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The relevance of class in education policy and research: the case of Sweden’s vocational education
Örebro University, School of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences, Örebro University, Sweden.
2012 (English)In: Education Inquiry, ISSN 2000-4508, Vol. 3, no 4, 591-613 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Over the last few decades, less importance has been attached to the concept of class in educational policy and educational research. Due to the continued relevance of class in many educational contexts, this article argues that this trend is unfortunate, untimely and unwarranted, and that important questions are overlooked as a result. As a case in point, the article examines contemporary policy trends in upper-secondary vocational education in Sweden. The article comprises two interrelated sections. The first discusses the more general matter of the relevance of class (and its critique) and how class can be understood in contemporary society. Following the conclusions from part one, the second section demonstrates how problems arise when vocational education is removed from its class context, illustrated by contemporary policy trends in Sweden where not only issues of class  are ignored, but policies are also adopted that are likely to augment class inequalities.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 3, no 4, 591-613 p.
Keyword [en]
social class, education policy, vocational education, upper-secondary education, curriculum
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Education
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-31898OAI: oai:DiVA.org:oru-31898DiVA: diva2:655430
Available from: 2013-10-11 Created: 2013-10-11 Last updated: 2013-11-28Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Yrkesutbildning, klass & kunskap: en studie om sociala och politiska implikationer av innehållets organisering i yrkesorienterad utbildning med fokus på 2011 års gymnasiereform
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Yrkesutbildning, klass & kunskap: en studie om sociala och politiska implikationer av innehållets organisering i yrkesorienterad utbildning med fokus på 2011 års gymnasiereform
2013 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [sv]

The overall purpose of this thesis is to critically contextualise the organization of content in Swedish upper-secondary vocational education by highlighting its social and political implications in relation to social class. Policy documents concerning the content of vocational education in Sweden from 1971 to 2011 serve as the main empirical source, with particular attention given to the reform of 2011 (Gy11). The thesis is comprised of four studies that each represents a different context that reveals social and political implications of the selection and organisation of content in Gy11. The content structure of Gy11 is thus analysed in relation to (a) the school’s role of fostering democratic citizens and the overarching societal function of education, (b) knowledge distribution among social classes, (c) a class context, including key historical and contemporary reforms, and (d) a modern historical context, focusing on how two previous structural reforms (1971 and 1994) organised power and control over educational content.

The study results show that, in terms of its content structure and underlying principles, Gy11 represents a historical break with previous reforms in many respects. Fundamental organising principles of past reforms, such as students’ preparation for active citizenship, critical thinking and entry to higher education, have been given less importance while the content is more context-bound than in previous reforms. The Gy11 reform can thus be seen as a part of a broader policy trend that is detracting from earlier efforts to give all social classes equal access to an equivalent education and reduce social imbalances in education. This new way of shaping vocational education is, it is argued, likely to exacerbate class inequalities by both reducing social mobility and rendering knowledge distribution in society more asymmetric.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Örebro: Örebro universitet, 2013. 153 p.
Series
Örebro Studies in Education, ISSN 1404-9570 ; 40
Series
Örebro Studies in Educational Sciences with an Emphasis on Didactics, 8
Keyword
curriculum theory, vocational education, class, education policy, knowledge, curriculum codes, upper-secondary school, Bernstein, Englund, Olin Wright
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-29316 (URN)978-91-7668-953-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2013-09-27, Hörsal Prisma, Örebro universitet, Fakultetsgatan 1, Örebro, 13:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Available from: 2013-06-04 Created: 2013-06-04 Last updated: 2013-11-28Bibliographically approved

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