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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Guest editorial From: Education + Training, Volume 56, Issue 7
Curriculum design and implementation can determine whether educational provision is an emancipating or suppressing process. Therefore, any curriculum may be situated not as neutral or apolitical but at the centre of educational power. For example in an age of globalisation and neo-liberalism, it may be viewed as a product of market driven changes, where approaches to, for example Skills for Life involve a functional literacy approach. This is defined by its social purposes, in which there is an alignment between individual skills, the performance of society, the global economy and economic productivity. This eBook of Education and Training asks what kinds of curricula are found in Further Education and Training, and how do they conform or/and offer resistance to neo-liberal discourses within organisation? In what respect do policies, organisational contexts and cultures shape opportunities for challenging dominant discourses and offer critical spaces for more emancipatory approaches to pedagogy that contribute to social justice and challenge structural inequalities, such as class, gender and ethnicity, in Further Education and Training?
We would suggest that the notion of neo-liberalism and its implication that an individual is free to determine their own pathway, is limited by the impact of structural and historical inequalities: gender, race and class and other markers of identity that shape the learners’ educational journeys. One way in which this happens is that learners from disadvantaged backgrounds are not considered to have the right attributes to progress. As educators we have the moral responsibility to question the myth that the so-called “achievement gap” can be reduced by simply improving test scores of tests that reason to be neutral and objective while at the same time reproducing the neo-liberal way of life without challenging structural inequalities (Duckworth, 2013, p. 14). Such inequalities are the focus – in different forms – of the papers presented here.
The six different papers that are collected in this issue all draw on and respond to different elements of what can be seen as a broad debate around social justice in Further Education and Training. In keeping with the diversity that is paradigmatic to the sector (which encompasses 14-16 provision, 16-19 provision and provision for adults), the papers draw on a range of contexts from further and higher education, and from different national contexts.
Four of the papers focus on university provision. The paper by Ramachandra explores the complex issue of higher education's wider engagement with community education, a theme that is of clear importance beyond the specific context – Malaysia – that is the focus of the paper. The conceptual framework that is explored in this paper problematises the concept of the stakeholder: a central theme in neo-liberal discourses of educational provision. The paper by El-Shall is also situated within a theoretical discussion, and transposes neo-liberal discourses to the field of online learning. Online provision is here explored through an analysis of on-line curricular provision at one US university that – it is argued – diminishes autonomy and participation for the individual student. Bajada's paper explores another aspect of higher education provision, this time in Australia, that looks beyond the so-called “mainstream” student: the indigenous student. Through curriculum development and reform, ways of widening participation for this marginalised student population are explored. Millican's paper also focuses on student engagement, framing an empirical case study from one UK university within an international context.
The other two papers in this issue are both situated within the 14-19 sector, and are both derived from work done in the UK. Farrell's paper roots the discussion in the UK, and proposes an innovative framework for conceptualising the under-achievement of boys at key stages of the UK national curriculum. In place of the usual focus on vocational and technical provision for boys who are seen as being at risk of educational exclusion, Farrell instead considers the opportunities for understanding social justice in education through the religious education curriculum. The paper by Bailey moves the focus from students to teachers, and offers an account of an empirical study into the emergent professional learning and experience of newly qualified teachers in the UK further education sector. It adds to the ever-growing body of research that challenges the discourses of performativity and audit that characterise the UK further education sector.
It is hoped that these papers, which offer a number of compelling conclusions in their own right, will act to inspire further discussions concerning the structural inequalities that exist within different educational systems, as well as offering starting points – from the empirical work presented here – for alternative forms of praxis.
Dr Vicky Duckworth and Dr Jonathan Tummons
Duckworth, V. (2013), Learning Trajectories, Violence and Empowerment amongst Adult Basic Skills Learners, Monograph, Routledge Educational Research, London
Duckworth, V. (2014), “Literacy and transformation”, in Duckworth, V. and Ade-Ojo, G. (Eds), Landscapes of Specific Literacies in Contemporary Society: Exploring a Social Model of Literacy, Monograph, Routledge Research in Education, London (forthcoming)
About the Guest Editors
Dr Vicky Duckworth is a Senior Lecturer in Further Education and Training and a Senior Research Fellow at the Edge Hill University, UK.
Dr Jonathan Tummons, is a Lecturer in Education and MSc in Educational Assessment Pathway Leader at the Durham University, UK