quality and the attention to relevance can be merged as there is no inherent conflict between generalised capabilities and vocational skills.

The greater interest in promoting pupil creativity, problem identification, trying out different solutions, manipulative skills, familiarity with different materials and technologies, insight into the practical applications of scientific concepts and principles have led to a reduction in the distance between vocational and general competencies.