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Higher education is typically viewed as offering the most assured pathways to secure careers and low unemployment rates. Yet, increasingly some groups, not least higher education graduates and their families paying ever-higher tuition fees, question the taken-for-granted contributions higher education makes to individuals and society. While participation rates have climbed worldwide, higher education systems continue to produce winners and losers. In the face of such challenges globally, which alternatives exist? A prominent possibility, pioneered in Germany, is ‘dual study’ programmes. These programmes fully integrate phases of higher education study and paid work in firms, illustrating how employer interests and investments are (re)shaping advanced skill formation. Co-developed and co-financed by employers, they could ameliorate the global trend towards saddling students with ever-higher education costs and student debt. Grounded in neo-institutional analysis, expert interviews, and document analysis, we analyse the genesis and rapid expansion of dual study programmes, emphasizing the role of employer interests and highlighting distributional conflicts in the new politics of advanced skill formation. Furthermore, we discuss lessons other countries might glean from a new form of work-based higher education in Germany. Reference: Graf, L./Powell, J.J.W. (2022) The Origins and Contemporary Development of Work-based Higher Education in Germany: Lessons for Anglophone Countries? In: Knight, E./Bathmaker, A-M./Moodie, G./Orr, K./Webb, S./Wheelahan, L. (Eds.) Equity and Access to High Skills through Higher Vocational Education. London, Palgrave, 125-144.
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This paper argues that a shift in discourse about the nature and purpose of Further Education is under way in England. A recent White Paper, ‘Skills for jobs: lifelong learning for opportunity and growth’, issued by the UK government, is couched in terms which suggest that a prior reliance on the ideology of neoliberalism is now moving towards the objectives and instruments of what Michel Foucault termed biopolitics or the exploitation of life itself. I analyse the White Paper and related recent texts to show how a form of vitalist discourse accompanies attempts to accelerate potentially problematic processes of value-extraction. While these developments respond partly to the societal changes resulting from the threats to life of the Coronavirus pandemic and other existential crises, their likely impact suggests a shift in the discourses of lifelong learning: an existing apparatus of normalisation and control is now turning to biopolitical exploitation.
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The article assesses the role comparative research plays from the 1980s in understanding vocational education and training (VET) systems in Europe, driven by political, economic, social and labour market changes. This research has been transformed, moving from national comparisons of VET systems, grounded in institutional theory and engaging with convergence versus divergence debates or human capital theory, to the varieties of capitalism approach considering groups of countries as representative of particular capitalist economies, to transcending national boundaries and emphasising capitalist diversity, governance and labour agency. Drawing on examples of research in which the authors and others have been involved, particularly on the construction industry, the article traces this development and shows how, despite governance weaknesses, comparative research has been enriched by the addition of a European Union level through the introduction of tools, such as the European Qualifications Framework. Four dimensions are proposed – labour market, governance, education and competence – capable of identifying VET ‘families’ and intra-national variations and capturing the dynamics of VET systems. Through a multi-dimensional and multi-level framework, comparative VET research can provide a deeper understanding of how and why VET systems respond to the challenges of technological, economic and environmental change.
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A major focus of sociological research is on the role of the credential as a ‘currency of opportunity’, mediating the relationship between education and occupational destinations. However, the labour market has largely remained a ‘black box’ in sociological and education policy studies. This article draws on ‘big data’ from over 21,000,000 job adverts to explore how employers in the UK describe job requirements, with particular reference to the role of credentials. It challenges existing theories premised upon the notion that higher levels of formal education determine individual (dis)advantage in the competition for jobs. Although they have different views of the relationship between credentials, opportunity and efficiency, these theories assume that credentials largely determine occupational hiring. Our analysis suggests that formal academic credentials play a relatively minor differentiating role in the UK labour market, as the majority of employer’s place greater emphasis on ‘job readiness’. This raises a number of issues for sociological and policy analysis, including the future role of credentials in the (re)production of educational and labour market inequalities. Methodologically, the article highlights how the use of big data can contribute to the analysis of education, skills and the labour market.
