02 SES 11 C, VETNET Early Career Researchers - Swedish PhD Programmes in Vocational Pedagogy
VETNET Early Carreer Researchers
In 2011 the Swedish government launched “Upper Secondary Apprenticeship” as one of two pathways to a vocational exam. During a preceding pilot project (2008-2011), and through the succeeding implementation period, the government supported educators both financially, and with strategic advice from the Swedish National Agency for Education. Despite these efforts, the apprenticeship initiative has not been a success. The number of students is much lower than expected. In contrast to apprenticeship models in other countries the Swedish initiative is school based, and the educators’ responsibility. Workplaces participate on voluntary basis. However, the political desire to consolidate and expand this form of education is stronger than ever, among other things with reference to success in other European countries.
The aim of this paper is to discuss tensions that are embedded in Swedish Upper Secondary Apprenticeship from a cultural-historical perspective. A main argument is: In order to understand national VET systems it is important not only to pay attention to the national policy trajectories, and to the intersections between school and work. Attention also needs to be directed towards the different education traditions developed within the trade branches. Given the Swedish tradition of school based initial vocational education it is reasonable to assume that apprenticeship does not easily find its shape.
The paper explores how stakeholders in different sectors on the labour market stabilise upper secondary apprenticeship in their responses to policy suggestions on the matter. 1) What kinds of problems can be identified? 2) How can these problems be understood against their cultural-historical basis? 3) How is upper secondary apprenticeship shaped as an activity by different stakeholders?
A very brief cultural historical overview indicates potential tensions inbuilt in the formation of “Upper Secondary Apprenticeship” as an education model in contemporary Swedish society. When the national system for vocational education and training was established in 1918, neither the different forms for vocational education nor apprenticeship schools managed to obtain a strong position in society (Hedman 2001). In addition the different labour market sectors showed little interest in taking responsibility for education that targeted broader knowledge. In the beginning of the 1970s vocational education was integrated under the same organisational umbrella as the general academic programmes, among other things as an aspect of the welfare state (Nilsson 1981). Vocational education now became an educational policy issue rather than an issue for labour market policy. Around twenty years later all study programmes qualified for higher education, as a democratic foundation for all. The latest reform however (2011) has again created a separation between the vocational and the general academic programmes, including introduction of the school based “Upper Secondary Apprenticeship” model without employment relations.
An analytical point of departure is the primary contradiction of education and labour; e.g. the purposes of education, and the value it holds for different stakeholders (Engeström, 1987). Apprenticeship education is then analysed as an object-driven activity. Object-driven activities are developed in accordance with societal needs (Engeström, 1999). They have a societal relevance, and they are stabilising the activities. In addition, long cyclic as they are in their nature objects are also volatile and unstable, difficult to fully grasp. Humans make objects, and objects motivate the activity. Hence, objects have the power to generate actions and activities.
In this instance, the “Upper Secondary Apprenticeship” is developed as a political educational innovation to solve specific societal problems, namely school dropouts, and high youth unemployment. The theoretical framework opens up for a closer examination of the infusion of education into the activities of the workplaces and thus as concerns for the labour market parties, and the subsequent tensions that can be identified.
Engeström, Y. (1987). Learning by expanding: an activity theoretical approach to developmental research. Helsinki: Orienta-Konsultit. (368 p). (Finns som elektronisk resurs). Engeström, Y. (1999). Activity theory and individual and social transformation. In Y. Engeström, R. Miettinen & R-L. Punamäki (Eds.), Perspectives on activity theory (s. 19-38). Cambridge University Press. (19 p). Engeström, Y. och Sannino, A. (2011) ”Discursive manfestations of contradictions in organizational change efforts. A methodological framework”. Journal of Organizational Change Management. Vol. 24 No. 3 (s 368-387) Hedman, A. (2001). I nationens och det praktiska livets tjänst. Det svenska yrkesskolesystemets tillkomst och utveckling 1918 till 1940. (The origins and development of the Swedish vocational education and training system, 1918 to 1940). Dissertation. University of Umeå Nilson, L. (1981) Yrkesutbildning i nutidshistoriskt perspektiv : yrkesutbildningens utveckling från skråväsendets upphörande 1846 till 1980-talet samt tankar om framtida inriktning (Vocational education : an historical analysis : the development of the vocational school). Dissertation. University of Gothenburg
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