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Your Web message has not published for account. Both were part of a prolonged attempt to reform and revitalise vocational education. This renewed interest in vocationalism can be traced back to James Callaghan's Ruskin College speech, although debates around the content, character and purpose of vocational education and its relationship to, and differentiation from, other forms of education go back much further.

The historical record shows that interest in vocational education increases during periods of economic difficulty and the late s and early s were marked by rapidly rising unemployment and the decimation of important sectors of the economy.


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In the wake of Callaghan's speech, the subsequent 'Great Debate' and the election of a Conservative government a plethora of White Papers were produced containing a wide variety of proposals for the reform of vocational education. This group of projects are widely known collectively as constituting the 'new vocationalism' and while this disguises important differences between programmes they contain sufficient common elements to justify the use of a portmanteau term. GNVQs were announced in , began as a pilot scheme in and were extended nationally in , they now dominate provision of full-time vocational education for year olds.

Both programmes were introduced in an attempt to improve the allegedly low quality of vocational education and training which was claimed to be handicapping commerce and industry in the competitive s and s. At a deeper level both were grounded in the broader analysis of English culture provided by Martin Wiener and Correlli Barnett in their influential commentaries on the purported anti-industrial bias of the English and of English education.

Of course, these sorts of historical and cultural critiques have themselves been subjected to sustained criticism by economic historians Collins and Robbins, ; Rubinstein, However, for a time the Wiener and Barnett theses became popular among politicians and commentators, probably because a rather selective reading of them supported the attempted Thatcherite cultural and economic revolution.

They were part of an attempt to align education more closely to the 'needs' of industry and commerce and rectify some of the knowledge, skill and attitude deficits of school leavers. This type of instrumental, economic analysis remains important in political debates about education across the main political parties. There is still relatively little discussion about whether vocational education or any form of education should, or can, play the functional role assigned to it by the prevailing instrumental discourse within the economic system.

It remains axiomatic for most politicians that education and training, if only we can get it right, will have strong and tangible economic benefits. However, from within this human capital discourse some economists of education have pointed out that establishing the relationship between education and economic development is by no means straightforward and that substantiating causal links between any particular curriculum and subsequent economic outcomes is fraught with even more difficulties.

The new vocationalism has also been attacked from outside the human capital discourse.

Download Separate But Equal A Levels And Gnvqs Further Education London England

Neo-Marxists, for example, have seen the new vocationalist project as being essentially one of social control - cooling-out, occupying and reconciling potentially unruly youth to a reality of unemployment, 'schemes' and temporary employment Bates and Riseborough, ; Bates, Another type of analysis sees the policy developments in terms of "symbolic action" Kliebard, or "witchcraft" Stronach, , linked to a legitimation crisis and having for policy-makers the advantage of being seen to do 'something' about pressing economic and social problems.

Outside the academic world however, these critiques of human capital arguments for the development of vocational education have had little impact and the common-sense belief that education in general, and vocational education in particular, will have an economic pay-off remains strong and continues to have a powerful influence on the education policy of the major political parties.

However, while there has been continuity in diagnosis of the alleged deficiencies which needed to be tackled there has been constant change in the specific methods and policy choices selected to tackle these deficiencies. After a 15 year period of unprecedented, feverish activity the achievements if any of the new vocationalist programmes remain uncertain. Still the cry goes up from politicians and employers that the British workforce is inadequately educated and trained. Still the search is on for a more effective system of vocational education and training.

It is beyond the scope of this paper to evaluate the validity of the analysis upon which the new vocationalism has been built, my intention here is simply to establish a strong element of continuity in the diagnosis of the 'problem' which both TVEI and GNVQ and the other new vocationalist programmes were designed to overcome and to suggest that both were firmly grounded in what has become a hegemonic, economic and instrumentalist discourse.

This raises important questions about the extent to which this discourse places limits upon what can be achieved in practice in the programmes.


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That is, one which is neither academic and discipline and content-driven in the way of A levels nor skills-driven as in the old, occupationalist vocationalism. The concept of the practical curriculum draws upon ideas of a broad or liberal vocationalism Silver and Brennan, and takes account of the emergence of new forms of knowledge and changes in the nature of work. This version of the practical curriculum has a broad educational focus and has won support from educationalists e.

Chitty, ; Pring, ,; Spours and Young, It also articulates well with the Education for Capability movement launched by the RSA in the s which was based on a critique of the academic curriculum and a call for a more modern, practical alternative Burgess, Earlier antecedents for calls for a practical curriculum lay in the Crowther Report's concept of the 'alternative road' and the 'rehabilitation of the practical' McCulloch, and in the still earlier curriculum theories of Whitehead and Dewey.

Thus there is a respectable philosophical and epistemological case to be made for a practical curriculum which is neither narrowly academic nor occupationalist. However, many issues remain to be addressed concerning its detailed implementation and targeting. Assuming it was possible to begin to elaborate a practical curriculum was this to be a dimension or orientation to be embodied in all school subjects, in some subjects or would subjects as currently constructed become obsolete?

Was the practical curriculum to be an essential element of the curriculum for all students at all ages or was it to be limited to certain students at particular ages? These and many other questions remain to be tackled.

Constructing vocational education: from TVEI to GNVQ

The history of technical schools McCulloch, ; Sanderson, , the development of school technology McCulloch, Jenkins and Layton, ; Penfold, and the story of TVEI itself Gleeson and McLean, ; Merson, show that the development of a practical curriculum is no easy task. This commitment to progressivism was evident in the TVEI Aims with their references to students "using their skills and knowledge to solve real world problems" and "developing initiative, motivation and enterprise as well as problem-solving skills and other aspects of personal development". In GNVQ the progressivism is apparent in the strong emphasis on student independence in learning in the grading criteria.

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A further important aspect of the GNVQ curriculum. This feature, valued by higher education and employers, allows the use of flexible and efficient learning modes and makes effective use of teacher time and physical resources. He contrasts this with what he calls the "traditional approach" which, he claims has a "much narrower focus on learning", with a frequently "didactic nature" emphasising "learning about rather than learning how to " emphasis in the original.

In this context progressivism is closely related to the concept of the practical curriculum, which through its rejection of the transmission of both disciplinary knowledge and occupationalist skills as its basis, implies a more active role for the learner. In some respects the persistence of elements of progressivism in the new vocationalism is surprising, coming as it does at a time when progressivism more generally has been under attack from Conservative politicians, commentators and right wing think-tanks as the source of many evils in education.

In contrast to the current climate, in the s and early s moves to more progressive pedagogy in secondary and further education were given a degree of official and quasi-official support through HMI, local authorities and curriculum development bodies such as the Schools Council and the FEU. The evidence for actual changes in pedagogical practice in schools and colleges is patchy but there are grounds for thinking that there was a gradual and uneven shift across a range of subjects and courses towards more student-centred approaches. It was ironic that I recently heard a teacher of GNVQ Business enthuse that the course was the nearest thing she had come across in secondary education to "good primary practice" when that very practice to which she aspired has been under sustained attack and blamed for many of the alleged deficiencies of primary education.

It is interesting that this shift to more student-centred methods in secondary schools and further education colleges has not aroused the ire of the traditionalists in the way progressive teaching in primary schools has done. This is perhaps because the ideology of progressive teaching at secondary and post-compulsory levels is much less well articulated and visible than is the case at primary level and also because in the s much of the progressive rhetoric was related to vocational education - had independent learning been stressed in GCE A levels to the extent it has been in GNVQs I suspect a great deal more opposition to the concept and its practice would have been heard.

In recent years much of the official and quasi-official support for progressivism has been eroded.


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