Pedagogy Back on Track; Enhancing Capabilities for Young People in Education and Work

Pedagogy Back on Track; Enhancing Capabilities for Young People in Education and Work

Niels Rosendal Jensen & Christian Christrup Kjeldsen, Department of Education, Aarhus University Denmark

1        Introduction

The main aim of the Danish case study is to reconstruct the conceptions, aspirations and practices of local actors implementing educational and training programmes; as well as for the young people participating in educational and training programmes. Likewise it is aimed at revealing the factors that promote or hinder vulnerable young people in their transition to the labour market. The Danish Case study focuses on the arrangements for young people that have failed their earlier schooling (e.g. early school leavers, or students of technical schools that have given up their education, etc.). The case study which, by and large, follows the logic behind a multiple case study (Yin 2003a pp. 46-53; Yin 2003b pp. 23-24), is situated on a local municipality level responsible for the counselling and enrolment and with local institutions being responsible for this Basic Vocational Education and Training (EGU) programme.

A capability approach-inspired pedagogy could become part of overcoming the crisis of education. A balanced combination of the educational system and the labour market would further improve how to get back on track. By means of the Capability Approach the needs of disadvantaged young people could be taken into account, and the support system would then develop into a holistic, diversified and flexible system.

The target group in question is affected by having all lost track in the transition from school to further education or work. Due to this, the target group of the Basic Vocational and Educational programme (EGU) can be understood as a subset of the vulnerable target groups that WorkAble is concerned with. It contains for instance early school leavers, ethnic minorities, as well as young persons with learning disabilities.

2        The main research interests

The methodological, theoretical and empirical design has followed the outline for the common research questions for the WorkAble project and they thereby serves as the analytical grid. The research aims at giving insights for further EU policy development as a result of revealing how the mutual interrelations between resources (both personal bundles of commodities and institutional resources), space of labour market oppertunities the institutional (external circumstances) and individual conversion factors relate to the transition from education to labour market for young people within this particular educational and vocational programme (EGU) are working and how this influences the individual’s capabilities to live a life they have reason to value. The following sub-questions have also been identified:

·         What are the institutional conversion factors that convert educational and vocational resources into capabilities for learning, work and voice?

·         What are the most important conversion factors concerning the transition from education to work within the EGU programme?

3        Methods applied and their limitations

In order to answer these interdependently and mutually relational research questions, a research design consisting of both qualitative and quantitative research methods was at first planned. Generally, the case study design followed the overall strategy: “for doing research which involves an empirical investigation of a particular contemporary phenomenon within its real life context using multiple sources of evidence,” (Robson 2000 p. 52). Therefore the research design consists, firstly, of documentary analyses and interviews with relevant political stakeholders/managers that have been identified as key actors in the educational regimes. Hence, the normative judgments and political strategies of local decision makers - whose work relates to the topics in question as well as interest/pressure groups in the youth welfare and labour market sector - were taken into consideration. This was followed up by an in depth analysis on how labour market requirements are pursued in different contexts and seek to focus on those who fail within these regimes. Secondly, the central empirical collection took place at 4 basic vocational education institutions located in two Danish main cities and two smaller cities. 23 interviews were carried out with institutional leaders, teachers, internship practitioners and pupils using semi-structured interviews based on different interview guides corresponding with the research questions, but from a different perspective in order to be able to triangulate these various interviews (Ramian 2006 p. 26). The duration of the interviews was between 26 minutes and 59 minutes depending on the interviewee´s communication skills and was later transcribed. The Capability Approach was applied as the overall theoretical frame the design of the interview guide aimed at assessing the different specific capabilities young people lack in their struggle to live the life that they have reason to value. The qualitative framework also contained semi-structured group discussions with the purpose of tackling the main research questions with respect to all interviewees as well as biographical information with respect to young people. Thus, the interview dynamic resulted in the reconstruction of spontaneous (re-)creations of social situations (Garfinkel 1967; Nentwig-Gesemann 2010).

Ethical concerns and the processing of the empirical material

To secure that the involved interviewees had their voice respected and a real freedom to chose not to participate, a written agreement explaining the aim and context of the research, guaranteeing the obligation to deal with the collected data anonymously was made between the researchers and the interviewees. To analyze the data the qualitative data analysis software NVivo 9 was used in the first place using open/free coding. Reworking the coding scheme thereby preparing the final node-structure led to the final coding of the interviews.

