The shift to tertiary technical and vocational education and training and the demise of South Africa’s former ‘technikon’ system

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André Kraak


Post-school systems of education and training have changed dramatically across the globe, including in South Africa, over the past two decades. It is ironic, however, that as many countries chose to renew and grow ‘polytechnic-type’ post-school education and training subsystems, South Africa (together with other countries from the Anglo-Saxon world) chose to reduce their role, largely through institutional mergers and processes of academic drift. Much of this difference in approach is path-dependent, shaped by the specific histories of capitalist evolution in each country. However, it also has to do with the faulty policy logic which has guided these changes over the past two decades. This article investigates the rise in significance of tertiary technical and vocational education and training (TVET) through brief case studies of two countries in Central and Northern Europe where the polytechnic sector has been expanded, not reduced. The discussion then shifts to South Africa, where graduation outcomes (in percentage terms) in the universities of technology have remained flat for more than two decades. The shift from secondary to tertiary TVET requires a significant expansion of enrolments and graduations in key applied technology fields, not the stasis we are seeing in South African universities of technology.

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