23 SES 10 B, PIAAC (Part 1)
Symposium to be continued in 23 SES 11 B
Human capital has been defined (Becker, 1975) as ‘any stock of knowledge or characteristics the worker has (either innate or acquired) that contributes to his or her productivity’. This knowledge is conceptualised as a form of capital because it enables workers to invest in a set of marketable skills through gaining education and training credentials that would increase their earnings. This commodification of human beings as a form of capital goods has been much criticised (e.g. Rubenson, 2015) but nevertheless this once controversial expression has largely gained uncritical currency. It has been taken up by many international organisations, including the Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) and the European Union because it is regarded as a key driver of adult learning activity on the grounds that: ‘Investment in human capital is money well spent. Good education and training help promote sustained economic growth, as well as sustainable development’ (EUR-Lex, 2015, p1).
Whilst this model is much disputed (Grek and Ozga, 2010; Rubenson, 2015; Yasukawa and Black, 2016), the human capital ideology promoted through the EU and the OECD’s policy documents leads to an assumption that skills focused education and training is the most important. This perspective, which regards countries and their citizens as competitors in a global market place, then gets translated into measurable indicators such as those used in the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) (OECD, 2013; 2016). This symposium presents the argument that such international quantitative surveys shape the discourse about what is accepted as appropriate skills, especially in the literacies curriculum areas through the ‘power of numbers’. In particular such surveys emphasis what people cannot do and thus promote a ‘discourse of deficit’. Moreover, the financial and economic, rather than the social aspects, of literacies are stressed. The discourse thus moves the emphasis away from the individual learner’s strengths on to the presumed generic skills needed by employers.
However, as Ball notes, ‘policies are always incomplete in so far as they relate to or map onto the “wild profusion of local practice”’ (Ball 1994, 10) and Rizvi and Lingard (2010, 16) have pointed out that, ‘public policy remains a state activity and is produced in the bureaucratic structure of the education state’. The contributions to this symposium will show how policy-making is implemented at the local, national and transnational levels and is based on a history that is tied to particular individuals and agencies. This means that they will have their own views of what it is appropriate to implement. So, although a shared understanding of policy goals has been shaped by human capital goals, there is also resistance to this discourse.
The three papers in this part of the symposium move from the local to the national and the global. The first paper focuses on the local level and uses a socio-cultural perspective to ask how the negative impacts of an employment-skills focused curriculum have been resisted based on data from experienced literacies practitioners in the UK. The focus then moves to the national level to examine the changing adult education policy focus in Denmark and the influence of economic theories and understandings of education at both the national and transnational levels. The final paper is based on a case study of Canada and uses critical policy analysis to link the local and the global in order to explore how challenging the dominant policy discourse can potentially frame a deeper and more effective use of PIAAC data.
Ball, S. J. (1994) Education Reform: a critical and post-structuralist approach, Buckingham: Routledge Becker, G. (1975) Human Capital: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis, with Special Reference to Education, Second Edition, NBER EUR-Lex (2015) New priorities for European cooperation in education and training (2015/C 417/04) http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv%3AOJ.C_.2015.417.01.0025.01.ENG Grek, S. And Ozga, J. (2010) ‘Reinventing public education: the new role of knowledge in education policy-making’, Public Policy and Administration, 25,3, 271-288. Rizvi F. and Lingard B. (2010) Globalizing Education Policy, Routledge OECD (2013) OECD Skills Outlook 2013: First Results from the Survey of Adult Skills, http://www.oecd.org/skills/piaac/Skills%20volume%201%20(eng)--full%20v12--eBook%20(04%2011%202013).pdf OECD (2016), The Survey of Adult Skills: Reader’s Companion, Second Edition, OECD Skills Studies, OECD Publishing, Paris. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264258075-en Rubenson, S. 2015. ‘Framing the adult learning and education policy discourse: the role of the OECD’ in M. Milana and T Nesbit (Eds.) Global Perspectives on adult education and learning policy, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan Yasukawa K. and Black, S. (2016) Beyond Economic Interests: Critical Perspectives on Adult Literacy and Numeracy in a Globalised World, Sense Publishers
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
Network 6. Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures
Network 7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education
Network 8. Research on Health Education
Network 9. Assessment, Evaluation, Testing and Measurement
Network 10. Teacher Education Research
Network 11. Educational Effectiveness and Quality Assurance
Network 12. LISnet - Library and Information Science Network
Network 13. Philosophy of Education
Network 14. Communities, Families and Schooling in Educational Research
Network 15. Research Partnerships in Education
Network 16. ICT in Education and Training
Network 17. Histories of Education
Network 18. Research in Sport Pedagogy
Network 19. Ethnography
Network 20. Research in Innovative Intercultural Learning Environments
Network 22. Research in Higher Education
Network 23. Policy Studies and Politics of Education
Network 24. Mathematics Education Research
Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
Network 26. Educational Leadership
Network 27. Didactics – Learning and Teaching
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