23 SES 10 C, International Policies - Local Affects: Regenerating the Sociology of Basil Bernstein
This paper addresses the concept of students’ educational ‘choice’ in globalized societies. We study the choices that young adults make in Institutions of post-secondary Vocational Education and Training (IVETs) in Greece. IVETS operate as an extended system of Institutions across the country, offering a range of specializations. Placed between secondary and higher education, they are presented as an alternative choice for further education, especially for people who for various reasons are not in higher education. IVETs are supposed to realize the E.U. objectives of Lifelong Learning (LLL) and widening access and participation, especially for vulnerable groups. The logic and practices of LLL introduce a principle of flexibility in the rigid structures of education and its traditional vertical and horizontal demarcations and categorical distinctions (high/low status institutions, academic/ vocational knowledge, education/work, etc.); and in social relations, interactions and identities. The blurring of boundaries increases the options available in education for individuals and diverse social groups. But it intensifies uncertainty for students and families about which educational offers are worth investing in (money, time, effort). The literature, predominantly Bourdieuan, conceptualizes choice as a social process, preserving rather than transforming unequal social relations (Reay et al, 2010). In our qualitative study, we approached students’ choice through a dual lens. A Foucauldian lens recognizes the “governmental” (Lemke, 2001) dimension of LLL discourses that position individuals as “subjects of choice”. This is to be flexible and mobile, act with autonomy and responsibility, aim at learning and Improvement, practice self-reflection and self-management, and calculate investment and security (Bansel, 2007). Bernstein’s perspective focuses on how flexibility is mediated by pedagogic processes and practices, raising questions of power and control relations. Flexibility implies a weakening of boundaries, changing the foundations of identity formation. Therefore questions on knowledge organization and modalities of pedagogic communication become crucial for educational research. “Classification”, “framing” and “orientation to meaning” (Bernstein, 1990) help to generate languages of description to study how shifts from rigid to flexible boundaries are displacing retrospective in favor of prospective, market or therapeutic identities (Bernstein, 1999). Still, analyses of students’ choices and identities may rely on rather common sense understandings of flexibility and classical sociological definitions of boundaries. Bringing in post-structuralist intellectual resources (Diaz, 2009) allows a rethinking of these concepts and the role of languages of description as devices that not only describe but also perform social realities.
Bansel, P. (2007). Subjects of choice and Lifelong learning. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 20 (3): 283–300. Bernstein, B. (1990). Class, Codes and Control, Volume IV. The structuring of Pedagogic Discourse, London: Routledge. Bernstein, B. (1999). Official Knowledge and pedagogic identities. In F. Christie (ed.), Pedagogy and the shaping of consciousness (pp. 246-261). London: Continuum. Diaz, M. (2009). Thinking about flexibility. Policy Futures in Education, 7(5). www.wwwords.co.uk/PFIE. Lemke, T. (2001). ‘The birth of bio-politics’: Michel Foucault’s lecture at the College de France on neo-liberal governmentality. Economy and Society, 30(2), 190-207. Reay, D., Crozier, G., & Clayton, J. (2010). ‘Fitting in’ or ‘standing out: Working class students in UK higher education. British Educational Research Journal, 36(1), 107-124.
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