Outline and assess the view that vocational education simply trains workers for exploitation.  The idea that vocational education allows workers to be exploited is a view held by Marxism. Vocational education is that which gets an individual ready for the workplace, either through a course directly complimenting a skill, like hairdressing, or that which has a broader area of learning. Whilst functionalism sees a great system underlying vocational education, Marxists have a more cynical view of the idea.
Vocational education will inevitably have an effect on the economy- hopefully for the better, but Marxists would deny the benefits as overall wealthy, insisting education is a tool in capitalist societies, which control and pacify the working classes. Marxists Bowles and Gintis (1976) suggested that there is a correspondence between educational institutions and the workplace- the working class will stay working class, and characteristics such as self-image, social class identification, demeanour and presentation, will be paralleled within the workplace.
Bowles and Gintis also maintained that whilst in school, the teachers were formed in a hierarchical system in which older students seem to be of a higher status than those who are younger; in the workplace, not all workers will be on the same salary in the same department. The overall belief is that the whole system has made it so that the ‘hidden curriculum’ enforces social order, and it marginalises worker, making them struggle for power, and this will create a subservient pool of workers.
Durkheim, would disagree along with Davis and Moore, and Parsons, who collectively state that a skilled workforce is a product, and occupational allocation can be a defining outcome of vocational education. This really drives the core values of functionalism, as it seeks to work for the benefit of a consensus society, just trying to get the people back into work and off of welfare.
Bowles and Gintis, however can be criticised for determinism, as it is not imperative that all of those who are being educated, hold a passive stance towards the teaching of capitalist values, and it also lumps certain social groups together, thus not motivating change as their argument is that their fate is determined by identification of class and there’ll be no mobility, whilst there are those who have come from nothing and do not show much of a line between education and work- Richard Branson, entrepreneur, for example, ho heads a multi-million pound business, employing many people across the country, despite Branson’s dyslexia and lack of success at school. Willis, regarded as a Neo-Marxist, has also provided critical suggestions against Bowles and Gintis; Willis notes there were ideological factors, but having studied the twelve ‘lads’, there was a mix of perspectives and they weren’t all happy with the ideas of the school, not to mention the rejection of the idea that school was at all important to what they wanted out of life.
Willis’s perspective shows a more interpretivist approach in which human interpretation was also quite a defining factor- it was the ideas of the 12, which made them enter the blue collar jobs. Then again, Willis’s sample lacks much representation and precision since the sample is extremely small. Social democracy also favours the merits of vocational education, as it is seen to create a competitive economy.
New Labour, therefore, had therefore introduced the New Deal- a scheme in which it was ensured that unemployed people would have either full time education or training for a year, or voluntary sector work. This would therefore, supposedly, increase desirability for employment and would contribute to bringing unemployment and lack of skills down in the nation. The New Labour government did defend its intentions to stop making people so reliant on welfare packages like incapacity benefit.
It’s solely for the purpose of getting people into work, and not for the cause of that workplace paying sub-sufficient wages. However the voice of opposition says that the compulsory implementation of this would restore power at the top, and especially with voluntary sector placements, cheap labour would indeed be used to some effect for a long period of time, saving some businesses potentially thousands on each person every six months.
Another grievance was put forward by De Waal (2008), who has argued that vocational GCSEs, which are accessible through local colleges and NVQs, are not relevant- they lack the teaching of valuable skills- only to raise the achievement of those less academically endowed to pass the government’s expectations of five A*-Cs at GCSE, as these course have been disproportionate weighting in which the qualification can stand for five GCSEs.
It also comes to mind that age 14, an individual won’t be thinking terribly hard about their future ambitions- or at least more realistic ones- 14 is too young to allocate them a place, when there are fears that it could reproduce the effects of the tripartite in which superficial role allocation would be used.
Hoelscher’s (2008) findings may give direction to some justification of the idea since it was identified that most people in vocational education had proceeded to university, given such status since 1992- ex-polytechnics, for example and that would affect both course and future employability, at least in the field to which their degree applies. Davies and Biesta (2007) can partially reflect this.
The couple argue that the experiences will be wide-ranging and will reflect both extremes, from genuinely whole-hearted programmes to get unemployment and dependence down, too, for the benefit of spending less on welfare, whilst the worst could provide almost worthless experiences and a temptation for companies to take advantage of cheap labour – cutting their spending on employment, whilst generating some profit out of their presence at the workplace.
This would imply that it is not the cause of vocational education, solely, but more the individual interpretations and experiences- like most things, there will always be those trying to benefit from some kind of system. In conclusion, vocational education- like all education- is going to have two large factors: interpretation and attitude of the individual, and the discipline/ ideals of an institution. It plays a genuine role in at least attempting to do well for society, and not for those CEOs sitting on the top of bonuses.
The Marxist evaluation seems almost ungrateful of education overall as it condemns, with theorists such as Bourdieu. Marxism takes individuals as gullible people, who are all part of a single label, which is damaging to the future of vocational education; it is a genuine move towards a more desirable economy, and markets; we all want to thrive and prosper as a nation, rather than suffer at the hands of the minority who are apathetically sponging the unemployment benefits.
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