Education with Industry Relevance - a 21st Century Imperative

01 Jul 2015

Philosophers have since time immemorial toiled to reach an understanding of the nature of knowledge without any consensus. It is important then to establish the reason for the acquisition of knowledge and the knowledge systems from which it is sourced. The cardinal reason for education and knowledge in today’s modern society should be to drive national developmental imperatives. This is why it is necessary to identify the knowledge gaps that inform skills shortages and restructure higher education efforts to be sufficiently relevant.

It is my conviction that curriculum design should perforce advocate for an education that defines the needs and answers to the developmental and skills needs of our nation. Skills shortages have been wrongly or rightly blamed on the lack of synergy between labour and education, policy and implementation and indeed between the structural conflicts created by history and ported to our present. Whichever it is, the point is that our educational knowledge mandate should seek redress that reduces the obvious structural anomalies. Consequently, the burden should not only be on institutions but on individual educators to structure a delivery system that answers to the call to proffer necessary skills to our people.

What remains critical is the realisation that the value of education offered should be sensitive to the developmental trajectory of the nation. There has been widespread admission that sometimes education has failed to deliver employable individuals to the job market, making the task of the educator in the 21st century more complex. We live in an epoch where traditional forms of employment are being effaced by casualisation, adjunct labour and project based seasonal opportunities. Our education should also place more emphasis on self-directedness and creation of a lifelong student with mutating skills. It is in this vein that the educator’s mandate becomes facilitator rather than instructive in nature. What nature of system do we need to have in order to achieve this?

My personal take on this is that our education system should create learning skills that make students embrace desirable difficulty, assume increased accountability, reduce redundancy and minimise dependencies. Add to this, I strongly believe that the answer to our skills paucity lies in a deeper education that communicates more than just skills but instils a way of life, a worldview that creates permanent students and inevitably workerpreneurs who are accountable to the developmental vision. The difficulties represented in achieving these educational and knowledge goals should be embraced with a relentless mental fortitude. Global dependencies should also be transformed into platforms of opportunity as educational institutions seek viable and mutually beneficial partnerships beyond the borders of South Africa.

The sum total of our mandate as educators is to provide an enabling curriculum with a framework that makes us relevant to the needs of our communities, industry and ultimately our nation as a whole. Such course frameworks should foster intrinsic motivational options for all stakeholders especially those acquiring the education. Such internal value becomes the repository for continued interventions that eventually transform the skills climate of the nation.

In conclusion, the 21st century bids the educator to shape up and provide answers beyond the classroom. It calls upon the transformation values and attitudes to inform a continually learning nation. Conversely, the learning nation should be learning with eyes focussed on the developmental and skills needs that subsist in the country. This remains as a clarion call to Relevance for all educational endeavours, Real and Perceived.

Author: Prince Leburu

Editor: Ernst Kriek

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