21st Century competencies in Technical and Vocational Education and Training: Rhetoric and reality in the wake of a pandemic

  • Joy Papier UWC
Keywords: TVET college sector


There is general agreement about the need for vocational education and training to embrace ‘modern technologies’ in gearing up to deliver ‘21st century competences’ to young people. Recent TVET policies in South Africa incorporate the language of future competencies that ought to be acquired by college students through their curricula, and delivered by lecturers with appropriate professional training.  But in April 2020, confronted by a global Covid-19 pandemic and an immediate hard lockdown, TVET colleges went into crisis mode to try and meet a government demand that ‘no student be left behind’. While blended and remote methodologies had been employed to some extent in a few college programmes, the pandemic suddenly launched all lecturers into technology dependent teaching and learning.   This article is based on a survey of conveniently selected public TVET college lecturers early in the lockdown, under enormous pressure to continue the academic programme. The snapshot obtained was one of anxiety and consternation, but also of deep concern for students and their well-being under inordinately difficult conditions. Their conflicting priorities while they tried to balance teaching responsibilities and personal needs were illustrative of Maslow’s well-known theorisation of humans and their hierarchy of needs. The limited research conducted for this article was exploratory at a time in the pandemic when there were more questions than answers in every sphere of social interaction. Findings therefore did not seek to be definitive and there was full understanding that the education and training landscape was dynamic and shifting. However, what can be shared here is a moment in time to appreciate the experiences of a critical component of the TVET college sector and the distance they would have to traverse towards the aspirations espoused in policy