THERE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN VOCATIONAL ASPECTS TO SCHOOLING IN AUSTRALIA. HOWEVER, IN RECENT TIMES THERE HAS BEEN AN INCREASED EMPHASIS ON THIS ASPECT OF SCHOOLING WITHIN BOTH THE GENERAL CURRICULUM AND THOSE AREAS THAT HAVE A PARTICULAR VOCATIONAL FLAVOUR. IN WHAT WAYS DOES THIS EMPHASIS PROVIDE A BROADER OR NARROWER CONCEPTION OF EDUCTION FOR SCHOOL STUDENTS? YOUR RESPONSE NEEDS TO REFER TO: (I) THE AIMS OF THE ?
NEW VOCATIONALISM’ AND HOW IT IS CURRENTLY BEING MANIFESTED IN SECONDARY SCHOOLING; (II) HOW EQUALITY OF OUTCOMES FOR ALL SENIOR STUDENTS CAN BE MANAGED AT AT TIME OF HIGH STUDENT RETENTION IN THE POST-COMPULSORY YEARS AND (III) A CRITIQUE OF THE CURRENT VET IN SCHOOLS POLICY. Aims and Origins of New Vocationalism What is vocational education? That depends on the period in history and whom you ask. There is probably no greater bone of contention or confusion among educators. Vocational education or educating students to fulfil their vocation or calling in life is such a broad definition.
Traditionally it has been seen as an education for those not taking up tertiary studies, for those who instead undertake hands on training before entering the world of work. If this then is the definition, entry to some of the most highly regarded professions, is through vocational education. Take for example the doctor, teacher or the architect. In each of these cases the undergraduate student must undertake some form of on the job training and examination in order to receive their registration. This then changes the focus of vocational education.
No longer can we look from the traditional view that it is for tradespeople, or blue-collar workers. We must then take a more encompassing view that it is necessary element of education for all students, to give them the grounding to deal with the challenges of the work force, regardless of the esteem the work they will ultimately do is held in. Vocational Education is certainly not a new phenomenon. It has existed in some form or another in Australia schools since formal education began (Skilbeck et al, 1994). Vocational education has always been at the whim of the financial and political climate.
In a boom, there is a surge in popularity in order to meet the skills shortages, in an economic crisis it is seen as the best “way out” (Keating, 1998). Since the industrial revolution there have been calls from industry for education to better reflect and mirror those skills which are required in the world of work (Davies, 1996 in Pollard et al, 1988). The education system has always had a vocational component, it may have been disguised by a variety of titles, but it has always existed (Skilbeck et al, 1994).
“New vocationalism” was born of 3 major factors: changes in political focus and government policy, lack of confidence in the educational system and an increasing retention rate of students in years 11 and 12 due to the rising youth unemployment (Pollard et al, 1988). Industry has also increasingly demanded better-equipped job seekers. It has for many decades criticised the educational institutions apparent disregard for the needs of a well skilled, motivated and disciplined work force (Davies, 1986).
This s to say that the sorts of basic levels of communication, problem solving and conflict resolution skills needed to “fit in” in the work place were not adequately addressed or developed by the academic focus of schools. The new vocationalism then, has four main characteristics according to Dale (1985b in Pollard et al, 1988). The first is that it has a specific target age group, 14 to 18, and of those the lower two thirds of the academic ability range. Secondly it is clear in its focus on training students for jobs. Adjustments in attitudes are a major part of this.
New vocationalism thirdly recognises the ingrained bias of education and training toward academic pursuits. Fourthly and finally it recognises that there is an element of society at large who are yet to be convinced of the value of the new initiatives. It is ironic to note that the increasing retention rate in senior high school has caused a re-focusing and greater attention to be given to preparing pupils for work. This is seen as a way to motivate students to complete their qualifications and enable them to gain an edge over other job seekers (Pollack et al, 1988).
The loss of confidence in education also served to re-focus those both inside and outside the system. The change in attitude towards unemployment from it being a personal failing (individual deficit model), to a reflection on a person’s access to training and educational services (Pollack et al, 1988). This led to the establishment of work experience schemes to provide more real world experience and thereby increase employability. New vocationalism then is a change in the direction of education and training.
It has caused a re-focusing and re-orientation of policy and outcomes for those students who would have traditionally gone into non-academic careers (Pollack et al, 1988). Implications for school students The change in the focus has been slow on the uptake. The majority of VET (Vocational Education and Training) is in government schools. Private schools are yet to fully embrace the new initiatives. This is not to say that one or other is better, it is simply a consequence of the major change in thinking, timetabling, administration and implementation of the goals of VET.
Traditionally the school senior secondary school environment did not need to concern itself with the different skills required for non academic careers (ANTA web site, 2000). There are 2 major streams to VET currently in schools, those that relate to receiving a senior certificate, general education, and those which are directly linked to national industry competency standards, leading to a national qualification (vocational education and training programs) (ANTA web site, 2000).
The later include on the job training coupled with industry specific courses (apprenticeship or traineeship), out of school hours courses or work and classes at schools which have a work experience or work placement addition to the chalk and talk of the classroom. General educational courses are not completely devoid of VET. Programs such as work experience for all students in years 9 and 10 allow students and employers to test the water and show off the respective skills they have (ANTA web site, 2000).