4        Some of the main findings of the case study

The basic vocational education and training for pupils at risk of leaving the educational and vocational track is characterized as an individualized programme aimed at both employment and continued education. Furthermore it is seen as a second chance for those adolescents who do not fit into ordinary vocational programmes.

 Entry into the programme often happens after a period where the young person does not receive any formal education and is without a job. By the Ministry of Education the target group is furthermore characterized as not having the: “preconditions for completing another qualifying youth education.” (Ministry of Education 2010b). This description has furthermore been documented in the interviews. As one of the young people phrases it: “books or anything with mathematics - it has never been me, ever, so my school ended when I was in the 7th grade” (I[1]: pupil 2). In the Danish context this illustrates a very early school leaver, since the Danish primary and lower secondary education is a comprehensive school covering the grades from at least 0-9 grade[2] or as one of the professionals states it: “EGU-pupils whom I have, they’ve been through some really, really hard things through life, with a bad school experience and they can´t relate to their own age group” (I: internship teacher).

The target group as constructed by the professional actors and the Ministry are young people more oriented towards practical skills than subject competences: “with a weak educational background, and are not very academically inclined” (Ministry of Education 2010). The interviews with the professionals as well as the pupils raise some important questions in relation to this. It seems to be the case that the pupils have experienced situations in their earlier educational path where they were bullied. Quoting the words of Martha Nussbaum they had experienced an assault on their human dignity even though: “dignity is a vague idea that needs to be given content by placing it in a network of related notions, it does make a difference.” (Nussbaum 2011 p.30). These humiliations have led to low self-esteem that works as an individual conversion factor in relation to further education. Seen from Martha Nussbaum’s perspective this would also be a violence of or lack of affiliation that also concerns the social basis of self-respect and non-humiliation. In fact the interviewed pupils often utter experiences with earlier teachers such as: “I’ve had a very, very poor schooling at the elementary school. In 8th grade I had a math teacher who drove me down mentally, which meant I actually merely never been to school in 8th grade. The only hours I attended, was my German class and it was only to talk to my teacher” (IV: pupil 1) or “I’ve been picked at and I have been chopped down by all of my teachers through three to four years and also in the technical school, I really do not know what they had against me” (I: pupil 2)

This vulnerable group of young people points to an interesting characteristic of the Danish welfare state: “The reproduction of inequality” (Hernes 1975), which should not be considered as a past stage in the history of educational sociology. Unequal distribution of education exists and reproduces in new forms. At the same time a decline in the social mobility can be experienced, and the chances for working class children to reach an academic level is by no means increased (Hansen 2003 p. 99). The educational participation of the working classes has been seen as a sound parameter assessing whether a central political goal embedded in the post-war years is still intact and working (Hansen 2003 p. 99ff). This challenge seems to be of general interest. As we have tried to demonstrate via the Danish case study this inequality has to be addressed by other concepts than merely distributional wealth. The inequalities in early school outcome promote inequalities in their opportunities to voice their opinions and participate as democratic members of society. It promotes less valuable (from the individual’s perspective) educational and vocational opportunities than they are formally entitled to. It promotes lesser opportunities to enter into the job market and enjoy the mutual recognition with other workers that this entails.

But, who are the pupils, students of the education and training programme? Except for the definition of the Ministry of Education (cited previously) one may add some further characteristics.

Social and structural circumstances characteristic for the target group

The majority of the students have a parental background characterized by a non-familiarity with the educational system. Most parents have only completed compulsory education (comprehensive school covering primary and lower secondary education) and have no experience of the next educational levels (e.g. higher education).To some parents education is not valued as important, since those parents do not share the common values of parents in the Danish society. Working class parents prefer jobs and wages over the coat of education. Many of them are unskilled workers and have had, or still have, a job primarily in industrial companies. Hence, the students themselves did not succeed well in primary and lower secondary school. Another point is that the target group experience problems to: “relate to their own age group” (I: internship teacher). We find that in addition to lack of success in school these students are often lonely, meaning that their networks – except for their own family – are scarce. This lack of capacity to experience and enjoy affiliation to other young people is worth taking into account. Instead of accounting the lack of affiliation to other young people as a subjective characteristic of each individual´s ability to make relations it seems merely to be a structural product of the circumstances.

