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The potential and pitfalls of the capabilities approach in vocational educa...

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C35, Dearing Building

Jubilee Campus

University of Nottingham

Nottingham

NG8 1BB

United Kingdom

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This is a Centre for International Education Research seminar

Presented by Professor Leesa Wheelahan, University of Toronto

The capabilities approach is emerging as an important alternative to competency-based training in vocational education and training (CBT) in countries such as South Africa and Australia. CBT’s limitations are becoming increasingly clear: it leads to narrow, task-focused notions of skill that ignore the broader knowledge, skills and attributes that individuals need to contribute to their occupations, families and communities. It is based on an impoverished notion of the individual – one who is a supervised worker using procedural skills.

In drawing on the work of Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum, the capabilities approach is concerned with human flourishing, and it is being used to develop a conceptual basis for thinking about, designing and evaluating VET systems, institutions and credentials. It starts from a social justice premise by asking about the conditions that are needed to ensure that individuals have the capabilities they need to make choices about their lives, and to live lives that they have reason to value.

What could go wrong with using this approach? Quite a lot. This presentation will consider the potential and pitfalls of using the capabilities approach to underpin vocational education systems, institutions and qualifications. While the capabilities approach has great value and potential, it cannot, on its own, provide the basis for VET. Developing a framework for VET requires a substantive social analysis about the nature of VET and the role that VET institutions and qualifications play in society. The key argument I will develop is that implementation of the capabilities approach cannot be approached from the problem of standards. The main point of the capabilities approach is not to underpin better standards. Instead, we must ask about the nature of institutions, the role of qualifications in the labour market and society, the types of transition systems in which VET. This provides a grounding for the capabilities approach in VET so that its social justice and transformative potential can be better understood.

Refreshments will be available




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C35, Dearing Building

Jubilee Campus

University of Nottingham

Nottingham

NG8 1BB

United Kingdom

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