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Curriculum responsiveness and student employability: An institutional analysis

Wedekind, Volker

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Education organisations are under constant pressure from policy-makers, political actors and the public to make their programmes responsive to the needs of the economy and society. In contexts of social change and where broader economic and societal issues such as high rates of unemployment are prevalent, this pressure is heightened, in part because of what Grubb and Lazerson (2004) have dubbed the ‘Education Gospel’ – that is, the faith that education can solve intractable economic and social problems. Typically, education organisations are expected both to provide a quality educational experience and to make their offerings relevant and informed by the needs of employers. The degree to which they succeed is very often measured in terms of the extent to which students who participate in the programme are deemed to be employable. However, exactly what employability means is widely contested, and there is a debate as to how much education organisations and their programmes can affect student employability (Taylor 2005; Watson 2014). This chapter contributes to that debate by exploring the ways in which different types of qualifications and programmes lead to different employment opportunities. The focus is not on the educational content and process as much as on the way the various actors in the labour market (specifically the students and the employers) make sense of the qualifications. This chapter draws on case study data from a project that sought to understand the relationship between student employability, curriculum and organisational responsiveness at a range of different South African education and training organisations.What emerges from the cases is that responsiveness and the way those responses impact on employability vary greatly and are contradictory in some respects. I argue that, to make sense of the diverse ways in which responsiveness works and the ways in which organisations enhance the employability of their students, an analysis is required of the ways in which educational qualifications and processes become institutionalised.


Wedekind, V. (2019). Curriculum responsiveness and student employability: An institutional analysis. In Skills for the future: new research perspectives. , (79-90). Cape Town: HSRC Press

Acceptance Date Dec 28, 2018
Online Publication Date Aug 30, 2019
Publication Date Mar 1, 2019
Deposit Date May 31, 2019
Publicly Available Date Sep 2, 2019
Pages 79-90
Book Title Skills for the future: new research perspectives
Chapter Number 6
ISBN 9780796924360
Keywords Skills systems, Vocational education, Employability
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