Reductionist trends in education and training for work: skills, competences and work-based learning

Hyland, Terry (2006) Reductionist trends in education and training for work: skills, competences and work-based learning. In: Work, Education and Employability, 14 - 17 December 2006, Monte Verità, Ascona. (Submitted)


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Recent policy trends in vocational education and training (VET) in the UK and Europe (Hyland,2006) have been characterised by a neo-behaviourist reductionism which replaces rich conceptions of knowledge, understanding and vocational practice with narrowly prescriptive skills and competences. The principal driving forces consist in a combination of factors including the search for quick and easy solutions to complex problems, the remnants of a neo-liberal project to transform occupational and professional knowledge and culture under the 'corporate state' (Ranson, 1994), the crude commercialism which informs the marketing of pre-packaged vocational qualifications (Hyland, 1998) and - arguably, the most powerful driver of VET developments over the last few decades - the pervasive and relentless influence of competence-based education and training (CBET) at all levels of state education systems (Hyland, 1994, 1999). This behaviourist and simplistic approach to VET reform is criticised by examining the principal weaknesses of attempting to reduce VET aims and objectives to skills and competences. Not only is such a strategy - especially in the form of CBET trends - philosophically and educationally flawed, it fails to achieve even the minimum goals of advancing the reform of VET and enhancing occupational/professional knowledge and practice. In addition to this failure to boost economic capital, such an approach militates against the fostering of that social capital which is now emphasised in the lifelong learning policy statements of most European nations. Indeed, the obsession with pre-specified competences and skills reflected in recent reform programmes has served to morally impoverish large aspects of post-school provision in the UK (Hyland & Merrill,2003). However, on a more optimistic note, recent initiatives in work-based learning may help to reverse the reductionism by pointing towards richer conceptions of vocationalism which incorporate a greater balance between general and vocational learning and stress both social and economic capital.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Vocational Education and Training, Skills, Competences, Critique of VET Policy trends
Divisions: School of Education and Psychology > Education
Depositing User: Scott Wilson
Date Deposited: 26 Nov 2013 12:36
Last Modified: 01 Mar 2016 12:54

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