Archive for the ‘policy’ Category

Learning, education outcomes and socioeconomic class

August 30th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

We have long known that educational outcomes are heavily influenced by social class. But little has been done to try to understand how social class affects learning. In that respect the article by Lien Pham on ‘How socioeconomic background makes a difference in education outcomes‘ is very welcome.

Pham notes that although “PISA publishes its PISA context assessment framework to supplement its regular international PISA testing of reading, maths and science”, ” these are just snapshots rather than an analysis of the impact of students’ background characteristics on their participation in these processes, or whether the educational system, schooling processes and classroom practices may favour certain groups over others” and “they do not help to shed light on how and why some students perform better than others.”

Pham says “In order to truly understand what is happening with inequality I believe we have to recognise the implicit social relationships and social structures in the schooling processes that position students in different vantage points.”

Pham goes on to look at what PISA says about students’ family backgrounds, student ethnicity and polices to improve educational inequality, adding his own comments and analysis. His overall conclusion is that reducing inequality neds more than just access to economic resources

We need to deeply understand students’ “real” opportunities within our systems of education. I believe we need to look more closely at what students can reasonably do (or not do) with those resources given their backgrounds and situations.

Resources are important, but just because a school has a wide variety of resources doesn’t mean all of its students will benefit from those equally.

I am arguing that policy attention to improve educational inequality should place student agency and diversity at the forefront, rather than focussing on resources with the assumption that all students will be able to access them in similar ways with similar outcomes.

You can read more in his paper: Capital and capabilities in education: Re-examining Australia’s 2015 PISA performance and context assessment framework

 

 

Catching up with the TACCLE4-CPD project – Part One: New version of policy analyses

March 31st, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

During the last few weeks – after getting my computer problems sorted out – I have tried to catch up with my duties for our ongoing EU-funded TACCLE4-CPD project. As I have told in my blogs last year, this project is looking at concepts and models for promoting continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers and trainers with emphasis on digital competences. The project builds upon a series of TACCLE projects that worked with classroom teachers. Now, the challenge is to develop CPD models for wider use – including also adult education (AE) and vocational education and training (VET). In particular the extension of the scope to the field of VET provides a challenge since this brings into picture different governance models, different training providers and different learning venues.

In the light of the above I have written a document with the heading “Policy analyses as background for continuing professional development of teachers and trainers in the field of vocational education and training (VET)”.  Here I share a summary of my interim conclusions:

“This document was started with an overview of educational governance and steering models in the field of vocational education and training (VET). After a rough overview a closer look was taken on the specific features of federal governance and dual system of organizing VET in Germany. As we have seen, the picture of policies promoting digital competences has remained somewhat patchwork-like.

The third section has given a closer picture of local educational and VET contexts as well as of recent R&D projects. These descriptions have given an understanding on the state of the art and of pioneering initiatives. Also these descriptions have given a picture of a patchy landscape of local developments. From this perspective it is worthwhile to ask, what kind of role integrative frameworks can play and how they can be shaped.

The European “DigCompEdu” framework was presented in the fourt section. It differs clearly from European Qualification Framework (EQF) or European Frameworks for Credit Transfer (ECTS and ECVET) or from  European Quality Assurance mechanisms. This framework is not paving the way to intergovernmental agreements with signatory states. Instead, it provides practical assistance for linking digital tools and enhancement of digital competences to different learning contexts.

However, from the perspective of the VET sector, the DigCompEdu framework remains very generic. Yet, in this sector, there are very specific challenges for promoting digital competences. Therefore, the framework study of the project Berufsbildung 4.0 starts with a useful differentiation between ‘digitisation’ (at operative level) and ‘digital transformation’ (at the level of whole organisations and networked production/service processes). Taking into account both levels the project is looking for development perspectives for future-oriented VET provisions. From these starting points the project has worked with several theses and feedback workshops and synthesised the results in transversal themes and analyses that focus on different levels or educational steering and change management.

Altogether, the above-presented sections provide very heterogeneous impulses for anyone, who wants to grasp the essence of policy processes and their impact on policy implementation in the field of VET. Yet, the impulses, insights into field and explorations on framework documents or framework studies need to be considered when taking further steps in shaping continuing professional development of teachers and trainers. For this purpose the next working document is looking more closely at developments in the previous TACCLE projects and in the parallel project Learning Layers. Both projects have a history in developing training for teachers and trainers. Now it is time to put these developments into a wider European picture.”