Other structural circumstances that need to be mentioned in relation to the Danish case is that modernization in Denmark is almost synonymous with the establishing of the comprehensive school (in a full shape since 1993), the educational system has over time changed into a meritocratic system with new mechanisms of selection and allocation. Schooling has since the 1970s become a still more important factor in shaping youth life and youth trajectories (Young 1998). Therefore, these past school experiences seem to follow them as a “bad companion” when entering their further education and training.

Similarly the labour market has undergone dynamic changes pointing to the need for qualified labour. This means that “education for all” in Denmark is utilized to develop individualised trajectories. Do the students, then, get a proper education and/or training to match the demands of the labour market?

When looking at the institutional level it seems difficult due to labour market structures to match the students’ needs and wants concerning a life they feel reasonable to value. The institutions offer, or perhaps even promise, to help socially integrate young people by way of counselling, training, education and labour market policies. However, in many cases they reproduce the risk of social exclusion. But this is a fragmented picture and it seems that much depends on the understanding of teachers, counsellors and social workers/social pedagogues working in the institutions.

The need of a youth moratorium as a part of youth life course

In many cases professionals understand the transition through a youngster’s life course as a linear one: education leads to employment that leads to marriage, children and so on. In fact, many young people do not follow a linear way of transition. They are trained today; tomorrow they find a temporary job keeping them employed for some time. They try one type of education – shift to another and sometimes return with renewed energy, aspiration and motivation. On their way towards adulthood they would usually lose the temporary job and have to suffer from unemployment leading to further training and/or to another job of a similar kind. This emphasizes the contradictions of the professional understanding of “what a transition should be”, namely linear on one hand and the young person’s factual experience of a reversible transition on the other. At this particular “time” in the youngsters’ life course they experience a lack of time – understood as the necessary time to shift back and forward and do their own experiences with the different job and educational opportunities and thereby develop an informed understanding of their potential and wishes. In a way the demand for quick decisions and a linear understanding of the transition from education to job market brings vulnerable young people into situations where they do not have the time necessary to shape their identity and especially their wishes for their future life. In this dramatic rush of demands for decision making that influences their future life to a great extent, the actually chosen path for our group of young people becomes arbitrary – in many cases it could have turned out quite differently. For many of the interviewed young people’s situation the content of their individual plan has been shaped merely by chance – even their entrance into the programme happened due to coincidences. With respect to the above mentioned, much depends on external factors and structures, e.g. labour market development, personal circumstances or uncertain perspectives. What we have found in our case study seems to be consistent with the findings of the EGIRIS-project, European Group for Integrated Social Reserach (Blasco et al. 2003). We may, therefore, compare our findings with what is called “misleading trajectories” (Blasco et al. pp. 26-31) and at the same time call for a sub concept that could be named “coincidence trajectories”. Instead of asking the market: “what a transition should be”, it would be necessary to ask: “what a transition could be”. Beyond the findings it seems reasonable to argue for a de-acceleration of the many crucial life choices the young person are forced to take and instead open up for a period that could serve as a playing field for better and more informed choices – choices they themselves have reason to value.

But, as can be seen when looking at the target group description and characterization, other current conditions have furthermore accelerated the opposite development. These are the social changes in society that also influence the life circumstances, perhaps to a greater extent than youth following the main paths.

Which are the new conditions?

There are as always in human development new conditions to bear in mind. At present they can be phrased as new or changed digital conditions and impacts, not only the young people in question, but also the pedagogical situation that seeks to address the problems as well. It is, therefore, necessary to consider the following: The transition to digital capitalism has led the working society – the industrial-capitalistic modern form of socialisation – into crisis and created a tendency to liberate people in such a way that time and again they are pushed into mastering constellations of anomaly. To the extent that pedagogy stubbornly tries to maintain its traditional dispositions and previously recognised tasks, it becomes a victim of the whirlpool of social ‘disembedding’. In times of change, institutions like e.g. municipal primary and lower secondary schools, upper secondary schools or colleges of education normally limit their conceptual reflections to self-referential basic assumptions and try to stand their ground or let themselves get carried away or perhaps simply wait for ‘it’ to pass. But such defensive efforts are unlikely to bear fruit, because they are unable to prevent the social fission of pedagogical practice. Shouldn’t educational sociology pay more attention to this as well? (Hansen 2003 p. 162ff.).

