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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

3.5 Curricular processes

Any discussion on job-related vocationalised competencies and education linked to market and employment will need to take account of questions relating to the extent school enterprises are in a position to adopt a market perspective without neglecting the pedagogical aspects. This raises not just logistical questions about resource availability, but also more fundamental ones of the inclusion of production processes in the curricula, the appropriateness of the curriculum for learning the flow of production and the processes of production, the teachers’ familiarity with the job-related curriculum, the adequacy of curriculum materials as well as the assessment procedures.

Integrating productive activities into school curriculum

The first question school enterprises need to address themselves to is: how is the production process as its central element to be integrated into the school curriculum? In school enterprises, production (the technical equipment and work organisation) operates under conditions very close to those prevailing in actual enterprises. Nearness to technical and organisational reality and the applicability of skills is an important principle of school enterprises. The work organisation can take the form of a craftsman’s workshop, a construction site, a production assembly line, a bakery or a farm. The technical and social organisation of work can be disclosed to the trainee via abstract theory and reflection. In many schools, however, school enterprises overstress the technical aspects of production. In doing so, they too frequently neglect the work-organisation aspect. Such school enterprises put a higher emphasis on the economic goals while neglecting their educational goals.

Integrating the production process into the curriculum entails translating the complexity and variety of industrial reality such as operational functions, the interrelationships, e.g., mechanical systems, work organisation, jobs, etc., into a range of skills in order to make the complex reality more comprehensible for the learner. Learning is supported by introducing systematic teaching aids (textbooks and tables, laboratory devices, and audio visual aids, etc.), the express purpose being that learning goals are achieved, learning time is utilised optimally and, in particular, trainees are made to understand technological, scientific and mathematical laws involved in the jobs they perform. In this way, the whole production process is made to meet the requirements of the student-training programme.

Training stages

Once the technical and work organisational aspects of the production process are translated into a range of skills, it is possible to scale skills according to basic, intermediate and advanced skills. The first year of training may include courses in basic skills and, later, intermediate and advanced skills. Basic skills training often includes basic training through the training course principle. But basic training may also include fabrication of simple parts for product components or elementary project work. Intermediate specialisation normally includes machine familiarisation, training course sequences and production-oriented training. Advanced specialisation usually includes production training.

The goal of training through school enterprises should be the efficient manufacturing of good quality goods. This would bring down labour costs. Furthermore, the goal should be to qualify workers for a variety of skills that can be employed at any time and place. Skill training should comprise of competencies needed in a broad range of occupational tasks. And, finally, training should train for social reliability, corporate standards and social interests.

The structure and size of school enterprises determines the extent and depth of the skills imparted to the trainees. In some schools, such as PIKA in Indonesia and Don Bosco Technical Institute in India, there are more options to structure the sequence of production activities and allow different approaches to complement one another. As a result, it is possible to have different stages of vocational education ranging from the basic vocational stage, the specialised vocational stage and apprenticeship to full-time operators and entrepreneurs. This contrasts with the business centres in public technical institutes in Ghana and Kenya, as well as the example of the Industrial Training Institute in Bangalore, where the delegation of responsibility for more explicit application of vocational specialisations to non-formal provisions and informal sector apprenticeships makes more sense as governments have to choose between investing in vocational education for the few and an improved quality of vocational education for the many.

Changes in curricular approaches and learning outcomes

Several shifts occur overtime in curricular approaches. Programmes may start with very strong components of vocational training. But their succession may also reflect the shifts that have occurred: from focus on technical skills towards more emphasis on specialised training in real work processes, which can still make a contribution to pedagogical outcomes. Some of vocational secondary schools in India that have established school enterprises are thinking seriously on the lines of promoting general competencies, such as principles of work ethos, in addition to producing for the market. There may also be shifts from production-cum-training towards a separation of these two functions.

Decentralisation and local choice

The process of curriculum development is an area of support infrastructure and is of vital importance. The process is fraught with difficulties as curriculum organisations like to adhere to established procedures for the development of curriculum and learning materials. Where such procedures are very centralised, conflicts easily arise between national prescriptions and the schools’ implementing capacity. There is the necessity to allow much scope for local variations and ‘enrichment’. The challenge to curriculum organisations is to provide as much guidance as possible to teachers through handbooks, pupil texts, guidelines, models of syllabi, while leaving much scope for local choice and adjustment.

Decentralisation of the curriculum may however have the unintended consequence of creating gender differences. Curriculum decentralisation must therefore be supervised by curriculum organisations. In the case of Papua New Guinea, curriculum decentralisation has in fact caused gender-related differences. For example, there are significant differences in the skills that women have access to. While both men and women are trained in agriculture and livestock production, women are more likely to be involved in subsistence production. Men tend to work in large scale non-subsistence agro-industry-oriented production lines. Men perform the machine-dependent operations, whereas women are confined to hand work. Women are more likely to receive classroom teaching of business skills, rather than practical experience in business skills.

