Entrepreneurship potential: An analysis of the South African Consumer Studies curriculum and teaching practices

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The high unemployment rate of youth in South Africa is concerning. This problem can be addressed by equipping learners at school level with entrepreneurial knowledge and skills they can use to promote self-directed job creation. Entrepreneurship education holds several benefits for learners, such as developing knowledge, skills, capabilities and attitudes that they can use in everyday life, employment situations, or when they choose to become entrepreneurs. The intended curriculum of Consumer Studies (a South African high school subject) already covers comprehensive entrepreneurship content. Consumer Studies is an elective subject offered to high school learners in the Further Education and Training (FET) Phase. The entrepreneurship education in Consumer Studies is intended to be combined with practical (making) skills, which could provide learners with entrepreneurial opportunities to create their own employment. This intention is evident in the subject-specific aim that learners must learn about “small-scale production, entrepreneurship and marketing of quality products” (Department of Basic Education, 2011:9). The way in which Consumer Studies teachers implement the intended curriculum (the implemented curriculum), however, also has a significant impact on the development of learners’ entrepreneurship learning. Using preferred strategies such as learner-centred, active problem-based learning will bolster the implementation of entrepreneurship education, to the benefit of learners.

As Consumer Studies is the subject with the most entrepreneurship education in the intended South African school curriculum, the implementation in practice of the entrepreneurship education embedded in the subject needs to be analysed to ensure that learners are receiving the full benefit of the intended entrepreneurship potential therein. Furthermore, as both the intended and the implemented curriculum can significantly affect learners’ entrepreneurship education, the dynamic interaction between these two elements had to be carefully considered. The problem that needed to be investigated was how the entrepreneurship potential embedded in the intended Consumer Studies curriculum could be offered with the greatest benefit to learners through its implementation in practice. The following question guided this inquiry: How can the entrepreneurship potential that is embedded in the Consumer Studies curriculum be presented in practice to the greatest advantage of learners? The shared fate theory (Ben-Porath 2013) was utilised as theoretical lens in this investigation: All South Africans – including youth – are thus viewed as sharing the same fate of potentially experiencing high levels of unemployment. Against this background, an increase in self-directed employment creation – supported by the entrepreneurship education potential embedded in Consumer Studies – could improve the shared unemployment lot of South Africans, particularly learners (youth).

A document analysis of the Consumer Studies Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement was conducted to determine which aspects of entrepreneurship are currently included in the intended curriculum for this subject. Subsequently, practising Consumer Studies teachers from across South Africa were invited to complete an online questionnaire with both open- and closed-ended questions focusing on their approach toward and implementation practices of entrepreneurship education as part of Consumer Studies. From the 1 385 schools offering Consumer Studies as subject at the time of this study, 166 teachers of the subject completed the online questionnaire. Thereafter, focus group interviews were conducted with a small number of Consumer Studies teachers in each of South Africa’s nine provinces so as to obtain deeper explanations and clarify issues that emerged from the questionnaire data. The data from the questionnaires and focus group interviews provided insights into how teachers implement the intended Consumer Studies curriculum in practice. Data analysis was mainly qualitative. A priori codes from literature as well as a posteriori codes that emerged from the data (from questionnaires and focus group interviews) were used. In addition, numerical information from the data sets was used to support the qualitative data, mainly in the form of graphs.

The findings indicated that the intended Consumer Studies curriculum includes significant amounts of effectively constructed entrepreneurship education, highlighting this subject’s potential to contribute to South African learners’ entrepreneurial development. About 70% of teachers in the subject were found to be appreciative of the valuable and essential contribution of entrepreneurship as part of Consumer Studies. It also emerged that only a small percentage of Consumer Studies teachers have formal training for entrepreneurship education and that most Consumer Studies teachers do not use suitable pedagogies or teaching-learning methods for entrepreneurship education. Participants reported that they relied heavily on the Consumer Studies textbooks as resource and on content-based approaches or methods to support the teaching and learning of entrepreneurship in the subject. Relying mostly on textbooks and content-based learning will not allow learners to benefit optimally from the many real-life and exciting opportunities that entrepreneurship education can offer them.

Several obstacles to effective implementation of entrepreneurship education in Consumer Studies also emerged from the data: large numbers of learners (on occasion exceeding 40 learners) per class; a lack of subject-specific resources (other than textbooks) to support entrepreneurship education; and financial inequality across schools, which negatively affects the conducting of practical lessons to support entrepreneurial product development. These issues, together with the reported lack of focused teacher training for entrepreneurship education, cast doubt on whether learners will fully benefit from the entrepreneurship potential embedded in Consumer Studies. It is therefore recommended that focused and well-structured entrepreneurship education training opportunities should be developed for Consumer Studies teachers as a starting point to support them in the implementation of this valuable learning in practice. This type of professional development of teachers should improve their implementation of the positive entrepreneurship education already embedded in the intended curriculum by developing their insights into the preferred pedagogical approaches for effective entrepreneurship education as well as skills to develop interesting and efficient teaching-learning resources. Better trained teachers, in turn, could contribute to their learners’ intentions to create self-directed employment, which will improve the shared fate of unemployment for at least some of these youths.

Keywords: applied curriculum; Consumer Studies; curriculum analysis; entrepreneurship education; intended curriculum; self-directed job creation; youth unemployment


Lees die volledige artikel in Afrikaans

Entrepreneurskapspotensiaal: ’n Ontleding van die Suid-Afrikaanse Verbruikerstudiekurrikulum en -onderwyspraktyke 

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