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Mackay day at Saturday June 11th 2005

The following Mackay Day lecture was delivered by W.S. Kajubi

Vocationalisation of education, the answer to job scarcity?


Robert T. Kiyosaki, the author of the famous book: RICH DAD - POOR DAD came out with a book entitled: IF YOU WANT BE RICH AND HAPPY, DON'T GO TO SCHOOL. The publisher suggested that the title should be changed to THE ECONOMICS OF EDUCATION. Kiyosaki objected and said that with a title like that, he would be able to sell only two copies: one to his family and the other one to his best friend. The problem was that even those i.e. his family and his best friend would expect the copies for free! In other words, the title of a book or a lecture helps to attract or to keep away readers or listeners. The obnoxious title IF YOU WANT TO BE RICH AND HAPPY, DON'T GO TO SCHOOL, would raise people's curiosity as to what the author really meant. My Lord Bishops Ladies and Gentlemen; with the title I was given: "Vocationalisation of Education is the Answer to Job Scarcity", I knew that there would have to be only two persons in the audience to listen to the lecture: myself and my wife, and even then I feared that my wife would insist on being given a free ride, if she were to come to the lecture, for, while the answer is been given: "Vocationalisation is the answer", but what is the question? It is, however, a great honour for me to be requested to deliver the Second Alexander Mackay Memorial Lecture, and I am at the same time pleasantly surprised to find more than two people in the audience. I must, first of all, congratulate the Board of Governors, the Old Students, the PTA members, the Headteacher and Staff, the students and the entire Community of Mackay Memorial Schools on deciding to commemorate Mackay Day each year, and on selecting for our discussion today a topic of significance, although the title is not as " obnoxious" as that of Kiyosaki's book. Secondly, I must let you know that I was first associated with the name Mackay when I joined Mackay Memorial Primary School as a pupil in 1933 to 1940. My wife and I were married at Martyrs Church Nateete in 1952, as were two of my children, and some of our children and grand children have also been baptized at Nateete. Currently I am the Chairman of the Board of Governors. With all that I have been able to do, and I am doing, I owe a lot to the Mackay spirit of purposeful hard work engrained in me.

But who was Alexander Mackay?

In the Daily Telegraph of 15 November 1875 H.M. Stanley wrote these words: "I am no missionary, I shall begin to think I might become one if such success is feasible, But oh! that some pious, practical missionary would come here! What a field and harvest ripe for the sickle of civilization! It is not the mere preacher, however, that is wanted here. The Bishops of Great Britain collected, with all the classic youth of Oxford and Cambridge would effect nothing by mere talk with the intelligent people of Uganda. It is the practical Christian tutor who can teach people how to become Christians, cure their diseases, construct dwellings, understand and exemplify agriculture, and turn his hands to anything like a sailor - this is the man who is wanted. Such one, if he can be found, would become the saviour of Africa." (ref. 1). Alexander Mackay, a young man of 27 years with some Teacher Training and some knowledge of mechanics, was among the first to respond to Stanley's appeal by volunteering to come out under the CMS. After a journey fraught with many perilous mishaps, he arrived in Uganda in November 1878 (ref. 2) to commence the type of teaching and learning which we now refer to as Vocational education. He was one of those people whom Stanley described as "able to turn his hand to anything, like a sailor, for he was a preacher, teacher, printer, a carpenter, a builder and was at home with mechanics. It is no wonder that he made such an impact on early Christian education in this country when practical skills were so badly needed to spread the Gospel.


The greatest problem, to which man can apply himself, according to German philosopher Emmanuel Kant, is the problem of education. The problem of education to which Emmanuel Kant refers is contained in four little words: WHY, WHAT, HOW, and WHO? WHY refers to the philosophy and purposes of education. Why should one be educated? WHAT deals with the problem of the content of the curriculum. What should we teach, and what is worth knowing? HOW raises the questions of pedagogy, methods of teaching and learning and the quality of education. How can we obtain the best learning outcomes with the least possible resources. WHO deals with the perennial problem of EQUITY and the challenges of disparities in educational opportunities. When people clamour for education, but the teachers are in short supply, and inadequately trained, when the nation is poor, who should be educated and receive what type of education and training? The topic which I was requested to discuss deals with the second aspect of Emmanuel Kants problem of education. That is "in the face of job scarcity is vocationalisation of education the answer?" In the face of job scarcity, WHAT should we emphasize? "ACADEMIC OR VOCATIONAL EDUCATION?" But I must point out that all the four questions are intimately related and discussion of any one of them evokes reference to the other three also. Choosing the type of education we should emphasize and how and whom to teach means choosing the kind of society we would like to create. In the face of the cut-throat competition in the global market, the question of WHAT SHOULD WE TEACH and How should we teach it, has never been more important than it is today. My paper is presented under the following heads: Some Definition of Terms What to teach and how to teach it - a Continuing Inquiry The Dreams and Myths about Vocational Education The Disjunctivitis Syndrome in Education Education for Economic Purposes Conclusion