It should, and the subsequent implication is that modern pedagogy in the industrial-capitalistic society of the 20th century was based on the truism that all people could be integrated into working life and that they would be able to find the right balance between personal autonomy and financial-social adaptation. Because of its orientation towards national society, it presupposed a nation state social and education politics that could regulate the social processes and the distribution of social chances in an autonomous way. This led to significant social changes, and in Denmark, as well as in other welfare states; education became a great laboratory for developing a new social dynamic. This is, without a doubt, a significant reason for the problems we have today: Pedagogy could or would neither predict the consequences of globalisation and rationalisation at the end of the 20th century nor entire population groups’ disconnection from access to social changes in different areas and, by no means, their own economic powerlessness – in the form of the education politics that gained acceptance in the wake of the 1970s crisis. Pedagogy had got used to mastering its own kingdom more or less autonomously. That is, its legitimacy was acknowledged as a change, as a mixtum compositum of humanistic pedagogy and an economic development dynamic, now and then understood as education for developing human capital. Unfortunately, it overlooked a significant implication on the part of Durkheim, namely the educative power and force of the economic-technical system which imposes itself on human beings, leaving them with little chance of affecting the system in a humanistic way.

Analyzing the educational arrangement we may find the concept of education very broad. In principle students are participating in a dual-training system composed of relatively short courses at the EGU institution, technical school or production school and longer periods of work or training at a work place in the local environment. It is of course questionable whether this is recognized as a real education by employers or not – and by the students themselves, their families and friends. Recently, the government and a number of municipalities have developed social clauses. E.g. when inviting tenders for building a new hospital, school or railroad municipalities and the state use their right to demand a certain number of apprenticeships to be part of the offer of the private company; the trend mentioned is rather recently implemented due to the increasing number of unemployed youngsters. This is assessed to be better than just being kept waiting for months or years.

Individual voice in the planning vs. counselor’s idea of a “realistic” plan

As mentioned earlier the pupil enrolled in the programme gets his own plan. The ministry holds that: “Each time an EGU plan is signed, in principle a new individual educational programme is established that is adapted to the individual young person’s qualifications, wishes and needs” (Ministry of Education 2010). But this could also be interpreted as a result of individualization that each student will be provided with an individual plan of her/his education/training. Based on the motivation, wishes, interests, etc. of the young person counsellors have to develop a draft of the plan and get it approved by the young person. As we have observed counsellors often consider the youngster’s ideas to “be unrealistic” or “wishful thinking”. The task of the counsellor is to reach a compromise with the person in order to finish what is seen as a realist plan. Following our interviews this seems now and then to de-motivate the young person.

This further means that the counsellor is in charge of assessing whether or not the young person can be accepted as citizen, meaning that if the counsellor considers his/her ideas to be unrealistic, then he would usually take over responsibility and define the right of the young person. Although such an attitude does not correspond to the formal and legal rights of the young person, the institutional way of working makes out a structural barrier for the young person. Not necessarily intended, rather as a practical solution of a challenge or even a threat to the system.

Work first; life first or perhaps the dialectic third – combined work and life through “Bildung”

The EGU has an overall aim which is not only oriented at the labour market. In the legislation – at least – a work-first perspective is not the primary outcome. Interestingly also, one of the top aims of the programme is that the: “Vocational training also will help to develop young people's interest and ability to participate actively in a democratic society” (Act 987 of 16/08/2010). The aim is thereby that the young person in question achieves a personal and social development as well as professional qualifications/competences for the labour market. This demand and aim has some affiliation to the German understanding of Bildung. Also the enhancement of personal, social and professional competences should enable the EGU pupil to be enrolled in either one of the other education and training programmes (EUD) that leads to a professional qualification as a skilled worker (a certificate for a completed apprenticeship) or at least provide the basis for entering the labour market. In other words either the programme helps the young person back on the educational main track or it secures sufficient competences for the young to seek employment. The programme becomes thereby at the centre of re-transition into the labour market for those who failed the main educational path.

