Twenty-first Century Vocational Education in the UK: What Would Dickens Think?
in the new millennium for some young people would not be out of place in a
Dickensian novel, says a leading professor of vocational education at the
University of Leicester.
Lorna Unwin has hit out at the UK's approach to vocational education which, she
says, has become more confused and impoverished than ever.
Unwin, based at the respected Centre for Labour Market Studies at the University
of Leicester, delivers her inaugural lecture, 21st Century Vocational Education
in the UK: What Would Dickens Think? on May 21st 2002.
said: "Despite its central importance to contemporary society, vocational
education in the UK is being dissipated.
of celebrating skill and vocational knowledge, the UK has embroiled itself in
tortuous debates about parity of esteem whilst, paradoxically, also attempting
to reduce its once well-respected vocational qualifications to a thin soup of
2002, young people can still find themselves apprenticed to employers who would
not be out of place in a novel by Charles Dickens: some play a positive role in
young people's lives, whilst others enslave them.
government is currently seeking reactions to its Green Paper on 14-19 education
and training in which vocational education is defined solely in terms of its
value to the economy. The lecture argues, however, that in everyday life,
vocational education supports people's need to create artefacts, to improve
their surroundings, to fight against becoming de-skilled consumers, to feel part
of the natural world, and to demonstrate the true extent of their
improve vocational education in the UK, the lecture recommends a series of
redefinition of vocational education to embrace its social, cultural and
establishment of a national research and development institute dedicated to
investment in the training and salaries of vocational teachers
tighter regulation of employers who receive government funds for training.
Unwin is currently researching the changing meaning of apprenticeship in the UK
and the ways in which young people and older workers learn from each other in
was a core member of the National Skills Task Force Research Group and is a
member of the DfES's 14-19 Education Panel. She has authored books on the
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