Can Occupational Learning Form the Foundation of a Bachelor’s Degree?

NWU FOTOWell what do you know? A professor at a university wrote me an email the other day in which he professes that occupational learning can never be the foundation for a degree course. Well, I happened to have studied occupational learning towards my second doctoral thesis. How then, can it not be the foundation for a lower level qualification?

Let met state this unequivocally – there is no topic or subject under the sun that cannot serve as the foundation for academic learning on any level. Even topics such as potato cultivation, taxi driving, prostitution, and religion can be studied at any level on the NQF.

Perhaps the professor does not understand the difference between epistemology and methodology. Or perhaps the fact that occupational work is almost always practical, i.e. aimed at the improvement of methods, confused him. We should really learn to think deeper than just the basic meaning of words in a dictionary.

Occupational learning is founded on the philosophy of occupational and vocational work, and those who offer occupational or vocational learning should know the epistemology on which they rest. In fact, the true expert in occupational learning will even go one step further by studying the ontology, i.e. the origins of occupational learning.

One will not focus on the methodology of occupational learning in a bachelor’s degree course, although a responsible learning institution will start with the ontology, move on to the epistemology and, ultimately, link the origins (ontology) to the philosophy and knowledge (epistemology) to the  actual work (methodology). This is the only way in which students can achieve comprehension, which is necessary for foundational competence.

Many academics at universities still support a positivist approach to learning. Perhaps they do not realise this, but their thinking patterns are so rigid and stereotype that they can’t see that science has moved on, that we are now in the era of post-positivism. I am referring to these learning paradigms because they fit my arguments, not because they are the only philosophical perspectives that are still valid for research and education purposes.

In closing, an integrated approach to learning is necessary, meaning that students should be able to move from occupational and vocational learning to academic learning; educators offering occupational or vocational learning cannot do so if they are not academically prepared to understand the knowledge and philosophy of what they are offering. The learning offered by universities run the risk of becoming obsolete and redundant unless academics at universities rapidly understand that they can no longer just do research which often adds no value to the industry and offer courses based on old knowledge and outdated methodology.

Article by Dr J.P. Nel, MD Mentornet

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