The Vocational Quest: New Directions in Education and Training

The Vocational Quest: New Directions in Education and Training

The Vocational Quest: New Directions in Education and Training

The Vocational Quest: New Directions in Education and Training

Synopsis

Government attempts in recent years to create a national system of vocational education and training have marked a profound shift both in educational policy and in underlying concepts of what education is for. Relations between schools and the working world are changing all the time and the implementation of ideas of vocationalism has forced a blurring of the time-honoured boundaries between educations concerned with concepts and training, or with skills. The challenge now is to define how the schools can give young people the foundations for life in a working world in which they are likely to have to change jobs and where work will fill a smaller proportion of their lives. The Vocational Questmaps the evolution of vocationalism in Britain in historical terms and examines how the particular forms that have come into being in the last few years compare with developments in other parts of the world, including Continental Europe, Japan, the United States, Australia and New Zealand. It argues for new forms of communication and partnership between formal education and training and the wider community, in which values will be shared and no one partner will win at the expense of others.

Excerpt

Of the many reforms and changes of direction that have marked English educational policy and practice in recent decades, none has been more profound in purpose and effect than endeavours to create a new national system of vocational education and training. The explanation reflects more than a century of concern over Britain’s industrial performance and, in more recent decades, economic weakness. More than this, however, the new vocationalism represents a profound challenge to an aristocratic and effete culture that, whatever its past merits, has weakened the country and resulted in educational and training systems that are simply inadequate to meet the challenges of the emerging global order.

As for the term ‘new vocationalism’, that raises as many questions as it answers. We have used it, consistently we hope, to refer to a complex amalgam of ideas, policies, legal and regulatory structures and practical endeavours whereby the nation’s education and training systems have been reformed and restructured through government-led, partnership-type initiatives. These reforms, not all successful, have had as their principal purpose greater participation, especially by young school-leavers who are ill-equipped for either working life or further education, and an improved quality and relevance of the various schemes and arrangements put in place to foster and encourage continued engagement in some kind of employment-focused education and training. It is ‘new’ not so much because of individual components, such as work-based, broadly defined training, and partnerships between employers, training authorities, government and employment agencies, but because of the concerted drive to bring these and other elements together in highly visible and well-financed schemes. The new vocationalism which focused on work preparation or work-focused training has extended into schools to present a broad orientation and more positive attitudes towards working life. The ancient distinctions between education and training are, as a consequence, becoming blurred: skills, for example, often treated as the province of training—concepts perhaps being the counterpart in education—are now

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