02 SES 11 A, The Power of Formal and Informal Learning
Vocational education and training is closely related to work, in many accounts by definition (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2012: 14). But the nature of vocational education’s relation to work, and the nature of the work that vocational education relates to vary markedly by country. Vocational education and training has been criticised in Australia (Moodie and colleagues, 2015) and England (Mansfield, 2005: 28) for its narrow and short term conception of work as a job or even isolated tasks immediately upon graduation, which is contrasted unfavourably in this respect with Germany, where work is constructed as a broad and long term occupation (Clarke and Winch, 2006). Jobs and occupations are constructed very differently in economies with different economic and industrial structures, with markedly different reliance on informal employment (International Labour Organization, 2013) and with different varieties of capitalism (Ashton, Sung and Turbin, 2000; Hall and Soskice, 2001). Even within an economy, jobs and occupations differ markedly by industry sector and by employer.
This greatly complicates comparisons of vocational education and training systems, systems of transition from education to work, matches between qualifications and work, and of teachers’ roles and conditions. It also makes very different the introduction of apparently similar policies, or at least policies with the same name, such as competence assessment, qualification frameworks, apprenticeships, work integrated learning, competition, marketisation, and privatisation.
This project supported by Education International is developing from Sen’s (1999) and Nussbaum’s (2000) capabilities approach the notion of ‘productive capabilities’, which are what workers can be and do in producing goods and/or services. We posit that productive capabilities result from the interaction of 3 factors: the goods and/or services that the workplace reasonably seeks to produce; the resources of the workplace, which includes workers’ knowledge, skills and attitudes; and the way the workplace’s resources are organised. This seeks to internalise within the model of vocational education and training many of the differences of product, work site, employer, industry, economic structure and political organisation which are exogenous to other frameworks, which makes comparisons and transfer between systems so difficult and problematic. The project is testing whether the productive capabilities framework retains enough shared characteristics in different contexts to support an evaluation of vocational education and training in different contexts.
This is being tested by exploring the potential application of productive capabilities in 4 very different countries: Australia, Côte d’Ivoire, England and Taiwan. These in turn will be compared with desktop studies of Argentina, Ethiopia, and Germany to broaden the types of countries studied and to include a country with what is widely acknowledged as a distinctively strong vocational education and training system. Specifically, the project is investigating these questions:
1 Is it useful to understand vocational education and training as contributing to productive capabilities?
2 How can the productive capabilities framework be elaborated to allow vocational educators to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their system?
3 How well do productive capabilities apply to contexts which differ by product, work site, employer, industry, economic structure, and political organisation?
The project is using 5 methods. It is using conceptual analysis to develop Sen’s (1999) and Nussbaum’s (2000) capabilities approach as productive capabilities for application to vocational education and training. This will be extended and adapted as the concept is trialed with project respondents and interviewees. The team is conducting desktop studies of vocational education and training in Argentina, Australia, Côte d’Ivoire, England, Ethiopia, Germany and Taiwan. Included in the desktop studies are comparisons of statistics drawn mainly from UNESCO Institute for Statistics’ (2017) data on education supplemented with data from other sources, such as Taiwan Ministry for Education (2017). The project is also surveying teachers and other vocational education and training workers in Australia, Côte d’Ivoire, England and Taiwan, and interviewing vocational education and training officials and leading teachers and other workers in these countries. The project has translated the survey into French for application in Côte d’Ivoire and into Mandarin for application in Taiwan. The team is testing the expression of the survey in each language and is adapting its expression to make key terms as comparable as possible. The team is trialing the survey and interview questions with key informants in each country chosen for intensive study. The team is also piloting the survey to ensure that it is well understood, constructed, and generates useful results.
The project has found that vocational education and training is affected greatly by macro circumstances not normally included in comparative analyses, such as civil war in Côte d’Ivoire, literacy of only 39% in Ethiopia (29% female, 49% male) (UNESCO Institute of Statistics, 2018), and very high levels of informal unemployment (for example, 50% in Argentina, 70% Philippines, 72% Indonesia, 77% Pakistan, 84% India) (International Labour Organization, 2013: 16-17). The secondary analysis of descriptive statistics shows marked differences between countries consistent with trends previously observed, such as a long term shift of vocational education from lower secondary to upper secondary education, and then to postsecondary non tertiary and then tertiary levels; lower proportions of higher level vocational education and training in low income countries; and reports of lower matches of vocational qualifications to specific jobs in labour markets with low levels of regulation (Wheelahan and Moodie, 2016). In initial consultations collaborators in each of the case study countries have been interested in the concept of productive capabilities, but have applied it very differently in their own contexts. This suggest that the concept needs elaboration as a fuller model or framework, probably exemplified with analyses of specific issues in each country such as the transfer of vocational knowledge and skills between contexts; matches between vocational qualifications and occupations; vocational teachers’ qualifications and working conditions; and expanding or introducing competition, marketisation, and privatisation in vocational education and training. The team expects to complete much of its survey and field work in time to report to ECER 2018.
Ashton, David, Sung, Johnny and Turbin, Jill (2000) Toward a framework for the comparative analysis of national systems of skill formation, International Journal of Training and Development, volume 4, number 1, pages 8-25. Clarke, Linda and Winch, Christopher (2006) European skills framework – but what are skills? Anglo-Saxon versus German concepts, Journal of Education and Work, volume 19, number 3, pages 255-269. Hall, Peter A and Soskice, David (2001) (editors) Varieties of capitalism: the institutional foundations of comparative advantage, Oxford: Oxford University Press. International Labour Organization (2013) Women and men in the informal economy: a statistical picture, second edition, International Labour Office, Geneva, http://www.ilo.org/stat/Publications/WCMS_234413/lang--en/index.htm Mansfield, Bob (2005) Competence and standards, in John Burke (editor) Competency based education and training, pages 23-33, Routledge, London. Moodie, Gavin, Wheelahan, Leesa, Fredman, Nick and Bexley, Emmaline (2015) Towards a new approach to mid-level qualifications, research report, National Centre for Vocational Education Research, Adelaide, http://www.ncver.edu.au/publications/2784.html Nussbaum, Martha C (2000) Women and human development: the capabilities approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Sen, Amartya (1999) Development as freedom. New York: Anchor Books. Taiwan Ministry for Education (2017) Education statistics 2017 http://stats.moe.gov.tw/files/ebook/Education_Statistics/106/106edu.pdf UNESCO Institute for Statistics (2012) International Standard Classification of Education ISCED 2011, UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Montréal, http://www.uis.unesco.org/Education/Pages/international-standard-classification-of-education.aspx United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (2017) UNESCO Institute for Statistics data on education, http://data.uis.unesco.org/ UNESCO Institute of Statistics (2018) UIS profile, Ethiopia, http://uis.unesco.org/country/ET Wheelahan, Leesa and Moodie, Gavin (2016) Global trends in VET: a framework for social justice. A contribution by Education International. Brussels: Education International. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.21452.82561, http://download.ei-ie.org/Docs/WebDepot/GlobalTrendsinTVET.pdf
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