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Human-Centred Education (HCE) radically rethinks the aims of education, the nature of learning, and the relationships between individuals in schools. This accessible guide presents a HCE approach to schooling and includes a variety of rich pedagogical examples. It provides practical suggestions as to how the approach might be adopted as a whole-school initiative, or else woven into particular aspects of existing school life, including the curriculum, classroom culture and feedback for learning. This handbook also illustrates how holistic educational practices, found in some alternative schools, can be introduced fruitfully into the state educational system with step-by-step guidance on how to integrate HCE into teacher training and school governance. HCE is more than a set of inflexible pedagogical prescriptions or a recipe of lesson plans. It originates from the fundamental values of care, relationship and well-being. Because they focus on measured academic performance, national policies tend to ignore deeper educational processes, such as the cultivation of qualities that are central to living meaningfully and well. HCE is an effective antidote to this, and brings to the fore a more human-centred approach without sacrificing academic standards. Current secondary teachers, members of school management and leadership team, as well as those currently undertaking teacher training will all benefit from reading this important book.
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The corporatist-governed dual-training system has been a key example of collective governance in the German capitalist model. However, high-end dual-training is increasingly being offered within post-secondary higher education. Here, firms and universities, not chambers of commerce or trade unions, are the actors negotiating the curricula of and access to a range of 'dual-study programmes'. This article traces the emergence and expansion of this more firm-specific skills provision system, which diminishes the beneficial constraints for strategic cooperation and, in turn, the provision of collective training standards and transferable skills. The case study builds on the 'gradual institutional change' taxonomy, while pointing to the potential benefits of using different modes of change in combination. Through analysing firms' strategies to initiate change in an institutional grey area between established socioeconomic spheres, the article shows how layering, conversion and drift can become interlinked and how each individual process can trigger and feed the next. Link to publication: https://doi.org/10.1093/ser/mww044
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This paper analyses whether tertiary education of different types, i.e., academic or vocational tertiary education, leads to more or less favourable labour market outcomes. We study the problem for Switzerland, where more than two thirds of the workforce gain vocational secondary degrees and a substantial number go on to a vocational tertiary degree but only a small share gain an academic tertiary degree. As outcome variables, we examine the risk of being unemployed, monthly earnings, and variation in earnings (reflecting financial risk). We study these outcomes at career entry and later stages. Our empirical results reveal that the type of tertiary education has various effects on these outcomes. At career entry, we observe equal unemployment risk but higher average wages and lower financial risk for vocational graduates. At later career stages, we find that these higher average wages disappear and risk of unemployment becomes lower for vocational graduates. Thus, by differentiating the tertiary system into vocational and academic institutions graduates face a variety of valuable options allowing them to self-select into an educational type that best matches their individual preferences.
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This paper argues that competency‐based training in vocational education and training in Australia is one mechanism through which the working class is denied access to powerful knowledge represented by the academic disciplines. The paper presents a modified Bernsteinian analysis to argue that vocational education and training students need access to disciplinary knowledge using Bernstein’s argument that abstract, conceptual knowledge is the means societies use to think ‘the unthinkable’ and ‘the not‐yet‐thought’. I supplement Bernstein’s social argument for democratic access to the disciplines with an epistemic argument that draws on the philosophy of critical realism.
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A focus of Government policy has been the need to ensure that those at the lower end of the labour market invest in their human capital through re-engaging with learning, which has been assumed to enable progress into better-paid employment. This article explores the problems created by ‘bad jobs’ and the evidence for the existence of a set of mutually reinforcing factors that reduces the incentives acting on individuals in such work, and in many cases their employers, to participate and invest in education and training. Each of these factors, on their own, would be sufficient to cause problems at the lower end of the labour market. Acting in concert, as a mutually reinforcing matrix, they produce powerful reasons why many individuals perceive that the incentives to engage in work-related learning are weak. More broadly, our argument suggests that the fundamental causes of low pay and low-quality employment have been misdiagnosed and the subsequent public policy solution of up-skilling interventions is relatively ill-fitted to achieving the desired policy goals. Imaginative re-thinking on how policy might help those in low-wage, dead-end jobs is necessary.
