The challenges of using education as a means of addressing persistent unemploymentPresentation Transcript
Network to Support Trainers in Europe The challenges of using education as a means of addressing persistent unemployment understanding policy and practice through life stories and users’ voices George Roberts Oxford Brookes University 05/11/2008
A study of adult users of community information technology (IT) centres and their IT practices: the things they do with IT
Asset-based community development (ABCD)
Biographical narrative interpretive method (BNIM)
A great strength of biographical methods lies in their ability to connect policy with lived experience. (Chamberlayne 2004: 337)
In a target-driven culture such connections are inadmissible to a debate in which only discrete, quantifiable and disconnected evidence is valued
My aim is to admit our lived experience to the policy debate
Tentative (and contentious?) thoughts
Conceptualising community IT centres as places where formal education and “learning” takes place is at least problematic
Funding based on simplistic models of education may serve to embed social divisions
Community development & local economic development in marginalised sectors is not simply linked to educational attainment
Assisted or supported voluntarism may be a way forward: provide facilities in a location where multiple agencies and social enterprises operate
Much of current policy … is implicitly or explicitly rooted in a … model of exclusion, in which the key element, is labour-force attachment. This is underpinned by a discourse about social integration (SID) in which paid work is represented as the primary or sole legitimate means of integrating individuals of working age into society. (Levitas 1999)
… in neo-liberal Britain, social policy has lost its anchoring in lived realities and lost the forms of supervision and support which are necessary to deeper forms of engagement with users. One consequence is that biographical resources are inadequately recognized and built on, among both users and professionals (Chamberlayne 2004, 346)
Gaps in knowledge
The life histories, experiences and voices of the users of community IT centres are largely absent from the literature
Users of centres are represented by synthetic descriptions and models of the problematic other , often culled from the analyses of research into the experience of centre managers and evaluation reports of various initiatives
Gaps in our understanding
In respect of adult community education policy there are gaps in our understanding of
the relationship between personal development and community development
the relationship between social capital development and human capital development
the relationship between lifelong learning and continuous retraining
and the relationship between an individual’s responsibility for skills acquisition for existing jobs whatever they may be, and a social, collective responsibility for economic development in order to create new, worthwhile, jobs or other forms of meaningful social and civic participation.
UK Skills Sector
A policy context where work-force attachment is the only valid form of social integration
A narrowly conceived view of education
Community education is a small backwater in the Learning and Skills Sector
“… a vast and complex world which is restructured so frequently that it has become a full-time job just to read about the latest turns and twists of policy, never mind respond to them.”
Adult Community Learning is not currently to be included in the demand led funding models although there is no clarity about what is meant by ‘community learning’” (Slowey 2007)
“ Funding of Personal and Community Development Learning (PCDL) will remain outside these funding models for the time being.” (Learning and Skills Council 2007)
“ Leitch Review of Skills has recommended that all publicly-funded adult vocational skills in England, apart from community learning and programmes for those with learning difficulties and/or disabilities , should go through demand-led routes by 2010.” (Learning and Skills Council 2007)
Note the collocation of community learning with “programmes for those with learning difficulties and/or disabilities.” The third leg of this stool is prison-based learning and the rehabilitation of offenders
Who is policy for?
Policy enacted not from concern for the excluded
except to the extent they can be reformed, remediated – socially integrated – through training
The principal audiences for policy are voters and employers
The excluded are
a social disorder cost to the taxpayer
a supply of compliant workers to an insecure labour market
People may therefore see themselves in the mirror of policy as problems to be solved for and by others, rather than agents of their own world
How do people, who associate themselves with the community IT centre, use that association to make positive changes in their lives?
Values, positive and negative, are closely tied to individual identity and identity practices
normatively adopt certain behaviours
or conversely reject the same behaviours
“ ... the actions of people participating in routine cultural contexts”, where context has “... a central role in the constitution of human nature”. The unit of analysis “... includes individuals and their sociocultural milieu”. (Cole, Engeström et al. 1997)
“ social identity/identification appears to be related in a logical and coherent way to values assumed by people.” (Gouveia, deAlbuquerque et al. 2002)
Individual social identity
Idiosyncratic and person-specific attributes (personal identity)
Social order attributes related to groups or categories (social identity)
Behaviours vary continuously between these two points:
The mere fact of being assigned to different groups (based on gender, race, nationality, family, etc.) does not guarantee the individual’s social identity
The main components of social identity are feelings of belonging to specific groups/categories or affinity towards them. (Gouveia, deAlbuquerque et al. 2002)
Implications for trainers
“ ...the relationship between tutor and student was seen as paramount; responding to the needs of the students was perceived by tutors as the most important factor of all”.
