- Stephen BillettStephen BillettGriffith University, School of Education and Professional Studies
This chapter aims to discuss what constitutes the project of vocational education through the elaboration of its key purposes. Although taking many and diverse institutional forms, and being perhaps the least unitary of educational sectors, vocational education stands as a distinct and long-standing educational provision premised on its own specific set of purposes. It has long been central to generating the occupational capacities that societies, communities, and workplaces need, contributing to individuals’ initial and ongoing occupational advancement and their sense of selves as working age adults. It also has the potential to be, and often is, the most inclusive of educational sectors by virtue of engaging the widest range of learners within its programs and institutions. Yet, because its manifestations are shaped by country-specific institutional arrangements and historical developments, it defies attempts to easily and crisply define or capture the singularity of its purposes, forms, and contributions. In some countries it is a distinct educational sector, quite separate from both schools and universities. This can include having industry-experienced teachers. In others, it is mainly enacted in high schools in the form of a broadly based technology education, mainly intended for students not progressing educationally beyond schooling, which promotes and reinforces its low standing. In others again, it comprises in postsecondary institutions that combine general and occupational education. These distinctions, such as being either more or less general or occupational educational provision, also change across time as policy imperatives arise and decline. Much of vocational education provisions are associated with initial occupational preparation, but some are also seen more generally as preparation for engaging in working life, and then others have focuses on continuing education and training and employability across working lives. Sometimes it is enacted wholly within educational institutions, but others can include, and even largely comprise, experiences in workplaces. So, whereas the institutions and provisions of primary, secondary, and university education have relatively common characteristics and profiles, this is far less the case with what is labeled vocational education. Indeed, because of the diversity of its forms and purposes, it is often the least distinguishable of the educational sectors within and across countries. In seeking to advance what constitutes vocational education, the approach adopted here is to focus on its four key educational purposes. These comprise of (a) preparation for the world of work, (b) identifying a preferred occupation, (c) occupational preparation, and (d) ongoing development across working life.
- Cognition, Emotion, and Learning
- Curriculum and Pedagogy
- Professional Learning and Development
- Educational Systems
- Educational History