Helping parents without a diploma to obtain one

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University of Strathclyde, Lord Hope Building, Room LH213a & 213b

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Helping parents without a diploma to obtain one: A question of social justice?

You are warmly invited to the talk below by Prof Rachel Bélisle, Université de Sherbrooke (Canada).

In Canada, provinces are responsible for the educational system and, since 1997, for taking active measures to increase employment that focus on enhancing the skills and competencies of the labor force. In Québec, these two systems, as career guidance services, are run differently from the ones in other Canadian provinces. However, a point in common to all is that, to different degrees, the educational system has a low degree of institutional differentiation (Pfeffer, 2015), and the possibilities, after the compulsory school leaving age (16 in Québec) to change programs or to go back to school as an adult are numerous. Nevertheless, adults without a secondary school diploma (Highers in the Scottish context) face many institutional, situational or dispositional barriers (Lavoie et al., 2007) and, even those who try to obtain a Secondary School Diploma or Diploma of Vocational Studies frequently interrupt their studies. As in many countries adopting a neoliberal lifelong learning perspective, government language regarding careers (Bergmo-Prvulovic, 2012) is ambiguous and the individual’s aspirations and career are often subordinated to the needs of the job market. Yet, in the lifelong guidance field, many actors help adults to find their own path and improve their contributions to their family, community and society and providing that help to promote social justice.

Based on the results of a study into the career guidance needs of adults without a secondary diploma in Québec (Bélisle & Bourdon, 2015), this paper will focus on the case of parents. This study confirms that parenthood is frequently a motivation for going back to school, for women and men of all ages, as well as being an important barrier and source of ambivalence. Knowing that educational attainment is an important social determinant of health and that parents’ schooling plays an important role in developing cultural capital, this paper will discuss the role of research and diverse institutions and professional groups in enhancing the support to parents without a secondary diploma who want to obtain one, in both Scotland and in Québec.


Bélisle, R., & Bourdon, S. (Eds.). (2015). Tous ces chemins qui mènent à un premier diplôme. Orientation des adultes sans diplôme dans une perspective d’apprentissage tout au long de la vie. Rapport de recherche préparé dans le cadre d’une Action concertée MELS, MESS et FRQSC. Sherbrooke/Québec: Centre d’études et de recherches sur les transitions et l’apprentissage (CÉRTA) et Fonds de recherche Québec - Société et culture (FRQSC). Retrieved from: .

Bergmo-Prvulovic, I. (2012). Subordinating careers to market forces? A critical analysis of European career guidance policy, European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adultes, 3(2), 155-170.

Lavoie, N., Lévesque, J.-Y., & Lapointe, D. (2007). Mieux comprendre les obstacles qui entravent le retour en formation des adultes peu scolarisés. Savoirs, 13(1), 63-78.
Pfeffer, F.T. (2015). Equality and quality in education. A comparative study of 19 countries. Social Science Research, (51), 350-368.

Paper in English about the study
Bélisle, R. & Bourdon, S. (2015). Guidance and career services used by adults without a diploma who envision going back to school. In R. Mc Gray (Ed.), Proceedings of the 2015 Annual Conference of CASAE/ACÉÉA (p. 23-28). Ottawa: The Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education. Retrieved from:

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University of Strathclyde, Lord Hope Building, Room LH213a & 213b

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