As stated earlier the local municipality decides the number of pupils that are enrolled in the programme. This limit is influenced by two factors that convert the economic resources into a number of places offered. Firstly there are the private labour market possibilities for internship. The companies have to pay an internship wage. Therefore the main expenses linked to this programme are placed in the private companies if the EGU-pupil goes to have his/her internship there. Some professional actors experience a decline in the interest from private companies. As an example one of the managers states that it “has been a tremendous challenge for the EGU programme in relation to the internship situation, because it’s no secret that when a machinist apprentice can´t find his internship, then an EGU-pupil that can´t anything of course have even more difficulty in finding an internship … it is impossible to find a craftsman who will take an EGU-pupil today.” (I: manager). It is quite obvious from the interviews with the pupils, as well as the professionals, that this forces the youngster to change their ideas about workplace and work area. This brings us further to the next thematic in the analysis. Another “hot” issue here is the target group’s opportunities to seek internship on an equal basis with others. Based on this case study, we are analytically able to follow Nussbaum’s argument stating that it is a governmental responsibility to secure all citizens the opportunity (over a certain threshold): “Control over one´s environment”. This central capability includes: “having the right to seek employment on an equal basis with others” (Nussbaum, 2011 pp. 33-34; Nussbaum 1999 p. 235). Due to the target group’s lack of capabilities for education and other individual conversion factors such as dyslexia and cognitive abilities this is in a sense and to some extent an expected situation, which is pushed further by a social conversion factor. It seems to be so that because the private companies have been firing their staff they find it difficult the next day to take in an EGU-pupil in an internship: “Yes it's difficult for a company to argue; yes we have just fired ten, but we will take five [internship and flex-job]” (stakeholder interview)

Realistic aspirations for work and education – conversion factors for voice

From a capability perspective it becomes clear that even though the EGU programme intentionally should be planned individually and therefore be giving voice to the youngsters’ wishes for a future work life, this intention is restrained in several ways. The question is therefore whether the pupils and young adults have the capability for voice in these arrangements. We find the adolescents being forced by counsellors to have “realistic ideas” of themselves and their future plans. Looking more closely it becomes clear that this happens in a complex relation between three interrelated factors, labelled as:

1.       Demand for adaptation to job market possibilities

2.       Practical reasoning (the pupils internal capabilities)

3.       The availability of internship opportunities (external circumstances)

Job market adaptation as conversion factor for voice

Young people in this programme often need to learn to adapt to the de facto possibilities on the job market. Providers find that the young people are often need to learn to have a more “realistic” view of their future choice of employment. In this sense the young person’s individual plan becomes influenced or even manipulated – and absolutely not by the beings and doings they have reason to value. An empirical example is stated by one of the managers:

But their influence is so far formally real, but it’s just a pseudo influence because of their competence to know what the possibilities are - this is thus relatively limited. So there will be much talk with the supervisor, who will in a nice way manipulate a lot in the direction that we [EGU professionals] believe is best for them. It is probably to let them see that it can´t be done ... it’s hard to let them go the whole way [and try out an internship the EGU professional do not believe is realistic], because we need those internships again, we must use the reputation of EGU again (I: manager)

This does not support the voice of the pupil in these programs. They are only formally entitled to choose between valuable opportunities. This is problematic for the capability for voice, because it: “clearly contrasts with the call for adaptability (that often prevails in the field of welfare), where people are not allowed to choose freely, but are called to adapt their preferences to the existing opportunities in their social environment” (Bonvin 2009 p. 58).

Work-first perspective as a negative conversion factor for the capability for work

Employability, human capital and human capability for work are distinct, but mutual related concepts. In this respect our perspective differs from a human capital understanding of the function of work. But the choice dimension is as stated earlier only formal and directly contrasting that work gets a first priority in practice. This leads to a danger of exclusion of the young from different work places. An example of the work first perspective is seen in the following part of an interview with a leader of an institution giving internship offers for EGU pupils:

Interviewer: ... you have a couple of young EGU pupils at your institution. Do you have others that you offer such an internship?
Respondent: So I have educators who have had a long-term sick leave getting financial support. They are at my place, too.
Interviewer: Ok, so people that need this way into the labour market again.
Respondent: Yes.
Interviewer: What is it that you offer the EGU pupils who come to your place?
Respondent: Uh (?)
Interviewer: What is the reason that you take them? Do you have to?
Respondent: No, I do not have to take them. I just need some more hands ... the main essence is, I suppose to give these young EGU pupils some work skills. So they have something to get up for in the morning. Everything else is coming to them slowly afterwards.

