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Hanging in or shaping a future: Defining a role for vocationally related learning in a 'knowledge' society

Bathmaker, Ann Marie


Ann Marie Bathmaker


This paper explores the changing roles and purposes of vocational education for young people in what has been called a 'knowledge' society, using the General National Vocational Qualification (GNVQ) as an example. This qualification dominated the broad, vocationally-related route within the English qualifications system throughout the 1990s. The paper considers how lecturers in a college of further education understood the role and purpose of GNVQs, and explores the ways in which they engaged in mediating national qualifications policy in practice, through their engagement with students and constructions of students' learning identities. The paper draws on data from a case study of one college of further education in the English Midlands, which involved interviews with lecturers and students across three vocational areas of the GNVQ. The focus in this paper is on the ways in which lecturers constructed GNVQs around what they perceived to be students' needs. They encouraged students to use GNVQs to shape a future, which involved progression to further and higher education. The paper argues that, whilst such attempts to create a constructive and meaningful role for vocational education are important, they do not overcome the hierarchical structure of participation in formal learning which remains inherent in the education system. The paper concludes by considering the implications of this study for the future role of vocational education for young people within a wider system of education and training.


Bathmaker, A. M. (2005). Hanging in or shaping a future: Defining a role for vocationally related learning in a 'knowledge' society. Journal of Education Policy, 20(1), 81-100.

Journal Article Type Review
Publication Date Jan 1, 2005
Journal Journal of Education Policy
Print ISSN 0268-0939
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 20
Issue 1
Pages 81-100
Keywords vocational learning, knowledge society
Public URL
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