Some definitions of terms

The term vocational education is derived from the word VOCATION, which means a calling, that is to say, a job you do because you have a very strong feeling that doing that job is the purpose of your life, especially if you want to help others through that call. Kiyosaki in Rich Dad, Poor Dad says: "Don't work to earn, work to learn." A vocation is, therefore, a very noble and estimable calling. We often say that teaching and preaching aren't just jobs, they are vocations. That is why it is often said that those who do teaching and preaching need not be highly paid because they derive intrinsic inner pleasure and joy from their work. Paradoxically (i.e. is difficult to understand) that the term, Vocational Education does not carry the meaning of preparation for a vocation. Vocational Education is merely instruction intended to equip persons for any work that is in the face of job scarcity! Vocational education may be obtained either formally in trade schools, technical secondary schools, or in on-the-job training programmes, or informally by picking up the necessary skills on the job. Vocational education is training for a trade, and a trade is just a craft requiring a skill. It is something one does to earn a living, not necessarily for interest or service. A trade implies more physical toil/labour than a vocation. Thus, unfortunately too, Vocational education does not carry with it the esteem, which a vocation does. The Education Policy Review Commission Report 1988, p. 28, on the other hand, refers to vocational education as " applied knowledge and skills which enable learners to become independent, productive members of society," which is a very noble and laudable endeavour. For the purposes of this paper, however, vocational education is used to subsume, to include technical, commercial and business and all education, which imparts applied knowledge and skills for independent productive work. Vocational education is, therefore contrasted and weighed against theoretical general academic education, rather than against business or commercial education.


The question of what to teach or emphasize in the curriculum or what makes a good citizen is a time-honoured perennial question and so are the other three. They have been and are still being discussed from time to time in different societies. They bring animated discourse and may even excite controversy. The answers to them, however, change as society changes, as new knowledge is discovered and as new problems such as globalization, HIV/AIDS, rampant corruption, unemployment and civil wars arise. The answers also change to reflect the beliefs and values and sometimes the prejudices of those who respond to the questions. For example, in Uganda today Government has announced a policy of emphasizing Science and Mathematics in the curricula of all educational institutions, and sponsoring mainly science-based students to public Universities, a policy which has stimulated a lot of public discussion. All the same, these question must continue to be asked again and again and we must endeavour to seek the best answers to them for our time and society if the students who graduate from our schools and universities are to be equipped to face the challenges of the changing world.


(a) Vocational Education as the Dream Answer: The changes brought about by rapid technological advances, globalization of work and, hence the widening gap between the rich and poor countries engender a real and rising need for trained people to use the new technologies and to innovate. New skills are needed every day that passes, and the education system is required to meet that need by providing not only the optimum general schooling and vocational education and training, but also the training scientists, innovators, managers and other types of people with the ability to apply knowledge and skills to real-life challenges. Vocational education is seen as a panacea or at least as part of the dream answer to this problem. The Government of Uganda in 1992 enunciated its commitment to developing a firm national technological and technical base, within which technical, commercial and intermediate technology education and training components were to assume special importance. The White Paper 1992 p.1 13 states: "Government fully concurs with the Commissions view that Uganda must effectively prepare to deal adequately with the challenges posed by rapid scientific and technological changes, and must, therefore, prepare adequate skilled manpower that is for higher agricultural productivity, diversification of the economy and industrialization of the production system ... (hence) To expand and improve vocational education so as to solve unemployment as well as other economic problems." In this sense promoting practical and hands-on education which would produce not only job seekers, but also, and hopefully more "independent, productive members of society," has been seen as the dream answer. b) But, there are some myths and misconceptions also about vocational education Much has been said and written about the importance and the virtues of and the urgent need for vocational education, but not as much has been done, so far, to provide i , let alone to challenge and change the negative attitudes of parents, pupils, and even of teachers and employers which place much greater value on theoretical academic education and denigrate vocational education in spite of the growing number of unemployed and some people say, unemployable graduates and school leavers with high sounding academic credentials. The Castle Commission of Education in Uganda 1963, for example concluded: " Hence, paradoxically, the problems of agricultural education are not primarily educational, they are intimately bound up with the solution of economic, technical and social problems over which the Ministry of Education has no control (ref. 3) e.g. finance and market forces, ... traditions and social attitudes towards dignity of labour, etc. Similarly the problems of Vocational education are not primarily educational. Because Vocational Education is like Heaven: everybody knows and says it is a wonderful place, but nobody wants to go there now! Vocational education is good, but for others.


