Theorising VET: European Differences, Commonalities and Contestation

Conference Presentation


Esmond, B., Kaiser, F. and Avis, R. 2023. Theorising VET: European Differences, Commonalities and Contestation . European Conference on Educational Research (ECER), Vocational Education and Training Network (VETNET), Glasgow University.
AuthorsEsmond, B., Kaiser, F. and Avis, R.
TypeConference Presentation
Abstract

The path-dependent differences among European VET systems are widely noted, attracting attention well beyond the sphere of VET and educational studies (Greinert 2005; Crouch, Finegold and Sako 1999). Less attention has been devoted until recently to the different ways in which VET has been theorised in different national contexts, and how such theory draws on foundations and paradigms developed within and outside the spaces of knowledge production that provide the intellectual foundations of VET research. Following a recent upsurge in questioning about the aims and purposes of VET, European interest in Bildung has been supplemented by contemporary attention to classical theories of VET (Sanderse 2021; Kuhlee et al. 2022; Zuurmond et al. 2023; bwp@ forthcoming). This symposium builds on the last-named Special Issue, which will explore the distinctive role of foundational VET theory in Germany and other DACH countries, sometimes described as Berufbildungstheorie. This body includes the ‘classical’ work of Kerschensteiner (1966/1904), Fischer (1967/1932) and Spranger (1923) as well as critical accounts that helped to shape modern VET systems (e.g., Siemsen 1948; Lempert 1971; Blankertz 1974) and have implications for other European countries.

Our aim in this meta-theoretical symposium is to extend this discussion, examining the continued relevance of these foundations and whether a wider range of theory can be helpful to examine the internal tensions and external forces that affect VET systems in Europe. VET has been theorised distinctively in different countries, reflecting the range of intellectual traditions, institutional formations and fields of practice across Europe. Some aspects of theorisation relate to the distinctive patterns of knowledge production, with education departments that also provide VET teacher education programmes contributing to the research base and drawing on various forms of theorisation; other university departments, research institutions and national agencies also contribute to research and, whilst in some cases this may be under-theorised, these may also use and contribute to theory. These institutional aspects together represent the social basis on which educational research has been constructed and these foundations contribute to national differences in the way education is theorised. The symposium will not only shed more light on the ways that internal contradictions of VET and VET research can be understood through theory but will also present different national perspectives on how to deal with them.

The theoretical foundations on which much research into VET builds have an international provenance. For example, VET research in English-speaking countries draws heavily on philosophers, sociologists and economists from France, who are located outside education departments, and from the USA which lacks any coherent system of VET. This field is also subject to powerful external forces in the shape of policy discourses supported by powerful international institutions with universalising prescriptions. Thus, international bodies as the European Union, UNESCO, ILO World Bank and OECD have generated a significant volume of well-resourced empirical research, although this tends to be under-theorised and sometimes explicitly seeks to reframe VET around a universalising neoliberal model.

The symposium will examine how far a reinvigorated theorisation of VET, addressing contemporary challenges, needs to draw on new theoretical approaches that can enable researchers to answer questions posed by contemporary crises of health, inequality, globalisation and technological change; or whether older concepts can also play a valuable role in reaffirming educational aims and practices within VET, and across its boundaries.

KeywordsVET systems ; Europe; Educational research
Year2023
ConferenceEuropean Conference on Educational Research (ECER), Vocational Education and Training Network (VETNET), Glasgow University
Web address (URL)https://eera-ecer.de/ecer-programmes/conference/28/contribution/56642
https://eera-ecer.de/ecer-2023-glasgow
Publication dates
OnlineAug 2023
Publication process dates
Deposited10 Oct 2023
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