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close this bookSchool Enterprises: Combining Vocational Learning with Production (UNEVOC, 1998, 64 p.)
close this folder1. Key Issues and Hypotheses
View the document(introduction...)
View the document1.1 Economic, educational and social objectives of school enterprises
View the document1.2 Need for case studies
View the document1.3 The conceptual framework
View the document1.4 Methodology


Changing economic environment

The world is experiencing major changes in patterns of production and trade as well as dramatic innovations in technologies. Producers of goods and services are having to operate in a global context where opening economies to competition is the key to success. This competitive situation is affecting modes of production. In a more competitive economy, productivity, quality and flexibility are more important for the success of production systems than reduced wages. Firms are expected to allocate resources more efficiently to increase productivity. In order to compete internationally, they have to develop their technological and managerial systems. And, finally, they are expected to respond to a competitive environment by producing quality goods and to meet the demand for new products. These factors demand that labour be highly mobile and flexible in adopting new skills.

Both developed and developing countries alike are, however, unlikely to be able to adapt quickly enough to the demands of a more competitive global economy. This has resulted in the shortage of qualified workers for the new industries and modes of production as well as in the displacement of labour. An increasing proportion of the working population of the world is employed in micro-enterprises of the informal sector. This development is reinforced by a simultaneous cutback in state responsibility as a consequence of economic reform policies.

Implications for skill development

Changes in the nature of work, the technologies of production, and in standards for manufacturing and agriculture have pedagogical and educational prerequisites. The traditional workplace required teachers to convey knowledge emphasising factual information. It did not matter that learning was segmented from the economic and work context. With new and complex inputs to factor into a production equation, other operations become necessary (complex literacy skills, writing ability, and basic knowledge of mathematics, science, chemistry and biology). These so-called ‘hard skills’ are more important as the workplace seems to be profoundly changing.

Meanwhile mixes of general and technical skills are changing at all levels as new technologies penetrate not only the urban but also the rural sectors in the developing countries. There is evidence that many developing countries are facing the problem of lacking skills that are highly developed elsewhere. Even at the craft and artisan skill levels, they are lacking cadres of journeymen equipped to serve as masters to new apprentices.

While general education competencies play a greater part than ever before in facilitating skill acquisition, in the preparation of students for further learning over a lifetime, and adjustment to change at all levels in the economic structure, there needs to be a technical and vocational education system in place in which schools might provide specialised vocational training in traditional and newly-emerging skills needed for existing jobs and production practices, and which encourages self/wage employment and improves its productivity. With the increasing importance of the informal sector, processes of training aimed at providing employment deserve more attention. This includes the question of how technical and vocational training can be designed so as to be job-specific, vocationally specialised, and directly linked to employment. In other words: how can education and training contribute to people being better able to survive in the market and react better to changing market situations?

Shortcomings of technical and vocational education systems

These changes in skill requirements necessitate that technical and vocational education systems should ensure an adequate amount and quality of training. Overall trends, however, point to the fact that public technical and vocational education institutions often have not had a good record in efficiency and flexibility and sometimes are far removed from market realities. The majority of students are pursuing a vocational training that is unlikely to lead to the full-time wage employment they seek. This is especially the case for women. There is little or no attempt to cater for the needs of those who wish to continue living and working in rural areas or those who are compelled to join the urban informal sector. At the same time, the graduates are out of touch with the working conditions and technical possibilities in small and micro-enterprises.

Furthermore, budget allocations to technical and vocational education have often decreased so dramatically and, in view of the high costs associated with the latter, the time has come when developed and developing countries alike have to increasingly consider possibilities of generating alternative resources for the financing of technical and vocational education with minimum possible financial support from the government.

The notion of school enterprises

As a result of the above developments, new model schools have emerged - although entrenched within the conventional formats of institutional education and training - that are supposed to provide economically useful qualifications and facilitate their students’ transition into the employment system in which graduates are able to immediately apply their skills. The entities established under this perspective include the notion of combining market production with systematic vocational learning through the concept of school enterprises. The teaching personnel are compelled to undertake continuing educational courses to adapt to new market conditions and to introduce new curricular conceptions adapted to new technological processes. The introduction of production assumes to bring the school closer to the realities of life, particularly the world of work, and goes beyond the prevailing thinking that individual lives are divided into a span of time just to study and another just to work. It is also justified by the need to find new ways of teaching and learning so as to increase pupils’ interest and motivation in their studies. An important aspect of school enterprises is the factor of motivation for effective learning through combining learning with production, in that the training underlines the importance of visibility of future returns. Last, but not least, through the synthesis of education and production, technical and vocational education institutions are expected to exploit new financing options for meeting training costs.

