Technical and vocational education and training as a framework for social justice: Analysis and evidence from world case studies

published 31 July 2019 updated 21 September 2022
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This report observes several limitations of human capital theory, both as a description of the way qualifications are used in the labour market, and in severely limiting the potential roles of technical and vocational education and training (TVET). It proposes as an alternative the human capabilities approach which posits that the goal should be for everyone to have the capability to be and do what they have reason to value.

The paper reports the application of human capabilities to TVET as productive capabilities which are located in and concentrate on an intermediate specialised level, the vocational stream which links occupations that share common practices, knowledge, skills and personal attributes. The paper reports an application of the concept of productive capabilities to seven countries: Argentina, Australia, Côte d’Ivoire, England, Ethiopia, Germany, South Africa and Taiwan.

From this the report finds that productive capabilities rest upon broader social, economic, cultural, and physical resources. These include the capacity for collective action, and the maintenance of physical integrity, physical and soft infrastructure such as legal and social institutions. The cases also illustrate the substantial role of TVET in supporting workers in the informal economy to transition to formal employment, including in developed economies where informal employment is from 10% to 15% of non-agricultural employment. Another case illustrates how marketisation and privatisation separately and together are undermining tvet provision, institutions, systems, and teachers. The report’s final case illustrates the importance of TVET in educating the whole person.

The report concludes by considering implications for TVET’s development of its students, communities, and of occupations and industries. The report argues that all qualifications have three roles: in education, in the labour market, and in society  It argues that to develop productive capabilities TVET should develop individuals in three domains: the knowledge base of practice, the technical base of practice, and the attributes the person needs for their occupation. TVET has important roles anchoring its communities and in developing occupations and industries. To fulfill these roles TVET needs to have strong institutions with expert and well supported staff.