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Incl. abstract, bib. With the proposed introduction of a common framework for comparing qualifications within the European Union as a result of the Lisbon Agreement of 2000, the question of commonly agreed transnational concepts of skills and qualifications has become a pressing political and practical issue. The paper argues that there are grounds for doubting that there is a ready translation of the English terms 'skill' and 'qualification' in a way that avoids problems of comparing and calibrating German and English vocational qualifications. Reasons for this difficulty are explored, the most important of which relate to: a) the conceptual structure of skill and its cognates in the two languages; b) the differing socio-political role of qualifications; c) different industrial structures and labour processes; d) differences in institutions regulating vocational education and training. These problems are discussed in relation to examples of similar industries and occupations and apparently similar levels of qualification in England and Germany.
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This article is published open access and so is available free from the publisher's web site. This article describes the process through which human capital theory came to dominate policy in post-compulsory education, to result in the fetishisation of skills. It relates skills policies to the contemporaneous development of policies on lifelong learning. The fetishisation of skills is related to methodological and normative individualism displacing an understanding that capacity and skill arise from and are developed by interdependent action. The current promotion of 21st century skills, genericism and trainability leads to the alienation of skills from the people who embody and exercise them and the social context which enables and gives value to peoples’ exercise of their skills. The article argues that this reification and fetishization of skills degrades education, work and social life.
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Lifelong education is comprised of four broad categories of activity: early childhood education, primary and secondary schooling, tertiary studies, and adult education. Patterns of people’s engagement with each category of lifelong education differ substantially between countries and are influenced by widely varying public policies and institutional settings. While recognising the tremendous diversity of lifelong education around the world, this article describes a dramatic global expansion of formal schooling in recent decades, links that expansion to demographic, social, and economic changes, and highlights persistent inequalities between and within countries. The goal of this article is to provide a context for understanding the evolution of lifelong education by carefully documenting the history of key global trends over the past seventy years. Data are national-level quantitative indicators, compiled by United Nations organisations such as the World Bank, UNESCO, and the ILO, and organised to enable the comparison of trends between major world regions. The analysis and presentation of this data focus on enabling scholars and practitioners of lifelong education to understand how their field has evolved in concert with global patterns of social change. The article’s conclusions challenge such scholars and practitioners to contest the reproduction of inequality through education.
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Triggered by rising higher education (HE) participation rates in recent years there is an intense debate in Germany regarding the future value of vocational education and training (VET). While VET in Germany has traditionally been a major contributor to the successful transition of young people from school to the labour market, this role is questioned by an increasing proportion of school leavers that enter HE instead of initial VET. This paper introduces this debate to the international readership by analysing the available data and by discussing some of the implications of the current changes. For instance, there are a number of studies that identify the fields and types of VET that are in danger of being substituted by HE provision, assuming a competitive relationship between the two sectors. However, there is also growing interest in programmes that aim to combine vocational and academic learning in so-called ‘dual study programmes’, taking a complementary perspective of VET and HE. The analysis will lead to conclusions regarding the future shape of upper secondary and tertiary education in Germany and the links of different education sectors to the labour market.
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The design of effective learning analytics extends beyond sound technical and pedagogical principles. If these analytics are to be adopted and used successfully to support learning and teaching, their design process needs to take into account a range of human factors, including why and how they will be used. In this editorial, we introduce principles of human-centred design developed in other, related fields that can be adopted and adapted to support the development of Human-Centred Learning Analytics (HCLA). We draw on the papers in this special section, together with the wider literature, to define human-centred design in the field of learning analytics and to identify the benefits and challenges that this approach offers. We conclude by suggesting that HCLA will enable the community to achieve more impact, more quickly, with tools that are fit for purpose and a pleasure to use.
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