The international discussion on school enterprises

During the 1980s, much attention was given to the combination of education with production at the level of international co-operation in the field of education. In November 1981, the 3 8th Session of the International Conference on Education adopted Recommendation No. 37 on ‘Interaction between Education and Productive Work’. It was recommended that member states should co-operate at various levels in the development of programmes and practices through exchange of information and experience, joint experiments and evaluation.1 In 1984, the Ninth Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers was partly devoted to discussions on youth unemployment and in this context it was noted that the “criterion of production units within schools, and the integration of work experience with formal education” were among “a number of different ways of relating schools more closely to the world of work...

1 UNESCO, Paris, International Bureau of Education (IBE), 1982

UNESCO’s International Symposium on ‘Innovative Methods in Technical and Vocational Education’ held in 1989 in Hamburg, underlined further the international interest in production-oriented learning and teaching.2 One of the major objectives was to define elements of close co-operation between schools and enterprises both at the level of the educational system and at the level of the process of vocational learning. In 1990, the ‘Working Group on Production Schools’ organised an expert meeting with specific focus on the theory and practice of production schools.3 The aim was to gain information on the feasibility of such approaches, and to develop models of school enterprises and the specific conditions of their existence in less industrialised countries. The central motivation was to analyse reforms in didactic and vocational learning with special reference to school enterprises in industrialised countries and compare them with corresponding attempts in less industrialised countries.

2 Report of the UNESCO International Symposium, 1989

3 Arbeitsgemeinschaft ‘Produktionsschule’ (eds.), 1990

A major emphasis in much of World Bank’s lending for education has been on vocational education, primarily at secondary level. Initially these loans were concentrated on technical vocational schools and coincided with the World Bank’s emphasis generally on physical facilities. But, in the meantime, several factors such as increasing relevance of school education were pushing in the direction of pre-vocational training in many or most of the general secondary schools. Findings with respect to the effects of pre-vocational versus general programmes on subsequent jobs and incomes of graduates have shown a failure to provide a reasonable financial social return on the extra costs of the vocational components in the curricula of at least the technical bias programmes.4 Similarly, the strategy of combining general secondary education with production have begun to meet with disapproval among bilateral donor agencies on grounds of high costs, poor service infrastructure, and ineffective linkages with the labour market. Despite the present decrease in international recognition given to the idea of vocationalisation in the context of general secondary education, the principle of combining education with production continues to remain an important feature of education and training systems in less developed countries on account of several reasons which arise primarily from its potential contribution to the diversification of finance and relevance of learning for everyday life.

4 See the World Bank sponsored study on diversified secondary education in Tanzania and Colombia. Third World governments were strongly advised against the inclusion of vocational skills in the general education curriculum. Psacharopoulos, G. and Loxley, W., 1985

The assumption that somehow the pre-vocational programmes in the secondary schools would resolve the problem of unemployment among the young school leavers rested on the false assumption that schools could substitute for training linked directly to employment. Educational planners and administrators often relied solely on existing public training facilities, especially technical institutions, polytechnics, non-formal training centres and public secondary schools, to solve the gaps in formation of human resources for economic development instead of seeking alternative institutional solutions. Moreover, there was a failure to distinguish between the vocationally specialised and generally practical in technical and vocational education.

The main questions that many countries face are when and how to make the transition from subjects that have broad vocational relevance (language, mathematics, science and practical skills) to programmes that will prepare individuals for particular jobs or clusters of jobs. Although general education, which schools can provide, enhances the individual’s trainability, job-specific training is very important. International experience shows that such training is most efficiently provided after initial job decisions have been made and in institutions under, or strongly influenced, by the ultimate employer. This does not exclude the inclusion of practical subjects such as teaching of applied science, biology, chemistry or physics, or subjects such as electronics, nutrition, fundamental health practices and sanitation at both basic theoretical and immediate practical levels. General education and practical education are important foundations for change; but so is job-specific training. In so far as one enhances and complements the other, this is a real foundation for change. Practical education does not suffice to make school-leavers both willing and able to become productively self-employed. Job-specific training is most important for creating self-employment, especially in the growing informal sector, as well as to meet the new challenges in the world of work.

