How skills development evolved in South Africa – my experiences
Welcome to my journey in the world of skills development!
You can’t go and study skills development at a university. It is a a trans-disciplinary domain. It doesn’t fit neatly into education, training, human resources and human resources development, learning and development, business, management, sociology, anthropology or economics. It contains elements of all these and probably key concepts from other fields as well.
So the purpose of this site is to unpack some elements of skills development, but not as a form of intellectual study. Rather it is to use other methods of rhetoric to develop an understanding of the complexities of this domain and, hopefully, influence your skills development practices.
Everybody is involved in skills development, whether it is YOU, your children, your staff, your team, your peers both inside and outside your organisation or the communities in which you participate.
Enough! Just read some of the blog posts and argue, comment or question. This is the best way to learn and I’m still constantly learning.
After Adrienne Bird’s memorial Service in June 2009 we got to discussing how her vision could be assured. So many people have already forgotten how the skills development landscape emerged and, of course, so many people have joined since. So this site sketches the background and events that led to the establishment of the NQF and the Green Paper of 1997 and subsequent legislation – and, then subsequently the revision of the SDA and the passing of the NQF Act in 2008.
I had related a few Adrienne stories at the memorial service. Melissa Erra from DHET, suggested that before all this history was forgotten I should write it up. “Chris, you’ve got to do the skills development cave paintings.”
In that moment she had solved my great question of what form the book should take. Every time I had started writing I had shifted into that pseudo scholarly tone that so many people feel is the “correct” way to write a book. It had stifled what I had wanted to say, it stifled the energy and the joint commitment of the many role players that participated in the process from 1994 on. Skills development is not an academic or educational exercise. It’s a dynamic exercise built on participation, engagement, conversations, stories, and above all actions and the inevitable mistakes. Skills are acquired by testing the boundaries of what is possible and not of applying critical thinking to shrink endeavours to the safe and the humdrum.
Cave paintings captured exactly what I had been wanting to do; to relate anecdotes, stories and real-life examples and to use these to illustrate concepts, principles and theories. It provides the basis for an analogical rather than analytical approach, shifting from thinking to perceiving; from reasoning to sensemaking; from Bloom’s cognitive taxonomy of educational objectives to the Dreyfus & Dreyfus five levels of skill acquisition.
The NQF has failed us in one great respect. Instead of acting as a framework for learning it became a framework for teaching. Skills development ran counter to this conceptual mistake.
This series of blogs is dedicated to the memory of to our great champion, Adrienne Bird and also to all those who helped shape the skills development landscape in South Africa over the past 25+ years.
Deep thinking The discussion at the PITB board meeting triggered a deep thinking phase. I could feel the tectonic plates of my received understanding of education and training, and a new world of learning grinding over each other. Teaching people Changes in the training environment such as Objectives-based Training, Criterion Referenced Instruction and Learner-directed Training …
I remember the scene quite clearly – the morning sun was shining in through the windows a restaurant in the new industrial suburb of Meadowdale on 3 February 1994. It was an important meeting of the Plastics Industry Training Board. The meeting was fraught with tension not related to what I was doing. The unions …
I stood there waiting for him to tell me what to do. The assistant foreman had taken me to him and briefly introduced me. Jumbo had nodded and then resumed work. It was my first day in a low-level worker position at the blacksmith and springsmith workshop in Mayors Walk, Pietermaritzburg (South Africa). He just …