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Post-Compulsory Education - Essay Example

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At the very heart of the post -compulsory debate lies competing views of the purposes of post - compulsory, and even compulsory, education. Since the days of the Mechanics' Institutes, through Technical and FE Colleges, the greatest emphasis has always been upon the preparation of young people and others for work…
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Download file to see previous pages It was the emphasis upon further education providing a preparation for jobs which underpinned the new vocationalism of the 1980s. However, in more recent years, the provision of a 'vocational education' has come to be recognised as a more complex matter than that of simply training students in job-specific skills. While it is true to say that General, Liberal and Social Studies appendages to post -war vocational courses were an attempt to provide students with a wider educational base to their studies, it was the BTEC curriculum introduced from the early 1980s which took the first significant steps towards a preparation for work within a broader concept of vocational education. The development of TVEI as an enhancement curriculum, of generic and core skills, and of modular course structures such as GNVQ can be seen as further evidence of some general shift towards a broader, re-focused vocationalism.
The reasons behind these shifts are themselves interesting and result from analyses of the changing needs of the economy, the labour market and, in particular, the nature of work. Post -Fordist and other analyses of current and prospective transformations in Western societies have stressed a requirement for some form of 'flexible' knowledge worker within collaborative, hightrust, high-skill, work relations (Brown and Lauder, 1991) and it is with some, albeit hasty and superficial, appreciation of these requirements that curriculum development has been stimulated. I say hasty and superficial because, a high degree of uncertainty still surrounds the extent of, the directions of, and the full implications of the developments anticipated in the post -Fordist analysis. Indeed, evidence of the anticipated flatter, leaner, hierarchies is not in great abundance, at least in Britain. Moreover, the surface features of post -Fordism are largely indistinguishable from those of the 'enterprise culture' and, where curriculum developments do not address fundamental differences between the two, their unresolved contradictions are carried forward into course planning. 'Student-centred learning', 'autonomy', 'entitlement', 'empowerment', 'democracy' and 'citizenship', which figure prominently in recent curriculum developments, are examples of concepts in popular use in post-compulsory education whose rhetorical value is their power to legitimise and compel common assent to curriculum innovations but whose more sinister function is to obscure the need for critical examination of those innovations (Avis, 1993:13-14).
Nonetheless, many of the reforms to have taken place in post-compulsory education since the early 1990s, despite the problematic nature of their underlying evidence and logic, reflect a clear and visible attempt to shift from a narrowly focused 'preparation for work' towards some notion of preparation 'for life', 'for citizenship', 'for multi-skilled work' and 'for collaborative work relationships'. While the effects of such shifts are most evident in full-time vocational courses, and to some extent in A-level programmes, they have received little or no recognition in NVQ levels 1, 2 and 3. Consequently, the once clear purpose of vocational education has become bifurcated into 'vocational education' based in some broader concepts of vocation and preparation and 'occupational training' whose primary concern is to equip learners with skills for jobs.
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