23 SES 14 C, Citizenship and Careers Education
European countries and the European Union have placed career learning or career management skills (CMS) high on their policy agendas during the last decades, both out of economic-competitive and social reasons (Bengtsson 2016; Council of the European Union 2008; Sultana 2012). A common, overriding aim is to promote employability of young people and self-knowledge, self-empowerment and self-assessment in order to take informed decisions about their careers (Bengtsson 2016:57). CMS have emerged as a curriculum content (Guiscard 2001; Gysbers 2013; Sultana 2012), the framing of which differs across Europe. CMS can be taught as a separate subject, as a compulsory theme across the curriculum, as extra-curricular activities, or as a combination of two or more of these. The career learning curriculum may stress ‘learning for work’ (coping skills), and ‘learning about work’, i.e. critical self-understanding in relation to working life (Sultana 2012).
Framed by a highly decentralized and marketized context, CMS in Sweden constitutes an interesting case. The private school sector has expanded immensely, particularly at upper secondary level, having been almost non-existent before the 1990s. The far-reaching decentralization and marketization have resulted in large local variations with regard to career guidance, and more generally have led to greater inequality of opportunities for young people (Lundahl & Olofsson, 2014). In Sweden, career learning is school based but does not have a designated place in the formal curriculum. According to the national curriculum guide, the whole school is responsible for giving students support for their career choices, but several evaluations (e.g. Lovén 2015; Schools Inspectorate 2013) indicate that this happens very seldom. Also the connections between school and work have tended to become weakened over time rather than the reverse. Fewer and fewer compulsory schools offer work experience, and other forms of systematic collaboration between schools and working life have vanished as well (SOU 2015:97). Instead an informal arena has emerged in the decentralized and market-oriented Swedish educational system with a number of actors that try to convince young people to make the ‘right’ or ‘best’ career decisions (c.f. Lidström et al. 2014; Lundahl & Nilsson 2009; Skolverket 2013). However rather little is known of the resulting informal curriculum of career learning and its major sources. Our study focuses contents, methods and activities that have a clear intention to influence career learning. We also find it important to consider schools´ varying profiles, catchment areas and target groups when analyzing career counselling and education (c.f. Foskett (2008).
Our aim is to contribute to the knowledge about the informal curriculum of career learning in the decentralized and marketized Swedish education system. RQs: What are the contents and activities of this curriculum? To what extent do school actors (career counsellors, teachers, others) form it, and to what degree are external actors involved (and which)?
The analysis of the curriculum contents builds on Bernstein´s (2000) theory on vertical and horizontal knowledge and pedagogical discourses – singular, based on traditional disciplines and school subjects, regional, and generic discourses. More than the two first discourses, the generic discourse has developed outside of education and has a close connection to the change of working life, and young people’s employability and flexibility. The extent to which career learning is integrated in or separated from other school subjects (classification), reflects power and status conditions between different knowledge contents that are crucial in our analysis. Furthermore, we want to analyze the counsellor’s or teacher’s control over the transmission of career knowledge, i.e. the strength of framing (Bernstein 2000).
The paper builds on a quantitative and qualitative analysis of answers from two questionnaires addressing grade 9-students in three regions, and school career counsellors in the same regions. The students filled in the questionnaires in their classroom under superintendence of a test leader (a counsellor candidate who had received instruction before conducting this exercise), and the response rate therefore was very high. Approximately 1400 students completed the questionnaire. Approximately 80 school career counsellors answered a web-based questionnaire, and here the response rate was lower, but still satisfactory. We also build the paper on three of our five case studies in schools in these regions. We have used a variation sample of schools, one from each of the following geographical and socio-economic contexts: (a) A prosperous urban context, (b) A less advantageous urban context, (c) A suburban municipality with mixed socio-economic composition, (d) An industrial, working class-dominated municipality in a rural area, (e) A school in a sparsely situated region with varying socioeconomic composition of the population. The paper utilizes the empirical data from the schools from contexts a, c and e. The case studies consisted of observations and interviews (individual and focus groups) with head teachers, career counsellors, teachers and students, and visits to relevant external activities, such as upper secondary school fairs and open houses, labour market events, and similar. Finally, we use information from inter alia homepages, local steering documents, marketing material, and instructional matter, but this is to lesser extent covered in the paper. The analysis of our questionnaires will both be of quantitative and qualitative character – the latter in the case of answers to open questions. We will analyse the data from the case studies and document collection using our theoretical framework as a structuring device. The preliminary outcomes below are based on the questionnaire data; the case studies are still going on but we will be able to present first results at the time of the conference.
