UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Competence as "good management practice" : a study of curriculum reform in the community college Jackson, Nancy S.


In the last decade, the concept of competence has become a powerful ideological force as a component of public policy in the post-compulsory sector of vocational/technical education in Canada. It has served as a device for articulating vocational policy and practice to the changing conditions for capital accumulation in the context of economic and social restructuring. This process of articulation is most readily visible at the level of broad public policy statements and political rhetoric calling for reform of the relation between education and work. Less clear is how competency measures give practical expression to these broad policy objectives at the level of routine curricular and institutional arrangements. These issues form the central empirical focus of the thesis, through an investigation of the work process of teachers and administrators involved in implementing competency measures in the college setting. The central argument is that competency measures effect a fundamental transformation in the organization of curriculum decision making in the college setting. They accomplish the suppression of broad, long-term educational goals in favour of narrow, short-term ones, as a means to increase "flexibility" in labour supply. They limit the use of educational theory as the basis of curriculum decisions and replace it with a set of ideological procedures for constituting "needs" and "requirements" related to job performance. These changes are brought about in part through the imposition of formal, documentary information systems to replace the discretionary judgment and interpretive practices of instructors, making the instructional process accountable within a centrally determined policy process. Through this re-organization of educational decision-making, learning is displaced by managing as the form of praxis which gives shape to curricular organization. The form of competence that is brought into being is not a feature of the performance ability of individuals but an aspect of "good management practice" in educational settings.

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