Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Vocational education : Professor Stephen Billett's latest book

A hardcopy of Professor Stephen Billett’s new book ‘Vocational education: purposes, traditions and prospects’ arrived in the library just as I got back to work a month ago.  Usual preview also available on Google books. As much of the content is relevant to my research, I have put time  into working through the book.
In this book, Billett argues for better recognition/respect of the role of vocational education. To support the assertion he begins by undertaking a review of the positioning of vocational education through analysis of its historical roots, both in Western (Greek, Roman) and Asian (Chinese) traditions. Discussions continue by unpacking the connotations of the terms 'vocations' and 'occupations'. The historical valuing of vocations is contrasted to the more prosaic acceptance of the need for people to undertake paid work in the form of occupations. Of interest, is the collation of an argument for the deliberation of not only vocations but occupations as a calling. Thereby, closing the loop with regards to occupations and vocations, with some individuals, transforming their occupations into vocations.

The various economic, social and political pressures and continuous reforms within vocational education are then overviewed and brought together in the next few chapters on the development and purposes of vocational education.
Then a useful chapter, introducing, substantiating and describing the vocational education curricula as intended curriculum as decreed by standards setting bodies, enacted curriculum by those who deliver the learning required to take up a vocational occupation and the experienced curriculum as how learners/students encounter and engage with the learning. Parts of this are summarised in Billett’s keynote presentation last year at the Industry Training Federation’s (ITF) NZ vocational education research forum. The concept is useful when we assess the impact of vocational education on students who are being prepared (through pre-trade or university education) for work. Does the intended curriculum actually meet the needs of industry and is the curriculum as experienced by learners, actually sufficient preparation for the realities of work?


Overall, a scholarly book written for an academic audience. It provides good overview of the present state of affairs in the vocational education field. Vocational education is something governments require to assist with the training of a ‘skilled’ workforce. Yet, vocational education is more than ‘just training’, it prepares people for occupations , in turn providing livelihoods for many. For some, occupations are not just a job, but a means to also attain fulfilment. As vocational educators, we need to think through our objectives. Are we training? or educating? Does preparation for work also need to include many non-work related skills that help people become 'who they want to be and become'?  So, in a sense, the book raises many questions about vocational education's role - for individuals, society or humanity?

2 comments:

Jerry Gene said...

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