ERG SES H 02, Parallel Session H 02
Why is the formal education system the dominant model of higher level provision, does this suit the learner or the institution? Many strides have been taken to address the low level of participation by under-represented groups in higher level; however they have predominantly focused on addressing the perceived deficits in the individual rather than question the education system. With the introduction of National Frameworks of Qualifications accreditation of higher level education is no longer institution bound and, in practical terms, there is great potential for the diversification of the education system. This paper will focus on a possible alternative for third level education provision: non-formal adult education.
The distinct nature of non-formal adult education will be reviewed and analysed in terms of its possible role for increasing participation of underrepresented groups in higher level education. The influence of current government policy focusing on increasing participation in higher level education, a critique of formal education (Illich, 1971) and the concept of equality of condition (Baker et al. 2004) will be proposed as frameworks for exploring the potential role of non-formal education in addressing the challenges of a homogenous higher level education system.
Increasing participation of underrepresented groups in higher level education has been one objective for diversifying higher level education systems (van Vught, 2007). The competing influence of both government policy and academic norms have thwarted the development of a diverse system that offers access to students with different education backgrounds and learning requirements. Rather than addressing the lack of choice in provision policy approaches have tended to focus on educational inequality from the deficit or disadvantage discourse. The influence of discourse in shaping policy and the role of the discourse of difference will be explored in order to gain recognition for alternative higher level education provision.
In response to the homogenous provision of formal higher level education, non-formal education organisations have sought to provide learner-centred higher level education to meet the aspirations of their learners and communities. The validity of this approach will be analysed by exploring its role in facilitating diversity of choice by using a number of theoretical frameworks as a lens. Firstly, the distinct attributes of non-formal education in creating a more heterogeneous education system will be considered using Illich’s critique of the formal education system. Secondly, as the notion of equality of participation is at the heart of creating a more diverse learner-centred and learner-responsive education system the equality of condition framework (Baker et al. 2004) will be compared to the attributes of non-formal education in order to explore if it has the capacity to overcome institutional structural barriers which perpetuate an unequal and middle-class dominated education system. Finally, the work of Bourdieu, in particular his concept of habitus, will be proposed as a mechanism to gain a greater understanding of the learner’s experience in non-formal higher level education and the possible unique culture (or institutional habitus) that non-formal education organisations exhibit in fostering genuine participation and educational choice.
Baker, Lynch, Cantillon and Walsh (2004) ‘Dimensions of Equality: A framework for theory and Action’ in Equality: from theory to action, New York, Palgrave. Baker, Lynch, Cantillon and Walsh (2004) ‘Equality and Education’ in: Equality: from theory to action, New York, Palgrave, Bourdieu, P. and Passeron, J.C. 1977. Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture. London, Sage Frans van Vught (2007, November) Diversity and Differentiation in Higher Education Systems. CHET anniversary conference. Cape Town, South Africa. Illich, I. (1971) Deschooling Society. New York, Harper and Row.
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