The regions investigated include a wide variety of schools and municipalities. The informal CMS curriculum is concentrated to grades 8 and 9, and is focusing information on and marketing of upper secondary programs and schools. The marketing, conducted by municipal and private upper secondary schools (school fairs, open houses, multiple other channels) has become the most prominent aspect of the informal career learning curriculum. Eighty-five percent of the students have attended school fairs and listened to representatives of upper secondary schools. An equally big proportion has had a meeting with a school career counsellor. According to the counsellors, the meetings largely bring up matters of choosing upper secondary education. From other investigations, we know that such consultations are commonly singular and short. The informal curriculum also includes working-life related contents, usually a short working-life practice. Furthermore, in almost 3/4 of the cases, the counsellor/the school have invited at least one external actor to illuminate career matters. Increasingly, external actors also take own initiatives in this respect; a range of firms and organisations has emerged with the aim to foster students´ career development and highlight the needs of the labour market. There is an explicit municipal or school plan for working with CMS in less than half of the schools; more frequently, this work rests on traditions and routines. Almost all career counsellors argue that it is essentially confined to themselves, contrasting to the legislation emphasizing that the whole school is responsible for such work. Conclusion: due to weak governance, scarce counselling resources and lack of systematic collaboration, too much of the curriculum is shaped by happenstance, various external actors and the individual students´ own initiatives. This is worrying, considering the importance of well-founded career choices and the highly complex educational and labour markets that young Swedes have to overview.
Bengtsson, A (2016). Governance of Career Guidance. An enquiry into European policy. Stockholm University: PhD Dissertations from the Department of Education and Didactics 40. Bernstein, B (2000) Pedagogy, Symbolic Control and Identity: theory, research, critique. NY: Rowman & Littlefield. Council of the European Union (2008). Resolution of the Council and of the Representatives of the Member States, Meeting within the Council, on Better Integrating Lifelong Guidance into Lifelong Learning Strategies. Brussels, 31 October. Foskett, N, m fl (2008). The influence of the school in the decision to participate in learning post-16. Brit Ed Research J 34(1) 37–61 Guiscard, J (2001). A century of career education: Review and perspectives. Int Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance 1(2): 155–176 Gysbers, N C (2013). Career-Ready Student: A Goal of Comprehensive School Counseling programs. The Career Dev Quarterly, 61(3), 283-288 Lidström, L et al. (2014). Maximising Opportunity and Minimising Risk? Young People’s Upper Secondary School Choices in Swedish Quasi-markets. Young, 22(1) 1–20 Lovén, A (2015). Vägledningsfältets historia och utveckling [The history and development of the career guidance field]. In A. Lovén (red). Karriärvägledning – en forskningsöversikt. Lund: Studentlitteratur, 19-48. Lundahl, L, & Nilsson, G (2009). Architects of their own future? Swedish career guidance policies. Brit Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 37, 27–38 Lundahl, L., & Olofsson, J. (2014). Guarded transitions? : Youth trajectories and school-to-work transition policies in Sweden. International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 19(Suppl. 1), 19–34. Skolinspektionen (2013). Studie- och yrkesvägledning i grundskolan. Kvalitetsgranskning [Study and Vocational Guidance in compulsory education. Quality assessment]. Rapport 2013:5 Skolverket (2013). Det svåra valet. Elevers val av utbildning på olika slags gymnasiemarknader [The difficult choice. Students´ educational choices at different upper secondary school markets]. Rapport 394 SOU 2015:97. Välja yrke [Choosing vocation]. Fritzes: Stockholm. Sultana, R G (2012): Learning career management skills in Europe: a critical review, Journal of Education and Work, 25(2), 225-248
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