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Vocational skills formation in communities of practice: Experiences from primary school and the informal economy in Tanzania
Stockholm University, The Stockholm Institute of Education, Department of Social and Cultural Studies in Education .
2006 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The purpose of this thesis is to explore the relationship between school and working life in Tanzania; what goes on inside school in relation to what goes on outside. The focus is on vocational skills formation by which is understood the process whereby individuals develop skills necessary for everyday life and gainful employment. The form and content of vocational skills formation, that is, tasks, activities, tools and social organization in primary schooling and in the informal economy, were studied.

A total of 19 classes in four primary schools in Morogoro Municipality were observed in the school subject Stadi za Kazi (Vocational Skills): mat-weaving, clay-stove moulding, cake-baking, paper-bag-making, washing of woollen clothes, brick-making, setting out the foundation of a house and goat-raising. In addition the nine teachers of these classes were interviewed.

The out-of-school sub-study comprised observation of and interviews with artisan and apprentices intertwined in eight artisan communities within the following crafts and trades: basketry, carpentry, paper craft, radio repair, garages, mattress-making, charcoal stove-making and all around women’s group activities. Still-photography was an integrated part of the fieldwork in both settings, and the photos were used as basis for subsequent interviews.

The study has an ethnographic approach, indicating that it is not an ethnographic study as such but shares some of its considerations, such as, research practice which consists of observing, making sense in the field, using a variety of techniques and constructing texts. The theoretical framework that constitutes the tool for analysing the skills formation in both contexts is the situated model, “legitimate, peripheral participation in communities of practice”, outlined by Lave and Wenger (1991) and further developed by Wenger (1998).

The skills formation in the informal economy was embedded in special forms of apprenticeship. Common traits were: an apprenticeship scheme built on a mutual understanding, a non-fixed duration and skills formation determined by the work of the day rather than a built-in stepwise order, a low level of technology and a total absence of texts. Observing and doing were the common formation instruments and co-working, hand-on-hand and asking questions the “unique” instruments, that is, connected to specific crafts/trades.

In school pupils worked on tasks that belong to the household sphere rather than working life and these tasks were categorized as academic tasks, experimental tasks, simulation, and producing for exercise. Academic tasks comprised copying teacher’s notes on the blackboard; facts, functions, tools and composition of materials. Experimental tasks were tasks that aimed at changing a practice while, simulation was an operative model of out-of-school practice. Producing for exercise meant working with objects that were disposed of after completion. It is concluded that skills formation became vocational skills orientation. Some reason for this direction of skills formation were: it did not build upon experience gained outside school, the selected skills varied from one grade to another, depending on the preferences of the teacher, the professional background of the teachers, the crowded classes of a minimum of 40 pupils and a maximum of 200 in the urban schools, the lack of individuals practice owing to the lack of materials and other such factors.

The concluding chapter of the thesis discusses some aspects of the relationship between the two formation contexts. In general it is concluded that there was no relation in space and time. However, pupils and teachers brought tools and material from home to school and this relationship may be characterized as extensional, but of household chores. Here schooling is also revisited by a comparison with the “education for self-reliance” of the passed as well as current global trends. A new Nyereian vision is proposed to be built on diversity; schools may embrace many “school is work” communities and at the same time be a garage, a shop, a hairdressing salon, mobile-repair workshop and the like.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm Institute of Education Press (HLS Förlag) , 2006. , 183 p.
Studies in educational sciences, ISSN 1400-478X ; 88
Keyword [en]
Key words: vocational skills formation, vocationalization, apprenticeship, communities of practice, “legitimate, peripheral participation”, ethnographic approach, primary schooling, informal economy, task, Stadi za Kazi (Vocational Skill), education for self-reliance, boundary objects, artisan
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-1243ISBN: 91-7656-616-1OAI: diva2:189682
Public defence
2006-09-29, Dahlströmsalen, Lärarhögskolan, hus D, Rålambsvägen 26 D, Stockholm, 13:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2006-09-07 Created: 2006-09-07 Last updated: 2011-02-25Bibliographically approved

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