Construction of Thought: Defining hospitality knowledge and education

Opinion / Knowledge and Intangibles

Construction of Thought: Defining hospitality knowledge and education
Rahmat Hashim, Member, Lecturer, Malaysia

Due to the nature of hospitality work, greater autonomy should be given to the workforce. In such case management is no longer able to control a worker in the workplace. Hence, individuals are expected to shoulder greater responsibility over their own action and performance to better serve the customers. This has serious implication on hospitality schools in developing future workforce.

Increasing complexity in all facets of work coupled with persistent calls for educational relevancy present numerous challenges to higher educational institutions, particularly higher vocational programs. The nature of hospitality work, greater autonomy should be given to the workforce, and in such case management is no longer able to control or directly observe the work, individuals are expected to shoulder greater responsibility over their own action and performance. It is an imperative for educational institution to provide the opportunity and equip students with the right competences and attitude to find direction and purpose in their world of work.

Fierce competition in the tourism industry is influencing the nature and scope of managerial work at all levels, not to mention the volatility and sensitivity of the industry. The hospitality business is becoming more sophisticated and complex in today’s robust business environment. Managing in uncertainties requires a new set of competences beyond the traditional management skills and competences. Consequently, the competitive hospitality business environment suggests that managerial demands will be different from the past. Intensified global competition has also increased the pressure on business to respond quicker and develop new and innovative approaches to compete in the business. Hence, today’s entry-level managers need a diversity of talents, skills and competences in order to meet the demands of the industry. In this respect, an effective hospitality management education program must be able to respond to the demands of the constantly changing environment. To aggravate the situation, the rapid development of new hospitality management programs, not to mention the increased enrollment figures of existing hospitality schools, has led to an increased concern about program credibility and effectiveness. It is believed that the prosperity and future of the industry will be thwarted due to an incapable workforce who are not able to handle the uncertainties and turbulent of the business environment.

Hospitality business is very dynamic. And those involve or responsible in designing hospitality curriculum must be able to understand the dynamism of hospitality knowledge relevant to the business. Some would argue that higher education providers (HEPs) should be more than places for academic development, and that each HEP should develop not only academic competences but also occupational and personal competences (a well-rounded educational experience). As such, it is imperative for HEPs to ascertain the expected personal and occupational competences — predictive expectations in Prakash and Lounsbury’s term. The industry believes that an educational institution must incorporate relevant knowledge and competences of the industry if graduates are to perform effectively in the world of work. It is crucial for hospitality management graduates to possess relevant managerial knowledge and competences upon their graduation.

The relationship between higher educational providers (HEPs) and the environment are highly complex. As such, HEPs need to look beyond the traditional or conventional knowledge domain. The academic dogma that HEPs pursue knowledge for its own sake should be given serious reconsideration. At the same time, in order to reconceptualize curriculum issues managers must ‘defamiliarize the familiar’.

With regards to curriculum planning and design, Barnett (1992, p. 187) states that there are two types of knowledge involve in the domains (cognitive) of professional education curriculum: the core knowledge (within a discipline or profession) and contextual knowledge or conceptual skills. This is not something new, decades ago Crombag ; Chang; Drift. J. M. van Der & Moonen (1979) have identified two types of cognitive skills which are relevant to the discussion of knowledge and competence. The two cognitive skills are ‘Operations on knowledge’ (remembering facts) and ‘Operations with knowledge’. ‘Operations on knowledge’ refers to the operations that are performed on knowledge which lead to the development of new knowledge. Hence, it is unequivocally accepted the importance of knowledge as a construct that contributes to competence.

The issues of knowledge (propositional) and competences (ability knowledge) have been dealt with in many educational initiatives (Pritchard, 2006). Knowledge (however defined) is one of the essential components to competence. Nevertheless, literature on educational effectiveness has adopted a range of terms (or a plethora of terms) to describe the ideas on the subject. This in return has allowed curriculum authorities to have their own interpretation of what constitutes the body of hospitality knowledge. The basic premise of this concern lies in the philosophical bases of each individual hospitality program. It can be said that hospitality education has adopted the perennialism, essentialism and reconstructionism approach in developing its educational aims. This has, in essence, determine the direction and contents of the curriculum which determine the philosophical stance of each individual program.

It is clear that hospitality management education must be updated and improved accordingly. As the industry expands, present knowledge and competences of management are rapidly becoming obsolete. It seems that the greatest challenge faced by hospitality educators and managers is that the business is constantly changing. As mentioned earlier, HEPs must be able to respond to the demands of the constantly changing environment.

However, in addressing or evaluating an educational issue, we need to ask the question whose interest and perception are we taking into account — key stakeholders. Lacking a systemic framework for understanding these perceptions and expectations will put HEPs in a very tough situation to navigate the future direction of hospitality programs. Hospitality curriculum designers must not develop hospitality curriculum based on traditional conception of the discipline. This approach is unable to address the challenges facing today's hospitality schools, let alone those of the future.

Given the diversity of the stakeholders, differences of opinion emerge between them. The initial disagreement between key stakeholders must be considered as strength and opportunity since it informs us of the different options leading to shared commitment and possible alternatives. Studies have shown that meeting stakeholder’s expectations in education poses the most difficult and challenging task. Despite these challenges, managers and academics should evaluate the environment for those stakeholders that are likely to influence the decision-making process of the organization. Stakeholders’ priority setting is necessary for effective strategic planning and change process to determine the 'notion of tolerance zone' in matching the minimum expectations of all key stakeholders. Hence, it seems imperative for the industry and HEPs to construct a meaningful interpretation of the issue.

Barnett, R. (1994). The Limits of Competence, Buckingham: SRHE and Open Univ. Press.

Crombag,, H. f.; Chang, T. M.; Drift, K. D. J. M. van der & Moonen, J. M. (1979). Educational materials for open University: functions and costs ( translation), The Hague: Ministry of Education and Sciences.

Prakash, V. & Loundsbury, J. W. (1984). The Role of Expectations in the Determinants of Consumer Satisfaction, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 12 (3), 1-17

Pritchard, D. (2006). What is this thing called Knowledge? New York: Routledge.

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