23 SES 06 B, School Leaving
Parallel Paper Session
This presentation will discuss the manner in which educational policy in Australia, in concert with many other international jurisdictions, has led to the increase in the school leaving age for young people. It will argue that the case for increased school retention rates has been in accord with the remit of the Organisation for Economic and Cooperation and Development (OECD) which has argued for young people’s greater participation in Australian schooling as one that will contribute to national economic competitiveness (OECD, 2009) but with little reference to other purposes of schooling such as enhanced civic engagement (Ball, 2001). The paper will argue that the basis of the OECD’s position on the economic returns from schooling is one that deserves to be challenged in that the returns, while benefiting the many, may have little, or even negative impact upon marginalized youth (Dockery, 2005). As such, it will be claimed, that the policy is an example of a problem that cannot be solved in a systematic, linear fashion and thus ‘tamed’. Among its stakeholders we count the students who bear the consequences of decisions made on their behalf, although they are rarely consulted, as well as the teachers working in the senior years of schooling as ones who, hitherto, have addressed themselves to the task of teaching a competitive academic curriculum.
Each stakeholder group is situated not only in a national context but also one that is local with its own mores and particularities. As Kemmis & Grootenboer argue, the sayings, doings and relatings of actors in professional settings such as schools are the result of an accumulation of practices and, we aver, do not yield readily to policies that fail to discriminate, but work upon the principle of “one size fits all”.
As a means of illuminating our argument we shall draw upon research in several Australian States and Territories that have explored the impact of this major policy initiative, including an Australian study undertaken by the presenters in 2011 that is currently awaiting release from the commissioning authority, as well as referencing discussions in mainland Europe, UK and USA. From these it has been possible to identify a number of policy implications. In particular, from an Australian perspective, it is clear that the current senior studies curriculum may well serve the majority of students but is neither engaging nor appropriate to those young people who are often blamed for their own failure (te Riele 2006). Furthermore, teachers need support in their professional learning to develop engaging and inclusive pedagogical practices. Finally, school systems in Australia need to transcend discussions of schooling for the purposes of human capital development and consider more holistically how it might contribute to a more socially engaged citizenry (Hodgson, 2011). These goals will be difficult to achieve without a greater investment in education overall and school education in particular. As a matter of policy this is one of great urgency if we are not to find ourselves with an increasing number of alienated and marginalized young people.
References Ball, S. (2001) Global policies and vernacular politics in education. Curriculo sem Fronteiras, 1 (2) pp. 27 – 43 www.curriculosemfronteiras.org Accessed 15th December, 2011. Dockery, A. (2005) Assessing the value of additional years of schooling for the non academically inclined. LSAY Research Reports. Longitudinal surveys of Australian youth research report #38. ACEReSearch. Hodgson, D. (2011) Policy rationalities and policy technologies: a programme for analysing the raised school-leaving age in Western Australia Kemmis, S. & Grootenboer, P. (2008) Situating praxis in practice: Practice architectures and cultural, social and material conditions for practice. In S. Kemmis & T. Smith (Eds) Enabling Praxis: Challenges for Education. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers, pp. 37 – 64. OECD (2009) Jobs for Youth: Australia. Paris: OECD. te Riele, K. (2006) Youth ‘at risk’: further marginalising the marginalised? Journal of Education Policy, 21 (2) 129 – 145.
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