02 SES 11 A, The Power of Formal and Informal Learning
Skills training in the informal sector, known as informal apprenticeship, is the primary route for successful labour market insertion for marginalised youth in many parts of the Global South. This is the case in Ghana, where the informal sector was ‘discovered’ nearly 50 years ago. It serves youths who have many expectations and aspirations of what they would like to be and to do. They expect the informal apprenticeship institution and other institutions to enable them fulfil. However, while they participate in education and skills training, and have rights and opportunities, the extent and level of their inclusion in the education system leads to their ‘adverse incorporation’ in the labour market, politics and other realms of social life (Hickey and du Toit, 2007).
It is necessary to interrogate the structures, processes and interrelationships that contribute to their inclusion or exclusion in education, socio-economic and political life. To do this, this research asks: what are the valuable functionings of informal apprentices in Ghana? How do the personal, social and environmental conversion factors of informal apprentices and the wider socio-economic context enable or constrain their valuable functionings? Using the capability approach and strong structuration theory, I will argue that unless the minimum resource threshold and the structural and institutional constraints that impede the conversion of resources into capabilities are holistically addressed, informal apprentices will always be disadvantaged.
This study is influenced by the human capability approach developed by Amartya Sen. It serves as a normative framework of thought for the evaluation of individual advantage and social arrangements (Robeyns, 2003). It advocates that social arrangements, like education systems or institutions, ought to be evaluated to the extent to which they advance individuals’ freedoms. The individual constitutes the unit of analysis when using the capability approach, for ethical and not methodological reasons (Robeyns, 2003. p. 44 ). Functionings and agency freedom are important concepts that underpin the approach. Sen (1999, p. 72) defines functionings as one’s achievements or ‘beings’ and ‘doings’. Other achievements and different ways of living that an individual wishes to realise are known as valuable functionings (ibid). Examples include being able to participate in the activities of a community.
Central to the capability approach’s conception of social justice is the notion of agency freedom, which means ‘one’s freedom to bring about the achievements that one values and which one attempts to produce’ (Sen, 1992, p. 57). However, Sen acknowledges that agency freedom is ‘qualified and constrained by social, political and economic arrangements and opportunities’ (Sen, 1999. p. xii). The capability approach’s conversion factors which are personal, social and environmental enable an understanding of individual variations, experiences of structures and how they are able to convert available goods or resources into valuable functionings. Personal conversion factors are individual characteristics such as age, sex, intellectual abilities etc. Social conversion factors include gender norms and public policies and environmental conversion factors are characteristics of the environment such as one’s geographical location and built environment (Robeyns, 2005, p. 9).
Beyond the individual conversion factors or experiences of social and environmental factors, broader structural, institutional factors and relations do impact on individuals’ valuable functionings. The capability and skills development literature tend to see the need to supplement and enrich the agentic focus and conversion factors in the capability approach with structural insights from sociology. In this study, I draw on Rob Stones’s strong structuration theory to understand the interplay of structure and agency in the conversion factors. Also I use strong structuration theory to broaden the theoretical and empirical analysis to wider social and institutional factors and their relationship with individual conversion factors (Stones, 2005).
This study is a qualitative inquiry into the valuable functionings of informal apprentices in Ghana and the extent to which these are enhanced or constrained. The methodology adopted for analysing the structures, processes and relations of inclusion and exclusion or the relative advantage of informal apprentices is Stones’ agent’s conduct and context analysis. Agent’s conduct analysis directs the researcher towards the internal structures of the agent which comprises the general dispositional frame and conjuncturally specific internal structures (Stones, 2005). It helps the researcher to focus on apprentices, their knowledge, perceptions and experience at home, in their communities and in informal apprenticeship. On the other hand, agent’s context analysis draws on the knowledge of agents or apprentices to investigate the ‘terrain that faces the agent, the terrain that constitutes the range of possibilities and limits to the possible’ (Stones, 2005, p. 122). In this study, agent's context analysis enables the researcher to assess relevant independent causal influences and their consequences on agent’s courses of action (ibid). Through agent’s context analysis, wider structural and institutional structures like policies, the labour market, education system are independently assessed to ascertain their impact on apprentices’ conversion factors and their ability to be and to do what they find valuable. In the agent’s conduct analysis, life history interviews have been chosen, due to its potential to enable an understanding of the interplay between structure and agency in apprentices’ agency freedom (Ojermark, 2007). Agent’s context analysis enables an independent exploration into the information obtained through life history interviews. This will involve interviews with relevant stakeholders with power and control over resources. Also, in agent’s context analysis, a review of archived speeches and policies and their effect on informal apprenticeship will be done. Purposive sampling will be used to recruit informal apprentices for the study. Within purposive sampling, the snowball technique is useful as there is no formal record of informal apprentices according to trades and gender.
The capability approach has so far been applied to research in formal education at all levels, with one of DeJaeghere and Baxter's (2014) cases opening up the space of NGO training programmes. This study explores its usefulness for research on the informal apprenticeship institution, an important step given the prevalence of this institution in the Global South. The combination of the capability approach with strong structuration theory is novel in the education, skills development and human development literature. While it will report on findings from Ghana, its theoretical uniqueness has insights to offer for educational research on inclusion and exclusion in other contexts.
DeJaeghere, J. & Baxter, A. (2014). Entrepreneurship education for youth in sub-Saharan Africa: A capabilities approach as an alternative framework to neoliberalism’s individualizing risks. Progress in Development Studies, 14(1), pp.61–76. Hickey, S., & du Toit, A. (2007). Adverse incorporation, social exclusion and chronic poverty. CPRC Working Paper 81, Chronic Poverty Research Centre, Manchester. Ojermark, A. (2007). Presenting life histories: a literature review and annotated bibliography. CPRC Working Paper 101, Chronic Poverty Research Centre, Manchester. Robeyns, I. (2003). The capability approach: An interdisciplinary introduction. Paper presented to the training course preceding the 3rd International Conference on the Capability Approach, Pavia, Italy. Available at: http://www.academia.edu/34225916/The_Capability_Approach_An_Interdisciplinary_Introduction Robeyns, I.( 2005). The Capability approach: a theoretical survey. Journal of Human Development, 6(1), pp.93–117. Sen, A. (1992). Inequality re-examined. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sen, A. (1999). Development as freedom. New York: Anchor Books. Stones, R. (2005). Structuration theory. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
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