The word DISJUNCTIVITIS was coined to refer to a serious condition or disease which results from dividing or disjoining of an educational enterprise into separate and often mutually exclusive parts in an "either or situation". (Buts 1969, p114). (ref. 4) The Uganda education system is seriously suffering from the disjunctivitis syndrome. There is a widespread and grossly mistaken myth that leamers are essentially divided into two distinctive categories; on the one hand, those who are better at using their HEADS, and, therefore need not ever use their HANDS; and on the other hand, those who are better at using their HANDS and need not use their HEADS. The common notion is that those who 'use their heads' are more able, than those who are talented with their hands. There is also the concomitant belief that the more academic knowledge and qualifications an individual accumulates the more he or she is likely to contribute to the economy. The academically inclined pupils are, therefore, expected to climb to the highest rungs of the academic ladder, while those good with their hands are directed to quick dead-end training programmes, with little prospect for further study. Consequently, theoretical academic work is esteemed and vocation education is disparaged. For example when the Programme in Music, Dance and Drama was introduced at Makerere the rest of the students facetiously referred to it as Musiru Ddala Ddala (MDD) in similar fashion as the sheep in George Orwell's Animal Farm chanted "Four legs bad, two legs good!". In England that type of thinking gave rise to two types of schools: (i) the Grammar school (German gymnasium, French lycee) for children from wealthier homes, for a superior academic education leading to university; and (ii) the common school (for the mass of relatively less academically oriented and less financially able pupils) for a comprehensive type of education, embracing vocational and technical subjects which enable the poor pupils to gain access to direct employment in the community. There is no doubt that the division of education into disjunctive parts of either vocational or business, either vocational or academic, HEADEDNESS or HANDEDNESS is faulty. In any learning situation it is not possible, let alone desirable to separate head from hands. For example, Ben Carson, the noted African American pediatric neurosurgeon who performed the first successful separation of Siamese twins who shared a brain, ascribed his success to the dexterity or quickness of his hands and his deep faith in God, not to the sharpness of his head alone, when he wrote his inspiring autobiography and entitled it "GIFTED HANDS." I have no doubt that if our Professor Kyalwazi Kiryabwire and Sekabunga were still alive they would have said the same thing too - Gifted Hands, not just Gifted Heads. Thus the division of learners between those who use their HEADS to THINK and those who use their HANDS to DO is therefore grossly misleading and harmful to education. Real education, as Whitehead described it "is the art of the utilization of knowledge”. In this sense there can be no technical or vocational education which is not liberal, and no real academic or business education which is not vocational or technical. Education should impart both technical and intellectual vision. (Whitehead, cited by Patrick Nuttgens 1988 p.85) (ref. 6) Therefore both vocational/technical education and theoretical academic learning should be part and parcel of general education. It should be emphasized here that vocational education is good for all students, not just an alternative to academic studies for the less academically oriented. (Goodlad 1984 p. 147) (ref. 7) . The education system should help the learner to come out with something he or she knows well, and something he/she can do well. And one may add, that is if you can do something well it is because you know is well. And if you know or claim to know something well, you do so because you have come to grips with the experience of doing it. (Nuttgens 1988 p. 85). A third strand, which should be incorporated, in general education is one of values or knowing to feel. The education system should equip the learner with something he or she values, believes in and or is yearning to be. Ben Carson, in addition to his sharp brain and GIFTED HANDS, had a deep belief in God. For another person it could be the pride one has in being a Ugandan, a Mackay old student, a Rotarian or an alumnus of Nkumba university - or all those.