VET can be highly tailored, depending on the programs in place in a region or school, students may undertake discrete VET courses, dual award and recognition arrangements can be made, general education courses can contain embedded models as well as the part time traineeships (Keating, 1998). There are a variety of combinations of VET programs, this make the training and education a student can undertake more suited to their own personal goals and needs. Programs are constantly changing or being adapted to better suit both student and industry (Keating, 1998).
Possibly the most significant alteration new vocationalism has brought about is competency based training (CBT). As with all new schemes, it has positive and negatives. The idea of a pass or fail, competent or not scale is very valid to employers, especially since the value of a grade or exit standard has little or vague meaning to those outside the educational system. However it has caused some problems for students undertaking a composite of general and vocational education and training. CBT permits the retaking of levels until the student reaches competency.
General education however requires students to perform at their best at a specific time, first time. This could lead to some students who are excelling in CBT, failing general education courses. Students who undertake VET have been shown to be more positive in their outlook, have a higher level of motivation, improved interpersonal skills, and greater career awareness, as well as being seen to be more employable (Scharaschkin et al, 1995 in Frost, 2000). Students are also better able to make value judgements, see the connection between work and school and understand the world of business (Robinson & Kenyan, 1998).
This means that they are better able to embrace the ? work ethic’ while sparking their interest in higher education and training. Students then benefit from the variety of styles and tailoring that VET offers. Their ability to relate their formal education to the skills and competencies required to be an effective member of the work community is beneficial to them and increases their chances of employment. These positive outcomes were not being addressed prior to the new vocationalism and have constantly live in the shadow of general education up until now. Analysis of current VET policy for schools.
While the current VET policy is widely quoted and there is a great deal of material on it, I don’t feel terribly equipped to analysis it in a practical sense. There were no vocational educational options offered when I attended high school, which was not that many years ago. Admittedly I attended a catholic all girls college, but we were all herded into general education courses and very little consideration was given to those students who were not going on to university educations. This means that I have no idea of, nor do I know of anyone who has experienced these programs and seen or heard their thoughts and perceptions of the outcomes.
So I have made my analysis purely from the perspective of the underlying ideals that VET hopes to promote, along with my own thoughts on what sorts of problems and barriers it could encounter. The ideology behind new vocationalism is theoretically sound. Giving students access to education and training which better suits their post education needs, makes complete logical sense. It is only natural then, to assume that if students are undertaking studies which more directly relate to their interests, that they will be more motivated to complete the training required to enter their chosen field.
As anyone who loves his or her work will tell you, when it is something you enjoy, you will go the extra mile to do the job well. On the down side, I think the implementation and promotion of these new initiatives would be quite a task. Setting up of competencies and standards, training those who assess them, ensuring that the requirements do not clash with any industry awards or legislation etc, the funding and general administration of these programs cannot be a simple task. This is an are where I think it will take quite sometime to iron out the ?
kinks’ in the system. The ongoing paperwork and maintenance of these projects, if too large, would only serve to alienate the industry for which the training is intended. From personal experience as a liaison officer for a cultural exchange program, problems that begin at the size of a pebble in your shoe can be blown out of all proportion if not dealt with promptly and efficiently. Advisory and troubleshooting contacts that can deal with any issues promptly would be essential to the success of these programs. This
also applies to preparing the students well before they begin these programs. To take an apprentice as an example, if he or she does not know what to expect when they undertake and apprenticeship, how are they to know if what they are doing on their days of on the job training is correct? Students and employers need to have a comprehensive understanding of what is and isn’t acceptable, to avoid situations which have made headlines in recent years such as work place harassment and apprentices being used as simple gophers.
From what I have read in the readings and study guide from this assignment, as well as the reading I have undertaken in preparation for this assignment, it is clear to me that my teacher training so far has not prepared me to be able to accommodate these types of programs in my curriculum areas. And while Japanese teaching may not have a large VET component, computer studies and information processing technology certainly can. New vocationalism has given a name to an area of my teaching philosophy that students should be able to relate what they learn in the classroom directly to the outside world.
That education should reflect the world it prepares students to live in, and not simply focus on the facts so that students reach set academic levels. Not all students have talent in all areas, and new vocationalism is a way of tailoring education to better suit the changing needs of our students as they enter the unknown world of this new millennium. References ANTA web site, 2000. http://www. anta. gov. au/abc/VETinSchools. htm Frost, M. 2000. Releasing the Genie: The Impact of VET in Schools on Education. Curriculum Perspectives 20:1 (pp45-50). Downloaded from web site: http://www.
vetnetwork. org. au/resources/papers/acapaper. html Keating, J. 1998. Australian Training Reform: Implications for Schools (Revised Edition). Curriculum Corporation, Melbourne, Victoria. Pollard, A. , Puvris, J. & Walford, G. 1988. Education Training & the New Vocationalism: Experience and Policy. Open University Press, Milton Keynes. Robinson, C. & Kenyan, R. 1998. The Market for Vocational Education & Training. NCVER, Leabrook, SA. Skilbeck, M. Connell, H. Lowe, N. & Tait, K. 1994. The Vocational Quest: New Directions in Education and Training. Routledge, London.