5        Conclusions

Disadvantaged groups are meeting heavy challenges. The achievement of social integration by securing qualified employment can be seen as a process supported by a number of educational and vocational institutions. The objective of this system is to provide the individual with skills and qualifications or resources to compete in the labour market. As stated above, the municipality is the contextual place for the programme and has the main responsibility for offering and implementing it. We find many differences between the ways in which the programme is handled within each municipality due to demography, job opportunities, history and the local governance. The total number of pupils who are currently enrolled within the EGU programme in each municipality may to a greater extent reflect factors - such as municipal size, success in relation to reducing the target group through the mainstream educational system, actual number of adolescents in the age group, etc.

This system represents a key instrument to overcome initial social inequality – whether determined by structural, personal or biographical factors. Each young person encounters the demands of education and employment – which is the central point of EGU – with a different equipment of resources. Our study demonstrates that the system does not succeed.

We have been able to identify “critical transitions” built into the institutional structures. These transitions refer to situations where youngsters are confronted with a decision or selection to pass to another level within the educational system or to move on to the labour market. At each of these transitions young people must use their resources to cope with the requirements of the situation. Counsellors apparently act as making the decisions for the young people. The choices of the youngsters are not “realistic”, as the study has pointed to.

As education systems become more and more elaborated as well as sub-divided into multiple different pathways, the transition within these systems becomes increasingly complex, involving an increasing number of options. This situation may become even more complicated if the consequences of the decision lead to separated pathways with little possibility of passing from one alternative to another. One first very critical transition is the transition from primary to upper secondary education. The age of selection (after ended comprehensive schooling) seems to indicate that early selection is a trap since this first selection is marked significantly by disadvantage. A second critical transition concerns the move from compulsory education to upper secondary vocational education or training.

In the target group one finds early school leavers, ethnic minorities, as well as young persons with learning disabilities. Their experiences concerning school are not positive. The study shows that young people with learning disabilities are heavily influenced by their earlier experiences of schooling. They are in no way easy to motivate. A similar characteristic goes for disengaged youngsters. They seem to be rather “unreachable”, even in this individualized version of school and training for the job market. Eventually this has to do with lacking coherence between their aspirations and the offers they can get.

6        Putting the study into perspective

An answer to accelerated demands for mastering choice, life and social pedagogy

This development – presented here in abbreviated form – cannot be altered by pedagogy’s former suggested solutions, as they are included in the pedagogically progressive paradigm. When the social world becomes more individualised, fissured and pluralistic, and when the education system thus has to become more flexible without changing its basic form, this type of pedagogy has little to offer. The digital capitalism of our century has produced forms of socialisation that can no longer be anticipated via ideas of less structure, more flexibility or freedom to choose, because the structure of society itself has changed fundamentally. In the face of these challenges, the paradigm of liberation is soon checkmated. Without acknowledging the tension between liberation and mastering, upbringing and education can no longer be verified and oriented towards human beings’ mastering practice. This is a decisive matter for a pedagogy that both reflects and founds the working society and social politics materialistically. This underlying basis is not unknown to our research, which provides clear documentation of the fact that education in itself does not promote equality in any noticeable way, and which, as a result of changed conditions and the not exactly successful education politics, demands a centralised pedagogy. The “grand old man” of Danish sociology of education, Erik Jørgen Hansen’s worry bears resemblance to the fear one can have of a school in which strong personification (proper adults, mould breakers etc.) leads to lack of recognition of anything other than the roles of individuals. In that case, neither parents nor the school master their task. This can lead to new forms of inequality in the knowledge society – extensive inequality in conditions of and opportunities in life. In other words, history seems to agree with an old critique from Karl Marx and on to contemporary educational sociology.

In an information society or a knowledge society, for that matter, the productive utilisation of information and knowledge is central. In the light of the missing social balance, psychosocial well-being is a main area. The greatest barrier to growth is the great costs of social entropy – anxiety, victimisation, aggression, frustration, crime and drugs – that is, mental and social disorders and illnesses. There is no doubt that an increase in the psychosocial potential is far more important that many other factors – such as biotechnology, environmental protection and new sources of energy.