1.1 Economic, educational and social objectives of school enterprises

The principle of school enterprises can be interpreted as serving a variety of economic, educational and social objectives.

Economic considerations

The economic considerations can be discussed along three dimensions: labour market, market production and school budgetary/self-financing aspects.

A major economic justification for establishing school enterprises is the need for promoting competencies for self and wage employment. Many of the students who come from disadvantaged families cannot afford to prolong their education. Increasing employment opportunities for participants who graduate from educational and vocational training establishments would therefore shorten the period of transition between school and labour market. Students from disadvantaged families require vocational competencies which make them productive members of the communities to which they belong.

The important way to make the transition from education to the labour market is by orienting courses to a particular market or sub-market with respect to products and qualifications. Market production is therefore to be seen as a vehicle for systematic learning as well as for entry to the labour market. Market production includes promoting competencies which are required for launching and managing small-scale enterprises. It also means promoting the ability to create one’s own work, the ability to undertake surveys, and the ability to determine the market needs and economic potential of the catchment area of the institution.

In several developing countries, priority now being given to rural development - partly reflected in enhanced investments in integrated rural development, employment, income generation and amelioration of the economic conditions of the disadvantaged - will require skills inputs in diverse directions. Such programmes as the use of water resources, upgrading environment, social forestry, application of technology to farming and allied occupations, diversification of agricultural production in such directions as food processing and preservation, and promotion of horticulture and floriculture will require vocationally specialised skills which school enterprises can provide. The linkage of education and production, while meeting the existing skill requirements of the rural economy, will help in diversifying the rural economy.

As regards self-financing and the budgetary dimensions of technical and vocational training institutions, school enterprises provide a good alternative for matching operating costs by means of production for the market.

Educational considerations

An important objective of school enterprises is therefore the combination of technical and commercial/ business curricula. Market analysis, accounting, marketing, distribution of goods and services, costing, management and organisation of production, etc. is considered an opportunity to enhance the curriculum of production lines such as tool-making and farming. The knowledge and skills of the students are job-specific which they can use in the provision of goods and services required in the community.

A further basic educational justification for combining learning with market production is learning through hands-on experiences. The close connection between production and vocational education holds a major chance of avoiding the weaknesses of reality removed technical and vocational education, thus making reality-based learning possible.

The modality of school enterprises is expected to improve the integration of theory and practice through a better understanding of scientific principles and processes of deduction implied in the various types of job-specific tasks. It will assist in learning the role of different technologies and new methods of production. It will develop the ability to choose freely and more adequately the field of studies, work and career5 and develop a broad range of practical, problem-solving and production skills and allow skilled workers to find new opportunities for vocational self-actualisation.

5 Ibid.

In the context of the achievement of the goal of universal basic education, the need for vocational education which promotes the capacity in students to produce goods and supply services becomes particularly significant.

Apart from promoting the ability to create one’s own work, the basic thrust of the modality of school enterprises is the development of general personality traits or non-cognitive dispositions and orientations through involvement in real work processes and market production. These traits include self-confidence, risk taking, innovative behaviour, perseverance, creativity, uprightness, self-determination, habits of discipline, positive motivation towards work, ability to think in overall contexts, ability to solve problems, independence, team work, willingness to learn, flexibility, independent decision-making, concentration, responsibility, precision, information processing, independent learning, reliability, quality consciousness, cleanliness, thoroughness in one’s work, development of self-esteem and self-assuredness.6 The notion of combining production with learning in Waldorf Schools7, in the alternative projects of ‘Jugendberufsschule’8 in Germany, in Don Bosco Schools9 in developing countries, as well as in the Danish production schools, derives mainly from the importance given to practical learning in the development of personality, and the teaching of work tasks in order to inculcate values.10 The expectations for these so-called ‘soft skills’ is increasing.

6 The growing awareness in developed countries of these personality factors has led to the introduction of newly developed methods of teaching, such as guide-oriented learning and training methods, project- and transfer-oriented training, modular training systems. See the series Modellversuche zur beruflichen Bildung, Federal Institute for Vocational Training, Berlin

7 Rist, G. P. and Schneider, P., 1982; Fintelmann, K. J., 1991

8 Ketter, P.-M., Petzold, H.-J. and Schlegel, W., 1986

9 Oerder, K., 1991

10 Castro, Claudio de Moura, 1988, pp. 195-206

Thus the modality of school enterprises is expected to ensure a balanced development of the physical, emotional and mental attitudes, and moral and aesthetic values in the interest of youngsters and of society.11

11 UNESCO-IBE, 1982

Social considerations

The third rationale for the modality of school enterprises is social. Social and pedagogical considerations are mutually related. Thus, preparing and training for co-operative and participatory forms of production has not only pedagogical value (learning in team work) but also social value.