All our efforts to make vocational/technical education a reality in our country will fail unless there is a drastic shift in the values and attitudes or parents, pupils, teachers, the examination system and other opinion leaders such as the civic society to make the commitment necessary to engage in education for work and for economic purposes, and development. It is necessary that there should be a shift from the current division of education into two distinct sides: academic education on one side, vocational/technical education on the other to an integrated system of a comprehensive general education, which incorporates both academic and vocational education. This will have the effect of shifting from a disjunctive to a comprehensive system of Education for Economic Purposes. Fortunately there is a twinkling light at the end of the tunnel. The notion of incorporating vocational education into a comprehensive system of general education has been included in the Post Primary Education Development Plan, and the curriculum, which includes a large dose of entrepreneurship education, has been drawn up by NCDC for all levels of the school system. At the same time the growing influence of knowledge and information as factors of production in industry is making the idea of the traditional occupational skills as we know them today obsolete, and is making personal competence more important. Purely physical tasks will be replaced by more intellectual tasks and more mental operations such as controlling, maintaining and monitoring machines, and designing, as the routine repetitive physical work required for labour today diminishes through automation. Therefore greater emphasis will have to be placed on the need for generic knowledge, skills and attitudes – Learning how to learn that are essential to the transfer of knowledge to new types of work. More attention ought to be placed on INNOVATION and Entrepreneurship than on merely learning facts for examination purposes. To innovate is to add value to an idea or thing to produce something new deemed to be socially desirable towards better or improved practice and living conditions. Entrepreneurship is risk taking to invest in business. This type of learning is best developed in the context of general education. The gap between vocational and other types of education will consequently diminish. The world of work is in a constant state of flux. Technological development is demanding new skills and rendering old ones redundant. Those skills demand commitment to and provision for life-long continuing learning. There must, therefore, be created opportunities for constant personal and vocational development. But life-long learning requires also personal commitment and motivation as well as rewards for the learners. But in spite of modern changes, our indigenous technologies must also not be neglected. It may well be in the area of indigenous technologies that we may be able to innovate and compete better in the global market. The ingrained belief that practical people are less able and that ABILITY means abstract reasoning or being verbally and numerically competent, and therefore that practical people are less able, must be discarded. The notion that the "brighter" student should always go on and on with his or her studies, while the practical student is directed to short vocational courses which have no prospects for further study must also be discarded. There is need for an integrated framework in which vocational, business and technical, as well as theoretical academic learning are equal partners in education. The present system of examinations which grades pupils on the basis of theoretical assessment only should also be re-examined, and replaced by continuous assessment through which the schools should be able to have a clearer idea of pupil’s aptitudes, capabilities and interests so as to help them choose the most appropriate career paths.


VOCATIONAL OR ACADEMIC GENERAL EDUCATION WHICH WAY UGANDA Before I conclude, I feel I have an obligation to address myself specifically to the question you set me, or else I fail the PLE. " Is Vocational education, the answer to Job Scarcity which way Uganda?" I have stated in this paper that the distinction between vocation and general academic education is becoming very indistinct and blurred, because what used to be done manually in craft before is increasing being done by machines. We have, therefore, stated in this paper that the desirable trend is to move towards an integrated comprehensive system of Education for Economic Purposes, whereby " vocational" and theoretical academic skills are taught together. The Government Strategic Development Plan for Tertiary and Higher Education envisages all higher education institutions to begin offering Science, Mathematics and possibly some practical/technical subjects. But the capital outlay, which is required for the effective teaching of these subjects, is beyond the capacity of most educational institutions. Private universities, in particular, cannot and they are not good at delivering public goods beyond certain limits without public investment in them, because their courses must naturally be market driven.


1. Cited in J.C. Faupel: AFRICAN HOLOCAUST - The Story of the Uganda Martyrs St. Paul Publications 1984 p. 11. This book is also on Google Books, on page 20 of this version there is the appeal of Stanley in The Daily Telegraph. Back to text

2. Ibid p. 13 Back to text

3. Uganda Government: Education in Uganda. The Report of the Uganda Commission 1963 p.34 Back to text

4. Butts, Freeman "Teacher Education and Modernization in George Z. F. Beredy (ed) Essays on World Educational Crisis OUP 1969 p. 111 Back to text

5. Carson, Ben, Gifted Hands - The Ben Carson Story, Grand Rapids Mich. Zondervan Publishing House 1990. Back to text

6. Patrick Nuttigens: What SHOULD we Teach and How should WE TEACH IT? - (Aims and Purposes of Higher Education) Wildwood House 1988 p.85 Back to text

7. Goodlad, John 1: A place Called School - Prospects for the Future McGraw Hill 1984 p. 147 Back to text