02 SES 03 C, VET in Different Cultural Contexts
This proposal examines the possibilities for VET and skills systems in European countries to transition from education-based to employment-based systems and the educational implications of such transitions.
Technical and vocational education policies in earlier-industrialising countries are linked to broader skills frameworks that connect policy actors and education systems to labour markets (Lloyd and Payne 2010). The variations among these institutional forms have provided a basis for comparative analysis that links skills formation to broader patterns of policy and has implications for economic competitiveness and inclusion across different states. Various terminologies have been used to distinguish ‘Anglo-Saxon’, 'liberal market' or ‘neo-liberal’ systems from or ‘Germanic’, ‘social market’ or 'corporatist' models (Hall and Soskice 2001; Bosch 2017). These differences shape the pattern of transitions by which young people move into employment (Ianelli and Raffe 2007).
Whilst these analyses have captured key differences, they have emerged from historical conflict and negotiation among social actors, which can be located in broader patterns of development (Thelen 2004; Hall and Thelen 2009). Moreover, international changes to economies and labour markets have contributed to their partial erasure, illustrated by the movement of several countries away from institution-based vocational education to routes more strongly based in the workplace. The nation-state has remained the key area of analysis: notable shifts have occurred in France and in Sweden (Crouch, Finegold and Sako 1999; Gehin 2007; Dobbins and Busemeyer 2015).
Most recently, apprenticeship and technical education reforms in England have sought to relocate skills formation more securely in the workplace on the lines of North European apprenticeship and alternance. Industry-based apprenticeship standards are less reliant than formerly on qualifications. Work placements for 16-19 students on full-time programmes (other than the academic 'A-level' track) were introduced in 'study programmes' (DfE 2013) and have been further developed in the Sainsbury Review and Skills Plan (DfE 2016a, 2016b) into a comprehensive proposal for substantial work placements. These changes seek to extend the experience of learning in the workplace to students in 'vocational' areas where courses have been largely classroom-based and have led less directly to employment (and frequently to progression into higher education).
The nature and viability of these changes remains subject to the constraints of institutional forms and the absence of strong employer bodies, state certification and trade union participation to support these changes has led some commentators to question the possibility of these and earlier reforms assuring meaningful transitions to skilled employment (Fuller and Unwin 2009; Keep 2015). Policymakers have already mobilised and incentivised private providers alongside its public sector 'further education' colleges (Laczik and Mayhew 2015); more recently third-sector organisations have been mobilised to compensate for a largely voluntarist institutional framework, by sourcing the necessary work experience for full-time students. A levy on larger employers requiring them to contribute to apprenticeship provision recalls earlier, somewhat more corporatist approaches from the 1960s but its immediate effects have been to slow apprenticeship growth.
In the context of challenges arising from these instiutional issues, educational questions remain paramount. The rationale for emerging technical education and apprenticeship programmes has varied between emphasis on skills development and broader socialisation into workplace norms and behaviours. In specialised areas of employment, skills and resources for teaching new techniques may only be available in developing industries. For other vocational, areas greater emphasis may be placed on desired behaviours and characteristics for employment in a more service-based economy (Wren 2005). The discussion and resolution of these curriculum questions is central to the nature of emerging work-based systems.
The study combines a comparative analysis of skills systems in Europe with data from qualitative studies of key areas of change. The key models informing 'Anglo-Saxon' and 'Germanic' systems were analysed not only in terms of their fundamental features but in terms of their historical emergence; systems in transition were analysed in the context of broader developments of social and economic change. Primary data was drawn from three studies of the key areas of change, two relating to workplace learning by full-time students and one relating to apprenticeships. The first study of workplace learning by full-time students was based on case studies in four different vocational areas under arrangements introduced after the Wolf Report (DfE 2013) and drew on documentary analysis and interviews with students, teachers and employers. A second study was conducted during the trial of new arrangements with more substantial placements, based on case study interviews mainly with staff facilitating and supporting work experience. Finally, the apprenticeship study was carried out through qualitative interviews with apprenticeship practitioners who were preparing for, or had just begun, transitions to new arrangements where their role had shifted to a more direct involvement with training. Data from these studies has been coded on the basis of themes emerging from the institutional study, seeking to discover the particular impact of institutional frameworks on emerging patterns of educational experience, and the extent to which efforts to short-circuit the absence of binding agreement have been successful.
In the relative absence of institutional forms associated with work-based skills development, voluntarist mechanisms have given rise to a more problematic transition to more employment-based systems. Reform implementation has proceeded at a slower-than-expected pace and with uneven results. From a curriculum perspective, the work experience on offer emerged as sharply differentiated across institutions, subject areas and employment contexts. Whilst some of these differences may be linked to labour market factors and industry differences, it can be argued that this pattern is distinct from more inclusive North European systems precisely because of institutional differences. At the same time, the re-conceptualisation of work as an increasingly significant locus for learning has raised important questions about changes in educational practice the roles of VET professionals. New challenges for teaching professionals in colleges and new roles for workplace trainers are also emerging from the distinctive pattern of change in England. Thus, a range of questions relating particularly to curriculum, pedagogy and educational practitioner roles have been substantially shaped by institutional constraints but remain open to interrogation in relation to future policy and practice.
Bosch, G. 2017. "Different National Skills Systems," in C. Warhurst, K. Mayhew, D. Finegold and J. Buchanan (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Skills and Training. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Crouch, C., D. Finegold and M. Sako 1999. Are Skills the Answer? The political economy of skill creation in advanced industrial countries. Oxford: Oxford University Press. DfE (Department for Education). 2013. Post-16 work experience as a part of 16-19 Study Programmes. London: DfE. DfE. 2016a. Report of the Independent Panel on Technical Education. London: DfE. DfE. 2016b. 16-19 Skills Plan. London: DfE. Dobbins, M. and M.R. Busemeyer. 2015. “Socio-economic institutions, organized interests and partisan politics: the development of vocational education in Denmark and Sweden,” Socio-Economic Review, 13 (2): 259–284. https://doi.org/10.1093/ser/mwu002 Gehin, J.P. 2007. "Vocational education in France: a turbulent history and a political role," in L. Clarke and C. Winch (eds.) Vocational Education: International Approaches, Developments and Systems, pp. 34-48. Abingdon, Routledge. Fuller, A. and L. Unwin. 2009. "Change and continuity in apprenticeship: the resilience of a model of learning," Journal of Education and Work, 22 (5): 405-416. Hall, P.A. and Soskice, D. eds. 2001. Varieties of Capitalism: the institutional foundation of competitive advantage. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hall, P.A. and K. Thelen. 2009. "Institutional change in varieties of capitalism." Socio-Economic Review, Volume 7, 1 (1): 7–34, https://doi.org/10.1093/ser/mwn020 Keep, E. 2015. "Governance in English VET: On the functioning of a fractured 'system', Comparative and International Education, 10 (4): 464-475. Iannelli, C. and D. Raffe. 2007. "Vocational upper-secondary education and the transition from school," European Sociological Review, 23 (1): 49-63. Laczik, A. and K. Mayhew. 2015. Labour market developments and their significance for VET in England: Current concerns and debates. Comparative and International Education, 10 (4): 558-575. Lloyd, C. and J. Payne. 2010. “The political economy of skill and the limits of educational policy.” Journal of Education Policy Vol. 18(1): 85-107. Thelen, K. 2004. How Institutions Evolve. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Wren, A. 2005. The Political Economy of the Service Transition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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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