Existing pedagogical services may require the development of effective linkages with industrial organisations. The guidance and active contribution by the latter organisations is of central importance to ensure the relevance and effectiveness of technology education and productive projects.

In the case of the Don Bosco Technical Institutes, the fact that normally all graduates from the school enterprise find employment is mainly due to the orientation of the training content to the competency requirements of potential employers. The Salesian approach of establishing and maintaining an extensive as possible network of contacts to government and private employers is not only to ensure the right and up-to-date identification of the competency requirements for skilled workers, but also to facilitate the job placement of graduates.

Course structure and duration

School enterprises offer vocational training in an array of courses. Courses are modified over the years and evolve in response to market demand. Some courses need to be retained because they provide good basic training.

The optimal duration of the course is one within the period of which those competencies may be taught, which will enable the trainee to get employment and, at the same time, make his vacancy available to newcomers. In Brazil, it has been possible in some school enterprises to extend the duration of the courses because the students are not forced to earn outside the school enterprise.46 It has also been possible to discard the rigid course structure and its mandatory sequencing of tasks, and give due consideration to the weaker students. The students can continue to work in the school enterprise, work to earn an income even after acquiring all the necessary competencies, till they have found a suitable job. During this period, the students pass on their skills and knowledge to the new students.

46 Fachgruppe Technik/Handwerk des Deutschen Entwicklungsdienstes in Brasilien-Mitte (DED) 1987, pp. 343-356

As regards the course materials, instead of a task-oriented systematisation of materials which start with simple tasks and proceed on to more difficult tasks, it is desirable, especially from the point of view of later employment practice, to have a handbook in which the individual tasks may be looked up as and when a problem arises. It makes sense to develop a collection of loose sheets dealing individually with the relevant tasks taught during the course. This could then be bound up as a manual to be used later. Training aids may be produced in the school enterprise itself.

Courses, such as weekend courses, must be adapted to the work routine of the participants. The reduction in the leisure time of such workers could be compensated through work in small production groups with a good ambience. This is particularly important in the case of women, though men are also seldom free of social obligations and other demands to their time.

The courses should be clearly formulated, compact, and of not too long a duration. Courses should be divided into basic, intermediate and advanced courses. Upon completion of the first module, the learner should find it easier to follow the next module. Each module should be self-sufficient and allow the student to break his training only to return to join the next level after acquiring some experience in his community or in local enterprises. The certificate should contain a list of skills and knowledge which the student has acquired during the course.

The courses should be oriented towards the demands of the immediate community for services and products, and also prepare students for employment in their own communities. This demand orientation should also include the possibility of developing new products and expanding existing markets. With regard to the promotion of self-employment, production courses must be oriented to economic activities in the informal sector.

Great value must be put on practice-oriented transmission of basic skills and knowledge in the context of activities (welding) within an occupational sector (metalworking). This general experience with basic skills is important as a foundation for later work as a specialist as well as for self-employment. The broad exposure to basic skills is important for the students to choose a trade suitable to their aptitude and talent as well as for preventing frustration and frequent job changes.

The courses should be so designed as to promote as much co-operation as possible between the students. The aim of this co-operation should be the administration of the courses by the students themselves, i.e. production planning, cash and sales control, calculation, making payments, etc. The students should cooperate and feel a responsibility for all aspects of their work. This would mean a conscious distancing from a capitalistic and hierarchical learning organisation. It would be desirable, indeed, if the students could also extend their co-operative effort to the period after their vocational training.

It is necessary to introduce problem-oriented course materials. Course units should be built around the finding of a solution to a problem rather than only demonstration, observation and imitation. The students should be taught to question why a particular solution is the right one and another the wrong one. Over and beyond this problem-orientation, it is necessary for the students to develop problem-solving strategies which would allow the students to later deal with problems independently. This would place emphasis on the creative potential/creative capacity of youngsters in solving problems that reside in their own environments which permit and even encourage the exercise of that capacity.

Emphasis should be given to creativity, experimentation, and learning to work without errors. An attitude of independent problem-solving can be promoted through a broader general education as is already existent among the students. They should be motivated to attend non-formal educational courses to improve their general education till at least the 8th level. Theory should be introduced in the production course only when the practice so demands.

Parents could be included in the planning of courses as well as in the monthly evaluations and planning get-togethers.

Curriculum development

There is a great need for developing curricula with a high degree of flexibility and integration into existing work situations. Curricula should avoid an overburdening with instructional materials. It should be based on the principle of using examples around genuine and concrete tasks. Rather than introducing uniform, standardised and detailed materials which are to be passively used, the curriculum must ensure active participation of all workers in genuine learning tasks. Curricula should be problem-oriented.

