The geographies of inclusion and exclusion in the business studies curriculum : narratives of six students at a vocational education and training college in KwaZulu-Natal.
This qualitative study examined the geographies of inclusion and exclusion in the context of the Business Studies curriculum through the narratives of six students at a Vocational Education and Training (VET) college in KwaZulu-Natal. The study examined students’ experiences related to the choice of the Business Studies Vocational Education and Training programme and curriculum; the accessibility of resources for the practical training; support and career guidance; forms of inclusionary and exclusionary dynamics within the Vocational Education and Training college; and the navigation of inclusionary and exclusionary dynamics in a VET college in the South of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. The study was conducted in a college situated in close proximity to a historically disadvantaged African township. The participants did not meet the university entry requirements and they chose the VET college which they felt was an affordable option catering for their current needs. VET in many parts of the world including South Africa has a negative image in society because there is a perception that VET caters for students who drop out of school or are academically challenged. However, this study maintains that VET is essential to prepare students for the much needed skills the economy requires and to relieve the pressure at universities to increase enrolments. The VET college provides Vocational Education and Training opportunities for many students so that they can enter employment mainly in the neighbouring industrial regions in Isipingo. The narratives of the participants were used for data generation. The research process utilised a semistructured interview schedule and individual interviews and a focus group discussion was organised to elicit responses from the six participants. The findings revealed that the Business Studies programme had prepared the participants with the knowledge and skills for the world of work. The resources available at the VET college were adequate and appropriate for the practical instruction. The study revealed that the social, economic and educational factors conjoined in very complex ways as exclusionary and inclusionary factors in this context. The participants had to navigate through these inclusionary and exclusionary dynamics in order to progress in their studies. The findings revealed that the participants were confident about their choice of programme and the VET college despite the negativity around VET in their society. Most of them believed that completing level 4 would provide them with a grade 12 equivalent certificate. The participants aimed at articulation into higher education which would be a hurdle for them and remains a grey area which needs to be addressed speedily by the educational authorities. The findings indicated that current policy considerations around articulation remain unresolved, which made some of the VET participants to believe that their present qualifications might merely result in a dead-end for them.