Edge release third report debating the principals of English vocational education

This is the third in a series of reports including reflections from leading academics, businesses and educationalists to key questions on the philosophy of vocational education. The report summarises some of the key points that were made in our third debate on this theme, which took place in November 2019.

Society and the educational establishment have tended to view vocational education as secondary to academic education and to jump straight into practical delivery rather than taking time to consider the underlying principles.

Olly Newton, Executive Director, Edge Foundation says,

“A lot of attention has been paid in recent years to the underpinnings around academic education. We don’t believe the same care and attention has been paid to vocational education in England and we don’t think this is right. Edge brings together key thinkers in this space and we work in partnership with leading academics to dig deeper into the theory.”

A few years ago Edge started a series of debates designed to question the purpose of vocational education, who it is for, how should it be assessed and how the pedagogy should work. We hope that by talking and reflecting on the philosophy and principals we can start to move away from instability towards a more settled and focused vision for the future.

Contributors to the report include:

  • Chris Winch, Professor of Philosophy and Policy, Kings College London
  • Martin Doel, Visiting Professor, University College London Institute of Education
  • Nuzha Nuseibeh, PhD Candidate, Oxford University
  • Norman Crowther, National Official (Post 16 Education), Trades Union Congress
  • Carmen Nicoara, PhD Candidate, King’s College London
  • Dr Jim Hordern, Lecturer in Education, University of Bath

Key themes explored in the latest report include; 

  • The wide variation in language and definitions used to describe vocational education and the need for a clear common vocabulary to underpin work in this area.
  • The importance of vocational education developing its own unique pedagogy and means of assessment, emphasising its own validity and not relying on parallels to academic education.
  • The limitations of the strongly market-based system adopted in England (in contrast to many other countries including in the UK) and the need to involve social partners. 
  • The importance of professional judgement and the deep relationship between content, learner and educator at the heart of vocational pedagogy. 

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