Here it is necessary to add the price of the flexibilisation of digital capitalism. Presenting flexibilisation as a pure form of socialisation presupposes significant investments in education combined with significant social investments. If e.g. the Danish society does not want to focus exclusively on elite education and thus have to face a huge risk of social marginalisation, education investments must be distributed so that they affect all, and new models for social work must be invented, subjected to thorough political discussion and finally implemented. In total, these areas would entail sizeable social investments and can by no means be solved via short-term fiscal or investment policy. But where did pedagogy go?

Pedagogy – a different productive force?

We have for now pointed to the changes in structural circumstances and the need for period – a youth moratorium, that could serve as a playing field In the field of education, it is therefore important above all to remember that lifelong learning, as a consequence of the knowledge and information society, cannot be conducted via linear extrapolation and new smart learning machines, but by each individual handling the different states of knowledge biographically.

Such ambivalence and several more seem to point to the notion that the Capability Approach would also be able to integrate pedagogy more extensively in the social discussion of how we organise our future society. This expectation is unlikely to be fulfilled on its own. Central to pedagogy, now as well as previously, is the job to bring human beings in a state of harmony with themselves and thus promote human integration into society. As in earlier forms of capitalism, the very idea of human worth and dignity is under pressure from digital capitalism. Here the model of the ‘abstract worker’ rules, which is to say that the modern economy has finally produced its own, socially marginalised ‘whole person’ and thus proclaimed the – hardly intended – funeral of pedagogy. The understanding of social imbalances can result in ideas of a socio-technical optimising of human beings, which precisely aim to produce abstract workers that are forced to seek inner balance in powers that are beyond the worldly, namely in religion or spirituality (Bovbjerg 2001). So far, pedagogy has taken the diametrically opposite starting point: the socially embedded human beings bound by time and space, who can understand themselves on this basis and who construct social relations in respect of the concrete, experienced personal integrity of others (e.g. Schmidt 2005). That is, pedagogy is unable to just profit from a CA-perspective – unless it is willing to renew its human traditions and characteristics. If not, it may in the worst case become “pedagogy for the capsized, the superfluous and those who have fallen short”. Instead, digital capitalism will draw on market oriented learning technologies that focus on human beings’ unconditional flexibilisation. Those who fall through in this process can thus be left to traditional pedagogy (also Sennett 1998 and Bauman 1998).

This includes another socioeconomic account for pedagogy to settle. The point in this case draws on a distinctive societal tradition. Essentially, it is a matter of demonstrating that economic growth is possible only when it is reproduced socially via education and social work; this is the only way that it is possible. In this mutually dependent relation, family work, education and social work are not the mere precondition or necessary appendix of production; it is its very motivation. Certainly, globalised as well as rationalisation-intensive capital is no longer thrown upon qualified mass work, as previously. Thus, the value of reproduction work has also dropped – e.g. privatised, again – just like the individualised education efforts (educational inflation). At the same time, the socially threatening problem of social disintegration has increased. This is to some extent connected to flexibilisation’s new anomaly and instances of mastering. If it is going to be possible to ensure social integration, education and learning are in need of a pedagogical and social face and a socio-political framework. Learning and mastering are not each other’s opposites, but like production and reproduction, their individual enablement is mutually dependent on the other.

The tension that is presented here is by no means new; traditionally, it is rooted in the industrial society, to which the economic and social importance of pedagogy is related. Therefore, it will take some effort to analyse and define the logic of this relation historically, so as to be able to assess the future significance of pedagogy as a productive force. For this purpose, this text will mention in brief some known material that is arranged in a new way here. The matter at hand includes three features of development which may make available the connection between economic and societal development, between societal modernisation, democratisation and pedagogy. These features include 1) the significance of human capital, 2) the necessity of social integration and 3) the economic-societal significance of reproduction. At this point, the debate about social capital should be introduced (Offe 1999), as it can be seen in continuation of Gramsci’s thoughts on civil society (Gramsci 1972), the establishment of a historical left wing for the democratic renewal of society and not merely thematise citizens in relation to the state, but equally in relation to the economy. In the universe of educational sociology we are also dealing with a re-organisation of problems and discussions (Hansen 2003).