These were my interim conclusions from the ‘policy analyses’ with which I tried to provide a background understanding for discussing the theme ‘promoting digital competences’ in the field of VET. This takes me further to the next document with which I have been working recently – but that is already a topic of its own.

More blogs to come …

PS: If someone wants to read the full document, I can send it via e-mail or share a link to Google Drive folder. PK

The Circular Economy and Education

February 26th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

Screenshot 2019-02-26 at 18.21.29Last week I spoke at a meeting – Circular Economy Competences Making the Case for Lifelong Learning – at the European Parliament in Brussels. The meeting was hosted by MEP Silvia Costa and organised by ACR+ as part of the Erasmus+ CYCLE project, brought together key actors working on incorporating circular economy competences in education and lifelong learning. Pontydysgu are partners in the project and I introduced briefly what we are doing.

The press release below gives a good summary of the event. But the main lesson for me was that there are a lot of people doing practical things (and policy initiatives) around the circular economy. And there are a lot of people in the education sector (not least of all students) wanting to do things around the environment and climate change.

The problem is that for some reason there is not a lot of communication going on between the two communities. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has produced some excellent and there have been a number of MOOCs, hosted mainly by Dutch and French organisations. But a lot of the learning materials available are focused on particular technical areas, rather than looking at the Circular Economy as a whole.

The CYCLE project is a start – aiming to develop an online competence centre for learning materials. But in reality the project is really too small when compared to what is needed.

I think the next step should be to attempt to develop a European Special Interest Group (SIG) on the circular economy and Education. Anyone interested?

Press Release

Brussels, Belgium. The event “Circular Economy Competences Making the Case for Lifelong Learning”, hosted on 19 February at the European Parliament by MEP Silvia Costa and organised by ACR+ in the framework of the Erasmus+ CYCLE project, brought together key actors working on incorporating circular economy competences in education and lifelong learning.

The fully booked event was opened by MEP Silvia Costa, who stressed the importance of mainstreaming circular thinking in lifelong learning policies. The MEP also reported on the dialogue between the Parliament and the European Commission aimed at introducing recitals on climate change and sustainable development goals in the text of the next Erasmus+ 2021/2027 programme. Afterwards, Callum Blackburn from Zero Waste Scotland gave an introductory speech calling for international cooperation for circular economy education based on strategic partnerships that facilitate mutual learning.

The first thematic panel tackled the issue of circular thinking in education. Graham Atwell from Pontydysgu presented the e-learning platform that is currently being developed within the CYCLE project. The platform, which will be launched in May 2019, aims to collect training material on circular economy for adult educators. Sander Bos and Heleentje Swart from the Dutch Fryslan Region showed how governments and schools are already working together within the regional SPARK initiative to achieve a circular change in educational methods, practices and tools.

The second panel focused on how to upskill waste, repair and reuse industries. Fiona Craigintroduced the audience to the SWITCH Forum, a multi-partnership forum made up of organisations active across all the sub-sectors of resource management . The SWITCH Forum aims to support continuous improvement in education and training and in health and safety in this sector. Roberto Cerqueira from LIPOR presented the training programmes of the LIPOR Academy, which include circular economy as an area of knowledge.

The speakers of the last panel discussed the evolution of the labour market related to the circular economy and the skills that will be increasingly required for circular jobs. Lorenzo Barucca from Legambiente presented the key outcomes of a study carried out together with the University of Padova, about the main connections between innovative industries (Industry 4.0) and circular economy. Joke Dufourmont from Circle Economy presented the mapping of core and enabling circular jobs in the city of Amsterdam, reflecting on the technical and transversal competencies that underlie them.

The slides of the presentations made at the event are available on the ACR+ website.

Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Cognitive Justice and Restorative Action

January 25th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

In reply to a comment by Cristina Costa on the Social Theory Applied Facebook site, Randolph Presisinger Kleine wrote “I recommend to get in touch with Prof. Catherine A. Odora Hopper. She’s one of the most influential thinkers in Africa. Some years ago she founded an African think tank, whose mission is to build a African paradigm, that shall overcome the shortcomings and pitfalls in Western social theory.” Randolph pointed to this video. It goes a long way to explaining my unease around strategies for overcoming teacher shortages in Sub Saharan Africa through the se of Technology Enhanced Learning. Nothing wring with that per se but are we just transporting knowledge paradigms not only from the rich countries, but from the tech industry in those countries?