The modality of school enterprises will assist in bridging the gap that presently exists between education, community and the work situation, thus promoting an integration between education and development at the community level. This development at the level of the community also concerns promoting a sense of citizenship, a general acceptance of obligations and responsibilities, and clear individual rights and privileges, thus promoting social cohesion and social stability. Fear of youth unemployment is real, and the political ramifications of youth misbehaviour are disturbing. But school enterprises are not simply a means to keep youth off the street, but have the important function of mixing volunteer and community obligations to engender social commitment.

Not only will school enterprises provide basic training for employment and training in new skills and understanding in order to meet the challenges of rapid technological and societal change, but they will be in the service of the people, rather than only in the service of the secondary industry. This means reconceptualising technical and vocational education for meeting the needs of unemployed youth, women and rural dwellers in developed and developing countries alike.

Further school enterprises are expected to reduce discrimination against manual work and promote social mobility. They are expected to teach students to recognise the economic and social values of the various types of work by inculcating in them, through education, respect for workers, and for the world of labour in general and the realities of work.12

12 Ibid.

1.2 Need for case studies

The move to incorporate enterprises in schools is justified on various grounds: improve the employment situation, raise additional resources, and find new ways of teaching and learning so as to increase pupils’ interest in their studies. School enterprises contribute in a significant way to educational reforms in society in terms of alternative methods, structures, and even goals of learning.

The main questions are how can school enterprises prepare individuals for particular jobs and clusters of jobs? What can we learn from the experiences of various countries? What are the varieties of ways of combining productive enterprises and education and training curricula? What are the dynamics over time of developments in combining learning with the world of work? Which programmes seem to be most successful? Can they really contribute to facilitating transition from school to employment, or to raising school quality? What are the conditions - organisation, management, institutional involvement, teaching personnel and financing - for the effective implementation of school enterprises?

Although much is known about the philosophies of combining education with work and their incorporation in policy, very little is known of how such philosophies and policies have been translated into programme practice, or the practical implementation of the curriculum in the daily activities of teaching and learning in the school, the learning organisation, the teaching staff, the regulatory mechanisms and the financial aspects. The question of whether these schools exist in the form intended in the original objectives and whether they have been able to realise the concept of combining education with production deserves a special study.

While many projects are still entrenched in the formal sector, only sparse documentation is available on school enterprises in the context of vocational and technical education for the informal sector. The introduction of school enterprises in/for the growing informal sector therefore deserves special attention.

School administrators are faced with decisions on specific cost-effective quality-improving investments and various trade-offs. What they want are guides to specific investment choices. Can learning-by-doing and work experience and other pedagogical characteristics of the work of school enterprises be a good investment? What can we learn from the case studies on the importance of investment in quality compared to an investment in something else. To whom should quality-improving investments be targeted? To the socially disadvantaged?

However, simply knowing that productive work is a cost-efficient means of raising learning achievement is not enough, as educational managers are increasingly being held responsible for the achievement of products which reach well beyond the sales of products and services and academic achievement. The question that needs to be addressed is therefore: to what extent school enterprises promote specific cognitive skills, values, attitudes, and work culture such as diligence, creativity and personal responsibility?

Ministries of education and other agencies need feedback, partly to improve professional services and administrative effectiveness in the context of limited resources. The case studies have the important function of keeping local education researchers and decision makers informed of alternative techniques used elsewhere. Further, every rigorous analysis of an educational problem requires comparison of some kind. There is a growing tendency to see the market production of goods and services as the most efficient system. Can the same apply for education? To what extent and in what way should the private sector be involved in education and in human resource development. There is also a tendency to argue for the state to be less involved in education and in human resource development policies. But yet there remain significant parts of the public educational system which cannot be carried out through private means alone. Comparative analyses of cases can help in this respect to document instances of differential modes and mixes of public and private provisions’ contribution to the criteria of efficiency and equity.

The case studies are expected to focus on the following broader policy issues:

1. How can technical and vocational education contribute to employment creation?

2. How can the school enterprise concept be one type of promotion within the development of diversified technical and vocational education systems?

