02 SES 16 B, VET, Socialization and Critical Thinking
There are historical consistencies of differentiation through education of young people from different social backgrounds for unequal future life chances, which channels them into very different positions in society and the division of labour. Vocational education plays key roles in this context by primarily attracting working-class students and socializing them for working-class jobs. However, part of the mission of modern mass educational systems in liberal democracies is to ‘emancipate’ its citizens, to foster formally equal citizens prepared for active participation in the democratic governance of society. The question of how VET can be understood in the tension between the processes of reproduction (of class, gender, ethnicity, etc.) and emancipation (critical thinking, collective identity, etc.) serves as the point of departure for this symposium. Building on four different papers, based on research conducted in four different countries, the symposium will discuss how VET in different ways can contribute to reproduction or change in society and in the life of students.
More specifically, James Avis (Great Britain) contributes with a discussion of different arguments on how we could think about what would constitute critical vocational education in the present socio-economic conditions (cf. Avis, 2018). The paper aims to generate a discussion about vocational education and the development of critical practices. How would such a practice go beyond what already exists? What would a critical emancipatory and transformative pedagogic practice look like in the current conjuncture in which worklessness is a feature of many peoples’ lives? How would this impact on the way in which we conceive and move beyond the notion of a ‘triple’ professionalism in vocational contexts?
Kerstin Duemmler et al (Switzerland) focuses on occupational identity strategies as emancipation from low prestigious VET programs in Switzerland. The paper is based on a qualitative study with retail clerk and bricklaying apprentices. In daily life, the apprentices confront the low social prestige of their vocational training, signifying a threat to their social and occupational identities. Building on theory that understands identity as relationally constructed (Jenkins 2008), the study shows how the apprentices not only suffer from a lack of social and occupational prestige. They critically confront the misrecognition of their apprenticeship and social position by developing interpretative strategies to construct valuable occupational identities.
Penni Pietilä et al (Finland) discusses the reproduction of gendered and classed stereotypes in Finnish VET. The analysis draws from ethnographic fieldwork in male dominated field of technology upper secondary vocational institution. The main focus of is on the teaching of Finnish literacy. The analysis illustrates how neoliberal mentalities (Connell 2013) intertwine with discourses concerning ’low achieving’ boys’ schooling (Lahelma 2014) and how these reproduce gendered and classed stereotypes regarding taste, ways of life, etc. The paper also discusses how education focusing on ”interest” is at the core of ’reproduction’ in VET.
Per-Åke Rosvall et al (Sweden) will present a synthesis of key results from a recently finished four-year research project investigating the extent and nature of learning processes that can be characterized as civic education in vocational subjects in different VET-programmes. Drawing on both curriculum and ethnographic data, the paper discusses how VET can play a role of social reproduction in e.g. distributing different types of knowledge to students depending on class (Nylund et al 2017), gender (Ledman, et al 2018) and ethnicity (Rosvall et al, 2019). However, the paper also discusses how the many variations in the VET-contexts studied also give hints as to how VET could be playing a more emancipating role.
Professor Leesa Weelahan will be the discussant for the symposium and will comment on the papers as well as lead the discussion following the presentations.
Avis, J. (2018) Socio-technical imaginary of the fourth industrial revolution and its implication for vocational education and training: a literature review, Journal of Vocational Education and Training 70(3) 337-363 doi.org/10.1080/13636820.2018.1498907 Connell, R. (2013). The neoliberal cascade and education: an essay on the market agenda and its consequences, Critical Studies in Education, 54:2, 99-112, DOI:10.1080/17508487.2013.776990. Jenkins, R. (2008). Social Identity. London: Routledge. Lahelma, E. (2014). Troubling discourses on gender and education. Educational Research 56 (2), 171–183. Ledman, K., Rosvall, P-Å. & Nylund, M. (2018). Gendered distribution of ‘knowledge required for empowerment’ in Swedish vocational education curricula? Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 70(1), 85-106. DOI: 10.1080/13636820.2017.1394358 Nylund, M., Rosvall, P-Å. & Ledman, K. (2017). The vocational–academic divide in neoliberal upper secondary curricula: the Swedish case. Journal of Education Policy. 32(6), 788-808. DOI: 10.1080/02680939.2017.1318455 Rosvall, P.Å, Ledman, K., Nylund, M. & Rönnlund, M. (2018). Construction of ethnicity, immigration and associated concepts in Swedish vocational education and training. Journal of Education and Work, 31(7-8), 645-659, DOI: 10.1080/13639080.2019.1569212
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