This relationship superseded all others in shaping the learners’ experience and in determining the success of the learning, usually in terms of wider and institutional target-related criteria.
large-scale study of FE, work-based learning (WBL) and adult community learning (ACL) Coffield, Edward et al. 2007, 736
Provide alternative and multiple modes of participation
Exemplify models of participation
Provide access to their experience
How they do it
Permeability (provide multiple pathways)
Variety (allow for multiple learning and teaching styles and preferences)
Legibility (acknowledge multiple literacies, modes and systems of meaning)
Robustness (ensure fault tolerance and redundancy)
Visual appropriateness (make it look good)
Richness (reveal complexity and depth of coverage)
Personalisation (make it yours)
Where: Bluefield Lanes
L arge 1960s social housing estate on the periphery of a medium sized city in Southern England
P opulation of 23,874, 18% of the city’s population
Together with t he four adjacent estates in the “Regen Arc” nearly 1/3 of the city’s population of 120,000 lives in areas where there are multiple indices of deprivation
Largest concentration of social housing in the city
High unemployment/underemployment and educational under achievement
The most significant issue is education, skills & training attainment with two SOAs in the top third and ten SOAs … in the top ten percent most deprived areas in England
S So maybe it’s not just the family centre that gave me that energy and that. I think its [this place]. That’s when I became more energised. Moving up here. Coming away from what I’d always been brought up with, to coming here, where, you know I’ve got that sense of belonging and my child’s the happiest I think she’ll ever be.
A That’s good, because they tend to give this estate such a bad name and a lot of people are afraid to come onto [it]. Because they say where do you live and you say [Bluefield Lanes] and they: aowwooh, how can you live up there.
P Like you were saying about walking up the street you can walk from one place to another. I think that everyone can say that. You’re bound to run into someone you know and even if you don’t know they’ll all say hello, you know what I mean …
T If you go to other areas you don’t really get that. People hate that. People in [Bluefield Lanes] … because we are such a large community in ourselves and what we have here you don’t get in other places.
But, on the other hand…
H it’s like now how many years later down the line it’s kind of transformed itself to be true you know like the young people getting involved in a lot of drugs and crime and especially this whole knives and guns thing at the moment as well that’s you know really scary … You know it’s like for me how many more years is it going to be ‘til actually those guns are out because everyone knows somebody in [the city] who’s got some kind of gun or weapon you know what I mean, I don’t care what anyone says somebody knows somebody that’s got something you know and it’s just like because you know we’re not in London or Birmingham, you’re not hearing gunshots every five minutes it’s only a matter of time.
Biographic-narrative interviews: “Life stories”
Narrative expression is closest to people’s lived experience both of conscious concerns and also less conscious cultural, social and individual presuppositions and processes
S urfacing mainly invisible experiences and contexts of issues that are difficult for society and individuals to confront
Grounding research in “bottom-up practice” (Barnat & Walmsley, 2004)
Appreciative inquiry (AI) focus groups
the act of undertaking research has a transforming effect
needs-based approaches to community development tend to reinforce the circumstances of exclusion
explicitly avoids the discourse of problems allowing people to articulate an empowered discourse of alterierity
Participant observation diaries
Please tell me the story of your life, the events and experiences that have been important to you, from wherever you want to begin, up to and including the present time: you as a user/volunteer/manager/tutor/friend of the Bluefield Lanes IT Zone
7, stage 1 interviews conducted
Follow-up semi-structured interviews to be conducted in the winter
Focus Groups: Learning lunches
1 group (n=6) conducted; 3 planned
attempt to get beyond essentialism, ethical foundationalism and hierarchical ordering of identity politics (Gergen)
affirms a sensibility towards the inner dimensions of teaching and practitioner research that would include the imagination, emotion and passion involved in reflective practice (Luckcock)
part of an integrated approach to community – and particularly community-driven – development. interviews and storytelling that draw out ... positive memories, and on a collective analysis of the elements of success. (Mathie & Cunningham)
Variation and individuation is vast
Classification may inhibit understanding
Counting and dividing could be part of the problem
e.g. Black, African, Caribbean
First, second, third generation Jamaican & other WI British
Woman of African heritage, alienated from the larger Caribbean community
African man, son of a government Minister
African man, ex civil servant, retired to England
African man, ex-combatant officer in liberation wars
White, Asian, East Timorese, West Papuan, Santhelenian, Serbian, Afghan, American and many others
H There’s the black issue. The black issue’s always been an issue anywhere. I even remember when I was like 20 or 21 there were a lot of West Indians here and stuff so it’s kind of like they never really had a high opinion of Africans then. Do you know what I mean, then it was all kind of like, “I’m African. I’m African [quickly] da da da.” And if you try to say anything about the African ancestry, you know, it’s like, “I’m Jamaican! I’m Jamaican! de de de!” So you know. … people just automatically assume that I am West Indian. They won’t even consider the fact that I’m African. They just straight-away assume that I am West Indian. And even down to the elders in the West Indian community: “Who’s your mum and dad?” You know like, “You won’t know my mum and dad.”
