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Introducing our panel of keynote speakers and session titles

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 Joy PapierProfessor Joy Papier
KEYNOTE: From policy symbolism to evidence-based policymaking – VET research on the rise in the South

Professor Joy Papier is the director of the Institute for Post-School Studies (IPSS) at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in Cape Town, South Africa. The Institute undertakes training and development of Adult educators and TVET college lecturers, post-schooling research and policy analysis.

Joy has been active in education, policy and development for about 25 years. Her current research interests include TVET teacher education, TVET policy and development, vocational curricula policy, workplace and institutional cultures, youth unemployment, and education opportunities for youth and adults. She holds the South African National Research Chair in TVET studies and is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Vocational, Adult and Continuing Education and Training (JOVACET) established in 2017.

What role does research play in policymaking in South Africa today, and do policymakers in education and training pay any attention to research evidence? The post-apartheid government which came to power in 1994 faced the daunting task of reconstruction and transformation that initiated a rush of policymaking. In education many of these often hastily conceived (some would say ill-conceived) policies gave insufficient thought to how they might be implemented, and inevitably there were unintended consequences. The term ‘policy symbolism’ was coined to characterize such policymaking, perhaps cynically, as simply intended to satisfy expectations for visible change demanded by a majority who had suffered under decades of unjust rule. With regard to VET, the mostly invisible and poorly understood step-child of the education and training system, policies emanated thick and fast from a succession of four education ministers in 20 years.  But in spite of skepticism about policy – its intent, efficacy, and relationship to practice inter alia – there are signs that the role of research is being recognized in policymaking spheres, and that VET research is emerging from the shadows. This presentation problematizes VET policymaking and research in relation to theorization on the limitations of both policy and research to effect change.

Leon TicklyProfessor Leon Tikly
KEYNOTE: Transforming TVET for Sustainable Futures: Challenges for theory, policy and practice?

Professor Leon Tikly is UNESCO Chair in Inclusive, Good Quality Education and Global Chair in Education at the University of Bristol, alongside co-directing the Centre for International and Comparative Education (CIRE) in the School of Education.

His key focus is education and training in low-income countries and in particular, the countries of sub-Saharan Africa. He is currently PI on a Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Network Plus entitled Transforming Education for Sustainable Futures (TESF), having previously directed projects on language supportive textbooks and pedagogy in Rwanda, and a DfID funded Research Programme Consortium (RPC) on Implementing Education Quality in Low Income Countries (EdQual).

Whilst much of Leon’s empirical work has a practical focus, his work is underpinned by theoretical questions. These include how to conceptualise education and training for sustainable development as an aspect of the ‘postcolonial condition’, the impact of globalisation on the low-income world, and how to understand the relationship between the quality of education and training, inequality and social justice. His recent (2020) book published by Routledge on Education for Sustainable Development in the Postcolonial World: Towards a Transformative Agenda for Africa, seeks to bring together these theoretical concerns.’

TVET is identified in global and regional policy discourses as having a significant contribution to make to the realisation of the SDGs and ‘inclusive green growth’ in Africa through supporting sustainable livelihoods and entrepreneurship, reducing youth unemployment and the provision of green skills.  However, the idea of inclusive green growth it is argued is both contradictory and largely rhetorical given the continuing reliance within many African economies on extractivist policies that are highly destructive for the environment, for inequalities and for the realisation of sustainable livelihoods. TVET policy and practice also continues to be framed largely within Western, productivist discourses that see TVET as developing entrepreneurial citizens within increasingly fragmented and privatised systems of education and training. These agendas it is argued present an idealised view of education and training as a panacea for the contradictions inherent within dominant, growth-led models of development. The paper argues instead for a greater emphasis on the idea of just transitions in which transformation in TVET policy and practice is linked to wider processes of economic, social and environmental transformation. Important here is for TVET to focus on the development of a wider range of democratic, environmental and cultural as well as practical capabilities (opportunity freedoms) that can empower young people to realise futures that they have reason to value. The paper concludes with some implications for policy, practice and research.

Hugh LauderProfessor Hugh Lauder
KEYNOTE: The End of Neo-Liberalism and the Future of  TVET

Professor Hugh Lauder is from the University of Bath, where he was appointed as a Professor of Education and Political Economy in 1996. Hugh is a fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in the United Kingdom and is also the editor of the Journal of Education and Work. He has published 11 books and numerous articles and has given key note presentations in over 17 countries, including World Bank in Washington, International Labour Office in Geneva, European Commission in Brussels. His recent book published by Oxford University Press together with Professor Phillip Brown from the University of Bath and Professor Sin Yi Cheung from the University of Cardiff is entitled The Death of Human Capital.

The pandemic has exposed the flaws in the social contract between successive neo-liberal governments and citizens. This social contract was based on an opportunity bargain in which if young people invested in education they would be rewarded in the labour market. Underwriting this bargain was the idea of meritocracy, that those with the ability and motivation, irrespective of their social class, gender or ethnicity would be able to ascend the occupational ladder.

However, the bargain only applied to those who attended university. Now, as there are clear signals that the Neo-liberal social contract is untenable, we need to look to a new social contract, that includes TVET at a time of digital disruption in the labour market. 

Leesa Wheelahan Ann-Marie Bathmaker Kevin Orr

Professor Leesa Wheelahan, Professor Ann-Marie Bathmaker and Professor Kevin Orr
KEYNOTE: Researching VET: looking back, moving forward

Professor Leesa Wheelahan is the editor of JVET. She is the William G. Davis Chair in Community College Leadership at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. Her research interests include tertiary education policy and the role of knowledge in curriculum. Her most recent work has critiqued the role of markets in vocational education, privatisation, competency-based training and the emergence of micro-credentials.

Professor Ann-Marie Bathmaker is the associate editor of JVET. She is Professor of Vocational and Higher Education at the University of Birmingham. Her research focuses on questions of equity and inequalities in vocational, post-compulsory and higher education. Her most recent research focuses on governing practices in further education colleges, particularly in relation to questions of equality and diversity, and on social class, (in)equalities and social mobility in post-school and higher education, with research projects in England, Australia, South Africa and the island communities of the UK.

Professor Kevin Orr is associate editor of JVET and Professor of Work and Learning at the University of Huddersfield in the UK. His research has focussed on policy, provision and practice in the further education (FE) sector. He is interested in higher education provided in colleges and most recently he co-edited Caliban’s Dance: FE after The Tempest, which is a collection of essays that examine possible futures for FE.

A key theme in JVET is the role of vocational education in addressing social inequalities and social injustices in different national and international contexts. In this presentation, we consider how these concerns have been addressed in the journal. Firstly, we consider what theories and concepts have been used in JVET in recent years to better understand the purpose, position and practices of different forms of vocational education and training. Secondly, we examine what we can learn from the international scope of the journal, how the journal’s authors have examined and compared VET around the world and what this reveals about patterns in research and in VET practices. Finally, we draw attention to gaps in the way inequalities have been addressed in the journal, with a limited number of publications that focus for example on questions of gender, race and disability. We propose that in rebuilding after the pandemic, insights into vocational education and training are crucial across the globe to develop a more socially just future. For there can be no social justice without vocational education. Yet we cannot assume that vocational education always supports social justice outcomes.

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