An exploration of the interface between schools and industry in respect of the development of skills, knowledge, attitudes and values (SKAV) in the context of biotechnology.
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This study traces how the National Curriculum Statement-Further Education and Training (NCS-FET) Life Sciences Policy is constructed and translated as it circulates across the Department of Education (DoE), schools and industry nodes. Actor Network Theory (ANT) (Latour, 2005) guides the theoretical framework and methodology of this study. ANT is a useful tool for showing the negotiations that characterise patterns of curriculum change in terms of how policy gets constructed, how practice gets performed, the skills, knowledge, attitudes and values (SKAV) constituted in practice, and whether there is an interface in terms of policy construction and SKAV constitution. From an ANT perspective curriculum policy change is a matter of practice co-performed by sociality and materiality, these being interwoven and entangled in practice. The trajectory of the NCS-FET Life Sciences Policy is traced during the practice of mediation of policy, implementation of policy and mediation of workplace learning. The topography of this study is underpinned by the transformatory agenda attached to curricula policy reform in South Africa. Agency has been granted by the democratically elected government to structures such as the DoE, schools and industry to promote human resource development and overcome the skills shortage via the NCS-FET Life Sciences Policy (DoE, 2003) and the National Biotechnology Strategy Policy (DST, 2001). There are divergences between these two documents as to the type of biotechnology that can be used as leverage for human resources development. The controversy lies in the notion of wanting to broaden access to biotechnology by having it included in the NCS-FET Life Sciences Policy, while wanting to promote third-generation biotechnology. Furthermore, contradictions are illuminated in the constitution of the NCS-FET Life Sciences Policy: it espouses constructivist principles and has a social transformative agenda, but its construction is guided by behaviourist and cognitivist principles. iv Employing the analytical tools offered by ANT (Latour, 1993, 2005; Callon, Law & Rip, 1986), the network tracing activity reveals that policy construction and SKAV development involve more than the action of a single human actor. This means that humans are not entirely in control of practice (Sorenson, 2007). Practice is performed by a series of shifting relations between elements of “sociality” and “materiality” (Mulchay, 2007). The network tracing activity elucidates that curriculum policy is an emergent effect of the interface, a dynamic point that arises from translations in the network. While there is an interface in respect of policy construction and SKAV constitution across the nodes of the study, the emergent effect of curriculum reform has pointed to the slippage between what was intended (via the policy as stated in the Government Gazette) and what was actually experienced in practice.