21st Century competencies in Technical and Vocational Education and Training: Rhetoric and reality in the wake of a pandemic
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There is general agreement about the need for vocational education and training to embrace so-called modern technologies in gearing up to deliver to young people a broad range of what have become known as 21st century competencies, of which digital literacy, self-directed learning, and adaptive learning are but three. Recent Technical and Vocational Education and Training (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 the global COVID-19 pandemic and an immediate hard lockdown, TVET colleges went into crisis mode to try to 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 who were under enormous pressure to continue the academic programme remotely. The snapshot I obtained was one of anxiety and consternation, but also of deep concern for students and their wellbeing under inordinately difficult conditions. Their conflicting priorities while they tried to balance remote teaching responsibilities and personal needs were illustrative of Maslow’s well-known theorisation of humans and their hierarchy of needs.