22 SES 01 C, Employability and Transition to Work of Higher Education Graduates.
A cultural shift to conceptualise society in terms of postmodernity has produced a growing emphasis upon matters of consumption (Baudrillard, 1990). This view point has been made strongly in research on transition from primary to secondary school (Bowe, Gewirtz and Ball, 1994), who argued that middle class parents and students are “seduced” into the mode of consumption when they engage in transfer to secondary school. However, although there is a considerable body of literature on the commodification of knowledge in Higher Education, there is surprisingly little research which examines how students act in relation to choosing universities and their degree programmes, or indeed of the beliefs which influence their actions (Bredo et al., 1993; Galotti & Mark, 1994; Connor et al., 1999; Hesketh & Knight, 1999; Pugsley and Coffey, 2002, Soutar and Turner, 2002 ) Indeed, there is a paucity of empirical based research, which examines how such (quasi) market conditions in Higher Education influence students’ beliefs, identities and participation in learning, but see Reay, Ball and Turner, 2002. As Naidoo and Jamieson (2005) point out, “This absence in part reflects two tendencies in social science: The first tendency is for in-depth studies of student learning to be conducted in isolation from the macro context, and the second is to focus on the structural conditions and social effects of higher education while relegating academic practices to the proverbial black box.” (p. 2)’ self identify (Giddens, 1991) with learning and ways in which they think about themselves as learners, and indeed as young adults.
The proposed paper seeks to unpack a little this black box to illustrate through a cultural analysis of value, conducted on interview transcripts of students talking about learning, how market conditions can influence ways students
There is an emphasis on the development of discursive analytical tools to facilitate such discourse analysis. Analytical discursive tools are developed from Baudrillard’s objects of value (2005). The paper provides an example of how students’ transition into a hierarchical and competitive higher education economy can provide a lens on learner identities. The case examined is students’ identification with learning mathematics.
Mathematics credentials serve as a badge of eligibility for the privileges of society (Gates & Vistro-Yu, 2003). For example, mathematics performance along with verbal and non-verbal reasoning provide the “gold standard” for the successful entry to selective independent and grammar schools, and together have been used as a critical filter in many countries (Schoenfeld, 2002, George, 2009). Advanced level mathematics – normally for pre-university study at ages 16-19 has been particularly pertinent historically to economic life chances (Wolf, 2002) and continues to be relevant in the ‘choice making’ (Raey et al. 2001) of students into, and out of, opportunities for numerate education in FHE. The privileging of mathematics is deeply culturally rooted and arguably so differentiates it from other subjects, making mathematics a special case (see also Mendick, 2009) and as such is more open to commodification as “the Prada”
of school subjects, and so provides a suitable context to develop analytical tools with which to examine consumer oriented learner identities, since the status of mathematics is visible.
Baudrillard (1990), Fatal Strategies. New York: Semiotext. Baudrillard, J. (2005 in translation from 1968) The System of Objects, (Translated by James Benedict): Verso. Bowe, R., Ball, S. and Gewirtz, S (1994), “Parental Choice”, Consumption and Social Theory: The Operation of Micro-Markets in Education, British Journal of Educational Studies, pp. 38-52. David, M., Bathmaker, A., Crozier, G., Davis, P., Ertl, H., Fuller, A., Hayward, G., Heath, S., Hockings, C., Parry, G., Reay, D., Vignoles, A., Williams, J. (Eds.) (2009) Improving Learning by Widening Participation in Higher Education, Routledge. Gewirtz, S., Ball, S. and Bowe, R. (1995) Markets, Choice and Equity in Education, Buckingham & Philadelphia, Open University Press. Giddens, A. (1991) Modernity and Self-Identity. Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Cambridge: Polity. Hirsch, F. (1976) The Social Limits to Growth, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University. Neyland, J. (2007)Globalisation, Ethics and Mathematics Education pp. 113-128. In Atweh, B., Borba, M., Calabrese Barton, A., Gough, N., Keitel, C (Eds.), Internationalisation and Globalisation in Mathematics and Science Education. Springer. Naidoo, R. & Jamieson, I. M. (2005). Empowering participants or corroding learning?: Towards a research agenda on the impact of student consumerism in higher education. Journal of Education Policy, 20 (3): 267-281 Pugsley, L. & Coffey, A. (2002) “Keeping the customer satisfied: parents in the higher education market place”, Welsh Journal of Education, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 41-58. Reay, D., Ball, S.J., David, M. and Davies, J. (2001). Choices of degree or degrees of choice? Social class, race and the higher education choice process, Sociology 35(4):855-874. Williams, J.S., Black, L., Hernandez-Martinez, P., Davis, P., Pampaka, M., and Wake, G. (2009). "Narratives, Cultural Models and Identity" (p39-69). In M. César and K. Kumpulainen (Eds.) Social Interactions in Multicultural Settings. Rotterdam: Sense publishers.
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