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Habituating students towards marginality and a life in the precariat,

Konferensbidrag (offentliggjort, men ej förlagsutgivet)
Författare Marianne Dovemark
Dennis Beach
Publicerad i The European Conference on Educational Research, ECER, Porto, September 2014.
Publiceringsår 2014
Publicerad vid Institutionen för pedagogik och specialpedagogik
Språk en
Ämnesord Ethnography, freedom of choice, differentiation, upper secondary school, precariat
Ämneskategorier Utbildningsvetenskap, Pedagogik


The present as well as the previous Swedish Education Acts (1997:107; 2002:120; 2010:800) state that education should be equivalent and designed in accordance with basic democratic values and human rights in terms of citizenship possibilities and democracy. The present paper takes its point of departure in Swedish upper secondary education. It concerns selection and differentiation processes there and at the interface of this school with the comprehensive sector. The data in the paper is generated from a school department called Chisel, an individual alternative within the former Individual Programme (IP) within the previous Swedish Education Act (2002:120). Its main formally expressed goal was to enable students to become eligible for a national programme. IP has now been replaced by five new programmes called introductory programmes which are, like the former IP, supposed to satisfy students’ different educational needs and provides clear educational routes. As the name indicated the Individual Programme was strongly focused on the individual student. In official policy formulations it was concerned with preparing students for further studies in the upper-secondary school, including also even theoretical studies on academic programmes, as a foundation for higher education and life-long-learning. This was very clear in policy texts such as SOU 1997:107 and SOU 2002:120. However, in practice, in local educational work within schools themselves, official policy was usually re-contextualised according to different parameters. Ethnographic studies (see e g Beach and Dovemark, 2011; Dovemark, 2011) have identified two important dimensions: (i) a deficit view of the pupils attending the programme on the part of teacher teams and local educational leadership and (ii) a concomitant downscaling of the education they were offered to vocational training categories. As described in Beach (1999) they cut across understandings of pupils from all non-academic study programmes and represent a deep democracy problem at the very heart of our ‘one-school-for all’ ideal (Jonsson & Beach, 2013). Methods The data, upon which this paper focuses, has primarily been produced from transcribed (field) interviews and observations into one particular research project but it links also to other previous investigations. In addition to participant observation and interviewing at the sites we have also read web sites and folders about the IP. All interview- and observation- transcriptions have been read and coded towards what has been recognised as important and interesting. Bernstein’s theoretical contributions to the analysis of educational class relations has guided us in this (Bernstein, 1975, 1999, 2000). This is an interpretative act that involves perception shaped by implicit or explicit theories (Trondman, 2008) or ideas that privilege certain meaning formations, in our case interpretations towards Bernstein’s device (Bernstein, 2000) in terms of a system of rules aimed to explain how symbolic control is materialised and realised in pedagogic practice. Expected outcomes Our data reveal an increasing erosion of trust to the idea and practice of inclusion as a fundamental goal of the education system, and a narrowing of spaces where the older narratives of equality can be asserted. Teachers placed low demands on and had low expectations of the students at the studied programme and they generally quite vigorously advised them away from academically demanding choices toward manual work. Due to the individual schedules and the strong emphasis on freedom of choice students could also get away with following academic studies for just one day a week. The curriculum that was developed to serve the pupils group could be described as formed according to a typically horizontal knowledge discourse (Bernstein 2000). The students were not only denied a vertical organised content (Bernstein, 2000) but also denied analysis of social issues within an academically oriented education. The focus on manual labour at the cost of academically oriented studies actually prevented them to get passing grades to get into a national program (which was the main goal of the programme). The most serious result in our empirical data is the idleness many of the students were put in. They were allowed day after day to neither study nor work in the mechanical workshop or kitchen. We raise the question if there is a risk that these youngsters get used to the idleness and accept an uncertain future without jobs or at the best short-term ones, an insecurity and fragility of their social position which put them into what Standing (2011) express as the new ‘precariat’?

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