Issues in developing apprenticeship programmes: UK and Spain

May 22nd, 2018 by Graham Attwell

soundtechAfter years of running down apprenticeship schemes through a policy focus on mass university education, the UK, in common with other European countries, has in the past few years turned back to apprenticeship both as a strategy for providing the skills needed in the changing economy and as a way of overcoming youth unemployment especially or those with low school attainment.

The turn to apprenticeship has gone through a number of phases. In its earliest incarnation there was a tendency to just label any vocational work based programme as an apprenticeship. This did nothing for the reputation of apprenticeships either with young people or with employers and there was widespread criticism of the quality of many of the courses on offer.

Two years ago, the government undertook yet another shakeup of the apprenticeship programme, introducing a training levy for large companies and placing a focus on higher level apprenticeships including degree programmes.

Yet this reform has also run into problems. Despite setting a target of three million new apprenticeships by 2020, there was a near 27% fall in the number taking up trainee posts in the last quarter of 2017.

The number starting apprenticeships dropped to 114,000 between August and October, down from 155,700 in the same period in 2016. That followed a 59% drop in the previous three months after the introduction of the apprenticeship levy in April last year.

The biggest drop came in “intermediate” apprenticeships, the basic level, which dropped 38% to 52,000. The highest level of apprenticeships – known as degree apprenticeships – rose nearly 27% to 11,600. Schemes for adult apprentices were worse affected than for those young people, falling by just over 30% compared with 20%.

Last week, the UK House of Commons Education Select Committee heard evidence from the Further Education minister Anne Milton, the quality inspectorate Ofsted, the Institute for Apprenticeships and the Education and Skills Funding Agency on the quality of apprenticeships and skills training.

What seems remarkable from the TES report on the issues emerging from the meeting is how much they parallel problems in other European countries attempting to develop new apprenticeship systems, such as Italy and Spain. Indeed, nearly all of the issues also emerged in our study on apprenticeship in Valencia, Spain, all be it in different forms. This first article provides a quick summary of some of the issues raised at the House of Commons, together with a look at their resonance in Spain. In later posts I will look at some of the issues separately, particularly in reference to developments in the Dual System in Germany.

Higher level apprenticeships

According to the TES, high up the agenda were degree apprenticeships. While degree apprenticeships may raise the prestige of apprenticeship funding, this does little for the lower skilled young people looking for what in the UK are called intermediate level qualifications. Similarly, in Spain the new FP Dual apprenticeship programme has gained biggest traction at a higher apprenticeship level, demanding good school examination results for entry.

Despite the fact that Spain has a decentralised regional system for approving new apprenticeship programmes and the UK operates a national system, in both countries there seems to be significant issues around the level of bureaucracy in getting approval for new programmes and for the management of programmes.

Judging quality

In both countries too, the quality of apprenticeship programmes appears to be variable. Paul Joyce, deputy director for FE and skills at Ofsted, said there was a “very mixed picture” in terms of the quality of apprenticeships, adding: “It is certainly not a universally positive picture in terms of quality.” He said that of those providers inspected so far this year, “round about half are ‘requiring improvement’ or are ‘inadequate’, so it’s a very mixed bag”.

In Spain with no inspection system and few attempts at any systematic evaluation it is difficult to judge quality. Anecdotal evidence suggest also a “very mixed picture” in part due to the lack of training for trainers.

The role of Small and Medium Enterprises

The House of Commons Select Committee heard from Keith Smith, director of apprenticeships at the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), who said there was an aspiration to give employers more control in the system.

He added: “For small businesses, we need to be really careful we provide them with the right support and infrastructure to do that. They’re not the same as big levy-paying employers, they don’t have the same back-office support.

“We’re trying to design this very much with micro-businesses in mind. So, if it works for micro-businesses, it will work for all small businesses.”

Despite that, there would appear to be little take up from small businesses at present, possibly due to lack of knowledge about the new system, or because of the bureaucracy involved.

Similarly in Spain, there is limited take up by small businesses, Whilst in reality vocational schools are in charge of the system, the curriculum for apprenticeship programmes is developed in partnership between the schools and the companies.

More support needed for disadvantaged

Apprenticeships and skills minister Ms Milton said she will do what she can to break down barriers for disadvanataged people, including lobbying other ministers on issues such as travel discounts, an apprentice premium and the benefits system. After education secretary Damian Hinds yesterday refused to commit to the Conservatives’ manifesto pledge of transport subsidies for apprentices, Ms Milton was also coy on the issue.