3. How can competencies related to jobs be more effectively developed through co-operation with local industry and enterprise and thus reduce costs of state-run technical and vocational education as well as increase its relevance?

4. How can technical and vocational education be promoted for the growing informal sector?

1.3 The conceptual framework

In the following, a conceptual framework is proposed that will enable us to map out a wide variety of experiences in different systems and institutions on the basis of certain indicators. The notion of school enterprises will be seen as part of a broader educational methodology of providing educational experiences which links the teaching-learning process with the world of work, so that students not only gain relevant skills, knowledge and attitudes and values, but also the necessary hands-on experience to apply these competencies in introducing goods and services.

The conceptual framework for analysing ‘school enterprises’ includes two fields or contexts ‘working’ and ‘learning’. Education and training form part of the broader domain of learning, whereas productive enterprise forms part of the world of work. Each domain has its own characteristics and typical sets of activities. The major focus in combining the two domains lies in using productive enterprises as instruments to reinforce and enhance systematic and reflective learning, and for the sake of improving the relevance of education for later employment and self-employment as well as for sustainable socio-economic development of local communities and regions.

Although it is commonplace to refer to ‘education’ in terms of activities aimed at acquiring general knowledge, attitudes and values, and the term ‘training’ to the acquisition of occupational or job-related skills, the division needs to be seen as a purely analytical one as the two are interrelated dimensions within the domain of learning. Recent studies have shown that ‘education’ and ‘training’ or ‘technically specialised job related skills’ and ‘general skills’ cannot be isolated from one another as both are necessary for successful work performance.13

13 Singh. M, 1996

The notion ‘productive enterprise’ goes beyond productive activities in a narrow sense, i.e. which stipulate as the only condition that the volume of the goods and services produced by the students is to be substantial. Where the specific term ‘productive enterprise’ is used, it is meant to cover those work activities, such as production process, organising, planning, designing, marketing etc., aimed at generating goods or services that have economic, social and pedagogical value. Only those productive activities in the context of educational establishments fall in the category of school enterprises where there is a shared conviction about their pedagogical value and their economic necessity. The income generating aspect of educational establishments is to be seen as enhancing the learning potential of learners and as a focus of reflective learning.

The notion of ‘school enterprise’ is illustrative of a location in which an educational or training institution is, at one and the same time, an undertaking related to the world of work. The training institute or school may be a public institution or one run by a non-governmental agency. Some of the ‘non-formal’ institutions may be quite highly formalised. The concept ‘school enterprise’ entails the combination of learning and production at several stages, such as the education and training stage, the production stage and the enterprise stage.

The notion of school enterprises is an approach to learning involving an organised and direct interaction between the development of knowledge, skills, and attitudes and values (competencies) on the one hand, and the production enterprise on the other. The subject is involved in both processes and there is some degree of planned and intentional interaction between them. The above view of school enterprises however does not imply that a planned introduction of an element of productive work automatically leads to the involvement of trainees in vocational learning and training.

1.4 Methodology

The data for the report has been collected mainly by way of interpreting available literature on school enterprises with a view to capturing differences that occur according to the optimal interlinking between learning and production, the different socio-economic contexts as well as differences in the emphasis on the pedagogical value of introducing productive enterprise.

The notion of school enterprises is not only a concern in less industrialised countries faced with high levels of underemployment, but also in more advanced countries. The case studies therefore provide international comparisons, as the link between education and production has been undertaken in many parts of the world and in situations that differ widely in terms of socio-cultural characteristics, political and ideological systems, and levels of development. The report pays attention to traditions and possibilities in developing countries, but also makes references to possibilities in Western States, guided by liberal pragmatic ideas to the introduction of work orientation in schools.

In order to make a proper evaluation of school-run enterprises, descriptions have been complemented by analysis. Here is a shortlist of indicators for the evaluation of school-run enterprises:

· What role is the incorporation of production in the educational context supposed to play?

· What are the modes of organising learning?

· What are the determinants of educational outcomes?

· How can the vocational training and educational system be carried out through co-operation with private industry and micro-enterprises in the informal sector?

· What is the role of different regulatory mechanisms?

· What are the factors for an optimal mix between involvement in real work processes and academic/ practical curriculum?

· What are the welfare effects of combining education with production?

· How can incentives be provided to teachers within the context of school enterprises?

· How are resources raised and what are they used for?

· How do graduates enter the labour market?

· How much public control or support should be introduced and, where public intervention is involved, how far responsibility and initiative may be decentralised?