Swimming against the tide: reductionist behaviourism in the harmonisation of european higher education systems

Hyland, Terry (2006) Swimming against the tide: reductionist behaviourism in the harmonisation of european higher education systems. Prospero, 12 (1). pp. 24-30. ISSN 1358-6785

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Although there are some positive elements in the aims and procedures of the Bologna process, key objectives for higher education (HE) reform and harmonisation are still overly influenced by a neo-behaviourist reductionism which replaces rich conceptions of knowledge and understanding with narrowly prescriptive competences and skills. The principal driving forces consist in a combination of factors including the remnants of a neo-liberal project to transform public service culture under the ?corporate state? (Ranson, 1994), the crude commercialism which informs the marketing of pre-packaged qualifications (Hyland, 1998a) and - arguably, the most powerful driver of educational 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, 1998b,1999). This behaviourist and simplistic approach to HE reform is criticised by examining the principal weaknesses of the attempt to reduce educational aims and objectives to competences and skills. Not only is such a strategy - especially in the form of CBET developments - philosophically and educationally flawed, it fails to achieve even the minimum objectives of advancing the reform of vocational education and training (VET) and enhancing professional/occupational knowledge and skill. 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 (Field & Leicester, 2000). Indeed, the obsession with pre-specified competences and skills reflected in recent reform programmes has served to morally impoverish (Hyland & Merrill, 2003) large aspects of the post-school educational enterprise to such an extent that it would be wilfully perverse for educators concerned with HE reform in Europe to have anything to do with such de-humanised and simplistic reductionism.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an electronic version of the article published in Prospero, 12(1), pp.24-30, 2006.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Competence-Based Education and Training, NVQs, Critical Policy Analysis
Divisions: School of Education and Psychology > Education
Depositing User: Scott Wilson
Date Deposited: 26 Nov 2013 12:49
Last Modified: 04 Feb 2014 09:30
URI: http://ubir.bolton.ac.uk/id/eprint/203

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