In Spain there is continuing confusion over support for apprentices. With the adoption of the FP Dual system largely in the control of the regional governments, different regions have different policies, some stipulating pay for apprentices, some of training allowance and others not. Similarly, in some regions transport is paid and in others not. Sometimes it depends on agreements between individual employers and vocational schools.

 

Productivity and vocational education and training

October 25th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

apprenticesInterest in Vocational Education and Training (VET) seems to go in cycles. Its always around but some times it is much more to the forefront than others as a debate over policy and practice. Given the pervasively high levels of youth unemployment, at least in south Europe, and the growing fears over future jobs, it is perhaps not surprising that the debate around VET is once more in the ascendancy. And the debates over how VET is structured, the relation of VET to higher education, the development of new curricula, the uses of technology for learning, the fostering of informal learning, relations between companies and VET schools, the provision of high quality careers counselling and guidance, training the trainers – I could go on – are always welcome.

Whilst in some countries like the UK deregulation seems to have created many jobs, most of these are low paid and insecure.

Higher productivity requires innovation and innovation is in turn dependent on the skills and knowledge of the workforce. But in a time of deregulation there is little incentive for employers to invest in workforce training.

There are signs that some companies are beginning to realise they have a problem. There has been a notable interest from a number of large companies in supporting new apprenticeship programmes and not just in the German speaking countries. In Spain the recently launched Alliance for FP Dual is making slow but steady progress in persuading companies to support the FP Dual alternance or apprenticeship programme. There remain many obstacles, not least the continuing austerity programme, political instability and the perilous financial position of many small and medium enterprises. I will talk more about some of these issues in forthcoming articles on this web site, coming out of the findings of a  small research project in Valencia sponsored by the International Network on Innovative Apprenticeship (INAP).

But to be successful initiatives like the Spanish FP Dual and the wider EU backed Alliance for Apprenticeships have to be linked to wider programmes to promote innovation. Without some degree of labour market regulation this is going to be hard to achieve.

The future of English Further Education

January 13th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

The UK Parliament Public Accounts Committee has warned  the declining financial health of many FE colleges has “potentially serious consequences for learners and local economies”.

It finds funding and oversight bodies have been slow to address emerging financial and educational risks, with current oversight arrangements leading to confusion over who should intervene and when.

The Report says the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and the Skills Funding Agency “are not doing enough to help colleges address risks at an early stage”.

Al paso del tiempo

January 11th, 2016 by Jose Luis Garcia Molina

Graham me invita a participar con un blog semanal, invitación que acepto por muchos y variados motivos, entre los que quiero destacar ahora nuestro común conocimiento, cooperación e intercambio de ideas en proyectos europeos desde hace ya unos años, tal vez, si no recuerdo mal desde 2007, a los que han seguido contactos posteriores más informales compartiendo puntos de vista sobre formación, educación, evolución de las políticas europeas y nacionales…

De 2007 a hoy, hemos ido pasando, en un entorno convulso, a nuevas situaciones. El “horizonte” ha ido y va cambiando, situación bien distinta a la de los años 60-70 del pasado siglo

Entiendo con ello abrir una “ventana” sobre el escenario español, respecto del que iré presentando breves comentarios -a modo de “contrapunto”– sobre zonas y puntos críticos de esa evolución (la formación continua, las reformas en curso de aplicación planteadas en la formación profesional, la cooperación a escala europea, la emergencia de nuevas prácticas). Abrir una ventana es ponerse en la posición bien conocida del “espectador” pero en este blog –sine ira et studio– nuestra atención dirigirá su atención a los actores/operadores implicados y siempre que sea posible, que lo es, a nivel local y si puedo mediar dejar que sean ellos quienes hablen.

Frente al presentismo actual, trataré de recuperar la dimensión socio-histórica ¿cómo y qué pasados perviven – están ahí- en las prácticas y cómo cambian y se orientan en los tiempos de ahora?. Algo puede tener que ver este enfoque con temas -de interés renovado- como los relativos a una “pedagogía de la memoria”, parte sustantiva, en mi opinión, de una “pedagogía social”, cuestiones muy presentes otrora en la historia española del s. XX, en los años en los que se habló de “Vieja y Nueva Política”, cuestiones recordadas hoy en la revisión del ciclo histórico de la Transición española. Continuidad-discontinuidad en los procesos históricos…

Viene a cuento transcribir del editorial de Le Monde de hoy 7 de enero de 2016 las siguientes palabras:

“C’est une situation inédite pour un pays qui a brillamment réussi sa transition vers la démocratie, après la mort de Franco en 1975. Les espagnols expériment une nouvelle forme de transition: l’ancien monde n’est pas mort, maus le nouveau n´est pas tout à fait né. (Aprés les élections, l’Espagne sans tête)”.