For the part of the first point, the historical justification is already well-known: For the sake of its development and modernisation, capitalism is thrown upon the development of human capital and thus also the improvement of the living conditions of workers and salaried workers. The improvement of these conditions had and will have a significant pedagogical effect: People develop their own interests in education which cannot be reduced to economy. The required economic development of human capital and the discourse of human liberation determine each other.

With regard to the second point, Erik Jørgen Hansen has thematised that the industrial-capitalistic division of labour generated social disintegration problems (rupture, transition, fissions in different areas of life, immense risk, in brief: anomy), and at the same time it is thrown upon social integration (see Marx’ presentation in Das Kapital). So, a socially integrating pedagogy is – to the extent that social risks can be standardised – used as a biography-related, integrating medium in the modern, labour divided society. Within the modern division of labour we find a pedagogical structure of invitation.

With regard to the third point, it has been possible to demonstrate in the historical development of the question of reproduction that rigid separation and hierarchisation between production and reproduction and the related gender roles have not only hindered female human worth and chances of social development. It has also hindered the modernisation of industrial capitalism – for the full development of human capital as well as the possible expansion and differentiation of the production of goods. It should also be mentioned that women directed their attention and involvement in reproduction towards a ‘public maternity’ to generate the necessary social integration in society; they also made a special contribution to taming the ‘male’, externalised capitalism socially (Hansen 1988). With regard to reproduction, the meaningfulness of the given production in relation to human dignity and nature preservation was and is still a subject of investigation. This meaning component must be placed in the foreground of the applied pedagogy which (far too easily) allows itself to be enslaved by the dictates of ‘professional force’.

This humanistic tradition within a pedagogy, which should not only be seen as socially satisfying, but also as a productive force for social change, should be brought into the debate about the CA. A purely socio-technological vision is inadequate. The basis and production factor ‘social satisfaction’ is oriented towards the cost budget of a growth-fixated capitalism. Here, it is a matter of minimising the human distraction, i.e. closing the ‘technology gap’ of the human self-will (Luhmann & Schorr 1982). Those who can handle it will be able to merge completely with digital capitalism; the excluded and superfluous are ignored. Societies’ social fission and segmentation will drive pedagogy into fundamental conflicts. Well-meaning pedagogues will experience that their paradigms, such as liberation and social justice, can no longer be understood in the logic of digital capitalism and therefore lose their socio-critical potential. From this viewpoint, the aim is the technologically whole person: the external disappears into the digital world, while the internal transcends into the spiritual world. Both are undoubtedly qualified as regards market and growth, because they have been released from their obligation of self-will and social self-education. Thus, a pessimistic development is one possibility. Another is, of course, that pedagogy is subjected to detailed, critical analysis with a view to ‘start afresh – under the conditions of a new age’. Whereas the former age focused on the fate of the individual and its social realisation, gene technology turns everything upside-down: social fate from a pre-social condition. This ‘either-or’ is not easy to handle for a modern pedagogy that still relies on reform pedagogy’s evolution-theoretical hypotheses of an ‘inner’ construction plan for human development (a pure and unspoiled inner childlike nature) – as a basis for excluding social opposites and understanding oneself as autonomous display or creativity, beyond the framework conditions of society.

The optimistic aspect here is that the paradigm of being the master of one’s own existence, alone and together with others, has neither become redundant nor been overtaken. Rather, it has been expanded substantially: Just as Marx used to write about simple and extended reproduction, in relation to production, we can in the current situation talk about the difference between repressive (primarily socially-taxing or even subject to negative social inheritance), simple (the reproduction of living conditions without socially-integrating surplus value) and extended mastering options (with social surplus value and thus resources for social change), which also include the societal and socio-political. Do we want to or have to accept that some parts of the population undergo socially repressive liberation, while others undergo socially extended liberation?


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Author´s Address:
Associate Professor of educational Sociology Niels Rosendal Jensen /
Scientific Staff Christian Christrup Kjeldsen
Aarhus University
Faculty of Arts
Department of Education and Pedagogy (DPU)
DK-2400 Tuborgvej 164
Tel: ++45 8716 3709 / ++45 3025 5703
Email: /

[1] This refers to the number of the case in this multiple case study

[2] Grade 0-9 covers approximately the agespan from 6 til 16 years of age. Pupils in the 7th grade will be 13-14 years of age.