S In [place] it was all about cliques. It was all about fitting in with certain people. But, coming to [Bluefield Lanes] everyone just got on with everyone. Everyone had a sense of belonging. You weren’t just the white person or the black person. You weren’t the older person or the younger person. You were all together, all united. I had a strong sense of belonging after moving to [Bluefield]. I made really strong friendships and I still have them. And, I keep making more friendships through, thing, here.
Counting and dividing (n=11) Superficially representative sample? Information emerged from life stories
Edu<FE: 1, some F/HE: 5, 1 st Deg: 2, PG: 1; uk:2
The already educated continue to participate in PCDL
A I was really kind of always having this dream about having some amazing job one day and never really actually having one. And I think that that happened because um I left school when I was 14 and I had like .. a bit like school phobia and I used to have panic attacks and not go into classrooms. And that was why I didn’t do really well when I was at school. And then … they got me on to an A-level course which I had to abandon because I was pregnant with my first child. So that was when I was 18.
… and when I realised that I could not write a letter I felt quite awful I thought how can I ever be somebody that does jobs and works and stuff so um It’s kind of interesting to remember that but I do remember sitting, sitting and staring at that screen thinking that I can’t write this letter I really can’t do that [laughs] I’m useless, I’m no good, I’m never gona make it.
K My sole purpose for being here was to study all the way to post doctoral level because my father, my father, this was how he seen things … so I embarked onto a long project with financial support from home because that was tradition until I sent to him a letter and said to him: look, I am a grown-up man, you have to understand that things aren’t as they were; we suffered a heavy currency devaluation; therefore there was no need for you to stretch your financial means and send me money; not just that, I could fly by myself.
Getting online for browsing and email
Facebook has become recently popular
Limited online gaming
Shopping: mostly window shopping and price comparison
Extensive, informal learning support
Semi-formal awareness raising or skill development courses
Digital photography and video production and editing
Introductory formal qualifications
Substitute for broken equipment at home
Crucial back-up resource
Support for children’s safety online
… critical reflection [is] the deliberate uncovering and challenging of assumptions concerning power and the perpetuation of hegemony. … What makes reflection critical is its … focus on understanding the dynamics of power (and how to manipulate these) and on uncovering (and combating) ruling class hegemony. (Brookfield 2008: 96)
H The other thing I was going to say, I suppose, is that I’m here but I don’t know how much that’s got to do with the IT Hub or even the learning champions.
P I like community learning because it fits around people and whatever’s going on with them, you know what I mean. Universities and colleges are, you know: this is what we got to offer, take it or leave it, whereas with the learning champion type of stuff we’ve been talking to people: what do you want. It can be so varied, you know what I mean?
... the choice of employability as the core mission … is an empty, unsatisfying concept which will sell our people short.
... employability turns the public issue of the dearth of good jobs into the private trouble of constant retraining. [It] does not create an individual, psychological condition, but a new social identity arising out of a new social order, based on short-term capitalism. ...
Employability … militates against students understanding or criticising power relations in college or at work or forming a strong vocational identity.
The sector needs a different future which gives equal weight to social justice and economic prosperity; and why not, for once, in that order? (Coffield, 2006, 6-7)