A curriculum need not always be in written form. It could be designed on the basis of products around which basic technical skills can be learned. This method has the advantage of saving on programme costs, as products can be sold or used for own consumption. Furthermore, products can be more easily adapted to local market demand than written materials, and are less amenable to standardisation. Instead of introducing industry-oriented theoretical courses built around productions manufactured in the modern formal sector, it makes more sense designing courses around the repair of products. Again, repair of products does not lend itself easily to a standardised curriculum.

A major problem is the production of identical products within a restricted geographical space of a local settlement. Training contents should, therefore, not be the same for all, but should reflect opportunities for diversifying into new lines of production and products. This may help the graduates from school enterprises to overcome the extreme competition while setting up their own enterprises.

The restricted financial situation of youngsters means that they may, later on, have to creatively adapt to available technology. A real challenge of curriculum development is, therefore, the development of courses built around improvised techniques. This could be done on the a basis of an examination of the scope for the development of appropriate technology within school enterprises. Courses need to be developed around competencies and technologies that are perceived locally as important and accepted ways of survival and development, rather than by adopting a top-down approach of diffusing modern technology and qualification requirements from formal private sector institutions into school enterprises.

Curricula development should consider the trainees’ general maturity, their degree of exposure to the world of work, and to situations of sheer social and/or economic survival. What should be the relation between competencies and attitudes to be promoted by education and those actually developed in the home environment? How old should youngsters be before they are exposed to hand tools or electrical machines? At what age are young people ready to think about vocational choices? How does this vary across different socio-economic or cultural environments? Schools should be able to complement what is learned in the home. On the other hand, schools also have the task of widening horizons opening up new avenues and perspectives that reach beyond the home environment. Thus schools may deliberately wish to counterbalance the production orientation trainees are exposed to at home by means of embedding their work orientation in curricular designs.

Curriculum development requires much professional input from outside the organisations. There are several difficulties in organising the curriculum on the basis of production. In most of the experiments, the curriculum is not worked out entirely on the basis of production. Selection of vocational learning contents entails applicability, completeness, controllability. It requires a carefully planned and systematic approach to learning. It requires regularity and constant supervision by selected experienced instructors. The approach is expensive, and it calls for considerable investment in staff, space, technical infrastructure and a separate location.

Principles underlying curriculum integration

Educational programmes are designed according to curricular principles established in the field of human psychology. Among them are the defining and sequencing of skills and principles, the interaction between theoretical practice and practice through manual or observational means, and the targeting of educational experience differently in different age, ability and interest groups. Vocational education is both practical and academic rather than binary opposites as many tend to cast it.

In school enterprises, one is dealing with vertical investments in specific curricula and specific abilities. In terms of specific curricula, plumbing is not the same as carpentry, and poultry differs from agriculture. Investments in curricula are made differently. For those faced with making investment and managerial decisions, it is necessary for them to match labour market demand (demand by horticulture, etc.) with the questions of the learner’s ability, the learner’s interest and institutional and management environment (co-operative work environment).

Once vertical investment in specific curricula and specific abilities are made then the question arises regarding its horizontal integration: how to link the practical work in plumbing in a training workshop with the theory in science through the course method? Projects offer a potential for horizontal integration of learning and production. An effective linkage between learning and production is only possible if either the same teacher or a team make a direct and explicit connection between different dimensions of the same trade (for example, plumbing) whereby the scientific, social and technical dimensions can be jointly explored. This kind of integration has a great fascination for planners. In OECD countries, there are attempts to relate science to technology and to emphasise the design side of craft and technology and, elsewhere, interest in bringing science into agriculture and crafts. Although this approach does not remove the problem of curriculum fragmentation, it could bring theory and practice much closer together and thereby increase the quality of learning in key areas of basic knowledge and skills in school enterprises.47

47 King, K., 1985

A related issue concerns the method of learning: to what extent will learning be more experiential and based on actual productive activities? Production for the market should involve a direct and conscious confrontation with forms of work and production in one’s own environment. As already indicated, the notion of combining education and production through school enterprises basically involves pupils in an actual experience of production. School enterprises have a broader aim than the limited work-orientation projects. They are more vocationally specialised imparting job-specific skills, and more extensive than the work-orientation programmes, and emphasise learning outcomes as well as economic output.

Balancing learning and production for the market

Important for reaching a balance between market and learning experience is adjusting training structures to market orders, i.e., arriving at an optimal synchronisation of different forms of training in view of the variable market situation. This is probably one of the most difficult problems of school enterprises. Regarding synchronising economic activities and training programmes, some school enterprises accept orders according to purely commercial criteria. Experienced instructors and technicians then sort the incoming orders according to their respective degrees of ‘training suitability’. Any order that does not fit into the training programme, perhaps because of short deadlines, technical problems or excessive volume, are passed on to the school enterprises’ normal production staff and senior trainees. Conversely, detailed production quotas are often compiled to satisfy the training plans, and then presented to the regional enterprises with a cost estimate as a special offer.

In schools with a relatively fixed array of products, instructors and technicians schedule work tasks to coordinate training and market production. Division coordinators and instructors translate the detailed production plans into training content.