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Gendered distribution of ‘knowledge required for empowerment’ in Swedish vocational education curricula?

Journal article
Authors Kristina Ledman
Per-Åke Rosvall
Mattias Nylund
Published in Journal of Vocational Education and Training
Volume 70
Issue 1
Pages 85-106
ISSN 1363-6820
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Education and Special Education
Pages 85-106
Language en
Keywords Vocational education and training; gender and educational training; policy analysis; policy issues; gender and learning; curriculum
Subject categories Educational Sciences


Sweden is internationally commended for a high degree of gender equality, but many divisions in Swedish society, including the labour market, disadvantage women. This paper addresses gendered divisions of preparation for civic participation in the vocational upper secondary national curricula, which may participate in reproduction of the pattern. In a comparative analysis of the curriculum guidelines for different vocational upper secondary programmes, we focus on the inclusion of important knowledge for empowerment and how knowledge is contextualised in terms of valued labour positions. We deploy Bernstein’s concepts of horizontal and vertical discourse and Connell’s concepts of production, consumption and gendered accumulation. A general finding is that vertical discourse is contextualised towards discourses of consumption in girl-dominated programmes and towards discourses of production in boy- dominated programmes. Boy-dominated programmes include more knowledge that can be clearly classified in recognised disciplines or fields, whereas girl-dominated programmes include courses of undefined knowledge, such as creativity and entrepreneurship. We conclude that the vocational curricula reinforce rather than challenge existing gender structures in the labour market and wider society. In a historical perspective, it can be concluded that Swedish vocational education policy has a continuum of ‘gender- blindness', and thus confirming with wider norms.

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