Adrienne at her retirement function
in October 2018

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.