Ayer o anteayer podía leer uno en El País la necesidad de diagnósticos compartidos antes de la eventual investidura (Sartorius y López Garrido, Opinión).

Reparemos ahora solo en algunos términos clave: experimentación, transición, diagnósticos compartidos…

A partir de referentes que serán por lo común los que depara la actualidad, el blog descansará en la experiencia personal. Mis primeras entregas dirigirán su objetivo –como si de una cámara fotográfica se tratara, espero que cámara lúcida– a la formación continua y áreas hoy de debate en la educación-formación.

Doy por sentado que el eventual lector estará al corriente de la situación política española (¿cómo si no dar forma a la citada dimensión socio-histórica de los problemas?).

Agradezco a Graham esta oportunidad de renovar nuestros encue

Inequality growing in access to UK universities

January 11th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

According to Times Higher Education: “The gap between university entry rates for the most advantaged and disadvantaged students is wider than previously thought, and progress in closing it has halted.” They report that “Research by Ucas indicates that the most privileged school leavers may be three times more likely to enter higher education than the least privileged.” This is far higher than previous analysis has suggested. Using a measure based on local socio economic data, gender, ethnicity and eligibility for free school meals, the study found that only 14 per cent of the least advantaged group entered higher education in 2015, compared with the 18 per cent figure 45.3 per cent of the most advantaged groups.

These findings are hardly surprising. Amongst all the different measures of predictive achievement, social class remains the most compelling. And with inequality in income and standard of living growing rapidly in the UK, it is hardly surprising that inequality in access to higher education is also growing. It  may also be considered that £9000 annual tuition fees may also be a disincentive to the ‘least advantaged’, even when the carrot of the so called graduate premium is dangled before them

Inequality

January 11th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

It seems ever more evident that education cannot be viewed in separation from the labour market and the economy. As inequality in economies grows ever greater, so too does inequality in education. So the first featured video of 2016 is by Economist and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, speaking at the Vienna University of Economics (WU). The The event was held on the 29 November 2015 at WU and was co-organized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), WU’s Department of Economics, WU’s Research Institute for Economics of Inequality (INEQ), and the WU VW-Zentrum student support office.

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    News Bites

    Open Educational Resources

    BYU researcher John Hilton has published a new study on OER, student efficacy, and user perceptions – a synthesis of research published between 2015 and 2018. Looking at sixteen efficacy and twenty perception studies involving over 120,000 students or faculty, the study’s results suggest that students achieve the same or better learning outcomes when using OER while saving a significant amount of money, and that the majority of faculty and students who’ve used OER had a positive experience and would do so again.


    Digital Literacy

    A National Survey fin Wales in 2017-18 showed that 15% of adults (aged 16 and over) in Wales do not regularly use the internet. However, this figure is much higher (26%) amongst people with a limiting long-standing illness, disability or infirmity.

    A new Welsh Government programme has been launched which will work with organisations across Wales, in order to help people increase their confidence using digital technology, with the aim of helping them improve and manage their health and well-being.

    Digital Communities Wales: Digital Confidence, Health and Well-being, follows on from the initial Digital Communities Wales (DCW) programme which enabled 62,500 people to reap the benefits of going online in the last two years.

    See here for more information


    Zero Hours Contracts

    Figures from the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency show that in total almost 11,500 people – both academics and support staff – working in universities on a standard basis were on a zero-hours contract in 2017-18, out of a total staff head count of about 430,000, reports the Times Higher Education.  Zero-hours contract means the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours

    Separate figures that only look at the number of people who are employed on “atypical” academic contracts (such as people working on projects) show that 23 per cent of them, or just over 16,000, had a zero-hours contract.


    Resistance decreases over time

    Interesting research on student centered learning and student buy in, as picked up by an article in Inside Higher Ed. A new study published in PLOS ONE, called “Knowing Is Half the Battle: Assessments of Both Student Perception and Performance Are Necessary to Successfully Evaluate Curricular Transformation finds that student resistance to curriculum innovation decreases over time as it becomes the institutional norm, and that students increasingly link active learning to their learning gains over time


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