Vocational Education, Transitions, Marginalisation and Social Justice in the Nordic Countries: Reflections on the Special Issue

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This paper engages with and reflects on the arguments developed by contributors to the special issue. These papers serve to provide a corrective to English and, on occasion, European perceptions, which often view the Nordic countries as being all of a piece and beacons of progressivism. The contributors provide analyses that not only point to the impact of neo-liberalism upon vocational education and training but also the different ways in which it is delivered across the Nordic countries. They alert us to vocational education and training’s complexity and varied forms. Nevertheless, it appears there are a set of repertoires that can be mobilised to address the relationship between vocational education and training and youth transitions to work and vocational study, which seem to circulate across time and place. The circulation of these models suggests they fail to address the deeper issues facing vocational education and training, namely the relation of it in particular and ‘academic’ education in general to capitalism, and, importantly, the salience of these processes in the current conjuncture. These relations raise questions about the reproduction of class relations and the specificity of the socio-economic contexts. This leads to a consideration of notions of social justice and an interrogation of vocational education and training with this particular question in mind. An important issue that needs to be explored is the way in which the curriculum opens up or closes down access to powerful knowledge. Whilst education, in Bernstein’s words, ‘cannot compensate for society’, can it nevertheless be a resource in the transformative struggle for a just society?

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)376-384
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Educational Research Journal
Issue number3
Early online date1 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


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